10 Best TV Shows Of 2018
By GameSpot Staff on
What were your favorite shows in 2018?
As much as 2018 was a great year for movies, it was even more insanely good for TV shows of all varieties. Choosing our favorite shows of 2018 was honestly a massive challenge, because there was simply so much amazing TV this year. There was something for everyone, whether you're into weird sci-fi, superheroes, anime, horror, comedy, or even unlikely revivals of '80s movies that are way better than they have any right to be. Whether you're into middle-aged karate masters, aspiring hip-hop managers, secret Russian spies, haunted houses, or just good old fashioned superheroes, this year had something for you.
Difficult as it was, the GameSpot entertainment team eventually narrowed it down to these ten TV shows as our favorites from 2018. There are many more shows we love that we simply didn't have room to include, but these ten shows represent the wide breadth of our interests as a team, and we believe there's something for everyone on this list.
These shows had us glued to our TV or laptop screens, whether we were tuning in week to week, or feverishly binging entire seasons the moment they dropped. They had us laughing hysterically, shrieking in fear, and crying tears of raw emotion--sometimes all in the same episode.
This year, instead of ranking our favorite shows from one to ten, we decided to present them all on equal footing. So here, in order of US premiere, are our 10 favorite TV shows of the year. You can also check out our our absolute, number one, top show of 2018, as well as our top 10 movies of 2018 as well.
Lastly, as always, let us know what shows you loved this year in the comments below.
Atlanta Season 2
US premiere date: March 1
Coming into the second season of Atlanta, it's easy to go in expecting the same balance of humor and heartbreak found from its freshman outing. But in the cold open of the first episode, sans familiar crew, you see a couple of friends spend a lazy afternoon visiting the local fast-food joint. What seems like a fun interlude quickly escalates with the duo holding up the place, trading bullets with the AK-47 wielding manager, and witnessing an innocent bystander get caught in the cross-fire.
The subtitle of the sophomore outing is "Robbin' Season," and while you can take it at face value as shown in the cold open, each of the main characters face their own set of challenges that likely rob them of something irreplaceable--all the while dealing with the absurdity of life in the city's lively music scene. As the always aloof but ever wise Darius says in the first episode, "Robbin' Season. Christmas approaches, and everybody's gotta eat." To which Earn responds, "Or be eaten."
Donald Glover's series is an equally harsh and hilarious look at the struggles and hustle of trying to make it in the titular city. One of the greatest things to say about Atlanta is its remarkable awareness for the black-millennial experience, dealing with everyday casual racism and hardships, while still trying to keep your head above water. Robbin' Season, while still carrying the razor-sharp wit and surreal humor from 2016's season, is a remarkably darker turn for the series--with one episode descending into a thriller--and despite some minor wins throughout, each character manages to take an "L" that leaves a major and lasting sting. -- Alessandro Fillari
The Americans Season 6
US premiere date: March 28
Many long-running shows end with a bang, particularly when they can accurately be described for most of their runs as "adrenaline-fueled spy dramas full of intrigue, sex, violence, and espionage." But when The Americans ended this year, its Season 6 finale--the FX show's final episode--went out with a quiet, emotional whimper. It culminated in a single scene--a simple conversation--that fans had been waiting to see for years. And then it was just over. It was perfect.
Throughout its life, The Americans followed two Russian spies (Matthew Rhys's Philip Jennings and his wife, Keri Russell's Elizabeth Jennings) who were sent to Washington, DC as teenagers to start new, fake lives as Americans. They began a real family while doing the Russian government's bidding, murdering targets in cold blood, collecting intelligence any ruthless way they could, and communicating with their homeland only through furtive meetings with a small handful of contacts. And over the years, they grew to love each other in real ways neither anticipated.
The show had its ups and downs, and the exceptionally slow Season 5 was a particular low point. But Season 6 picked things back up by following through on every theme and thread the show had established over the years: What does it mean to love one's country? When is blind obedience required, and when should you question what you're told to do? Can the bonds of family overcome a person's nature? Philip and Elizabeth did horrible things, but it was easy to root for them anyway, because they always believed in the cause--until they started to doubt it, and that was when the show cemented itself as a masterpiece.
Throughout it all, it was never clear, even up to the very last scene, how The Americans would end. It turned out to be that rare conclusion that both wrapped the story up perfectly and left you wanting more--even though the story is over, it felt like Season 7 could debut next year and pick it right back up. The Jennings may be terrible people, but although we probably won't find out what happens to them next, I'm glad we got to know them for the time we did. -- Mike Rougeau
My Hero Academia Season 3
US premiere date: April 7
After just three seasons, My Hero Academia has already become one of the greatest Shonen anime and manga of all time. The world of My Hero Academia is one where most of the population are now born with "quirks." giving them superpowers, which has turned many into heroes and others into villains. The show closely follows Izuku Midoriya, a quirkless boy whose dream is to be a great hero. He’s given the opportunity thanks to the greatest hero of all time passing on his powers to Midoriya.
The third season of the show was its strongest yet, with Midoriya--who’s still in the hero training academy, U.A.--finally taking on true villains and being forced to make life or death decisions in order to save civilians. This season is filled with some of the largest events the show has seen so far, and the repercussions as a result. But in the face of all of this, it’s the characters who stand out the most, as U.A. is filled with students and teachers who are genuinely a pleasure to spend time with. My Hero Academia stands out not just as a great anime, but also one of the greatest superhero stories ever told -- Dave Klein
US premiere date: May 2
Cobra Kai should be terrible. It's important to get that out of the way immediately. It's a follow-up to Karate Kid, perhaps the most '80s movie ever made, and stars the film's protagonist and antagonist--two actors whose work following the series was never in a leading role. It's also a half-hour comedic drama on a fledgling streaming service that many people weren't sure how to subscribe to. Nothing about this show screams "must see."
And yet, somehow, Cobra Kai is practically perfect in every measurable way. It actually feels like a sequel to a movie from three decades ago, once again immersing viewers into the lives of those in California's San Fernando Valley. Since the end of the original Karate Kid, our hero Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) has become a used car salesman, casting him as the villain of this new story in some ways. Meanwhile, his old foe Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) has lived a hard life and struggles to make ends meet when he finds karate once again.
The idea is so simple. Switch the roles and see what happens. And what viewers got was 10 episodes of a fascinating story about what victory and defeat can do to a person, how old feuds never really die, and, most importantly, legacy. These are two men who were built in the shadows of their mentors. One has emerged from it and surpassed it, while the other has hidden in it since he was a child. When those two forces come to a head, with the two this time training opposing kids in the famed All-Valley Karate Tournament, the magic is still there and perhaps even better than before. The story of Karate Kid shouldn't be one that could be revisited this much later and still work so incredibly well. It does, though, and we can't wait for Season 2. -- Chris Hayner
Better Call Saul Season 4
US premiere date: August 6
Breaking Bad is one of the best television shows ever made. Its spin-off, Better Call Saul, from Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, might be even better. Sure, Saul doesn’t have the addictive elements of the cancer survivor-turned-meth cook’s story, but it’s a stunning example of expert execution. It’s also more heartbreaking.
Television is littered with remakes, spin-offs, sequels, and prequels, yet Saul has never been concerned with catching up to Breaking Bad’s story, nor the heavy-handedness of empty Easter eggs. Its brilliance is a result of its methodical, glacial pace. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the ride through New Mexico’s underbelly.
If you’ve been sitting shotgun since 2015, this should be no surprise. The story centers on Jimmy McGill’s tragic downfall and life-long battle with his own demons. It’s packed full with the legalities (and illegalities) of the justice system, the most mundane clerical duties, cold-blooded cartel power dynamics, and illegitimate entrepreneurs. Season 4 featured Jimmy’s journey from disbanded lawyer to Saul Goodman (the finale even gave us its title character’s namesake). It wasn’t Anakin Skywalker turning to the dark side, but McGill’s transformation was extremely haunting and affecting. His partner-in-sometimes-crime, Kim Wexler, played by the incredible Rhea Seehorn, was left repulsed beyond belief.
If we had to pick one reason to watch Season 4, it’s Seehorn. She’s become the backbone of a show littered with exceptional actors. She’s evolved into Saul’s co-protagonist, but someone who doesn’t quite have the stomach for all of McGill’s cons. Kim is a lawyer full of confidence, anxiety and dread. Her anxiety quickly shifts to the viewer, who spends each and every episode on pins and needles. All we know of her fate is this: She never showed up on Breaking Bad.
If that’s not enough, Better Call Saul feels written by experienced, tactical surgeons--or better yet, by expert chemists. The way Gilligan and company purposefully back themselves into a corner just to prove they can cleverly write themselves out of it, perfectly mirrors the agility of their main character. Make no mistake, we’ve become junkies for what Gilligan and company have cooked up. -- Ryan Peterson
Bojack Horseman Season 5
US premiere date: September 14
“You say you want to get better, but you don’t know how.”
We’ve watched and rooted for BoJack to get his life together for four seasons, and finally in Season 5, everything starts going his way. His career, for instance, is experiencing something of a renaissance. He lands the leading role in a gritty, high-profile detective show called Philbert. It’s critically lauded, and his performance in particular is widely praised by fans and press alike. But he just can’t let himself enjoy this renewed success, instead spiralling into a drug-fuelled paranoia, determined to ruin himself and the relationships with those around him yet again.
The show doesn’t just linger on BoJack and his often self-imposed troubles. The fifth season continues the tradition of cutting social commentary, including on-point observations about our obsession with Hollywood (or "Hollywoo") culture, and desperation to be seen, not just via our popular social channels, but by other people. It also spends a lot of time exploring the already well-rounded secondary cast of characters. Diane travels to Vietnam to understand more about her culture, Todd accidentally manages to become President of Ad Sales and Streamable Content for a leading online time-telling company, and Princess Carolyn continues on her journey to have a child of her own. Everyone has troubles, and opening up about them to others is something what the characters struggle with most.
And that’s what’s so compelling about BoJack Horseman: We can see so much of ourselves in it. Take BoJack for example: We want him to change so that we can believe that we can change. We root for him to succeed, despite him showing us time and again that he’s selfish, obnoxious, and destructive--just as willing to ruin the lives of those around him as he is his own. The most heartbreaking thing is that BoJack recognises his self-destructive behavior and desperately struggles to change it. That's why when he does have a rare instance of self-realisation or personal growth, it feels like a truly momentous occasion, and convinces us to stay invested in him. Because if he is capable of change, then maybe so are we.
Season 5 is one of BoJack's strongest, continuing the tradition of messing with episode formats and structure to deliver some of the best and most memorable episodes. Be sure to watch Season 5’s standout episode Free Churro, which takes the simple setup of BoJack delivering a eulogy and turns it into one of the most raw, powerful episodes of television you’ll watch all year.
BoJack is far from better, but the show continues to excel. -- Lucy James
US premiere date: September 21
Maniac is one of the most complex, challenging shows of 2018. It's a sci-fi comedy drama, loosely based on a Norwegian show of the same name, with The Leftovers' Patrick Somerville showrunning and True Detective Season 1's Cary Fukunaga directing every episode. It's is set in alternative retro-futuristic New York, and stars Jonah Hill and Emma Stone as Owen and Annie, two damaged people who submit themselves to a mysterious pharmaceutical trial for different reasons. The trials involve the subjects entering hallucinatory states, and almost immediately Annie and Owen's start to overlap, suggesting some unique bond between these two strangers.
As the series continues we see them in a variety of imagined situations, from a 1940s heist caper to a Tolkien-esque land of elves and fairies. But the boundaries between reality and fantasy frequently break down, with dialogues, faces, music, and events occurring in different contexts as Annie and Owen attempt to traverse the inner worlds of their psyches. And if that sounds like heavy going, it often is. But Maniac is also funny, sad, joyous, moving, exciting, and completely unlike anything on screens in 2018.
Hill and Stone are equally matched by Justin Theroux and Sonoya Mizuno as the unhinged doctors leading the experiments, and Sally Field as Theroux's mother, a bestselling motivational therapist who maintains a strange emotional hold over her son. Maniac is one of those shows where it's almost impossible to predict where each episodes is going to go next, but the 10 episodes are so brilliant and unique you'll want to start it again the moment it finishes. -- Dan Auty
The Good Place Season 2/3
US premiere date: September 20, 2017 (Season 2)/September 27, 2018 (Season 3)
There's just something unequivocally lovable about The Good Place. Focusing on four people who find themselves trying to navigate the afterlife, the show keeps finding ways to reinvent itself, pushing its premise in new and unexpected directions and mining those directions for humor and heart. The writing is consistently top-notch, laden with hilarious one-liners and numerous hidden gems. Discussions of philosophy and ethics have never been this entertaining.
Enough good things can't be said about the cast, either--the ensemble is a perfect combination of personality types and each actor mines the material for a different kind of humor. Kirsten Bell's Eleanor and William Jackson Harper's Chidi are perfect foils for each other even through the twists and turns of the story in Seasons 2 and 3, and Jameela Jamil's Tahani only seems to get funnier the more self-aware the snobby rich socialite becomes. Ted Danson is generally a steady hand on the wheel as the afterlife architect Michael, but he and offbeat computer being Janet (D'arcy Carden) grab plenty of opportunities for deadpan deliveries and ridiculous moments as well. And Manny Jacinto's Jason Mendoza is a particular standout because it seems like he can't even change expressions without it playing as a subtle but hilarious gag.
Though everyone on The Good Place is funny, it's more remarkable that the characters, like the show itself, have gone through so many changes. Their essential natures are the same, but the show and its cast keep redefining the ensemble, and it's a big part of what makes the show so endearing. Even as they deal with experiencing life after death, the characters of The Good Place are being constantly reworked and refined in fun ways that give them a lot of depth.
The best thing about The Good Place, though, is that it's a show about people who, at their core, want to be better than they already are. It carries a positivity that's infectious. It's nearly impossible not to come away from an episode of The Good Place without feeling better than you did when you started it. The Good Place is smart enough to say something about the real world, but refreshingly, it never makes its comments with cynicism--the whole point is that there's hope for all of us. Nobody's beyond changing if they want to, even Kristen Bell's oft-awful (but always hysterical) Eleanor and her Soul Squad companions. -- Phil Hornshaw
Daredevil Season 3
US premiere date: October 19
The Netflix Marvel superhero universe had its ups and downs, and nothing could really have ever made up for how bad Iron Fist Season 1 was, and what it did to The Defenders. That may have eventually led to the whole thing getting canceled this year, but for a brief while in 2017 and 2018, things were actually looking up. The Punisher was pretty good, Luke Cage Season 2 was a step in the right direction, and even Iron Fist Season 2 was watchable. And in 2018, we returned to where it all started: Daredevil. And you know what? It was extremely good to be back.
The original season of Netflix's Daredevil series set a high bar that most of the subsequent shows, from Luke Cage all the way to Defenders, failed to match. But thanks to a new showrunner and the return of fan favorite villain Wilson Fisk, Daredevil Season 3 somehow did the impossible and actually surpassed the show's first season to become the best season yet from Netflix and Marvel's uneven collaboration.
Daredevil Season 3 was about rebuilding. Matt (Charlie Cox) suffered his most emotionally and physically devastating defeat yet when an entire building fell on him at the end of Defenders, and he was forced to find the time and will to heal on multiple fronts. Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio) had a scheme to get out of prison, and he put himself at great risk to pull it off. Foggy (Elden Henson) and Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) were still dealing with the fact that Matt was gone, trying to put the pieces of their lives together without their best friend. Naturally, his eventual return only complicated things further.
But most of all, Daredevil Season 3 was a relatable parable for the very real dangers we're facing in our real life societies, from manipulative, evil "leaders" undermining the foundations of our lives, to fear being weaponized and used against us. Fisk was always a great villain, but in Season 3, when he seemed more real than ever, he became something more. This incarnation of Daredevil may be done, but boy did it go out on the right foot. -- Mike Rougeau
And the best show of 2018 is...
While the rest of this list was presented in chronological order rather than any particular ranking, we wanted to save the full reveal of our absolute, number 1, top, best TV show of the year for a separate article, so we could fully express why we loved it so much.