Best Television of 2018
by Julian Spivey
Best Show: "Atlanta"
The second season of FX’s “Atlanta,” billed as a comedy, but truly a dramedy, was clicking on all cylinders. Subtitled “Robbin’ Season” the series focused on a theme of losing stuff – whether it’s in the literal sense of having stuff stolen from you or a bit more metaphorical. The characters all go through life-altering moments in this season and series creator Donald Glover and his staff, that includes his brother Stephen, tell these stories in ways we aren’t accustomed to, especially for a 30 minute series. “Atlanta” completely tops itself in the sixth episode of the season “Teddy Perkins,” which will go down in history as one of the greatest TV episodes of all-time.
Best Drama: "This Is Us"
In its third season now, some people seem to be tiring a bit of all of the surprises and emotional moments on NBC’s “This Is Us,” but the show is still capable of genuine shocks and tear-inducing moments (which come on nearly a weekly basis). I understand that some people don’t want to see this on TV because they want the medium to be escapism, but I love the realistic tone that family dramas like “This Is Us” take on. Few shows have ever gotten the little moments of family life down pat like “This Is Us,” and none have ever taken us on quite the emotional rollercoaster ride.
Best Comedy: "Brooklyn Nine Nine"
It’s pretty unusual that a show that has been on television for five years and has aired more than 100 episodes to still be the funniest thing on TV, but “Brooklyn Nine Nine” is that. The show revolving around a police precinct in New York City has a nice, close knit cast of truly funny characters like Andre Braugher’s stoic police chief Raymond Holt and Andy Samberg’s lovable goof Jake Peralta. Despite remaining on the top of its game, Fox canceled the show due to low ratings after its fifth season, which led to an uproar online among its loyal fan-base. Thankfully, NBC listened to the show’s passionate fans and gave it new life. The sixth season debuts on NBC in early 2019.
Best in Late Night: "Late Show with Stephen Colbert"
Jimmy Fallon does great viral comedy bits on “The Tonight Show” and Seth Meyers and his terrifically smart writing staff do politics better than just about anybody on television on “Late Night,” but Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” is the best mix of what a late night television variety series is supposed to be. Colbert does political humor (which has become a lot of late night TV’s humor these days) in a serious, yet fun manner and is the best interviewer of all of the current late night hosts. These leads to the one show on late night that you’re most likely to watch from beginning-to-end and not simply go to YouTube the next day for the highlights.
Best Episode: "Teddy Perkins" - "Atlanta"
Through it’s first two seasons FX’s “Atlanta” has been one of television’s best series and the second season episode “Teddy Perkins” is the show’s magnum opus thus far. “Teddy Perkins,” which features a chilling performance from show creator and star Donald Glover as a Michael Jackson-esque former child prodigy, is perfection. The award-winning dramedy put together one of the best horror episodes in the history of television with “Teddy Perkins,” which sees Lakeith Stanfield’s Darius going to pick up a piano from the former star’s house after answering an online ad and basically all hell breaks loose. It’s a must-see.
Best Ensemble: "This Is Us"
“This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman and his writing staff have created such terrific characters for the ensemble drama that every single performance on the show is perfect. Sterling K. Brown won both an Emmy and Golden Globe for the show’s first season and was nominated again this year. Milo Ventimiglia has been nominated for Emmys for both finished seasons thus far and Mandy Moore, Chrissy Metz and Justin Hartley have both received various nominations during the show’s run. Throw in awesome performances by Susan Kelechi Watson and Chris Sullivan and the rest of the ensemble and you have the most talented ensemble on TV.
Best Drama Performance: Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)
We’ve known from very early on in the run of NBC’s “This Is Us” that Jack Pearson, played by Milo Ventimiglia, is one of the greatest father figures in the history of television. In the second season, which wrapped up in early 2018, we find out how Jack’s death occurred, which we found out about fairly early on in the series, as well. Jack goes out in the heroic fashion he deserves and Ventimiglia’s performance as this fine specimen of a man is everything from heartwarming to tragic.
Best Comedy Performance: Amber Ruffin (Late Night with Seth Meyers)
Amber Ruffin deserves her own variety series or late night talk show, as she’s without a doubt in my mind the funniest woman currently on television. Whether she’s doing her lovable “Amber Says What” segments on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” to her unbelievable parodies of popular songs dealing with the biggest news stories of the day she is simply drop dead funny. Ruffin pulls no punches whatsoever in her humor and yet still has this incredibly lovable personality about her. She’s so integral to the humor of Meyers’ late night show that I’d hate to see her leave, but she should be a star of her own show and I’d be shocked if someday soon she isn’t.
Best Moment: NBC Saves "Brooklyn Nine Nine"
I understand that “Brooklyn Nine Nine” wasn’t providing the ratings that Fox wanted, which is why it was a part of the networks comedy massacre last spring when it canceled ‘B99,” “Last Man on Earth,” “The Mick” and “L.A. to Vegas” – all terrific shows – but the cancellation of it after five seasons was the dumbest TV decision of the year and the ratings for shows like “Rel” that replaced it prove it to be so. That makes the decision of NBC to pick up “Brooklyn Nine Nine” after its loyal fans took to social media to show their displeasure with Fox’s decision the best moment of 2018 in television for me. After five years “Brooklyn Nine Nine” is still the funniest show on network television and I can’t wait for the sixth season to premiere next month.
Best in Streaming: "Springsteen on Broadway" (Netflix)
Netflix reportedly paid upwards of $20 million for the streaming rights to Bruce Springsteen’s one-man show “Springsteen on Broadway” than ran on Broadway from Oct. 3, 2017 until Dec. 15, 2018. That was money well-spent for those of us ravage Springsteen fans who couldn’t pony up the cash to travel to New York City to see this marvelous show in person. “Springsteen in Broadway” is everything a Springsteen fan could want with intimate and personal stories of Springsteen life and one-of-a-kind stripped down performances of both greatest hits and underrated album cuts, many done completely different than what we’re used to hearing on record or on E Street Band tours. Like any Springsteen concert it’ll be a spiritual awakening for loyal fans, but it’ll also be a good watch for any music lover out there.