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Monday, 10 December 2018

The Best of 2018: A year of Great TV.

It's that time of year when we celebrate the best of TV! 2018 had a bit of something for everyone and whilst it wasn't it wasn't the most consistent year for drama, the highs were very HIGH! So, here's the list of our favourite shows of the year.



Inside No.9 (January 2018, BBC2) A fixture on our best of the year list since its debut back in 2014, this fantastic anthology series from the creative minds of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton may be in its fourth series but it's showing no signs of age. Each episode of Inside No.9 is so unique, using different genres it's always surprising and unmissable. It's the crown in the BBC's comedy crown. Highlights this year included Bernie Clifton's Dressing Room, a charming two-hander between a former comedy double act who are reuniting for a Britain's Got Talent audition with a bittersweet sting in the tale. Once Removed which tells the story of a massacre in a house in reverse keeping us on our toes. To Have to and Hold, a haunting story of a couple suffering from marital problems that takes a chilling turn. Always challenging and surprises this year also a live edition of the show which sent social media into meltdown. The BBC has already confirmed a fifth series for 2019 and we've no doubt Shearsmith and Pemberton will impress and delight again.

Kiri (January 2018, Channel 4) Scooping the title Channel 4's most-watched drama ever, Jack Thorne's four-parter about a young girl who is murdered after a social worker organises a visit with her biological grandparents was one of the most absorbing dramas of the year. With stellar performances from Sarah Lancashire, Lia Williams, Finn Bennett, Wunmi Mosaku, Lucian Msamati and Steven Mackintosh Thorne used each of four episodes to show the effect Kiri's death had on the key people in her short life. Sarah Lancashire shone as devoted social worker Miriam who was hounded by the press after her decision turned tragic. Miriam's life crumbled around her as she and the viewers battled with whether she'd put Kiri in danger. Lia Williams and Steven Mackintosh were brilliant as Kiri's adoptive parents who struggled with guilt, and grief and who weren't the people we'd first been led to believe. Thorne's dramas always ask questions of the viewer and have things to say about society. Engrossing, emotional and genuinely funny at times Kiri wasn't a great drama in 2018 it was one of the best dramas in recent memory up there with big hits like Happy Valley Line of Duty and Thorne's other masterpiece National Treasure. Read our review of the series here 

Derry Girls (January 2018, Channel 4) Lisa Mcgee's semi-autobiographical comedy was an instant hit. Set during the troubles in Londonderry, the series told the story of four secondary school-aged girls and an English cousin as they struggled to get through life. The series oozed charm with each of the relatively unknown main cast putting in believable and hilarious performances. The second series is on the horizon and we can't wait.


Love & Hate Crime (January 2018, BBC Three/BBC1) This three-part documentary series focused on brutal hate crimes in America told from the perspective of the perpetrators themselves and close families of all involved. It began with a truly shocking story of a young prostitute killed at the hands of a lover who discovered she wasn't who he thought she was. It told a story that seemed too shocking for reality with shock after shock. Those involved spoke candidly about their crimes or the loved ones they'd lost and when documentaries are as good as this there's barely any point in drama competing.

Mum (February 2018, BBC2) One of our favourites of 2016 returned this year and cemented itself as one of our favourite comedies of all time. Lesley Mannville's delicate performance as Cathy (as the 'Mum' of the title) is the perfect leveller to the craziness that surrounds her from dippy son Jason and his loveable girlfriend Kelly (Lisa McGrills) and inlaws Pauline (Dothery Atkinson) and brother Derek  (Ross Boatman). Still struggling as a young widow Mum is as heartbreaking as it is heartbreaking. The scripts from Stefan Golaszewski are packed with pathos and cruel one-liners that we've been quoting all year. The relationship between Cathy and family friend Michael (the glorious Peter Mullan) has been the biggest draw of the series. Their will they won't they relationship is one of the sweetest we've ever seen on TV and we've been rooting for them from the off. With a third and final series confirmed for 2019, we're bound to feel a sense of loss when it comes to an end, but we've got the DVDs should we want to relive it all over again. Which we will.

This Country (February 2018, BBC3) The surprise smash hit of last year from sibling duo Daisy and Charlie Cooper returned for a second series and a feature-length episode last year. The show felt as fresh and funny as the award-winning first series and cemented the Coopers among the best of UK comic talents. Kerry and Kurtan are truly wonderful creations. The second series allowed the Coopers to expand their world wider, with more time to explore Kerry's complex relationship with her 'evil' father Martin Mucklowe and for Kurtan to take pride in his short-lived job at the Bowl's Club. Other highlights included the cousins discovering their Vicar was in a pop band, Kurtan's difficulty with a wheelbarrow and Big Mandy protecting Kerry after she receives a letter from a mysterious pervert. The feature-length episode which aired later in the year might go down as the best of the series as a whole. The Coopers didn't waste a minute of their extra time, the episode was full of jokes and pathos.

Save Me (February 2018, Sky Atlantic) One of this year's biggest surprises, Lennie James penned and starred in this gritty mystery drama which saw him take the lead role as slacker Nelson 'Nelly' Rowe who turned vigilante when his estranged teenage daughter went missing. What we loved most was the authenticity that James brought to the piece both through the dialogue and the council block setting with its colourful cast of supporting players. The story also went to some extremely dark places which other dramas may not visit, specifically when exploring the background of Stephen Graham's registered sex offender Melon. Boasting strong performances from James, Graham and Suranne Jones; Save Me had a satisfying conclusion whilst also leaving some of the mystery open-ended. Whilst we're sceptical about where the already-announced second series can take we're happy that Sky has committed to one of it's best dramas in a long time.

Life & Death Row (March 2018, BBC3/BBC2) This Documentary series about the historic number of executions scheduled in Arkansas, USA, of eight men in ten days was a harrowing watch that forced you to examine your own moral compass. The men featured had committed horrendous and brutal crimes, but was it really right to kill them because the lethal injection drugs were expiring?  It looked at both sides of the arguments. We heard from the families of the victims, the families of those on Death Row and from the lawmakers and journalists covering the story. The show sparked debate and put a human face on those facing death by lethal injection. This year has seen some great documentaries, but this is something special.

Ordeal by Innocence (April 2018, BBC1) The Agatha Christie adaptations from writer Sarah Phelps have become a fixture over Christmas and something I always look forward to. I've never been a Christie fan, but these adaptations have such an atmosphere and Phelps writes characters who feel very contemporary and full of grit that I've become a Christie convert. This three-parter focused the sudden and mysterious death of Heiress Rachel Argyll who is murdered on her family estate.  The family point the finger at the murderer quickly and he's hastily arrested Eighteen months later, the identity of the murderer is thrown in doubt when a stranger arrives and provides him with an alibi meaning any member could be responsible for the crime. With great performances from Bill Nighy and Morven Christie Ordeal by Innocence left me on the edge of the seat. Some Christie purisits lambasted Phelps for changing the ending, but that's just silly as the series was one of the best of the year!

A Very English Scandal (May 2018, BBC1) The BBC had quite a lot of compelling dramas on offer this year, but few come close to A Very English Scandal. The three-part series was a dramatisation of the infamous Jeremy Thorpe scandal, and starred Hugh Grant as the Liberal Party MP, with Ben Whishaw featuring as his lover, Norman Scott. Penned by Queer as Folk and Doctor Who legend Russell T Davies, the series was smart, witty and emotional — often all at the same time. Whishaw and Grant embodied their respective characters, and deliver stunning performances throughout. Everything about this series is sublime, including the score — composed by Murray Gold — which complements the unique tone of the show beautifully. Yes, A Very English Scandal is the perfect example of water-cooler telly, and is truly a masterpiece from start to finish — but we’d expect nothing less with Dominic Treadwell-Collins having served as the executive producer. 

Whitehouse & Mortimer: Gone Fishing (June 2018, BBC2) I have no interest in fishing nor am I a massive fan of Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer so the fact the show about the pair of them fishing and sharing anecdotes made the list is miraculous but it was such a little gem it became one of my favourites of the year. The premise of the show saw the pair spend some time fishing after both of them suffered scares with heart health. The show saw them fishing at picturesque spots around the country, swapping stories and generally taking the mick out of each other. The conversations were real, and their friendship shone through throughout. If you had told me we'd have a fishing show on our best of the year I would have laughed in your face but it's a testament to how thoroughly enjoyable this was that I had to include it. Read our review of the series here 

Unforgotten (July 2018, ITV) Chris Lang certainly had his work cut out for him after the show-stopping second series, but the acclaimed writer managed to deliver once more with the crime drama’s third series. This time around, DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) and DI Sunil Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) are investigating the murder of Hayley Reid, a young girl whose remains are discovered off the M1 motorway. The narrative unfolds over the course of the six episodes, and there are some wonderful twists and turns along the way. As is the case with all of Lang’s work, nothing ever feels contrived or cliché, as his suspects spin a web of lies and deceit. The greatest thing about the third series is how the case impacts Cassie in a way that the previous investigations did not, and her personal struggles end up getting in the way of her work. This is what separates Unforgotten from all of the other crime dramas on television: Cassie and Sunny might be detectives, but Lang never loses sight of the fact that they are first and foremost human beings, which is the reason why we love them so much. Another incredibly strong series for Unforgotten, which only left us craving more. Read what happened when we went on set for series 3 here 

Bodyguard (August 2018, BBC1) As it turned out Bodyguard wasn't quite the revelation the first few episodes had promised it would be. It's a show that lives and dies in its big moments. Those big moments were so big, exciting and ambitious that it just about earns its place on the list. The story of Bodyguard from Jed Mercurio is the story of David Budd (Richard Madden) who is tasked with protecting Home Secretary Julia Montague (Keely Hawes). The series began with a sequence, unlike anything we've ever seen on TV. Tense, brooding and edge of the seat exciting the series grabbed us from the off. Unfortunately, Mercurio's insistence on BIG twists and turns meant that by the halfway point the show had an entirely different feel and story. By the time the high octane finale rolled around we weren't entirely sure what the show was actually about as it moved so far away from its original premise of Budd as the Bodyguard of the title. Breaking rating records for the BBC, the show was exciting but lacked the depth of any of the other dramas on the list. That being said, when the BBC announce the inevitable and slightly unnecessary second series we'll be tuning in again to see what Mr Mercurio has up his sleeve. Read our review of the finale here 

Mother's Day (September 2018, BBC2) This true story centring around two ordinary women living either side of the Irish Sea brought together in the wake of the tragedy. Vicky McClure gave a transformative performance as Susan McHugh, the Dublin mother of two so outraged by the loss of young life that she organised one of the largest peace rallies in Irish history, leading thousands through the streets in protest at the continued violence of the Troubles. Anna Maxwell Martin gave a heartbreaking performance as grieving mother Wendy Parry, the mother of 12-year-old Tim Parry who lost his life in the attack which left two boys dead and many others injured. Mother's Day wasn't an easy watch but it shone a light on a story we hadn't remembered and was utterly compelling and moving. Vicky McClure and Anna Maxwell Martin deserve BAFTA nominations for this.

No Offence (September 2018, Channel 4) Changes were afoot at Friday Street this year. Not only did we lose our dear Joy in a dramatic opening episode but the stakes were raised higher than ever before. Set against the backdrop of a far-right political group and increasing racial tensions breaking out around Manchester, writer Paul Abbott wasn't resting on his laurels. It may have been the weakest series of the three but when it comes to No Offence that's hardly an insult. It still shocked with its taboo-breaking attitude and rocked with its incredibly funny one-liners. Viv was on fiercer form than ever and more screen time for Miller was a welcome bonus. Sadly there's no news yet on a fourth run and if Channel 4 decide to cancel it then there's no justice in subversive crime dramas. Read our review of the opening episode Here 

The Cry (October 2018, BBC1) This four-parter was an interesting one. Its tricky narrative structure only irritated in the opening episode but luckily for us, strong performances from Jenna Colman and Ewan Leslie meant we were keen enough to return to see where it went next. The story of a young woman struggling with postnatal depression who travels to Australia with her husband to gain custody of his eldest daughter. Whilst there, the couple's baby son Noah dies and what initially appears to be an intriguing story of disappearance develops into something we could never have predicted. The separate timelines that had irritated initially worked in the show's favour as what we had first believed to be true of the characters were, in actual fact a complete fabrication. The Cry was clever, full of strong performances and always a step ahead of its audience. It was a quieter drama than say Bodyguard which was full of bluster and edge, but The Cry turned out to be the far superior drama and one we're very glad we stuck with until its very satisfying conclusion. Read our review of the final episode Here

Last Chance Lawyer NYC (October 2018, BBC2) This fly on the wall documentary was brilliant and criminally underseen. It captured the goings on in the Law Offices of New York defence attorney Howard Greenberg. Greenberg was such a fascinating character and the cases he took on were really interesting. A genre-bending fly on the wall piece I quickly fell in love with Greenberg, his wife and those in his office who found him as insufferable as they did loveable. It looked at the grey area of US law which as theatrical as it is about deciding guilt or innocence. Hardly talked about, or highly promoted by the BBC, this flew under the radar but was a real gem that I hope we'll see more of soon.

Louis Theroux's Altered States (October 2018, BBC2) Louis Theroux's documentaries are always a highlight. These three looked at polyamorous relationships, the choice to end your life and people profiting from adoption. All three were difficult to watch but Theroux's documentary always puts humanity at the forefront and however controversial the subject Theroux is always the grounding force who manages to get the most out of the people he's speaking to. His documentaries always leave the audience questions their prejudices and their moral compass. Choosing to Die, which focused on people in California living with life-limiting conditions who could administer a drug cocktail to end their life on their own terms in their own homes was particularly moving.  We saw Theroux grapple with whether it was the right thing for these people to do. Read our review of Love Without Limits Here 

Blood (November 2018, Five) This five-part drama from Sophie Petzal about family ties was a genuine surprise. Shown over five nights on Channel 5, it told the story of Cat Hogan (Carolina Main) who returns to her family home after the sudden death of her mother. Cat is clearly uncomfortable being back as the place is full of bad memories. When she learns her mother died by hitting her head by the pool, her suspicions her immediately raised. She points the finger at her charismatic father Jim (Adrian Dunbar). It's clear there's tension between father and daughter and Cat quickly sets about playing detective desperate to find out the truth about her mother's death. Whilst the central mystery threw up twists and turns, it was the family dynamic and the characters that were the big draw here. Sophie Petzal's characters felt genuine and the world authentic. It was a drama about feeling an outsider in the place grew up and perhaps the way we all regress when we go home. The series delivered a satisfying and believable finale which proved Petzal is a name to look out for. I'll certainly be tuning in for her next drama.

Care (December 2018, BBC1) Jimmy McGovern is one of the greats when it comes to thought-provoking stories on British television. The mind behind Cracker, The Lakes, Accused and more recently Broken bought this devastating one-off. The story focused on Jenny (Sheridan Smith) who is left to pick up the pieces when her mother Mary (Alison Steadman) suffers a life-changing stroke. Unable to speak, walk or use her arm Mary is left in a limbo unstable to make those around her understand what she wants. Hospital staff are keen to get her back home which means Jenny will become her mum's carer. Struggling with two young children, Jenny reluctantly takes on her mum's care whilst also becoming an advocate for Mary's needs. Care wasn't an easy watch but a very important one. With heartbreaking performances from both Sheridan Smith and Alison Steadman McGovern always writes about real people going through extraordinary things. But this could happen to anyone at any time and whilst it had its lighter moments. the script didn't shy away from the brutal realities of a system stretched to breaking-point which aims to get patients back in their homes as soon as possible regardless of how ready they or their families are. McGovern's scripts are always guaranteed to make, laugh, cry and boil with anger. Care did all that and more and will stick with me for a long time. Where the majority of the BBC's drama output this year has been glossy, slick and often devoid of character, Care proved that the best drama is that can shine a light on a problem faced by those in society portrayed by superb actors.

HONOURABLE NON-UK MENTIONS


The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (February 2018, FX/BBC2)I think it’s safe to say that, after the mega success that was The People V. OJ: American Crime Story, we weren’t expecting much from The Assassination of Gianni Versace. I mean, I know I wasn’t. How could one top such a well-researched, well-written piece like that? But alas, in a rather ironic turn of events, and might I add, following in the footsteps of Ryan Murphy’s other anthology series American Horror Story, the second season of American Crime Story is even better than the first. The tragedy of Gianni Versace’s (Edgar Ramirez) death is brought to life by Tom Rob-Smith’s engaging scripts, but the series’ biggest charm lies in the villainous Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss). It’s odd that the story of Versace is told from Cunanan’s perspective, but it’s a creative decision that ultimately pays off, because the character is so enchanting. Glee’s Darren Criss delivers a seducing performance as the killer, which – even though we know how the story ends – almost has us believing Cunanan’s lies.  The Assassination of Gianni Versace was bold, brazen and camp as can be, all of which make it one of this year’s greatest offerings.

Barry (March 2018, HBO/Sky Atlantic) Who could've guessed that 2018 would see the birth of two loveable assains on TV? To find the second you'll have to scroll down the list, but HBO's Barry introduced us to an adept killer who unwittingly stumbles into an acting class and finds his true calling. The series, co-written by and starring Bill Hader perfectly walked the line between the seriousness of Barry's work as a hitman with the absurdity of the acting class. The series packed more of an emotional punch than it had any right to do, and never veered into silliness with the characters feeling genuine, human and warm-hearted. Add in a pitch-perfect performance from Henry Winkler as Barry's clueless acting coach you'd be hard pushed to find a more unique and funnier comedy on television. Roll on season two!

The Americans (March 2018, FX/ITV4) The end of one of our favourite series of all time was always going to be painful. The ending of the show can often frame how the show as a whole is viewed. Luckily, creators Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg had discussed early on how they'd like their show about Russian spies living in suburban Washington to end. As heartbreaking as it was to lose one of the best shows of the decade, it was even more painful to say goodbye to these characters. Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell, Noah Emmerich and Holly Taylor were pitch perfect. Their send-off was as raw as we had expected but also incredibly powerful and moving. For an unfathomable reason, the show has made virtually no impact in the UK but it should be regarded as one of the best shows of the noughties and its legacy will be hard for Fields and Weisberg to top. On the other hand, we're really excited to see what they do next.

The Bridge (May 2018, BBC Two) With weighty expectations we tuned in to the last ever series of ScandiNoir mega-hit. Was there any chance it could live up to the hype, and give us the payoff we’ve been waiting 7 long years for? The characters, especially Saga, have grown so much since the good old days of her and Martin racing around the streets of Malmo and Copenhagen. Were we really likely to get a satisfying resolution? Surprisingly yes, and it was so successful we have swept along in the emotion of Saga and Henrik’s bizarre and beautiful attempts at happy families we overlooked the plot holes and fudged details. No one does tension quite like The Bridge and this series put us through the wringer. We were permanently on the edge of our seats waiting to be wrong-footed.  Even if it had been lacking emotional depth, which it certainly didn’t, this was easily one of the most out-there storylines ever. In the space of just 8 episodes, we had scary clowns, gangsters, runaway teens, a bloody prison shanking, death by drone, death by jacuzzi electrocution, an exhumed human head in a gift basket, a fantastic Keyser Söze revelation, and a murdered horse. The themes of change, of release from guilt and the burden of expectations we all carry, were beautifully woven together by the end of the series and watching Saga find that release high up on the Oresund bridge (where else?)  was a perfect moment of television. Read our review of the final episode here 

The Handmaid's Tale (April 2018, HULU/Channel 4)After an incredibly strong and socially relevant opening season, The Handmaid’s Tale certainly had a lot to live up to. However, in spite of the narrative having gone beyond that of Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed novel, the Hulu drama managed to exceed all expectations, delivering a staggeringly good follow-up season. Tragic protagonist June (Elisabeth Moss) is as engaging as ever, as she struggles to come to terms with giving birth to a baby in the dystopia that is Gilead. Moss delivers one of the strongest television performances there has ever been, which leaves us weeping for June and her predicament. However, the greatest thing the second season accomplishes is how — due to superbly-penned scripts — it manages to make us empathise with one of television’s most hated characters in Serena Waterford (Yvonne Strahovski). With unpredictable narrative diversions aplenty, and cinematography like no-other, The Handmaid’s Tale remains compelling the entire way through its second run. I mean, when it comes to the whole package, it really doesn’t get much better than this.

Atlanta (May 2018, BBC Two/FX)The second season of  Donald Glover's series Atlanta had a theme: money, scams and the precarious struggle of its characters on the periphery of the hip-hop business to hang on to what they have. There's a reason why the series has topped the list of the majority of US Critic's best of the year. It's a comedy that plays with genre and is constantly reinventing itself allowing Glover and his co-stars to flex very different muscles from episode to episode. The first season aired on BBC Two earlier this year but was slightly under the radar but Atlanta is something very special that deserves more eyes in this country.

The Fourth Estate: Reporting Trump's First Year (June 2018, Showtime/BBC2) This documentary series which took us into the offices of The New York Times and The Washington Post as they struggle with how to cover Donald Trump's presidency as well as keeping the physical paper alive in a world of online news. Newsrooms aren't often seen on TV and the show offered an interesting insight into how the industry the works and how they feel when the country turned against them after Trump labels them 'failing' and 'fake news'. The four episodes were incredibly insightful and shone on a spotlight on a divided country where the news media aren't just reporting the news, they are the news. Trump is clearly bafoon and seeing the journalists trying to make sense of his bizarre actions and get to the truth behind his lies was always compelling and we really hope we'll see more soon.

GLOW (June 2018, Netflix) The second season of the comedy which focuses on the real ladies of the 1980's wrestling promotion GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) was as much fun at its first. Led by Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin the largely female ensemble cast were all fantastic as they experienced a low level of fame. If there's one drawback it's that the cast is almost too large which often means the writers struggle to give them all something to do. The finale saw the gang head off to perform in Vegas after their cable show was axed. With Netflix confirming the third season, we look forward to more but just hope everyone gets their chance to shine.

Succession (June 2018, HBO/Sky Atlantic) The Roy family – Logan Roy and his four children – control one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world. They're all pretty unlikeable and unscrupulous human beings but when Logan suffers a stroke his children have to step up and run the company. The series, created by Peep Show's Jessie Armstrong quickly became one of the most engrossing shows of the year. You could argue that these privileged folk are hard to root for, but it really didn't matter as the incredible scripts were the perfect match with the cast and Succession became something truly special. With a second season coming in 2019 the series could cement itself among the best of HBO.

Sharp Objects (July 2018, HBO/Sky Atlantic) One of this year’s biggest surprises was HBO’s Sharp Objects. The limited series, which stars Amy Adams, follows the story of disturbed reporter Camille Preaker, who returns to her hometown of Wind Gap to investigate a string of mysterious murders. While the storyline might not sound very original, Sharp Objects’ strengths lie in its characters, and in how the writers tell this twisted story. The slow narrative progression benefits the narrative as opposed to hindering it, as the long-drawn-out sequences only intensify the claustrophobia that comes with living in Wind Gap. Speaking of which, the show’s greatest quality is its atmosphere, which is not only created through the writing but also through the direction —as well as the unique form of editing employed. In short, there’s never been a series so atmospheric before. Packed full of twists and an ending you’ll never see coming Sharp Objects isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s without a doubt one of the best offerings from 2018. Read our review of the first episode here 

Killing Eve (April 2018, BBCAMERICA/September 2018, BBC1/BBC3) Killing Eve wasn't just one of the best shows of the year, it quickly established itself as one of the best shows in recent memory. The cat and mouse chase between Eve (Sandra Oh) and ruthless assassin Villanelle was one of the made for one of the most enjoyable series we've ever had the pleasure to watch. The razor-sharp scripts from Pheobe Waller-Bridge had it all: dark humour, characters we really cared about and a story that instantly drew us in. If this were a countdown of the best shows of the year Killing Eve would be top. A series unlike any other Waller-Bridge's take on the characters first seen graphic novels from Luke Jennings was almost inventive, surprising and grounded in reality. Jodie Comer's performance as Villanelle was transformative, speaking several languages and taking relish in every kill, she made the character an instant icon. When paired with Sandra Oh's equally neurotic Eve they made the perfect duo. With a second series already filming we're already excited to see what happens next. There's one fly in the ointment as Pheobe Waller-Bridge is too busy with Fleabag to work her magic on the scripts. Her voice was so integral to the show and we're just crossing our collective fingers that her loss won't mean a big tonal shift when it returns. Killing Eve was truly one of the best of the year. Read our love letter to the show Here

American Vandal (September 2018, Netflix) We were slightly concerned when Netflix ordered more of this fantastic mockumentary. The first series was a word of mouth hit and we worried that a second series might push the premise too far. We're idiots. The second season of American Vandal was if anything better than the first. It followed teenage documentarians Peter Maldonado and
Sam Ecklund as they investigated crimes committed by the mysterious 'Turd Burglar' in a prestigious High School. Yes, there were a lot of poo jokes but the characters felt authentic and of today. The mystery surrounding the identity of the Turd Burglar was genuinely intriguing and the eventual reveal was both equally satisfying and full of pathos. Behind the silliness and poo jokes, the show has a lot to say about today's young people and the world of social media which it handles with sensitivity and it paints a believable picture of what the world is like for teenagers in 2018. Netflix announced recently that there wouldn't be a third season. Whilst this is disappointing, It's probably for the best. The premise can only be stretched so far and it would be a shame if a third season tainted the perfection of the first two. If you've never seen the series, do yourself a favour and get on Netflix now. You won't regret it.

The Good Place (September 2018, NBC/Netflix) Some people blasted the third season of The Good Place which saw our group of hell dwellers end up back on earth and reunite in Australia. Some moaned that putting them back on earth whilst Michael and Janet plugged strings wasn't as interesting as seeing them in the Bad Place. However, creator Micheal Schur and his team had plenty of surprises up their sleeves. You think we'd learn by now that nothing is as it seems in this show which part of the reason we love and admire it so much. By the end of the season Demons from the Bad Place had also turned up to take the humans back with them leading to one of the fight scenes you'll ever see and a final episode which was so inventive and surprising we don't spoil it for you here. A show shouldn't still be able to get away with re-booting and reinventing itself, but somehow The Good Place manages it. It never feels stale as Schur and co have created a world where literally anything can happen and we're just happy just sit back and enjoy the unpredictability of the ride.

Homecoming (November 2018, Amazon Prime Video) This Prime Video original based on a fictional podcast got off to a very odd start but was incredibly rewarding for those who stuck with it. Julia Roberts starred as a counsellor who works at the Homecoming facility which aims to rehabilitate soldiers before they return to civilian life. The more the series goes on the more you learn the eerie truth behind the facility's true purpose. The shorter length of the episodes made it the easiest binge of the year and the top-notch performances from Julia Roberts and Stephan James were amplified by the intriguing direction of series co-creator Sam Esmail. Esmail played with all aspects of the genre and the show oozed a unique atmosphere that made it feel completely different from anything else this year. Read our review of the series Here 

My Brilliant Friend (November 2018, HBO/Sky Atlantic) Subtitled in Italian, set after the second world war in the war-torn suburbs of Naples, HBO's adaptation of Elena Elena Ferrante's beloved novels was something very special. The story of the tumultuous friendship between two young girls Leu and Lila from age to six to sixteen and beyond. The eight-part series captured the brutality of Naples at the time. The story that surrounded the two main characters was utterly engrossing as were the performances of the unknown actors. Those who haven't seen it might write it off as a twee period piece but was full of grit and violence and an incredibly compelling scene towards the end that will stay with me. This deserves to go down as one of HBO's juggernauts sharing DNA with shows like Deadwood, The Sopranos it was truly superb. Read our review of the show here 

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has visited the site, supports our podcast or interacts with me on Twitter. It means an awful lot to me as I've been running the site for over a decade to allow me to talk about my favourite TV and to know people care what I think means the world. I'd also like our contributors Stephen Patterson, Michael Lee, Matt Donnelly, Sarah Kennedy, Graham Thompson-Gold  Jazz Cooke and Will Barber Taylor for their continued enthusiasm. Here's to the favourites of 2019!
Luke Knowles
Editor of www.thecustardtv.com

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