End Of Year Television Review: The Highlights of 2018
It's the end of another year and once again, The Digital Fix is back to reflect on the last twelve months of television. It's been an eventful year on screen; The X Files aired for the final time, Doctor Who was rebranded into an almost entirely new show with Jodie Whittaker at the helm as the show's first female Doctor, while Bodyguard broke all viewing figures for a British television show. Amazon and Netflix upped their creative content, with new ambitious shows such a Lord of the Rings series announced, while the Marvel content began to die off at a surprising rate, with Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil all cancelled after their respective new seasons aired.
Star Trek has had a resurgence, Star Wars have made steps forward in their television output, and The CW continued to build on its superhero empire, with Batwoman the latest vigilante to make her onscreen debut. David Attenborough continued to take audiences on a voyage of discovery, while Netflix thrilled and terrified audiences with horror aplenty with The Haunting of Hill House and a dark but entertaining reboot in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Many great shows were cancelled, many more survived, some like Timeless by the skin of their teeth.
Given how much television output there is out there, both in traditional broadcast and now streaming, it seems an impossible task to pick out the highlights of 2018. But we at The Digital Fix had had a go. Like out previous end of year TV reviews, we've bandied together a team of writings to share our thoughts on another year of television.
Our TV editor Baz Greenland is joined by The Digital Fix head honcho Colin Polonowski, TDF Film's Hel Harding Jones,and regular reviewers from across the site Tom Bedford, Craig Huntley, Jess Thomas, Gary Couzens, Mari Jones and Jack Godwin.
And if you feel like reflecting back on how 2018 compares to previous entries, you can click on the 2015, 2016 and 2017 end of year television reviews below.
- 2015 End of Year Television Review
- 2016 End of Year Television Review
- 2017 End of Year Television Review
So without further ado, please allow The Digital Fix to present the End of Year Television Review 2018...
Best TV news item of the year
Patrick Stewart returning as Jean Luc Picard for a new Star Trek TV Series (Baz Greenland and Colin Polonowski)
Flowing the success of Star Trek: Discovery last year, CBS commissioned Alex Kurtzman to develop five new Star Trek series. All exciting stuff, particularly the announcement of animated comedy series Lower Decks. But when rumours surfaced that Patrick Stewart might return as Picard, picking up 20 years following the TNG era, we didn't dare get our hopes up. Imagine our surprise when it turned out to be true. This is an exciting fan for any Star Trek fan who want to know what happened post Star trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Nemesis. It may not feature the rest of the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew, but it is a wonderful opportunity to follow what happened next to one of the franchise's greatest characters. And with rumours that it may be more than one series and that it definitely is coming late 2019, the possibilities are endless. (Baz)
Finding out what happens next in the Trek TV universe is something we've been waiting for for nearly 20 years, so I for one am really glad that we have Patrick Stewart returning to usher in that next era. (Colin)
Black Mirror Interactive Episode (Tom Bedford)
Black Mirror may be a rather divisive programme, but the fact they’re planning to create an interactive episode is really intriguing. By stepping away from the expectations of traditional TV they’re opening up the potential to find new and interesting ways to tell a story.
Netflix starts to cancel its Marvel shows (Craig Huntley)
Lets be honest, other than Daredevil and possibly The Punisher, the Marvel slate of shows on Netflix are garbage. Jessica Jones had a great central character but rubbish enemies, Luke Cage was trying way to hard to be The Shield and the less said about Iron Fist and The Defenders the better. Spreading yourself too thin can create a narrative and a creative team that feels watered down and ends up with multiple mediocre properties nobody talks about.
The Underground Railroad TV series announced (Hel Harding-Jones)
Amazon announcing that they would be adapting of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (and my favourite read of 2017), and that, Barry Jenkins would not only be producing but directing all eleven episodes of the series, is the most exciting piece of television news for me all year.
Most improved TV show of the year
Timeless (Baz Greenland)
The first season of sci-fi time travelling show Timeless has a great deal of class when it first aired in 2016, but it returned from the grave for a 10-episode second season this year, it took things to another level with more confident storytelling and character development as Rufus, Wyatt and Lucy zipped through time to defeat evil time travellers Rittenhouse. It's cancellation - again - was a travesty; fortunately it has an upcoming two-hour finale to wrap up all the threads left dangling in the season two finale...
Better Call Saul (Tom Bedford)
While the last couple of seasons of Better Call Saul lost their way a little bit, season four found its footing and returned to the core story of the series. It also managed to tell stories of other characters without it detracting from the greater story.
Star Trek: Discovery (Craig Huntley)
As a massive Star Trek fan (TNG is my bag) this new incarnation of Trek took a while to get used to. Yes the show premiered in 2018 but after its mid season break it came back onto the small screen with a confidence and a swagger it didn’t have at the start but should have. With the opening episode after the hiatus bringing together not only TNG alumni Jonathan Frakes to the directors chair we also got to see the Mirror Universe for the first time, something that had been teased in the previous nine episodes and was finally on show for all to see. The show came back stronger and with a better understanding of what this Trek should look and feel like I for one am looking forward to Season 2 in 2019. Hailing frequencies are open….
Doctor Who (Jess Thomas)
Doctor Who has been a staple in British homes for over half a century and my home was no exception in 2005 when Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor first hit out screen. But over the past three years I just stopped caring. Then this year, with Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall, that has changed. Coming back to this show and being able to love it again, rather than just watch it out of a sense of loyalty, has felt like a warm hug.
The Deuce (Hel Harding-Jones)
Not that it needed much improvement as I’ve been hooked since the show - depicting New York’s sex trade in the heart of Times Square - started. Last season it mostly served the men but this one really came into its own as characters were fleshed out (so to speak), scores were settled, more money was made, drug-addicted prostitutes were rehabilitated, and Eileen AKA Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) stepped behind the camera to direct her ‘adult’ take on Little Red Riding Hood. It makes for compelling TV and the writing is excellent.
Daredevil (Jack Godwin)
They may not have known it would be the last of the series (it was cancelled earlier this month), but the third season of Daredevil showed a great improvement over the character’s previous outings and his fellow Marvel Netflix shows. A major problem these shows have faced is that even at their best they are stretching out ten episodes of material over 13, often introducing contrived obstacles to keep the plot from progressing and leaving the audience in a frustrating limbo. This third season knew what it was doing from the outset. While it could still have done with a little light to contrast with the unrelenting darkness, its slowly-unfolding storyline made use of its cast far better than before, with new entrant Dex (Wilson Bethel) given his own fascinating arc as a dark mirror to Charlie Cox’s protagonist in more ways than one. If this is the last we see of it, it’s a satisfying note to go out on.
Most disappointing TV show of the year
Doctor Who (Baz Greenland)
I hate to even write this, but I can't deny that Doctor Who is missing something these days. Chris Chibnall's new take on the long running sci-fi series may feel fresh, Jodie Whittaker and Bradley Walsh may be brilliant and a simple, RTD-feel after the brilliance but undeniably convoluted Moffat era, was what the show probably needed. Unfortunately, a fresh take means that it all feels a little safe and bland. In the 10-episode run there wasn't a classic in sight. The villains felt lacklustre, there was barely a non-human alien for the first half, taking away some of the fantastical elements of the show. And unfortunately, Chibnall's writing has felt overly written and clunky. But it is not all bad news. Some of the character work has been superb, the trips to the past the most successful, the ratings have been amazing and there have been glimmers of great telly. It's just not enough to shake the feeling that it is missing something...
Archer (Tom Bedford)
Archer has been on a rocky descent for a while now, and Danger Island managed to squander even the few good ideas of the coma premise that Dreamland had. At this point the show isn’t even funny - the failed attempts at humour or a structured plot are just annoying.
The Sinner (Colin Polonowski)
The second season of The Sinner wasn't a patch on the first. Last year's story, that slowly helped us discover what had happened to Jessica Beil's Cora Tannetti, was gripping and taut and felt finely crafted. This year had none of that and felt like a different show. It's a shame as Bill Pullman's Harry Ambrose was uniformly excellent through both seasons.
Insatiable (Jess Thomas)
I have written about Insatiable before for The Digital Fix, and my review, like many others, was far from glowing. Insatiable was just an endless slew of missed opportunities. What could have been a show about learning to love yourself and changing perceptions of beauty, was actually a show that was obviously trying really hard to be funny but was really just tedious and offensive. I always get a little hopefully when I see the trailer for a Netflix show, since quite a few of their show have made room for representation in a way traditional television hasn’t, but after this and 13 Reasons Why, I am losing that hope.
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hel Harding-Jones)
I’m loathe to say it but season two was a slog to get through, made all the more infuriating by the perfection of the first. Maybe the bitterly depressing and deplorable nature of the real world has finally overtaken Gilead in the bleakness stakes but performances aside, the whole thing just felt unnecessary. I will, however, attempt to endure the third season if only for that Aunt Lydia flashback which is long overdue.
Best DVD / Blu Ray release of the year
Doctor Who series 12 blu ray release (Baz Greenland)
Tom Baker is my favourite Doctor and Elizabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith and Ian Marter's Harry Sullivan are my absolutely favourite TARDIS team. While it isn't the best series of Tom Baker's run (I'd argue that thirteen and fourteen are peak Doctor Who), the release of Baker's first series in a shiny blu ray boxset is the perfect opportunity for fans of Nu Who to venture into the classic era. And with stories like The Ark In Space and Genesis of the Daleks included, this is one release any fan should have on their shelves (you can check out our review by Gary Couzens here).
Heimat and Quartermass and the Pit (Gary Couzens)
There are two contenders for me here. One of them is Second Sight's Blu-ray release of Heimat from a recently restoration. It's a landmark of 80s television and let's hope that Heimat two and three are on the way, hopefully restored while their director Edgar Reitz is still with us. Watching this first series in HD was revelatory. However, as that was as much a cinema film as it was a television miniseries, I'm giving the nod to the BBC's new Blu-ray of Quatermass and the Pit, the original serial from 1958/59, with the 35mm-shot location and prefilmed material looking pin-sharp in HD, and with new commentaries from many of those involved who are still alive, and archival recordings of those who aren't. One of the masterpieces of small-screen sci-fi and horror.
Best TV revival / reboot series of the year
The X Files (Baz Greenland)
The return of The X Files in 2016 wasn't quite the amazing return to form fans hoped it would be. There were three good to great episodes but three equally poor and frustrating ones too. Fortunately the revival continued for one more season this year; longer at 10 episodes it had more time to tell great stand alone stories and offer closure to Mulder and Scully. And it achieved both. Some of the standalones were some of the best the show has had since the peak era of seasons two to four. Rm9sbG93ZXJz was a tense tale taking society's obsession with technology to terrifying levels, Familiar was a proper old school tale of witchcraft, an evil dummy and the most terrifying version of a telltubby you're ever likely to meet, while The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat was one of the best and most funniest hours of television all year, with Darin Morgan once again proving why he is the master of comedy. As far as I'm concerned, the return of The X Files this year was a success and one I'll continue to treasure for years to come...
Lost In Space (Colin Polonowski)
Netflix were on a roll this year with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina being both a respectful reboot and a complete reinvention, but my pick has to be the awesome Lost in Space which managed to update the premise, create its own identity and was gripping TV from start to finish. I can't wait for Season two.
You can read our season one review here.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (Jess Thomas)
This is a tough one, as it is a tossup between She-Ra and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, both of which I found enchanting in their own ways. I have settled on She-Ra simply because, of the two, it is the one that is closest to the original. Where Sabrina is tackling a completely different genre and target audience than its 90s predecessor, She-Ra is still a show targeted at young girls.
Though I may not be within that target audience, I still found the show incredibly charming and delightful to watch. The extent to which it tried to show healthy relationships, ways to resolve conflict and be good to your friends is admirable. As is the way that the writers have changed some of the characters so that the show is more inclusive. This, paired with the action-packed adventure of the narrative, is what makes She-Ra my pick for best revival/reboot.
Best TV documentary / factual / entertainment series of the year
The Great British Bake Off (Baz Greenland)
The first series of The Great British Bake Off on Channel 4 last year surprised everyone by being as entertaining as it was on BBC One. But there was also a little bit of caution in the presenters and format to keep things business as usual. But with one series under their belt, the show really started to have fun this year with Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig upping their zany banter to new levels, more lively contestants and challenges that were more ruthless than ever. The final may have fallen a little flat (though the technical challenge was brutal) but there was a real sense of fun, drama and camaraderie this year that proved The Great British Bake Off is here to stay. And who didn't love poor Rahul and all his stressful endeavours in baking? Having adverts is still rubbish though...
Nailed It!/ Dark Tourist (Tom Bedford)
Who would have thought that the most enjoyable show of the year was a baking show? Nailed It! isn’t as dry as The Great British Bake Off, or as crusty as the majority of cookery shows you see on TV, and instead prioritises entertainment over guides to dishes you’ll never cook.
Dark Tourist wasn’t just an interesting travel documentary, but it was a riveting thinkpiece into what it means to travel and explore new cultures. It’s stylistically similar to Louis Theroux works, but shot much better and more engaging with contemporary ideas. Dark Tourist just proves Netflix is the new powerhouse in documentary series.
Dynasties (Craig Huntley)
The man may well be into his 90’s but he is just as passionate about planet Earth as he was many years ago. David Attenborough is simply a national treasure. Embracing new ways to mould a narrative and how to present the natural world in new and fascinating way within Dynasties is a sight to behold. We get to see Chimpanzees and how they embrace family like humans or cause havoc and conflict, sadly, just like humans. Each and every episode has been a eye opening 45 minute epic into the wonders of Mother Nature. If Mr Attenborough can live for another 100 years that would be fantastic; the man is a living legend.
Mark Kermode's Secrets of Cinema (Gary Couzens)
This year, it has to be Mark Kermode's Secrets of Cinema, presented by the man himself and co-written with Kim Newman. They take us through the nuts and bolts of particular movie genres: the romantic comedy, the heist movie, the coming-of-age film, science fiction and horror. As I write this, there's a forthcoming edition on Christmas movies. Kermode and Newman wear their considerable cinematic knowledge lightly, but you won't finish an episode without a list of films to watch, some of which you wouldn't have thought of in that particular context.
Black Hollywood: They’ve Gotta Have Us (Hel-Harding Jones)
Yes, we do. Simon Frederick’s three-part BBC2 docu-series was one of the highlights of the year. It did little in terms of elevating the documentary format with its talking-head interviews, intercutting of film clips, archive footage, and animation. Regardless, it was fantastic. Each subject - including Laurence Fishburne, Harry Belafonte, David Oyelowo, Ruth E. Carter, Kasi Lemmons and Whoopi Goldberg amongst many others - were photographed by Frederick and these portraits have since become part of an exhibit named Black is the New Black at the National Portrait Gallery. It was an incredibly informative series which discussed art, activism, race and cinema. Frank, revealing and integral viewing.
Best streaming show of the year
Star Trek: Discovery (Baz Greenland)
I almost joined my fellow writers in picking Haunting of Hill House (a show absolutely deserving of praise) but for me, the second half of Star Trek: Discovery way back at the start of the year was the most entertaining streaming show for me. The whole mirror universe arc was tense, dramatic and often hilarious, with Mary Wiseman's Tilly cermenting herself as one of the most courageous and loveable characters on television, while Michelle Yeoh hammed it up as the alternate Phillipa Georgiou. There were plenty of twists and turns, keeping the audience on their toes week after week. The first half of the debut season in 2017 was good, but in 2018, it suddenly became must-watch TV.
The Haunting of Hill House (Tom Bedford, Colin Polonowski and Hel Harding-Jones)
Netflix returned to its programming roots (shows with enough intrigue to encourage a viewer to watch the next episode) with The Haunting of Hill House. It’s atmospheric and subtle but, most importantly, really cleverly made. (Tom)
Mike Flanagan knocked it out of the park with this affecting study of grief that just so happens to also be a brilliantly crafted horror series. Utterly brilliant television and a credit to everyone involved. (Colin)
Nothing quite gave the gut a sharp, emotional punch more than Mick Flanagan’s adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s seminal 1959 novel. It was glorious from beginning to end - terrifying and heartbreaking in equal measure. It dealt with death, grief, mental health, and addiction following the Crain family - Hugh, Olivia, Steve, Shirley, Theo, Nell and Luke - and their move into a house which would dictate the next two decades of their lives. Absolutely stunning work from all involved. (Hel)
The Sinner (Craig Huntley)
Watching this show with very little to go on was the best thing I did, no reconceived notions, no understanding of who did what, when and why. After mainlining the show IN ONE DAY we came out the other side of the series absolutely feeling like we had been hit over the head with a sledge hammer. A story of Jessica Biel’s character and why she stabbed a seemingly innocent man to death on the beach. If you watch one episode be careful, you may blink and find yourself several hours later having watched the whole series. It truly is addictive.
One Day At A Time (Jess Thomas)
2018 has been a whirlwind, and I have been finding it hard to remember all the shows that I have watched this year. However, One Day At A Time stands out from the crowd. An absolutely stunning family sit-com this remake’s second season was even more funny and heart warming than the last. This show is up there with The Good Place and Brooklyn Nine-Nine as one of the best comedy shows of recent years. Having the fabulous Rita Moreno in its main cast also doesn’t hurt!
Best UK show of the year
Inside No.9 (Baz Greenland)
Inside No.9 must be one of the best kept secrets in television because more people should be talking about it. This weird, scary, funny, haunting anthology series took things to another level in 2018, with a run of episodes that never faltered in quality. The opening Zanzibar told in iambic pentameter, was one of the best episodes on television this year (setting the mark extremely high on only the 2nd January), Bernie Clifton's Dressing Room was heart-breaking and Once Removed kept the audience continually on their toes with constant changes in time. And this year's Halloween special was another great piece of television, the experimental nature of the tale delivering clever thrills and scares. Roll on series five!
I was really hoping it would be Doctor Who, but it just didn't quite hit the mark in the story department despite an amazing work by both Jodie Whittaker and Bradley Walsh. However, we had some brilliant British TV this year anyway and top pick for me is Bodyguard which featured both outstanding performances and a brilliant script.
Doctor Who (Jess Thomas)
I've already discussed how much of an improvement the show has been for me. My favourite part of series 11 was how, while the character’s of The Doctor and her companions developed, each story stood by itself. With both thrilling sci-fi and though provoking history, this new offering makes me hopeful for the future of the series.
Derry Girls (Hel Harding-Jones)
Lisa McGee’s 1990-set comedy following 16-year-old Erin Quinn and her school friends during The Troubles in Northern Ireland was just the tonic needed, and this was in the year that also gave us Inside No.9 Live and Killing Eve. This series was the laugh I personally needed on a Thursday evening. I challenge anyone not to fall in love with Erin, Michelle, Orla, Clare, James or Sister Michael and the soundtrack, full of old-school 90s tunes, was the nostalgic icing on the cake.
Best US / overseas show of the year
Westworld (Baz Greenland)
The second season of Westworld was another dazzling affair, that took the war between the hosts and humanity to another level. With a number of different time threads running concurrently, there were those that found it confusing. But if you paid attention you were rewarded with jaw dropping twists, gorgeous landscapes and heart-breaking character developments. Thandie Newton was a revelation once again as Maeve, who led her quest to find her daughter, while the episode focusing on native American host Akecheta (Dan McClarnon) was a true emotional tour de force. Geoffrey Wright was astounding as Bernard, as the character went to a whole new level in storytelling. Few shows are as sumptuous as Westworld and I eagerly await the third season to come...
Trust (Tom Bedford and Mari Jones)
FX’s adaptation of the Getty kidnapping was partly directed by Danny Boyle, which explains why it’s so good. Different episodes explore different aspects of the case, and with great performances from Donald Sutherland, Hillary Swank and Brendan Fraser, it’s a compelling drama, even if you didn't see All The Money In The World last year (Tom).
Whether you’re familiar with the Gettys or not, Simon Beaufoy’s take on the family was perfectly compelling and endlessly slick and stylish. Donald Sutherland’s portrayal of the miserly Getty was an absolute delight to see, as was Harris Dickinson’s performance as his grandson. But where really stood out was how it built up that complex and bizarre true story about the wealthy Gettys, and the kidnapping that made them all even more notorious. It became a sweeping jigsaw puzzle, with early moments gradually slotting into place later on and suddenly becoming significant, meaning it was a series best binge-watched in a couple of sittings (Mari).
The Haunting of Hill House (Colin Polonowski)
The Haunting of Hill House - for the reasons above and below!
My Brilliant Friend (Hel Harding-Jones)
My Brilliant Friend is the first in what will, hopefully, be four series adapting Elena Ferrante’s sublime Neapolitan Quartet of novels surrounding the lifelong friendship of Elena “Lenù” Greco and Rafaella “Lila” Cerullo. This sensational series, set in 1950s Naples, is rich and vividly rendered, and depicts the complexities and contradictions of love and female friendship told through remarkable performances, stunning cinematography and wonderful music.
Mystery Road (Gary Couzens)
Mystery Road takes place between Ivan Sen's original Mystery Road feature film (2013) and its 2016 sequel Goldstone. For this six-part miniseries, Sen took a producing role and handed over the directing reins to Rachel Perkins. Aaron Pedersen returns as Detective Jay Swan, investigating the disappearance of two young men, one white and one Aboriginal. He's teamed up with local police sergeant Emma James (Judy Davis). Needless to say, the investigation uncovers a few nasty secrets. It's a compelling tale, with Pederson showing he's one of the best actors in Australia at the moment - matching Davis, which is saying something.
Best new TV show of the year
911 (Baz Greenland)
Hospital, firefighter and crime procedurals are two a penny. Occasionally you'll get an interesting twist on the premise, usually involving a plucky detective and her civilian partner, but even that has become a bit of a cliché. Imagine my surprise then when Brad Falchuk, Tim Minear and Ryan Murphy gave us 911, a series following a firefighting / paramedic team, a 911 operator and a policewoman as they dealt with emergencies all over LA. What made this show so special was how tense and surprising it could be; one episode can follow three or four different cases, each more shocking than the last and then have a three-episode story dealing with a catastrophic earthquake. It is a show that is equally parts scary, tense, funny, touching and dramatic and the cast is pretty terrific too, particularly Peter Krause fire captain Bobby Nash and Angela Bassett as policewoman Athena Grant.
Killing Eve (Mari Jones)
After Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s excellent work on Fleabag, her involvement with this guaranteed we were getting something special. But for me, Killing Eve was even better than expected – a flawlessly constructed series filled with razor sharp humour and an incredible cast, the two highlights being the brilliant Sandra Oh as a determined security operative and Jodie Comer, whose trained assassin was both terrifying and delightful at the same time. With twists that kept me guessing right until the last episode, two female leads who were both fascinating and weirdly relatable, and so many moments that made me cry with laughter. You can count me in for series two.
The Dragon Prince (Jess Thomas)
This new Netflix show from the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender brings a high fantasy world to life in its first season in a new a refreshing way. Much of the world is what you would expect, magic and monsters, kings and knights. But The Dragon Prince has its own touch, its own spin, that makes it unique and beautiful to watch for people of all ages. Though the animation style was, on occasion, a little odd to watch, it is yet another show that proves that animation shouldn’t be looked down upon as lesser than live action media.
Best TV performance of the year
D'Arcy Carden in The Good Place (Baz Greenland and Jess Thomas)
Given how entertaining and nuanced the performances by all the main characters are in The Good Place, the character of Janet played by D'Arcy Carden is perhaps the most difficult to pull off. But for an artificial entity, Janet has warm, compassion, wit and humour in droves. I've enjoyed her journey as much as Eleanor, Chidi and the others. And just when you thought she couldn't beat her superb, endearing comic timing, she went as did pitch perfect impersonations of the rest of thr cast in the latest episode of season three.
Also, a brief mention to some over amazing performances; while Jodie Whittaker was great in Doctor Who, it was Bradley Walsh's Graham that stole the show this series. Alan Arkin broke my heart as Norman in The Kominsky Method. And as superb as always, Thandie Newton ruled the roost as Maeve in Westworld, so much so that I almost picked her again for 2018 (having been my no.1 performance in 2016). (Baz)
Over the past few months I have been doing weekly reviews of The Good Place, and of all the characters, I especially love Janet the most, the all-knowing afterlife helper who joins the humans on their journey. However, Carden’s acting chops are truly showcased in the episode Janet(s). Where Carden not only played Janet, but also all four of the human main characters. Carden’s ability to portray each character through their mannerisms and slight changes in her voice was truly astounding. This episode really exemplifies how amazing an actress she is and is well worth a watch. (Jess)
Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul (Tom Bedford and Jack Godwin)
Part of the reason for Better Call Saul’s graceful return to form is Bob Odenkirk’s depiction of the titular character, who finds a perfect balance between the show’s optimistic Jimmy and Breaking Bad’s scheming Saul. (Tom)
Even just a few minutes into Better Call Saul’s fourth season, I was certain that Odenkirk’s performance would be my favourite of the year. Saul’s arc may be a fall from grace not unlike Walt’s in Breaking Bad, but Odenkirk is given far more subtle psychological steps to take on his path to becoming a criminal lawyer. The actor’s nuanced performance sells every moment, with the most minor of facial expressions simultaneously showing us how he wants to be seen, how he really feels, and what we tricks himself into believing all at once. (Jack)
Jodie Whittaker in Doctor Who (Colin Polonowski)
Jodie had an impossible task in being the first woman to take on the role that has been played by men for the last fifty five years - and she managed it despite having to deal with less than stellar scripts.
Amy Adams in Sharp Objects (Hel Harding-Jones)
Adams’ portrayal of reporter Camille Preaker in Jean-Marc Vallée’s Southern Gothic drama - who returns home to investigate the case of two missing girls - is nothing short of incredible. Camille is forced to reunite with her estranged family and revisit all the oppressive emotional damage that has left her, quite literally, scarred. Did I mention she’s also a raging alcoholic? Adams’ portrayal of female trauma was completely convincing and yet she never made Camille a victim, instead embracing her strength and assertiveness. She walked a fine line between rage and vulnerability; wearing her heart on her sleeve if the people around her small hometown bothered to look for it.
Best TV episode of the year
Supernatural: Scoobynatural (Baz Greenland)
A show shouldn't be able to pull off an episode as good as Scoobynatural in its thirteenth year. But in, what was altogether a stronger season overall, Supernatural produced a hilarious love letter to Scooby Doo as Sam, Dean and Castiel were sucked into a TV and came face to face with Scooby, Shaggy and co. to investigate the latest mystery. There were so many wonderful moments to choose from, many around Dean who got to share his love of food with Scooby and tried to seduce Daphne to the horrifying moment the scooby gang discovered monsters were real and all had a nervous breakdown. You wouldn't find a more fun episode of television all year...
BoJack Horseman: Free Churro (Tom Bedford)
This is the animated equivalent to a one-shot episode of a live action show. The whole episode is a monologue from one character, and it progresses through the cycles and twists of a traditional episode even better than the season’s others. Will Arnett’s performance of it is what keeps it all together, twisting and turning throughout.
The Haunting of Hill House: Two Storms (Colin Polonowski)
Not only was the series one of the best things I've ever watched, the sixth episode that involved just a few long takes was a techincally brilliant piece of television that felt as much like a stunning stage play as it did a TV episode. Shifting scenes around the camera, two huge sets and brilliant portrayals that showcased actors in career best performances, make this an episode that will be held up as a case study on how to do it for decades to come.
Atlanta: Teddy Perkins (Jack Godwin)
Honestly, any episode from Atlanta’s ‘Robbin’ Season’ could be a pick for episode of the year, but it’s Teddy Perkins that stands out to me. It plays into many of the strengths of the show, being one of the episodes this season where Donald Glover’s protagonist barely appears, side-stepping the ongoing plot to focus on a secondary character: the quiet, offbeat and hilariously spaced-out philosopher Darius. What follows is a great vehicle for both LaKeith Stanfield’s comedic and dramatic chops, a dive into the psychological pressures and abuse that child stars sometimes face; all wrapped up in an effective and concise horror story.
Atlanta: FUBU (Mari Jones)
The second series of Donald Glover’s hit show raised the bar even more, many episodes playing out like inventive short films, yet with each of them still feeding into the bigger story of Alfred, aka rapper Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry), and his cousin Earn (Donald Glover), who’s trying to manage him without going broke. While many moments stood out this time around, it was the Teddy Perkins and FUBU episodes that were the highlights, both for very different reasons. However, as much as I loved the insane and hilarious Teddy Perkins episode, for me it was FUBU that came out on top; its look back at Earn and Alfred’s school days both funny and incredibly poignant. It’s a beautifully written episode revolving around a potentially fake shirt, which gradually becomes a powerful look at the struggles facing Earn and Alfred even when they were young. But it is the ending that is the most memorable – a shocking moment that will leave you numb, and which marks Atlanta as an increasingly important show to watch.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: I’m Not The Person I Used To Be (Jess Thomas)
*SPOILERS*The midseason finale of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s final season is a doozy. Now the show, in general, is amazing. But this episode is particularly satisfying to watch. It brings back a beloved character, Greg and cleverly acknowledges the fact that he is now played by Skylar Astin rather than Santino Fontana. Now this somewhat fourth-wall breaking acknowledgment could have fallen flat on it face and just been annoying. But instead it adds to the hilarity of a much-awaited moment in the show. I only started watching the show this summer and I was already on the edge of my seat waiting to see if Greg would return. And the fact that he has really adds to how the narrative and characters could develop over the final few episodes. If you haven’t watched this episode or series yet, I cannot recommend it enough.
Best TV moment of the year
The opening twenty minutes of Bodyguard episode one (Baz Greenland)
Outside perhaps every moment of The Haunting of Hill House, you'll be hard pressed to find anything on television this year as tense as the opening twenty minutes of Bodyguard. Richard Madden's Budd is taking his children home on a train when his skills as a solider finds him uncovering a suicide bomber about to kill everyone, including his family in a terrorist attack. It's nail biting stuff, his innocent children onboard adding to the emotional drama and the interplay between Madden and Anjli Mohindra's terrified Nadia left the audience holding their breath. You wondered how the situation could end any other way than the death of everyone on the train. If you're looking for an example of how to kick of a series with a bang, this is it.
Mac’s Dance in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Tom Bedford)
While the season ended rather disappointingly, Mac’s Pride Dance at the end of the finale is superb. It throws out the show’s comedy genre for a heartfelt and effective elucidation of sexuality and trauma, all in the form of one long dance sequence. The best part is the show is that it is unapologetic for this change
The whole of The Haunting of Hill House Episode Six (Colin Polonowski)
As I noted above, this was a technically brilliant piece of television and one of the best episodes ever.
Jeremy Bearimy in The Good Place (Jack Godwin)
Even as it has had to adapt and change over time, The Good Place hasn’t strayed too far from its strong suits : absurdist humour and philosophical musings on what it means to be a ‘good person’. The show offered up an all-timer when Michael (Ted Danson) offered up an explanation for how time works in the afterlife. While we experience time as a straight line, they experience it as “the name Jeremy Bearimy in cursive English”. Danson’s deadpan explanation of the nonsensical met with Chidi’s (William Jackson Harper) confounded reaction is one of the funniest moments of one of the year’s best comedies.
And that brings our end of year TV review to an end? Perhaps more than any other year, there were shows that split our readers; Doctor Who frustrated some of us and delighted others and even in the mediocre scripts there were still great performances to be had. The Sinner failed to make its mark second time round but delighted too, Atlanta produced some of the very best episodes this year, Bodyguard delivered tension and drama, Trust was one of the best shows coming out of the US, while Star Trek: Discovery and Better Call Saul went from strength to strength. And we all agreed that The Haunting of Hill House was quite brilliant.
But what were your television highlights of 2018? Join in the discussion with us in the comments below or on Twitter...