This year was an absurd one for television. Thanks to streaming platforms, our seasonally-based conceptions of when shows should air have broken. Just when it felt like TV was dying down, it came back strong. As the year now draws to a close, it is time to rank the top five shows of 2018. Without further ado:
5. “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”
Light and exciting, this documentary series examines four simple components of food and how they simultaneously distinguish and unify different styles of cooking from around the world. The show never feels like it is talking down to you to explain the finer parts of cuisine; in fact, it is quite the opposite, as Samin Nosrat’s excitement and pure joy makes her seem like one of us, as she enjoys the simple, delicious pleasures that different foods have to offer. Best scene: Samin preparing and eating pesto pasta with her host chef, Lidia, in Episode 1.
4. “Barry” (2018–)
Bill Hader’s biggest project since leaving SNL is not so unexpected; an actor in a comedy playing a hitman who wants to be an actor feels like it could’ve have been taken right out of the SNL writers’ room. Yet, “Barry” and Hader were at their best once the show threw the physical comedy aside and went down a darker path to explore the consequences of Barry’s actions. It is important to mention the amazing supporting cast of Henry Winkler, Sarah Goldberg, Stephen Root and Anthony Carrigan, who all elevate their characters from supporting personas to people who clearly influence the show and the story. Best scene: Gene Cousineau (Henry Winkler) at his audition in Episode 4.
3. “BoJack Horseman” (2014–)
No word better describes this complex, animated Netflix original than ‘thoughtful.’ Each season, it seems like “BoJack” is able to push the envelope further in its dissection of contemporary issues, and Season 5 was no different. Rather than directly addressing the #MeToo movement, “BoJack” uses multiple storylines to offer its thoughts on the issue, giving it more depth as well as a more holistic and realistic opinion on how the entertainment industry and people involved deal with it. While the show definitely has its comedic and clever moments, it shines brightest when BoJack and Diane are at their most remorseful, properly exemplifying feelings of anxiety and depression that are quite prevalent in modern society. Best scene: All of Episode 6, “Free Churro” — it is one of the best television episodes of the year.
2. “Atlanta” (2016–)
If Season 1 felt meta in its takedown of fame, rap and an eclectic assortment of other issues, viewers should have prepared themselves for Season 2. Starting off with Katt Williams and Alligator Man, the season brilliantly examined celebrity status and the costs that come with it. To match Alfred’s (Brian Tyree Henry) rise in fame, all the characters seemed to be hitting the same notes, just on larger instruments. Formerly thought of as Donald Glover’s project, the show seemed to give the reigns from Glover to other people on the show. Hiro Murai continued his beautiful directing, Brian Tyree Henry took on the brunt of the narrative arc and exceeded all expectations and writers like Stefani Robinson emerged as great storytellers. Overall, Season 2 was beautiful, and its air of finality felt like the right decision. Best scene: Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) walking upstairs to find Teddy (Donald Glover) watching an old film, followed by their final confrontation — one so haunting and full of pain and anguish that it will replay over and over in your mind long after you finish the episode.
1. “Succession” (2018–)
In a time when it seems like the world is collapsing from the corruption of the wealthy, there was nothing we needed more than a searing roast of what that really entails. Shakespearean in its over-the-top comedy mixed with fatal drama, “Succession” doesn’t try to humanize wealth, but rather honestly shows the viciousness and emotional emptiness that comes with it. The show could have been incredibly messy given the number of characters in its ensemble cast, but fortunately, its clever narrative allowed characters to pair off at different times and combine their strengths. Once this show picked up steam, it never slowed down, and it is so thrilling at times that it is difficult for the audience to remain seated. Once again, it is important to draw attention to the ensemble cast: Matthew Macfadyen, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin, Alan Ruck and Nicholas Braun all contributed to this show’s going from great to amazing. Best scene: Whichever scene with Tom (Matthew MacFayden) and Greg (Nicholas Braun) makes you laugh the hardest.