2018 was such an outstanding year in television that rumors of the death of the new Golden Age of TV may have been premature. The quality might have decreased over the past few years on the four major networks, but Netflix, Amazon, FX, BBC America, Showtime, and HBO continue to step up their games with the launching of compelling new series.
Among our picks for the best of the 2018 crop of new shows are groundbreaking series that finally opened doors that should have already been pushed aside. FX and Ryan Murphy’s critically acclaimed Pose features the largest ensemble of transgender actors in series regular roles, among other firsts. Killing Eve‘s Sandra Oh made history when she earned a well deserved Emmy nomination in the Lead Actress in a Drama Series category, marking the first time an Asian actress has achieved that honor. 2018’s pack of new primetime shows pushed boundaries and found innovative ways to enthrall viewers.
Three women who turn to crime to help with their financial problems, a sci-fi drama with a definite Lost vibe, and a new chapter in the Narcos saga made the cut for the best new shows of 2018. Kevin Costner topped a talented ensemble with Yellowstone, Sorry for Your Loss found Elizabeth Olsen delivering her best work to date, and Richard Madden (the would-be King in the North who died in the Red Wedding) had viewers glued to the screen with the riveting thriller, Bodyguard.
My Brilliant Friend might not be on everyone’s radar, but this beautiful, heartbreaking series is a must see. (Give it time, it’s a slow build.) Succession introduced one of the most dysfunctional families ever to grace the small screen while Bill Hader teamed up with Henry Winkler for the dark comedy Barry, a surprisingly moving tale of a hitman/wannabe actor. Kurt Sutter captivated Sons of Anarchy fans with an intense sequel/spinoff, and who would have thought a series about Sabrina the Teenage Witch would wind up featuring some of the best supporting performances of 2018.
Oscar winner Julia Roberts held out for the perfect project to make her debut as the lead of a television series with Homecoming. That series along with Killing Eve and the outstanding The Haunting of Hill House vied for the top spot on this list. Killing Eve, Homecoming, and The Haunting of Hill House could easily swap spots in the top three, but ultimately we settled on The Haunting of Hill House. The Netflix series was complex yet accessible, shocking and satisfying, and each episode was masterfully written, shot, directed and acted.
2018’s Best New TV Shows
- 15. Manifest starring Josh Dallas, Melissa Roxburgh, Athena Karkanis, J.R. Ramirez, Luna Blaise, Jack Messina, and Parveen Kaur
The Plot: When Montego Air Flight 828 landed safely after a turbulent but routine flight, the crew and passengers were relieved. Yet in the span of those few hours, the world had aged five years and their friends, families and colleagues, after mourning their loss, had given up hope and moved on. Now, faced with the impossible, they’re all given a second chance. But as their new realities become clear, a deeper mystery unfolds and some of the returned passengers soon realize they may be meant for something greater than they ever thought possible.
- 14. Good Girls starring Christina Hendricks, Retta, Mae Whitman, and Matthew Lillard
The Plot: When three suburban moms get tired of trying to make ends meet, they decide it’s time to stick up for themselves by robbing the local grocery store. But when the manager catches a glimpse of one of them and the loot is far more than they expected, it doesn’t take long for the three best friends to realize the perfect getaway will be harder than they think.
- 13. Sorry for Your Loss starring Elizabeth Olsen, Kelly Marie Tran, Jovan Adepo, Mamoudou Athie, and Janet McTeer
The Plot: The sudden death of her husband upends and transforms every relationship in Leigh Shaw’s life.
- 12. Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner, Wes Bentley, Kelly Reilly, Luke Grimes, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille, Danny Huston, and Gil Birmingham
The Plot: Kevin Costner stars as John Dutton, who controls the largest contiguous ranch in the United States, under constant attack by those it borders — land developers, an Indian reservation, and America’s first National Park. It is an intense study of a violent world far from media scrutiny — where land grabs make developers billions, and politicians are bought and sold by the world’s largest oil and lumber corporations. Where drinking water poisoned by fracking wells and unsolved murders are not news: they are a consequence of living in the new frontier. It is the best and worst of America seen through the eyes of a family that represents both.
- 11. My Brilliant Friend starring Elisa Del Genio, Ludovica Nasti, Margherita Mazzucco, and Gaia Girace
The Plot: My Brilliant Friend is the tale of Elena Greco and the most important friend in her life. She met Raffaella Cerullo, whom she has always called Lila, in the first year of primary school in 1950. Set in a dangerous and fascinating Naples, their story goes on to cover more than 60 years of their lives and explores the mystery of Lila, Elena’s brilliant friend and – in a way – both her best friend and her worst enemy.
- 10. Bodyguard starring Richard Madden, Keeley Hawes, and Gina McKee
The Plot: Set in and around the corridors of power, Bodyguard tells the fictional story of David Budd (Madden), a heroic, but volatile war veteran now working as a Specialist Protection Officer for the Royalty and Specialist Branch (RasP) of London’s Metropolitan Police Service. When he is assigned to protect the ambitious and powerful Home Secretary Julia Montague (Hawes), Budd finds himself torn between his duty and his beliefs. Responsible for her safety, could he become her biggest threat?
- 9. Narcos: Mexico starring Diego Luna, Michael Pena, Aaron Staton, Alejandro Edda, Alfonso Dosal, Alyssa Diaz, Clark Freeman, Ernesto Alterio, and Fermín Martinez
The Plot: Shifting away from Colombia where Narcos spent three seasons, Narcos: Mexico explores the origins of the modern drug war by going back to its roots, beginning at a time when the Mexican trafficking world was a loose and disorganized confederation of independent growers and dealers. Witness the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel in the 1980s as Félix Gallardo (Luna) takes the helm, unifying traffickers in order to build an empire.
When DEA agent Kiki Camarena (Peña) moves his wife and young son from California to Guadalajara to take on a new post, he quickly learns that his assignment will be more challenging than he ever could have imagined. As Kiki garners intelligence on Félix and becomes more entangled in his mission, a tragic chain of events unfold, affecting the drug trade and the war against it for years to come.
- 8. Succession starring Kieran Culkin, Hiam Abbass, Sarah Snook, Alan Ruck, Nicholas Braun, Matthew Macfadyen, Natalie Gold, Peter Friedman, and Rob Yang
The Plot: The Roy family – Logan Roy and his four children – controls one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world. The HBO drama series tracks their lives as they contemplate what the future will hold for them once their aging father begins to step back from the company.
- 7. Barry starring Bill Hader, Henry Winkler, Sarah Goldberg, Stephen Root, and Paula Newsome
The Plot: Barry is a dark comedy starring Bill Hader as a depressed, low-rent hitman from the Midwest. Lonely and dissatisfied in his life, he reluctantly travels to Los Angeles to execute a hit on an aspiring actor. Barry follows his “mark” into an acting class and ends up finding an accepting community in a group of eager hopefuls within the LA theater scene. He wants to start a new life as an actor, but his criminal past won’t let him walk away — can he find a way to balance both worlds?
- 6. Pose starring Billy Porter, Mj Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, Hailie Sahar, Angelica Ross, Evan Peters, Kate Mara, James Van Der Beek, Charlayne Woodard, Ryan Jamaal Swain, Dyllón Burnside and Angel Bismark Curiel
The Plot: Set in the 1980s, Pose is a dance musical that explores the juxtaposition of several segments of life and society in New York: the ball culture world, the rise of the luxury Trump-era universe and the downtown social and literary scene.
- 5. Mayans M.C. starring JD Pardo, Clayton Cardenas, Edward James Olmos, Sarah Bolger, Michael Irby, Carla Baratta, Richard Cabral, and Danny Pino
The Plot: Set in a post-Jax Teller world, Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (Pardo) is fresh out of prison and a prospect in the Mayans M.C. charter on the Cali/Mexi border. Now, EZ must carve out his new identity in a town where he was once the golden boy with the American Dream in his grasp.
- 4. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina starring Kiernan Shipka, Miranda Otto, Lucy Davis, Ross Lynch, Michelle Gomez, Chance Perdomo, Jaz Sinclair, and Richard Coyle
The Plot: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina imagines the origin and adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch as a dark coming-of-age story that traffics in horror, the occult and, of course, witchcraft. Tonally in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, this adaptation finds Sabrina wrestling to reconcile her dual nature — half-witch, half-mortal — while standing against the evil forces that threaten her, her family and the daylight world humans inhabit.
- 3. Homecoming (Amazon Prime) starring Julia Roberts, Stephan James, Bobby Cannavale, Shea Whigham, Sissy Spacek, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Alex Karpovsky, Jeremy Allen White, and Dermot Mulroney
The Plot: Homecoming features Julia Roberts as Heidi Bergman, a caseworker at the Homecoming Transitional Support Center, a facility that helps soldiers returning home from war. She develops a complex relationship with a young veteran eager to rejoin civilian life named Walter Cruz, played by breakout newcomer Stephan James. Cannavale appears as Bergman’s erratic offsite supervisor Colin Belfast, withKarpovsky as the facility’s life-skills coach, Craig. Jean-Baptiste plays Walter’s mother Gloria, while JWhite and Mulroney fill out the cast as Heidi’s ex-boyfriend and a fellow Homecoming veteran, respectively.
This narrative alternates with another, taking place four years later, when we find Heidi in a new life as a small-town waitress living with her mother, portrayed by Spacek. When a Department of Defense auditor (Whigham) questions her about her departure from the Homecoming facility, Heidi begins to question the narrative — and reality — she has spun for herself.
- 2. Killing Eve (BBC America) starring Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh
The Plot: Killing Eve is a dramatic thriller revolving around a psychopathic assassin and the woman charged with hunting her down. It is a combination of brutal mischief making and pathos, filled with sharp humor, originality and high stakes action.
BBC America’s Killing Eve centers on two women; Eve is a bored, whip-smart, pay-grade security services operative whose desk-bound job doesn’t fulfill her fantasies of being a spy. Villanelle is an elegant, talented killer who clings to the luxuries her violent job affords her. Killing Eve topples the typical spy-action thriller as these two fiercely intelligent women, equally obsessed with each other, go head to head in an epic game of cat and mouse.
- 1. The Haunting of Hill House starring Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino, Timothy Hutton, Elizabeth Reaser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Henry Thomas, Kate Siegel, and Victoria Pedretti
The Plot: A modern reimagining of Shirley Jackson’s iconic novel, The Haunting of Hill House explores a group of siblings who, as children, grew up in what would go on to become the most famous haunted house in the country. Now adults, and forced back together in the face of tragedy, the family must finally confront the ghosts of their past — some of which still lurk in their minds while others may actually be stalking the shadows of Hill House.
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Not eligible for this list because they’re limited series but worthy of mentioning: Trust starring Hilary Swank, Donald Sutherland, and Harris Dickinson; the 2018 installment of American Crime Story, The Assassination of Gianni Versace; A Very English Scandal with Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw; and Escape at Dannamora starring Patricia Arquette, Benecio Del Toro, and Paul Dano.