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The 8 Absolute Best TV Shows That Debuted in 2018, Ranked

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December 19, 2018

This calendar year, you have likely been show-shamed to catch up on series like Nailed It! or Roseanne (the No. 1-watched show in 2018 according to Nielsen) or maybe Sharp Objects by friends and colleagues who seemingly have more time or HBO logins on their hands.

 

Maybe you only watched one series to its conclusion this year, or were one of the personality-devoid bots who retread the entire back catalog of Friends and cheered on the $100 million Netflix shelled out to keep Friends on its streaming service through the end of next year. Maybe you’re still watching Riverdale, and for that, I am sorry.


Whatever your taste threshold, there were some absolute TV bulwarks that debuted in 2018. Yeah, Bojack Horseman and Atlanta were good again, yadda yadda. But these shows began streaming this year, and they are the best the boob tube has to offer.

8. Who is America?

You would like if: Nathan For You wasn’t uncomfortable enough of a watch

 

Sacha Baron Cohen’s brand of comedy can be discomfiting, but it’s a pretty genius way to rat out the creeps and strong-armers of the world's political hierarchy. After appearing on the show and duped into taking a "pedophile detector" test, former Senate candidate Roy Moore sued Cohen for $95 million. Another great clip is a paragon of middle America’s deep-seated racism, when another fake Cohen character holds a town hall proposing a mosque. It's funny and sad, but an uplifting way to address political polarity, I guess?

7. The Haunting of Hill House

You would like if: You believe in ghosts and can't wait for the new season of Black Mirror

 

By now, you’ve probably been beaten over the head with this show. Why it’s great, why it sucks, why it isn’t scary enough … but the slow-burn horror series from the mind of Mike Flanagan (Oculus) is genuinely frightening. Though they did Shirley Jackson dirty—the author of the book it was adapted from—it’s equal parts disturbing and entertaining.

6. Wild Wild Country

You would like if: Ma Anand Sheela's lack of atonement hits too close to home

 

I watched this at the clipped pace of a gay man's walk, but from what I remember this show gripped me just like the cult itself gripped hundreds of sheeple in its heyday. Distilled down, this dude named Osho, aka Rajneesh, built a utopian dude ranch for subscribers of his bizarre, free-thinking ways. His commune went tête-à-tête with locals in Antelope, Oregon, over a variety of issues, namely the commune just establishing its own city without asking anyone. Three guesses who went to jail …

5. Kidding

You would like if: Sad Jim Carrey is your favorite Jim Carrey

 

Michel Gondry—who created Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind together with Carrey—is behind this Showtime limited series wherein Carrey plays a down-at-heel children's show host. Mr. Pickles is somewhat akin to Mr. Rogers. He talks to children like they are grown-ups, but outside of his puppet-filled set, his life sucks. Pickles’s child died, his wife left him and he has to compartmentalize it so he can remain chaotic neutral on his show. However, too much trauma for one middle-aged man results in Pickles shaving his head and moving next door to his ex. It’s brilliantly sad and darkly mirrors Carrey’s real life.

4. Baby

You would like if: You didn’t get enough scandal from Trust on FX and you watched the bum sequel to Cruel Intentions

 

Baby came out of nowhere, seemingly. But in six streamlined episodes, we follow Chiara—a rich private school girl—as she becomes friendly with Ludo, a sultry Mia Wallace-lookin’ outcast. Together, the pair get involved in sugaring (offering sexual favors to older men in exchange for money). Another bad boy who enrolls in their school also gets caught up in this weird love triangle.

3. The End of the F***ing World

You would like if: Stranger Things was too earnest and sci-fi for you

 

It has long been proven that British TV is the best TV, and Channel 4 export The End of the F***ing World is some pitch black comedy deserving of your time. Over eight too-short episodes, two kids, Alyssa and James, set out on a road trip to find Alyssa’s father. Both are outcasts, but James is a Ted Bundy pupil who wants to graduate from animal torture to bigger game: His new mate, Alyssa, whom he both has a crush on and wants to murder. If that sounds dark, maybe it is, but you’ll find yourself laughing at the socially awkward dialogue and renting a car for your next holiday.

2. Escape at Dannemora

You would like if: You thought The Shawshank Redemption should've been 20 minutes longer

 

This may be my vote for second-best TV series that came out this year. The Golden Globe nominee for Best Limited Television Series hinges on a hefty prison matron, Tilly (played by Patricia Arquette, who gained 40lbs for the role). She has a crush on inmate Sweat, who she screws in the back of the workroom where inmates sew clothes, and is slowly manipulated to help him escape. Based on a true story, it's a high-stakes prison break with a tense climax.

1. Succession

You would like if: You felt Suits was too repetitive and The Big Short was too esoteric

 

If you somehow haven’t heard about this show, or have been ignoring it, then make it your next binge. Succession has it all: Coke-fuelled parties, lines drawn in the sand, ego masseuses and family secrets exposed. It is an amalgam of Rupert Murdoch's empirical business acumen and a particularly harrowing episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. A patriarch’s family-run corporation begins to spiral as each of his CE-whatever children vie for the top position when daddy falls ill. But dad, played brilliantly by Brian Cox, won't Sumner Redstone quietly …

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