They say that we’re in the Golden Age of television and it’s really not hard to see why. With the advent of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu people can binge their favorite shows essentially as if they’re movies and because of that, and the way that television shows allow you to delve deeper into characters and topics (than a movie would), you’re actually finding actors/actresses/writers and directors that’d never consider doing television ten or fifteen years ago really jumping head-first into the medium. It’s all very exciting and has made television really the place to be, especially considering that most movie studios are focused on tentpoles instead of dramas or really even comedies. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the top 15 television shows of 2018 (both new and returning)!
15. The Chi
Emmy-winning writer and actress (of Master of None) Lena Waithe created this modern-day drama about living on the South-Side of Chicago. The pilot was directed by Rick Famuiya for Showtime and it will premiere on the seventh of this month. For those that don’t know, the South-Side of Chicago is the most deadly neighborhood in the most deadly city in the United States and because of that, hundreds and hundreds of families are touched by death and prison every single year (with 650 people being murdered in 2017 alone, which was a down year for Chicago), mostly on the cities South-Side. So while this show will focus on a fictional account of four strangers, it’ll touch very close to home for many, especially in the African American community who either live in Chicago or have fled Chicago for greener pastures in cities like Minneapolis, Minnesota or Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While NBC has a lot of television shows in Chicago (Chicago Fire, Chicago, P.D.), they really don’t show what it’s like to live there for the people and that’s what The Chi is attempting to do and considering that critics are lauding this as the new show to watch in 2018, it looks like they’ve nailed it.
14. Victoria – Season 2
Victoria is a drama that was created and written by Daisy Goodwin and that stars Jenna Coleman as a young Queen Victoria. The show, that was announced back in September of 2015, has been a hit for PBS on the states side of the Atlantic as well as the British Television network ITV. Each season is comprised of only eight episodes so it’s something that’ll only be with us for a short period of time, which considering it’s sometimes dense historical information and context feels like the right amount of time. The first season depicted the first few years in the reign of a young Queen Victoria (obviously), which covers her accession to the throne at the age of just 18, her hyper-intense “friendship” (or infatuation) with Lord Melbourne (the namesake of Melbourne, Australia who mentored a young Victoria and was a Whig statesman who was essentially the Prime Minister) and her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert. On top of that, it covered the birth of her first child, Victoria. The second season will cover her struggles of balancing her duties as a wife, mother and as the Queen and considering how good the first season was, sounds like it could be amazing.
13. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
The first installment of American Crime Story focused on the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman and the subsequent trial of OJ Simpson and the media circus that was that entire situation. The show was a massive success, sweeping the Emmy’s and thus making it a pretty hard act to follow. But, as American Horror Story has shown, anthology television shows can be all the rage if handled correctly (True Detective notwithstanding) and from everything that’s been released thus far it’s looking like The Assassination of Gianni Versace will do just that. This story is a very strange one that hasn’t really been covered in popular culture at all, outside of some lyrics to Eminem songs from around the time. So, the Ryan Murphy story will basically be covering uncharted waters and that’ll give it carte blanche to do whatever it wants with the series. It will obviously cover the murder of hyper-famous fashion designer Gianni Versace (played by Edgar Ramirez) at the hands of serial killer from Minnesota, Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss). The bar is set really high for this but considering most of the same people (behind the camera) are returning for Assassination, there’s really no reason to think that it won’t be as good or better than The People vs. OJ Simpson.
12. Jessica Jones Season 2
The first season of Jessica Jones was the second Marvel Studios product to premiere on Netflix and not only was it as good as the first season of Daredevil, but some say it was better. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle Season 2 as the first season was really all about the villain in The Purple Man, or rather, the relationship between The Purple Man and Jessica. She was suffering from PTSD because of the mind-control powers that he had over her and the sexual assault that she suffered as a result. Beyond that, she also committed murder at his behest and worse she ended up murdering the wife of her season one flame in Luke Cage. She ended up snapping the neck of The Purple Man at the end of the season because she really had to to be rid of him and his control and so while there have been some trailers for Season 2, there’s still no word on who the villain will be. We did get to see Jessica Jones during the first season of The Defenders series on Netflix as well, so it’ll be interesting to see where she’s at after fighting alongside Daredevil, Iron Fist and Luke Cage. My money is on Nitro returning from the first season for at least part of the second season’s 13-episode run, but only time will tell what Marvel Studios has up their sleeve.
11. The Handmaid’s Tale – Season 2
Few new shows burst onto the scene with as much popularity as The Handmaid’s Tale did in 2017. The Hulu show is based on a novel from 1985 by Canadian Author Margaret Atwood and was released differently than a lot of products on streaming services. The first three episodes were released on April 26th, 2017 and every Wednesday after that (for the next seven weeks) a new episode was released. Typically, shows are just released in bulk but Handmaid’s Tale were released that way (in the United States) to offset any spoilers alone as countries like Canada actually broadcast the show on television. The show, which is set in the near future and focuses on a society in which a totalitarian, Christian theonomic government has taken control after birth rates plummet was an awards show darling and was also beloved by critics. It dominated the 2017 Primetime Emmy Awards and rocks a 96% approval rating for its first season on RottenTomatoes.com. Only time will tell if the second season will live up to the first but that’s the great thing about shows/movies based on books, the source material basically remains the same so you can expect the quality of subsequent chapters to remain the same as well.
Heathers is a black comedy from 1988 that stars Winona Ryder, Shannen Doherty and Christian Slater that garnered a cult following after it’s release and has been the source of remake rumors for the past few years. Enter the Paramount Network, which used to be called SpikeTV and is coming out of it’s rebrand with all sorts of new programming. Part of that is the Heathers television show, which is based on the film (in spirit) but is set in Modern Day. Essentially the show will end up as an anthology with each season focusing on a different set of high school outcasts when they take over their school and in turn their lives. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle that over the course of multiple seasons but for now it appears that the first season will mirror the movie pretty closely. Whether or not that means we’ll get cameos from the original cast remains to be seen, especially considering that Winona Ryder and Christian Slater have had their careers rejuvenated thanks to other television shows Stranger Things and Mr. Robot, respectively.
9. Sharp Objects
Sharp Objects is an upcoming miniseries that stars Amy Adams and is based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. The show was announced way back in July of 2014 and after some behind the scenes wheeling and dealing received an eight-episode straight-to-series order from HBO almost a year and a half ago. It will debut on HBO in the summer and is based on a crime reporter named Camille who was recently released from a psychiatric hospital after years of self-harm. She returns to her hometown of Wind Gap, Mo., in order to investigate the murder of two little girls and ends up in her childhood home, where she is judged by the “perfect” people in the small town and is forced to confront her own demons. It actually sounds a lot like Jessica Jones, just without the superpowers, and considering the fact that it’s starring Amy Adams, it must be good. Sign us up!
8. Castle Rock
Castle Rock is an upcoming psychological horror series created for Hulu and is based on stories by Stephen King. In classic King fashion, it focuses on intertwining characters and themes from the fictional town of Castle Rock which is in his home state of Maine. Because of that, it could be the first of its kind television series as it may not have main characters per se, as the town is the main character. A teaser trailer was released back in February of 2017 and after that Hulu stated that it had committed to a 10-episode first season of the show. In a press release, they said: “combines the mythological scale and intimate character storytelling of King’s best-loved works, weaving an epic saga of darkness and light, played out on a few square miles of Maine woodland.” Executive produced by J.J. Abrams, it will combine stories and characters from It, Dolores Claiborne, Needful Things, Salems Lot, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (among many, many more). Sounds awesome!
Maniac is a dark-comedy created by Patrick Somerville and directed by Cary Fukunaga that is expected to premiere on Netflix at some point in 2018. The main roles are played by Jonah Hill and Emma Stone and the show will consist of ten episodes. The shows is based on the 2014 series created by Espen Pa Lervaag and Hakon Bast Mossige and this show better than any on this list shows how and why television is in its golden age. Both Hill and Stone have either been nominated for an Oscar or have won one and for them to focus on doing a television show for a streaming service would’ve been unheard of fifteen years ago. However, even fifteen years ago Maniac may have had a chance as the source material is so strong in this case, as it focuses on two members of a psychiatric hospital who create fantasy worlds in their heads. Those two worlds basically begin to intertwine and it creates all sorts of problems while also being visually spectacular. This show has a chance for being one of the biggest hits of 2018, so definitely keep an eye out for it come Summer.
6. Westworld Season 2
The second season of Westworld is set to premiere early this year, well over a year since the first season took the world by storm in October of 2016. The show, which is a combination of science fiction, a western and a thriller, the show was created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy for HBO. Based on the film by the same name from 1973 (which was written and directed by author Michael Crichton) and to a much lesser extent it’s 1976 sequel Futureworld, it is actually the second television series based on those two films after the 1980 short-lived TV show Beyond Westworld. The first season was largely liked by critics, who praised it for its visuals, story and performances (at an 88% clip on RottenTomatoes.com) and based on the time they’ve put into the second season you’d like to think that the second season will be just as good if not better. There’s only one way to find out, by tuning in to the second season in a couple months!
5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an upcoming anthology series that is written, directed and produced by the Coen Brothers. Announced by Joel and Ethan Coen in January of last year as a collaboration between themselves and Annapurna Television (Their Film division is responsible for films like Sausage Party, Joy, Foxcatcher, Her and Zero Dark Thirty). Buster Scruggs will mark the first foray into television for the Coen Brothers, who are known for their film work in films like Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Hail Caesar! and The Big Lebowski. The A-list of the A-list in Hollywood, this is actually the best example that television is the place to be for storytellers in Hollywood these days. While their film Fargo was turned into a television show, they actually didn’t have anything to do with that (creatively) and thus Scruggs will allow them to flex their creative muscles across a 6-episode season. Starring James Franco, Zoe Kazan, Tyne Daly and Ralph Ineson the film is being filmed in the Nebraska panhandle and appears to be some sort of (modern day?) Western that is casting regular Nebraskans as extras. Either way, if it’s got the Coen Brothers’ names on it then it must be good, so keep an eye out for it!
4. Marvel Agents of SHIELD
After a first season that started off with gigantic ratings (as it was a little under a year after the gigantic success that was the first Avengers film), more than half that initially tuned in to SHIELD gave up on the show. Had they held on a bit longer they would’ve seen a show that went from “Meh” to amazing around the time of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That improvement basically continued unabated through the end of last season, which was the best full season of the show to date and showed the team stuck in an alternate computer-generated reality called the framework. After they were saved from the framework the end of the season showed them in Space (and in the future) after the planet earth was destroyed by none other than Quake herself (after she quaked the planet apart). It was also learned that ABC wanted to cancel SHIELD during the summer but that they were blocked by Disney itself, which means that they must have huge plans for SHIELD or at least plan some sort of tie-in with this summer’s Avengers: Infinity War. Either way, we’re all better off with this show in existence so if you’ve missed the first couple seasons you can catch up on Netflix. It’s definitely worth it!
3. Howard’s End
Howard’s End takes the idea of a mini-series (or even anthology series) to another level by presenting four-parts as opposed to the standard eight, ten or twelve. Based on the novel of the same name by E. M. Forster (that was published over 100 years ago in 1910), the series was adapted by Kenneth Lonergan and directed by Hettie MacDonald (A name that sounds like it’s from over 100 years ago). Starring Hayley Attwell (of Captain America and Agent Carter fame), the show already ran it’s course in the UK and peaked at about eight and a half million viewers (which is a lot considering how much smaller the population of the UK is). It’ll premiere on Starz in the United States at some point in 2018 and considering the positive reception that the show received from critics (with critics noting how relevant it is to the current climate), it’s definitely a show that you’ll want to add to your DVR recording list at some point in the next few weeks.
Based on the novel of the same name, Sweetbitter is an upcoming drama series that is set to premiere on the Starz network later this year with a first season order of six episodes. The novel was written by Stephanie Danler, who is also writing and executive producing the series as well. The show follows “Tess, who shortly after arriving in New York City, lands a job at a celebrated downtown restaurant. Swiftly introduced to the world of drugs, drinking, love, lust, dive bars and fine dining, she learns to navigate the chaotically alluring, yet punishing life she has stumbled upon.” Starring Ella Purnell as Tess, the show was announced back in July of 2017, based on a pilot script that was developed by Dnaler and Stu Zicherman (and produced by Plan B Entertainment). After becoming more enthused with the project, Starz ordered additional scripts and brought together a small room of writers in the hopes of bringing the show “straight-to-series”. Starz CEO Chris Albrecht said at the time that it was basically a “must have” according to the women on his staff, and because of that if you’re a woman, especially a young woman (or dating one), then you’ll want to catch this show when it premieres this year.
Perhaps the most critically acclaimed show on this list, Mindhunter is set in 1977 and covers the early days of criminal psychology (and criminal profiling) at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Starring Jonathan Groff as Holden Ford and Holt McCallany as Bill Tench, Mindhunter is a crime drama created by Joe Penhall that’s based on the true crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime United (written by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker). The series made it’s debut on Netflix on October, 13th and was renewed for a second season not long after that. The character of Holden Ford is based on FBI Agent John E. Douglas, while Bill Tench is based on pioneering FBI agent Robert K. Ressler and Dr. Wendy Carr is based on psychiatric nurse researcher Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess, a prominent Boston College professor who collaborated with the FBI agents in the Behavioral Science Unit. The serial killer characters on the show were modeled after real convicted criminals and the scripts were also based on dialogue taken from the real interviews they had in order to create a baseline for criminal thought and behavior, meaning that this show is about as real as it gets. Do yourelf a favor and check it out!