During the semester, I’ve got my hands full with writing, reading, and grading so my time to go out and watch a movie is a bit limited. Because of this, I’ve definitely started watching more TV shows in the past year and a half than I did before and a lot of these shows have turned into my little doses of stress release and escapism. Some of these are shows I just started watching in 2018, binged in the course of a single day or week, or that I’ve been keeping up with for a long time. As with all of my favorites, I’ve developed some rules to trim down what could be a long list into something manageable:
- Must be a show I watched and loved in 2018, but need not be a show that premiered this year—also does not need to be a show that I haven’t been introduced to before, but should be a show that had a new season or content out.
- I’ve divided the shows into different categories based on their approximate genres; I may have watched other shows in these genres during the year, but these are my picks for a reason.
- I’ll give a brief statement of why this show is a favorite of 2018: whether it’s a memory, a particular episode, or just a basic reason why I love the show.
- As I do not have cable, most of these are gathered from my access to Netflix, Hulu (as of March), and Amazon Prime.
Let’s get started!
Attack on Titan (Season Two). This was the first show I watched when I got my Hulu subscription and needed an escape from reality in the worst way. What’s more unbelievable than a fantastical horror story about giant Titans eating people and humanity fighting back, am I right? The animation is absolutely gorgeous, the action sequences are top notch, and every twist of the plot develops the mystery of the world further. I’ve got Season Three on my To Watch list and can’t wait to see what’s in store.
Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. I was hesitant to give this show a try because I didn’t like the way Naruto Shippuden ended and how Kishimoto handled many of the overall plotlines and, while I think a lot of what’s going on in Boruto is a bit of a repeat, it’s also nostalgic fun for me. It reminds of what it felt like to be thirteen and in love with the ninja world. The animation is crisp and some of the character developments are surprisingly deep given previous installments of the series.
My Hero Academia. Obviously, this was a natural follow-up given my predilections for action-based anime. I’ve watched all three seasons over the course of the year (some more than once) and I adore the style of the animation, the character development, the basic storyline of this quirk-based superhero world, and a lot of the heart. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one.
American Dad (Seasons 11-13). Out of all of Seth MacFarlane’s shows, American Dad is my favorite and I was so disappointed when Netflix dropped the show. So I was very happy to find the newer seasons on Hulu when I joined up. While it does seem like they’re cutting down the episodes per season since the show moved networks, there are still some highlights even as they sometimes push the weird humor a little too far. My favorite episodes from these seasons are “The Two Hundred”, “Death By Dinner Party”, and “OreTron Trail.”
The Goldbergs. I saw an episode of this years ago and kind of forgot about it, but I rediscovered it when I needed a new show most and it instantly became my go to comfort food show. The perfect mix of eighties’ nostalgia, pop culture, comedy, and hilarious family hijinks with a bit of heart keep me coming back for more. I’m currently re-watching the series with my mom; that’s how much I love the show.
The Good Place. Who knew a show about moral philosophy could be so funny? I’ve used some of the lessons I’ve learned from this show in my own teaching! I love the hilarious versions of the afterlife and the constant struggle between good and evil. The cast deliver excellent performances and it has its own unique sense of humor unlike anything else on TV right now. All of the characters are horrible, loveable people in their own ways.
New Girl. I watched the first episode about when the show premiered, but didn’t keep up as new ones came out. Then, for some reason, I decided to try again and it finally clicked and this was the year that Jess and her story became a story kind of like my own. Yes, Zooey Deschanel is quirky and plays that up every chance she gets, but she and her roommates became characters I genuinely cared about. The funny moments are funny, and the dramatic moments can be funny too or appropriately sad. It’s quintessentially a kind of Millennial show in so many ways.
Saturday Night Live. Even when I didn’t have cable or Hulu, I was watching SNL through clips on YouTube but now it’s nice to have the entire episode with the sketches in order and the musical performances contextualized a little more. While there are always highs and lows in a live show that depends so much on the balance between the host, the cast, and the sketches, I find that there’s usually at least one sketch per show that’ll make me have a good laugh. So far, my favorite sketches of Season 44 have been Adam Driver’s “Career Day”, Claire Foy’s “The War in Words”, Liev Schreiber’s “Invest Twins”, and Awkwafina’s “So You’re Willing to Date a Magician.”
Black Mirror. Yes, I was sleeping on this. But now I am wide awake and terrified of technology and our bleak future. I love how every episode is different and revolves around a different aspect of technology in a different moment of time, but they also talk back at each other. What bits of horror there are in each episode are more on the moral or humanistic level, but occasionally they can make your skin crawl in unpleasant ways. My favorite episodes are “San Junipero”, “Playtest”, and “Hang the DJ.”
Castle Rock. I take it as a compliment that my own work has been compared to King’s town of Castle Rock—so of course I wanted to check out this television show based on his stories. I love all the Easter eggs to his other work, but I think what really makes it stands on its own are the performances from the cast, the mystery at the center, and the way the story shifts focus between the characters in order to create viewer empathy with more than one protagonist. Since this is based on Stephen King, you know you’re in for some good scares in a small town. I’ll definitely be checking out season two when it comes out.
Hannibal (Season Three). This was the year I finished Hannibal and said thank you for the delicious meal to one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. It’s visually gorgeous, refreshing in its treatment of characters and plotlines, and the relationship between protagonist and antagonist is breathtaking. It’s amazing how much you can empathize with a man who eats people and how delicious the people meat looks on the screen. I’ll probably be giving this one a re-watch sometime soon.
The Haunting of Hill House. I watched all ten episodes of this show in one sitting, finished it at about four in the morning, and figured I’d stay up until the sun rose just for safety. Even as it deviates from its source material, it pays tribute and homage to Shirley Jackson and The Haunting in surprising ways at times. The story is touching in how it deals and treats grief and ghosts, the suspense and horror is drawn out rather than relying solely on jump scares, and Mike Flanagan’s signature finishes are all there.
Into the Dark. While this anthology show toes the line between television and film with the length of its episodes, it’s technically a series. At first I was worried it was going to be a bit of a repeat kind of like Holidays since each episode revolves around a different celebration, but—so far—I’ve been pleasantly surprised and they just keep getting better. The last two episodes, “Pooka!” and “New Year, New You”, have been great additions to horror in general and I look forward to see what the next year of episodes brings.
*An honorable mention is the purest of comfort food to me. It might be a show that I put on in the background while I worked on a paper, something that I watched multiple times because it’s mindless fluff, or something that I enjoy harmlessly. These are pretty much all “reality” shows for that reason.
Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
Planet Earth II
Tiny House Hunters
This has been a fantastic year for TV, and I look forward to finding new loves and binges in 2019.