There’s not a whole lot of turnover in our Top 10 as six out of ten have featured in this list before. We have two shows which debuted this year — one an anthology, the other a reboot of sorts. If there’s any theme, it’s shows that shouldn’t work, yet somehow do — and on a grand level! We begin the final countdown (apologies to Europe and Gob Bluth) with a new-to-the list show in its second season that truly embodies that contradiction … one of the most original programs to ever hit mainstream television.
Check out the 20-11 part of the countdown here!
Then there’s Our Favorite Episodes which you can find here!
Finally, Our Favorite Characters of 2018, and that would be here!
10 Claws 10
Take a James Ellroy or Elmore Leonard-style gritty heist tale about the bonds of family and the opiate trade, add all the melodrama of telenovelas, throw in the meta game of Community and set it all against a gaudy, pastel backdrop of Florida-style excess of a Miami Vice (oh, and add a few camera flourishes from somewhere between Empire and The Real Housewives of Atlanta) and I’m still not sure if you’re anywhere near capturing all the elements of one of the most strange and wonderful programs on television. Claws has random dance numbers, an autistic male stripper, a nebbishy drug dealer, a schizophrenic grifter, Hank from Breaking Bad as a pansexual Dixie mafia enforcer, frequent fourth wall breaks, twists, ghosts, kidnappings, brutal murders, devious double-crosses (and probably two dead pigeons in the water tank somewhere), all told in the high-pressure world of nail salons. One brilliant episode thrusts us into the perspective of ever-patient and un-ironically nicknamed Quiet Ann and the finale jumps into urgent narrative and a hacky twist setting up a completely different show…maybe? It should be infuriating, and yet I’m aching to see the next move of this unique hour of television. – Jason Thurston
9 The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel 9
The second season starts with the titular character almost a side note as she joins her father Abe on a jaunt to Paris to try to convince her mother Rose to return from the most low key marriage escape in history. It fits the mostly unpredictable nature of Mx3 and sets the table for a deliberately meandering season which even wanders up to a Catskills summer for a few episodes as our Midge effortlessly soars in the comedy scene, dooming her secret. As her double life is exposed, her relationships evolve with a gentle, genuine, and often alternately heartbreaking and life-affirming. Emmy magnet Tony Shalhoub is a one man reel as he deals with sling after arrow after sling, and finds not only did he not know his daughter, but that his son also has an alternate existence. The writers also prove they are never above the absurd, best illustrated by Alex Bronstein’s comedy manager’s odd transition to camp plumber. Of course, it would never work without the charm of the central figure, and Rachel Brosnahan never lets us down (even if Mrs. Maisel’s inability to ever bomb begins to stretch credulity – Jason Thurston
8 Brooklyn Nine-Nine 8
2018 brought us Boyle caught up in a pyramid scheme, Doug Judy singing karaoke, and Kevin watching Nicolas Cage movies. It brought us Jake and Amy’s wedding and Captain Holt’s bid for commissioner. Smart, kind, and ever unpredictable, this show fills me up with enough laughter that I can save some for later as the whole 9-9 moves over to NBC to join Schur’s other show. – Fiona Wiedermann
7 Dirty John 7
Look, I get it, not everybody will be obsessed with a scripted drama where a Rich As Fuck woman falls for a charming con man, and that’s too bad. My obsession with Dirty John (the story, the too-short Dateline episode, the series, the podcast) isn’t because I’m obsessed with crime, it’s because anyone could be conned by John Meehan (a rich and famous Brazillian author was!), and even in a world ruled by RBG — at least culturally — three women are murdered by an intimate partner every day. John Meehan is a woman’s worst nightmare, and bravo, Connie Britton (as the beautiful, kind, and frustratingly gullible Debra), and Eric Bana did a fantastic job selling the message: no one is immune to an abuser. I realize I’ve yelled this a lot in our year end roundup, but it’s criminal that Britton and Jean Smart were passed over at the Golden Globes. – Katherine M. Hill
6 GLOW 6
I have a hard time describing GLOW. The second season expanded on its themes of the first: women making a name for themselves while examining the perils of betraying a longtime female friendship. But seriously, how to you explain a show that covers AIDS, grief, betrayal, racism, immigration, and getting screwed by The Man on a contract? Did that sound like too much strife? Because despite the list of issues GLOW was, again, a funny, refreshing, and an outstanding respite. – Katherine M. Hill
5 Queer Eye 5
I have already written about my love of this reboot at length, but I would like to reiterate that it’s still a beautiful representation of non-toxic masculinity. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, it’s mind changing and it’s all available on Netflix. What more could I ask for? Also, if you’re looking for a good avocado recipe they’re got you covered. – Fiona Wiedermann
4 Atlanta 4
Coming back from an uber-successful debut Season, Atlanta had to prove it could beat the sophomore curse. It answered the call with ‘Robbin’ Season’. The overarching theme showed all the ways people are robbed — robbed of their dignity, their money, childhood, their flight… the list goes on. And it does this in ways that continue to push the boundaries of what we expect from a comedy. Yes, there are funny parts — “Alligator Man,” the definition of Florida Man, but what’s special is how they are bookended by a certain level of absurdity that creates clever social commentary. That it makes you laugh and cringe at the same time is definitely its super-power. This season we saw Earn realize his book smarts will not be enough to propel Paper Boi to the next level and so he is willing to do what it takes, no matter how dark it may get. – Navani Otero
3 Bojack Horseman 3
BoJack is never relenting: season five continued BoJack’s frantic downward spiral as BoJack lost his sense of self through an addiction to painkillers. (Diane too, struggled to understand herself, particularly in “The Dog Days Over.”) Fans wondered how #MeToo and the Time’s Up campaign would shake out in Hollywoo, and their answers was surprisingly mature via…Henry Fondle, a robotic sex machine that manages to take the CEO role at network WhatTimeIsItRightNow. Also of significance is “Free Churo,” wherein 90 percent of the episode is a eulogy (a soliloquy!), focused only on BoJack as he contemplates life, acceptance, and familial relationship, and yet it still ends with a laugh. Season five was a roller coaster of emotion, but the whole time the show was saying, “I See You.” – Katherine M. Hill
2 Schitt’s Creek 2
The little-show-that-could continued to win hearts as it went into its fourth season last year. It’s a fave for me because it’s consistent. I know when I need an escape from my IRL newsfeed it will not disappoint — an escape into a world that unabashedly mocks the celeb/reality culture that has overtaken our day-to-day. While I originally came to see the Roses fall on their faces, I stayed for the monochromatic fashions, the wigs, and the heart. At this point in the show, we see the Roses start acting like an actual family and learning to think about other people besides themselves. Alexis is a career woman, Moira has an ever expansive vocabulary and David can have feelings, gasp! That growth only adds to all the quirky joys of this Canadian gem of a show. Highlights include Patrick’s sweet serenade in “Open Mic” and Moira’s performance in “Asbestos Fest.” – Navani Otero
1 The Good Place 1
“The real Bad Place is the friends we made along the way.” The Good Place cycles through worlds and story arcs so fast that it’s hard to believe that wonderfully absurd line was uttered within the confines of last year, spoke by Ted Danson’s demon-learning-how-to-be-good Michael as they sped towards the Medium Place, having expertly conned the hounds of hell. That episode alone was a work of art, both a puzzle that unfolded with all the art of Murder on the Orient Express and a cavalcade of wackiness highlighted by Bad Janet DJing the music of hell — a Puddle of Mudd/Elmo & Patsy mash-up. Since then, the gang met the judge who they thought might be a burrito, but turned out to be a delightfully ditzy Maya Rudolph who sent them back to Earth to live another timeline, our phantasmagorical four became the brainy bunch in Australia, were doomed yet again, became Quantum Leap-esque righters of wrongs, escaped a bar fight by hiding in Janet (and becoming four Janets), and in between all this, Chidi was broken to a peep-chili making mess (as were we) by Jeremy Bearimy’s I’s dot (Tuesday, also July, sometimes never). If you look closely, the logic makes no sense, but at this point, that may BE the point. In any case, one of the most clever, most cerebral, most fantastic shows continues to somehow improve on its genius, and that’s why it’s our number one in this (and presumably all) Screen Scholars timelines. – Jason Thurston
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