26 TV shows to watch in 2018
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Peak TV is not over yet. The ongoing flood of new platforms and channels, combined with the drift of Hollywood talent from film to television, means that 2018 is going to be bursting with great shows.
Below is a quick guide to the TV shows you should keep an eye out for this year.
1. grown-ish, Freeform, Jan. 3
If you watch black-ish, you know that the Johnsons' eldest daughter Zoey (Yara Shahidi) is off to university, and that — as anyone who watched A Different World knows — is an occasion for a whole other show. This charming, slightly messy spinoff has Zoey starting off on the wrong foot at "Southern California University" and trying to figure out how to reconcile her confidence and style with her need and insecurity. (Plus partying. And Adderall. And the semantics of "hooking up.") Created by black-ish's Kenya Barris and Larry Wilmore, this is a good show that's likely to get even better as it finds its sea legs.
2. 9-1-1, Fox, Jan. 3
"When I started to handle the snake, I really started to sweat," Peter Krause said of a scene he shot on this show. 9-1-1 takes on the lives of people who respond to emergencies, whether on the phone or in person. Connie Britton plays Abby Clark, a phone operator who prefers responding to strangers' problems to dealing with her own. Angela Bassett plays Athena, an LAPD officer who recently found out her husband is gay. She and Krause's Bobby Nash — a first responder in the fire department — spend some screen time in the pilot disciplining a young first responder named "Firehose." If 9-1-1 doesn't sound particularly original, it sure has a hell of a cast.
3. The X-Files, Fox, Jan. 3
Chris Carter's famous series came back in 2016 for a 10th season that got lackluster reviews from fans and critics alike. The pressure on The X-Files' 11th season has tripled thanks to a two-year wait and Gillian Anderson's recent announcement that this will be her last performance as Agent Dana Scully. Whether you think the new season is great or awful will largely depend on your investment in the show's mythology vs. its standalone episodes. The new season seems to have responded to the pressure by becoming self-aware: Reddit investigators discovered a secret message in a "squeaky alien voice" in the premiere that, reversed and decoded, says: "If this is the end, it's been a wild, wild adventure with some of the finest people I know and the greatest fans that we could've hoped for."
4. The Good Place, NBC, Jan. 4
The best comedy about the afterlife comes back after a midseason hiatus and does the unthinkable: It throws a rager and destroys its picture-perfect set, the idyllic "Neighborhood" Ted Danson's Michael created for its central foursome. As the midseason premiere quibbles over the difference between a "leap of faith" and a "leap into faith," I kept marveling at how this show manages to create progress, tension, momentum, and surprise with a premise that's explicitly about repetition. If you haven't seen it, watch it from the beginning. If you took a break, catch up.
5. The Chi, Showtime, Jan. 7
After winning an Emmy for writing the exceptional "Thanksgiving" episode of Master of None, Lena Waithe created The Chi, a riveting ensemble show that does for Chicago what The Wire did for Baltimore (and then some). Starring Jason Mitchell, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Jacob Latimore, The Wire's Sonja Sohn, Moonlight's Alex Hibbert, Yolonda Ross, Tiffany Boone, and Armando Riesco — among other huge talents — this is a messy, gorgeous, complicated show that aims to "put some humanness behind the headlines," as Waithe put it. Watch it. This is actual must-see TV.
6. Alone Together, Freeform, Jan. 10
This is the kind of show that creeps up on you until you've accidentally watched five episodes and been joined by everyone else in the house. Esther Povitsky (you know her from Parks and Rec and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Benji Aflalo star in this sleeper hit about a pair of average millennials trying to make it in L.A. The joke is that they're average, both in looks and ability, while trying to succeed in a place where people tend to excel in one, the other, or both. Based on Povitsky's 2015 film Alone Together, the show is produced by The Lonely Island (Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Taccone). It's silly. It's so light it's the nutritional equivalent of funnel cake. But Povitsky and Aflalo are sneaky comics; they're so good at miming mumbling mediocrity you don't realize just how funny they are.
7. Electric Dreams, Amazon, Jan. 12
This anthology of standalone sci-fi episodes inspired by Philip K. Dick stories boasts some pretty impressive credentials. The series is executive produced by Dick's daughter, Isa Dick Hackett, Ronald D. Moore (the force behind Battlestar Galactica who also produces and writes Outlander), and Michael Dinner, whose credits include The Wonder Years and (most recently) Justified. The cast is no less impressive, with appearances from Anna Paquin, Maura Tierney, Steve Buscemi, Greg Kinnear, Geraldine Chaplin, and Bryan Cranston. The results are … mixed. Some episodes are predictable, others are too confusing to pay off, and some are truly great. But they're all interesting. This is Black Mirror for people more interested in the tortured human side of sci-fi than they are in the technical dystopian thrills of any particular premise.
8. Crashing, HBO, Jan. 14
Judd Apatow and Pete Holmes' show — about a dopey Christian comic trying to make it on the mean streets of the comedy world after his marriage collapses — is back for a second season. Happy as I am anytime Aparna Nancherla is on my TV screen, I found Crashing's first season a little forgettable. Holmes is hilarious (particularly as "Badman" and "Professor Ex"), but it seemed to me that Crashing — the premise of which more or less requires that his character not be funny yet — muted him past the point of interest. Same with its comedian guest stars, which it tends to script as foul-mouthed saints. (I except the fifth episode, "Parents," which I thought was really, truly great.) The second season makes Holmes funnier, if also a lot more suggestible. There's also some actual (as opposed to situational) drama, which ratchets up the stakes. Plus, there's a lot more George Basil as Pete's ex-wife's affable lover Leif, a standout performance if ever there was one. If you like Apatow and Holmes (or Artie Lange), you could do a lot worse than this idiosyncratic, warm-hearted show.
9. Divorce, HBO, Jan. 14
Sharon Horgan — the brain behind triumphs like Catastrophe and Pulling — is a genius, so I was excited when HBO announced a deal with her to make Divorce, a show about a collapsing marriage starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church. (Plus Molly Shannon! And Jemaine Clement!) Alas, the first season never quite found its legs — partly because Parker and Church never quite seemed to belong to the same universe, let alone the same sagging, stale marriage. But because the ingredients are so great, and because the second season has the unconvincing couple finally divorced, I recommend giving it a try. This thing has terrific bones.
10. American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, FX, Jan. 16
Let's be honest: The triumph of American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson is hard to top. For its second installment, creator Ryan Murphy took on the story of Andrew Cunanan, the 27-year-old serial killer whose sadistic months-long murder spree culminated in the shooting death of designer Gianni Versace outside his mansion in Miami. Darren Criss steals the show as Cunanan, and there are star turns from Penelope Cruz (as Donatella Versace) and — most intriguingly — Ricky Martin, whose rich performance as Versace's lover has painful resonances with his own history as a closeted star until he came out in 2010. The show's pilot is gorgeous and lives up to its name, but by the fourth or fifth episode, it's drifted so far from Versace that it's unclear why it's named for him at all. If you're hoping for insight into Versace as a person or a brand, you'll likely come away disappointed. But if you overlook the title, this is a fascinating show about a serial killer and how homophobia structured everything from fashion to business to criminal investigations in the '90s.
11. Black Lightning, The CW, Jan. 16
The CW has emerged as a powerhouse for saturated, stylized shows, from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to Riverdale to Jane the Virgin to Supergirl. Black Lightning is the latest addition to that impressive lineup. Starring Cress Williams as Jefferson Pierce, a sometime superhero who hung up his cape to become a school principal and spend time with his family, the show starts with Pierce coming out of retirement when he discovers that his daughter and another student are being recruited by a gang. There's one complication: His daughter Jennifer (China Anne McClain) has inherited some of his abilities. This looks like it's going to be weird and terrific and a welcome father-daughter relationship in a TV landscape that doesn't have many.
12. High Maintenance, HBO, Jan. 19
Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair's show about The Guy, a nameless weed deliveryman whose job takes him across all of New York City, is back for another full season on HBO. This brilliant picaresque series started on the web and developed a huge cult following. It's easy to see why: As The Guy, Sinclair radiates calm and the kind of barely-there curiosity that makes it easy for people to open up — even when you don't want them to. Dan Stevens, who's come to be something of a series regular, is back for more. New guest stars include Orange is the New Black's Danielle Brooks. This show is so original and unique it's actually hard to explain its appeal; I'll just note that one episode is shot entirely from the point of view of a dog, and it's one of the best things that's ever happened on television.
13. Planet Earth, Blue Planet II, BBC America, Jan. 20
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a small child possessed of a television set must plan to be a marine biologist. If you've never dreamed of swimming underwater unassisted, or flipped through Jacques Cousteau books, or wished you had Steve Zissou's life stripped of the poignant regret, now's the time to start. BBC America's Blue Planet II shows us marine life in ways we've never seen it before. You can watch mobula rays glow in the dark. You can get up close and personal with a Portuguese Man O' War. You can see the world through the eyes of a killer whale (really). This is just amazing stuff.
14. Mosaic, HBO, Jan. 22
Ed Solomon writes and Steven Soderbergh directs this ambitious experiment in multi-platform interactive storytelling. The show technically premieres Jan. 22, but the murder mystery game has been around for awhile, so you can already start "watching" (investigating?) it through the Mosaic app, which is also published by HBO. Click on the "map" and you can watch various 20-minute scenes featuring (among others) Sharon Stone, Garrett Hedlund, and Paul Reubens. You can click on drawings, investigate documents, go off on exploratory tangents. Sharon Stone, typically terrific, is equal parts power and need as Olivia Lake, a wealthy children's author targeted by various predatory men. The game (and presumably the show) opens with a flashback to her first encounter with Eric Neill (Frederick Weller), a guy trying to scam her. Later you find out that he's in prison for her murder, and his sister is trying to find out the truth. "Every villain is the hero of their own story. This forced me to think of every character as being worthy of their own movie," writer Ed Solomon has said. I have no idea how the six-episode show plans to organize the choose-your-own-adventure anarchy of the app — but I can't wait to find out.
15. Baskets, FX, Jan. 23
This quiet little show is one of my favorite things on TV. Zach Galifiniakis stars as a downtrodden Parisian-trained clown who's failed and returned to his hometown — Bakersfield — to live with his mother (Louie Anderson) and fight with the people he loves. One of those people is his brother (Galifiniakis plays his own twin), a smalltime entrepreneur with an inexplicable Southern accent whose comparative success in life disguises how little he's accomplished. The show revolves around Baskets' relationship with his mother — and I can't say enough about the quiet virtuosity of Louie Anderson's show-stealing performance as "Mama Baskets" — and his friend Martha (the inimitable Martha Kelly). There's no way to describe this show's improbable charm; just watch the video above and you'll see what I mean.
16. Waco, Paramount Network, Jan. 24
Taylor Kitsch dropped 30 pounds to play David Koresh in this six-episode miniseries about the showdown between the federal government and the Branch Davidian cult. Also starring Michael Shannon, Melissa Benoist, John Leguizamo, and The Americans' Julia Garner, this looks like an intriguingly sympathetic treatment of Koresh. (The trailer shows the FBI burying footage of Koresh making a plea to the American people that makes him seem — in the words of an agent — "too normal.") That 51-day standoff resulted in 76 deaths, and even the stories about TV adaptations of it are dramatic — here's Phil Pennington, the screenwriter for the docudrama made during the siege, disavowing the account he himself wrote. This is a promising tentpole for Paramount Network (which used to be Spike TV). Plus: Rory Culkin!
17. One Day at a Time, Netflix, Jan. 26
This Norman Lear adaptation of a '70s-era Norman Lear show is so good and warm and funny I can hardly stand it. If you haven't seen the first season, treat yourself now. This is the story of a Cuban-American family helmed by veteran-turned nurse Penelope Justina Machado, her mother Lidia (Rita Moreno), and her two kids. It will do everything it can to make you think it's "old." The lighting is flat. There's a laugh track. This is a traditional multi-camera sitcom, with everything that implies, and it's a precious artifact, not just because it's accurate, and interesting, and funny, and good, but because it's unembarrassed to be sincere. Norman Lear (now 94) and Rita Moreno (now 85) turn out exceptional work — I dare you to watch Moreno remove her makeup without crying — and their influence imbues this entry in our accumulating stack of nostalgic shows with experience and heart.
18. Here and Now, HBO, Feb. 11
If you miss Six Feet Under, there's good news: Alan Ball has a new project! Starring Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins, Here and Now is a 10-episode drama about two families. One — Hunter and Robbins' — consists of the couple (a lawyer and philosophy professor, respectively) and their four children, three of them adopted from Liberia, Colombia, and Vietnam. The youngest is still in high school; the others are adults. One starts seeing things — and gets treated by a Muslim psychiatrist, whose family has issues of its own. "Family is this great experiment," one character says, and if that sounds more rueful and dark than reassuring, then you probably know Ball's grimly funny work.
19. Good Girls, NBC, Feb. 26
Christina Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman star in this comedy about three mothers who — struggling and finally desperate in a very recognizable, middle-class way — turn to a life of crime. The three team up to rob a grocery store. Unfortunately, they're not exactly criminal masterminds, and they get a lot more than they bargained for. I didn't expect to find Hendricks playing a washed-up mom whose husband is cheating on her even a little convincing, but Hendricks brings a rage and messiness to the character she never got to express as Mad Men's Joan. Whitman is fun and spiteful and irresponsible — think her character in Parenthood all grown up — and Retta? Retta will make you feel things. I've only seen the first three episodes, but this shows definite promise.
20. The Looming Tower, Hulu, Feb. 28
Based on Lawrence Wright's Pulitzer-winning book of the same name, this 10-episode miniseries explores the rise of al Qaeda and the interagency rivalries between the CIA and the FBI that may have contributed to the 9/11 attacks. Jeff Daniels plays John O'Neill, a counter-terrorism expert who worked for the FBI — actually investigating al Qaeda's connection to the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing — until he was pushed out and became head of security at the World Trade Center, where he died on 9/11. The cast also includes Tahar Rahim, Bill Camp, and Peter Sarsgaard. Alec Baldwin guest stars.
21. Atlanta Robbin' Season, FX, March 1 [no trailer available yet]
It's no coincidence that Donald Glover walked away from the first season of Atlanta with two Emmys. The dramedy about two cousins trying to break into the music scene in Atlanta was one of the smartest, most inventive, and interesting shows of 2016, so I'm thrilled it's back for a second season, and that Glover — who stars, and also writes and directs — took enough time to make exactly what he wanted (okay, he also took some time to play Lando Calrissian in a forthcoming Star Wars movie). "I feel like if you rush it, you'll start to get something you don't want and then you start to question why you even liked it," he told Clara Amfo. It's encouraging that he's happy with the result, and that we'll get more Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred, Lakeith Stanfield as Darius, and Zazie Beetz as Van.
22. Jessica Jones, Netflix, March 8
Marvel's freakishly strong, lip-curling heroine is back after two years for a new beginning. Unlikely as it seemed in 2016, this show became one of television's most fascinating philosophical examinations of consent and addiction. Krysten Ritter's character had to deal with a villain whose superpower was basically compelling his victims to consent; it was a fascinating ethical pretzel. Ritter looks more intense than ever in trailers for Jessica Jones' second season, which will focus on Jones rebuilding her life after her ego-annihilating experience with Kilgrave (David Tennant). There are hints that we'll learn about the source of her powers and more details about the accident that led to her brother's death. All 13 episodes of the second season are directed by women.
23. The Terror, AMC, March 26
Not content with the dystopias of Bladerunner 2049 and The Man in the High Castle, Ridley Scott has turned his sights on the Arctic. The Terror (based on a Dan Simmons novel) takes on the history of a (real) expedition to the Arctic undertaken by a Royal Navy officer named Captain Sir John Franklin that ended in the deaths of everyone on the both ships — the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. But this fictionalized version has a twist: Besides challenges like cannibalism and mutiny, there's a monster. I'll be honest: I miss Fortitude and love Northern Exposure; anything set in the icy North appeals to me. Starring Jared Harris and Ciarán Hinds and set in the 1840s, this could be a lot of grisly fun.
24. Roseanne, ABC, March 27
This show transformed television history. Roseanne rejected the ideal sitcom family and replaced them with the Conners. They struggled, they swore, they joked and misbehaved, but they also were warm and believable and, above all, sarcastic. (John Goodman remains my favorite TV dad.) That said, the show took enough weird turns in later seasons that I have mixed feelings about ABC's decision to resurrect it. These reboots haven't been working too well — Curb Your Enthusiasm and The X-Files and Will and Grace all feel like missteps. Fortunately, early trailers show Roseanne winking with its trademark impudence at its own revisionism. The linked video has the Conners joking about just how much they have to undo to pick this up: Dan's death never happened, Lecy Goranson is back playing the original Becky, and Sarah Chalke (Becky #2) will be playing a character who hires Becky to be her surrogate. Fingers crossed that this reboot will live up to the strongest part of its source material.
25. The Americans, FX, March 28 [no trailer available yet]
Joe Weisberg's brilliant drama about embedded Russian spies impersonating an American family during the Cold War begins its final season in March. The show's fifth season wasn't just uncharacteristically slow as it set up the show's closing arc; it also refused to answer more than a few pressing questions. I've been dying to find what was really going on with Henry, and Mischa's inconclusive journey to America in search of Philip kind of broke my heart. Was that it? Rather than rush to answer, the sixth season premiere recommits to the show's new pace. With a giant twist: People you didn't expect to see again are back. This show is a gem. The acting is exquisite, the writing is so smart, and the history behind it all is fascinating. It's going to be a treat to watch this story wrap up.
26. Trust, FX, March 2018
Set in 1973, this anthology series takes on the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III, child of John Paul Getty Jr., grandson of J. Paul Getty. This story is everywhere this year — Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World, for which he famously replaced Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer — was also about the Getty drama. And it's easy to see why: When the abductors demanded a ransom, John Paul Getty Jr. asked his father for help. The eldest Getty refused, arguing that his other grandchildren might be next. The abductors followed up that November — four months after the initial kidnapping — with an envelope containing some hair and the youngest Getty's ear. This is when Getty Sr. started … negotiating. With the Mafia organization (the 'Ndrangheta) and with his son, whom he eventually lent the ransom money, charging him 4 percent interest. Trust features Donald Sutherland as the eldest Getty and co-stars Hilary Swank, Harris Dickinson, Brendan Fraser, and Michael Esper.