My top TV shows of 2018

Most TV I watched last year were actually shows that had come out a few years back. Basically I’ve been catching up. So for this list I just wanted to review new shows or new seasons out in 2018.

Here were my favourites.

Killing Eve

The story goes: MI5 Desk analyst Eve (Sandra Oh) gets tangled up in the hunt for a psychopathic assassin called Villanelle (Jodie Comer) in an unexpected and delicious manner. Now this show came somewhat out of nowhere accompanied with much hype, and rightly so as it’s fantastic. The writing was nuanced and inventive, but it lived or died with the performances of the two leads, Oh and Comer. The dynamic between their characters made for some of the show’s best moments. Comer in particular, astounded me – beautiful, precocious, deadly. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Daredevil season 3

They say you should always go out on a high and, boy, did this show do so (Disney have since cancelled it, damn them). In this final season our hero Matt Murdoch aka Daredevil (Charlie Cox) finds he’s got both the rising power of Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) to deal with, as well as the highly unstable FBI agent Ben Poindexter aka Bullseye (Wilson Bethel). All whilst he’s been stripped of his suit and is wanted by the police. So we go back to basics. After a slightly unsatisfying season two and the underwhelming first (and only) season of the Defenders, this final chapter on the devil of Hell’s Kitchen feels like a welcome return to form, anchored by strong performances from Cox, D’Onofrio and Bethel.

The Deuce season 2

The first season of this show put the lives of pimps, escorts, bar men and the mafia in New York’s ‘deuce’ area in the late ‘70s under the microscope. It was created by the guy behind The Wire, David Simon, and it’s a show very much in that mould, following a host of characters as their lives intertwine and intersect. With season 2 they move the timeline on five years to the point where some of the characters have moved beyond street walking to become porn actresses and, in the case of Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a bona-fide porn director. The other character you could call a lead of the show, Vince (James Franco), now owns a nightclub, bar and massage parlour, although he’s beholden to the mob and conflicted about his line of work. As with any of Simon’s shows the way he juggles character and story is masterful, the worlds he builds feel real and the characters flawed and human. Audiences agreed and the show will be back for a third and final season.

Westworld season 2

Westworld season 1 showed us a world where a theme park exists populated by AI ‘hosts’ that are indistinguishable from people. It was like the Wild West, and rich humans could go there and live out fantasies killing the hosts and soforth. The conflict arose when the hosts began to retain memories each time they were brought back to life. Then they began to rebel. Season 1 played out across multiple timelines with multiple characters, some host some human. Season 2 continued this, but upped the ante, adding more timelines, flash backs, forwards, sideways, timelines within timelines, worlds within worlds. Imagine the films Inception and Momento had a baby and got drunk and you’re halfway there. Thoroughly confusing but still utterly compelling to the point where you begin to think that any moment they’ll lift the curtain and it’ll all make sense. But it doesn’t, and by the end you don’t much care, as the journey was such a blast.

Altered Carbon

Based on a 2002 novel, this was another of Netflix’s forays into sci-fi; which may have left some of us viewers nervous, as they’re a bit hit and miss in this genre. This show, thankfully, was fantastic. Taking place in a cyberpunk future where a person’s personality/mind etc can be loaded into a ‘stack’ implanted at the base of the neck, effectively meaning they can switch bodies and live forever, or at least the rich can. We start with Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman), a sort of mercenary investigator, resurrected from ‘death’ and called in to investigate the actual (yet not successful) murder of one of the wealthiest men in the universe, 300-year-old Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy). There’s sex, violence, cool tech, Kinnamon scowling, Kinnamon’s abs, what’s not to like? Also, for the second season, Anthony Mackie will be in the lead role.

Billions season 3

US Attorney Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti) versus hedge fund billionare Bobby Axelrod (Damien Lewis). That’s sort of all you really need to know about this show. Chuck goes after Bobby, gets him tangled up in various legal issues. Bobby fights back, he schemes, he works the market as best he can. Season 2 was interesting in that Chuck and Bobby found their paths diverge somewhat, with Chuck moving more into politics and Bobby trying to avoid jail time and losing his company. The show did find some inventive ways to bring them together at times, getting perilously close to tipping over into ridiculous melodrama. That said, both Giamatti and Lewis are phenomenal actors and any opportunity to watch them face off is a delight.

My top TV shows of 2014

Golden age indeed. These days, TV is up there with film in terms of quality of story, well written and believable characters and – in some cases – almost cinematic production values. And this year was a mightily good year when it came to a night on the sofa with the latest ‘must watch’ show.

From crime and fantasy dramas and zombies everywhere, to Victorian witches and oversexed vampires, here are the shows that rocked my world and floated my boat this year.

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Penny Dreadful: season 1
With a cast including Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Harry Treadaway and Josh Hartnett, this show surpassed expectations with a host of intriguing characters and powerhouse performances, particularly from Green. Every time she went into possessed demonic mode the show went up a few notches.

Fargo: season 1
Martin Freeman as a timid insurance salesman from Minnesota up against Billy Bob Thornton’s enigmatic mobster hitman. As an idea for a TV show this was perhaps an odd gamble, yet one that paid off. No doubt down to the superb writing and outstanding performances. Freeman again proving to people just how good he really is.

The Leftovers: season 1
There’s so much beauty in grief and suffering, yet it’s rarely shown in such a captivating manner. Here it was brought to life by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta – with a fine lead performance from Justin Theroux – in a story that charted the lives of a group of people, following the disappearance of 2 per cent of the world’s population.

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Game of Thrones: season 4
As the Starks, Lannisters and all other families grow further apart, each on quests of their own, the story and world of Westeros and beyond expands. This makes it tougher and tougher for the show’s writers and creators, still they deliver, with possibly the most visually stunning and emotionally engaging season so far.

Walking Dead: season 5
As it stands, we’ve only had the first half before the show hit its mid season break. It’s been good though, watching Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes slowly but surely lose his humanity, as he’s faced first with cannibals then just the general dregs of mankind that seem to now inhabit the earth and plague him at every turn.

The Strain: season 1
File this under ‘guilty pleasure’ TV. From the creepy and fantastical minds of Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro, this show (which started life as a novel, then a graphic novel) has vampires portrayed as parasites, causing chaos in New York as a small band of average heroes try to stop them, with varying degrees of success.

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Homeland: season 4
With Brody (Damien Lewis) out of the picture Carrie Mathison (Clare Danes) took centre stage this season as Chief of Station in an increasingly volatile Pakistan, on the hunt for terrorists. With drones, torture, kidnap and diplomatic backstabbing, this latest outing proved to be a marked return to form.

Forever: season 1
More guilty pleasure TV, this time in the form of a sort of mashup of Highlander meets CSI with Ioan Gruffudd’s immortal medical examiner solving murder cases in New York. Given the morbid subject, it’s an upbeat and easy watch. Thanks in part to the breezy chemistry between Gruffudd and his detective partner, played by Alana de la Garza.

True Blood: season 7
The final hurrah for this show was something of an anticlimax – or a least more of a sombre tone than its predecessors. However you have to give it credit for the seasons that went before, yet it just didn’t have the same verve and bite (ha!) after the show’s creator, Alan Ball, left after the fifth season.

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True Detective: season 1
McConaughey at the height of his powers turned his attention to TV for this deeply intense, brooding miniseries. One where he played the maverick detective to Woody Harrelson’s more straight arrow (albeit, with problems of his own) cop, both tracking down a serial killer over a period of many years.

24: Live Another Day
Despite a concern knawing away at you that this show probably should have ended some time ago, it’s risen from the ashes… so we’ll have to live with it. For the latest season it halved the number of episodes for a leaner, tighter story, with Jack Bauer legging it around London looking for people to beat up.