Time to move on with appreciating the new stuff, as I break down the first of ten TV shows which I consider to be some of the best content released in 2018.
No negativity planned for examining this year’s TV or movies. I may throw in a disappointment down the line but let’s concentrate on the shows which worked, rather than those left best forgotten.
So! Here’s 10 down to 6 of TV you really should check out if you haven’t already…
10. Ozark (Season 2)
Oddly enough, Ozark‘s second season has been critically slated amongst some reviewers of TV and I don’t understand their reasoning at all. Season 2, for me, outpaced Ozark‘s first season in terms of stakes, incident and addictiveness.
Netflix almost snuck out the Jason Bateman & Laura Linney starring ten-part thriller last year, in which the two usually cinematic leads star as Martin & Wendy Bird, who after unwittingly embezzling from the Mob, must decamp to the Ozark Mountains and make $500 million of laundered money in five years, or they all die. Bateman & Linney are great as intelligent city people who must compromise their morals and ethics in the gloomy, backwoods world of middle America to save their family.
Season 1 set the scene nicely but Season 2 pushes the slow burn narrative to some deadly points of no return, teeing up a Season 3 filled with promise. A much better show than you may have been led to believe.
9. Jack Ryan (Season 1)
How do you solve a problem like Jack Ryan? This was a question I elaborate more on in my main thoughts on the first season of Amazon Prime’s take on Tom Clancy’s most prominent character, a year which absolutely spent eight episodes trying, and occasionally succeeding, in finding its feet.
You probably remember Harrison Ford playing intelligence operative Ryan in 90’s films Patriot Games & Clear and Present Danger, but John Krasinski is the fourth actor to take on the role and, honestly, he’s probably the best since Ford. Krasinski pulls off the tricky balance of bookish intelligence gathering and action man smarts needed for this modern, Homeland-style reboot of Clancy’s book series, grounding Ryan with a sincere humanity even when the script work lets him down.
Jack Ryan has the potential to improve significantly if it can shake off the derivative touches of other American intelligence thrillers, as there’s a lot to work with when it comes to Clancy. Hopefully the show will get chance to evolve and develop.
8. Luke Cage (Season 2)
The first season of Luke Cage was fairly underwhelming as the Marvel-Netflix corner of shows, all set in and around New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, went. Mike Colter stood out as the hero for hire, having briefly been introduced in Jessica Jones, but Cheo Hodari Coker’s series suffered from glacial pacing, particularly in the first half.
Though thematically and texturally of a piece with the first season, Season 2 served as a significant improvement, for the most part. Luke’s moral compass is challenged, characters like Misty Knight and Black Mariah get stronger arcs, and Bushmaster rises up as one of the Netflix series’ most formidable villains, with his penetrating eyes and arrogant Jamaican patois. It’s just a shame the whole though falls off a cliff in the final couple of episodes, setting up a Season 3 that’ll now probably never happen after the show’s recent cancellation.
I go into more depth on Luke Cage S2 here but, suffice to say, it stands as one of the best Marvel TV seasons to date.
An entry quite unlike the rest on this list, being the only non-fiction inclusion, but it’s one I just had to mention. School is very British, very personal to me as someone who works in education, and an extremely sobering look at the state of modern teaching and learning, not to mention the knock on effects of austerity.
Taking place in three schools across a Multi-Academy Trust in South Gloucestershire, School focuses on all aspects of the education spectrum; budgets, job cuts, OFSTED, special educational needs, teaching, behaviour, the whole nine yards. Across six episodes, no stone in left unturned and the results are not pretty. While the Department for Education in the UK may be constantly suggesting teaching is doing well, School shines a harsh light into a simple reality: schools are failing, people are quitting, kids are losing, because they just do not have the money to run effectively.
School, honestly, made me incredibly angry. Anyone who works in a school in modern Britain knows everything it says already. Anyone who doesn’t needs to know the uncomfortable truth is starkly reveals.
6. Homecoming (Season 1)
We’ve had several high-profile projects based on emergent podcasts over the last few years. Welcome to Night Vale became a book, Lore was turned into a short run show by Amazon, and now Homecoming gets the same treatment. Directed by showrunning darling Sam Esmail, and landing a major starring name in Julia Roberts, Homecoming might be the strangest new TV show of 2018.
The premise is beguiling in its simplicity. In mid-2018, Roberts’ psychiatrist Heidi Bergman works for Homecoming, a facility designed for ex-veterans who have just returned from combat to help them reacclimatise to civilian life, and she develops a burgeoning dynamic with patient Walter. A few years in the future, Heidi is working as a waitress and doesn’t seem to remember Homecoming at all, as an investigator pieces together the mystery of the organisation. To say anymore would give the game away of a curious series; 30 minutes or so in length, often using score music from well known films, Esmail directs Homecoming with a mix of paranoid, retro style and Kubrickian distance.
It is, quite simply, fascinating. Homecoming, over its ten episodes, will not go where you think but is well worth the investment.
Check back soon for the top 5 TV shows I saw this year, but coming soon are the first 5 top movie score tracks and films of 2018…