It’s been another year of awesome tv. As we continue in this newly birthed Golden Age of Television, there’s a lot of prestige TV nowadays. Not only the big dogs on network tv and cable (including premium channels), but now we’re in the age of streaming services, which are all bringing top-notch programming to us on a daily basis! A lot of the heavy hitters (Handmaid’s Tale, Riverdale, The Flash, This Is Us, Better Call Saul, Atlanta, etc.) have all returned, but this has also been a great year for new TV shows that continue to wow and entertain us. With more than 250 new shows premiering this year across all platforms (including Facebook), it’s hard to narrow down the best of the best.
Here are the 10 best new shows that premiered in 2018….
10. On My Block (Netflix)
While young folks are the prime demographic for television shows (as they are the best consumers to reach), there is a noticeable gap in diversity when centering on teen dramas. Just about all of them center on rich white kids (as they have throughout television). However, Netflix’s On My Block, is the exception to the rule.
A coming of age story that centers on 4 friends in inner-city Los Angeles as they transition from middle school to high school. The crew consists of 3 guys and their tomboy friend as they navigate not only the idea of growing up, but the everyday realities of gangs, trying to fit in high school, and their hormones kicking in at the same time. While most “good” TV shows center on drugs and gangs when dealing with the African-American or Hispanic experience, this one decides to tag along with a “losers club” of friends who try their best to either fit in with the “cool kids,” or not get beat up by them. Monse, the only girl in the group also deals with her burgeoning womanhood, as she’s going through changes, as well as her falling in love with her best friend Cesar, who is being forced into his older brother’s gang upon his release from prison. The show is raw, honest, and has a remarkable young group of actors.
9. Grown-ish (Freeform)
When Black-ish first aired, it looked like we have finally found a worthy successor to The Cosby Show. Kenya Barris’ show focusing on an upper-middle-class black family led by Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross as they navigated through their careers as well as raising their kids. The show also wasn’t afraid to go for all the hot-button issues like police brutality, the election of Donald Trump, and the legacy of slavery and how it affects African Americans to this day.
When oldest daughter Zoe was to go to college, Barris decided that her story was not over and created Grown-Ish. Similar to A Different World, Zoe is off to college and now is dealing with the idea of leaving the nest and finding out who you really are in college. Actress Yara Shahidi is joined by a colorful cast who make up her new friends who are all starting or are in college. Zoe has to deal with sex, taking drugs, loving and losing boyfriends, and just figuring out where she fits in the world. Deon Cole’s Charlie also comes from the parent show as we find out Charlie has more than one job as he’s also a nighttime college professor while keeping his same craziness going. Being on Freeform instead of ABC also allowed the show to deal with more adult issues, which fits fine for the show as well.
8. Manifest (NBC)
For years TV shows have been trying to find the next “Lost.” For the most part, all the copycats failed. Lost is just that magic in a bottle that networks usually can replicate. However, it looks like they have found a worthy successor in Manifest.
Centering on Montego Air Flight 828 traveling from Jamaica back to New York City, the plane experiences some brief turbulence for a few minutes. However, when they land, they learn that five years have passed by in the real world. Protagonist Ben, his sister Michaela, and young son Cal had to change flights last minute onto 828 and come back to a new world. They have been declared missing for 5 years, so his wife has moved on, the young son Cal is now 5 years younger than his twin sister, Ben and Michaela’s mother has died while they were gone, and Michaela’s boyfriend has moved on and married her best friend. Oh, and they (and the other passengers) now have special abilities that they don’t even understand. They are trying to integrate back into the world (even though it’s only been minutes for them), while the NSA is looking into what happened along with a nefarious organization that seems to know something. Each episode peels another layer into the mystery surrounding what exactly happened for those few seconds of turbulence (did they go through a wormhole? Was is aliens?), while trying to find a sense of normalness.
7. Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj (Netflix)
The growing trend now is that if you did a good job as a correspondent on The Daily Show, you are going to get your own show and do an intriguing spin-off of the show with your own style. Samantha Bee (despite her flack for dissing 45’s daughter) is doing well with Full Frontal with Samatha Bee. Stephen Colbert is doing The Late Show. John Oliver is killing it on Last Week Tonight. Larry Wilmore briefly did the criminally underrated Nightly Show before it was canceled. Michelle Wolf briefly did The Break with Michelle Wolf on Netflix before it was canceled. It looks like Netflix found the right weekly talk show with Daily Show alum Hasan Minhaj.
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj is a departure from the usual. For one, he’s not a white guy/gal, which besides Trevor Noah now running The Daily Show, is a pretty monochromatic field for late night/political talk shows. Like John Oliver, he’s dedicating a bulk of each episode to one hard-hitting issue and thoroughly researching the topic. He’s covered Affirmative Action (while even putting Asians like himself on blast for siding against black people), Saudi Arabia, Amazon, Immigration, and free speech in the social media age. He uses the same interactive PowerPoint-like displays he’s used for his comedy specials to further hone in on his points. He’s already making some small change as he pointed out that EVEN IN 2018 the online manual for US troops deployed to Saudi Arabia describes the people of Saudi Arabia as having “Negro blood,” something that U.S. Central Command has apologized for and removed from their manual since the show exposed it.
6. Counterpart (Starz)
Alternate reality shows are always intriguing. The idea that reality is “just a little” different is something that has always worked, especially once you have established characters. Introduce the audience to their alternate reality self, given you a new insight into how the character may be… if they were evil, or if they made different choices in life. It’s been done in Star Trek with the “mirror universe,” The Man In The High Castle with a world that the Nazis won the second world war, and countless episodes of The Flash with the show’s more than 52 realities. Of course, you can’t forget Fringe, which literally had two different realities “over here” and “over there” at war with each other.
Starz’s Counterpart takes the idea of two realities at war with each other, and slows it down. Instead of a guns blazing show, it’s a slow burn spy thriller. Centering on Howard Silk (the always brilliant JK Simmons), who is a low-level UN worker, who really doesn’t know what his work is really about. That changes when his “counterpart” from the other reality is willing to defect. The “main” Silk (who it turns out is not the main one) is mild-mannered, while the “prime” version of himself is a skilled agent for a group on his side who has been carrying on acts of espionage for years against the other side. The two have to team up to prevent Howard’s wife from being killed by an assassin, which sets in motion a series of events. The show explores how one simple choice or event in life can lead to different conclusions for a person. And seeing two different JK Simmons out act each other is always good!
5. Narcos: Mexico
Narcos continues to be criminally underrated. The show spanned for 3 seasons chronicling the rise and fall of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (played flawlessly by Wagner Moura) and then the rise and fall of his successors, the Cali Cartel as the DEA tried to stop them from being the largest cocaine traffickers in the world. with everything surrounding Columbian trafficking pretty much covered, the show teased that they were setting their sights on Mexico. However, after a real-life shooting of the show’s location scout, the showrunners decided that they wanted to do a “reset” of the show and instead created the spinoff Narcos: Mexico.
Narcos: Mexico shows the rise of Mexican cartels, who at that time were the small-time guys. Instead of showing the cocaine trade, we get the origins of how marijuana became such a big player as well. We may look at it now (with many states legalizing the still schedule 1 drug), but back then, it was a scourge on our society. This season of the show also shows the rise in the Drug Enforcement Administration as they were not always the top dogs in the DOJ. That all changed with the name: Kiki Camarena (played surprisingly well by Michael Pena). He sets his sights on Félix Gallardo (Diego Luna) and the Guadalajara Cartel. The show serves as an origin story for the DEA as well as the Guadalajara Cartel. What makes the show so fascinating is that from the first episode, you know what’s going to happen, and it isn’t pretty. However, through the 10 episodes, you go through a whirlwind to get to that point, and the excitement and peril is there every step of the way.
4. Pose (FX)
I did not know that I would thoroughly enjoy that centered on “ball competitions” so much. Leave it up to Ryan Murphy and his team at FX to create a dynamic show that gave us some much-needed diversity and perspective for many LGBT issues that many people just don’t really know about.
Set in 1980s New York, Pose focuses on the recently formed “House of Evangelista,” specifically Blanca (MJ Rodriguez), who leaves the “House of Abundance” and we get to learn about the highly competitive world of ball competitions, where members of the LGBT community gather together and have runway shows. While most television shows that highlight the LGBT community, they usually focus on white ones. Pose, instead features a cast of predominantly black and Latino members, and also casts transgendered actors for most of the roles. Ryan Murphy favorite Evan Peters is on the show as a low-level Trump Towers employee (the show takes a few shots at 45 as well) who starts falling for Blanca as he picks her up as a prostitute and starts falling for her. The show also shows us a time when people in the LGBT community were denied healthcare, and during the begging of the AIDS crisis. Pose gave us a wide range of characters to fall in love with and was bold as hell.
3. Mayans MC (FX)
Sons of Anarchy gave us the rogue motorcycle club that was involved with gun running throughout southern California. The show gave us the personal and family life of these outlaw bikers as well as the weird world that they navigated. The series ended a few years ago with protagonist Jax Teller wanting to escape the cycle of violence for his son and commits suicide by truck. Fans have for a long time wanted to get back into the world of Charming and outlaw gangs.
Creator Kurt Sutter wanted to revisit this world, but instead of the prequel showing how the Sons started he originally envisioned, he instead wanted to take a look at one of the sometimes friendly, sometimes rival motorcycle clubs from the original show, the Mayans. Set 4 years after the original show ended, Mayans MC focuses on the fictitious border town of Santo Padre with members of the Mayans Motorcycle Club as they deal with their own issues as they skirt the law. The protagonist is Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (J.D. Pardo) who instead of being the leader like Jax was, he’s just a Prospect (a newbie who isn’t a member of the club yet), who joined the club after getting out of jail. Since the club is hip deep with the Galindo cartel, EZ was let out as a snitch for the government, so we are following (and rooting for) a guy whose job is to snitch. While Sons of Anarchy was primarily white guys (except Happy and Juice), the Mayans are all Latino, and the show focuses on Mexican culture as well as life at the border (with a few potshots at 45 and his “wall” of course). Mayans MC has the same twists and turns and loyalty changes his predecessor did, but this first season is even better than SOAs was.
2. The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)
This year has been a resurgence of horror for pop culture. The Walking Dead is finally good again, and such films as Hereditary, A Quiet Place and even a Halloween reboot gave us plenty of thrills and chills. After years of subpar movies and shows that gave more torture porn than actual scares, it looks like horror is bac. And Netflix once again changed the game with The Haunting of Hill House.
A reimagining of the 1959 horror novel, The Haunting of Hill House within the first few minutes captivates the audience. Focusing on the Crain family in two different timelines, the show never fails to not only genuinely scare the crap out of you, but also give you some very good drama and acting worthy of whatever awards it receives. The Crain family moves into Hill House in 1992 for the purpose of renovating it to then flip for a higher price, but immediately see something is off there. As they deal with whatever is in the house, it leads to a tragedy leaving the family in shambles. Twenty-six years later, another tragedy happens that forces the family to revisit their time at Hill House. The Crain family all have skeletons and deep-seated psychological trauma to deal with from their time there. One’s on drugs, one’s a control freak who can only deal in death, another exploits their tragedy for profit, and another shuts away from people (unless it’s for sex). They all have issues with their father who never explained what happened that fateful night, leading them all to have to revisit that frightful house.
The directing is flawless, especially the episode “Two Storms” which consists of non-stop single take shots that must have been hell to pull off. The show is full of unadulterated scares that will force you to pause it just so you can catch your breath. The ghosts also terrify as the phrase “bent-neck lady” are now a part of the public lexicon. The show was so good that horror master himself, Stephen King singing its praises, calling it “close to a work of genius.”
1. Cobra Kai (YouTube Premium)
As we are in an age of endless reboots and continuations, no one has said a loud “hey let’s do a continuation of Karate Kid.” The 80s gem is timeless, but not many people have wondered in the past 34 years what was going on with Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence. The writers behind Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (of all things) managed to convince YouTube Premium (who wanted to get into the Original Programming game as well) to produce a show that shows what has happened since then, but this time the protagonist isn’t Daniel, but the “bad guy” Johnny Lawrence from the Cobra Kai karate dojo and commit 10 episodes to it. I mean, stupider ideas have been done….
Good God the show is good. Not only is it good, but it has ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS being so damn good!!!!
Cobra Kai focuses on Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka in a perfect world would be taking home an Emmy for this) who for the past 34 years has not had a great life. He works a dead-end job, his father hates him, and as a result, he’s a terrible father to his own son. When he’s at his worst, he reminisces about his glory days when he was a karate champion in high school and decides to open up the Cobra Kai dojo and train a new group of students, all the bullied kids at a local high school. In contrast, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) has had a great life. He runs a successful car dealership, but he is having trouble with his stage in life as his mentor Mr. Miyagi has also died. Daniel doesn’t trust Johnny, so he and Johnny reignite their rivalry they have had since high school. Daniel takes Johnny’s son under his wing, and Johnny’s students start gaining self-confidence (but at times are violent).
As stated before, Cobra Kai should not be as good as it is. Themes, like living in the past, family, regret, and moving forward, are on the forefront. Cobra Kai is basically the Creed for the Karate Kid series, as it updates the franchise and takes it into a new and entertaining direction. William Zabka, while he has a decent career post-Karate Kid, is in rare form as Johnny. His performance makes you want to re-watch the original Karate Kid and realize that he wasn’t that bad after all. His interaction with Daniel one episode is gold as the two reminisce and seemingly bury the hatches (temporarily). Creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg clearly love the Karate Kid film series as they paid a lot of love and care to this show. While Rotten Tomatoes is by no means a barometer for if something’s good or not, the 100% rating can’t be ignored! In a perfect world, this show would sweep pretty much any award category imaginable. It’s really that good!