Here’s something you probably knew: a year is 12 months long. That’s 12 months of TV to get through, which is a lot by anyone’s standards. We’re at the halfway point of 2018 (when did that happen?!) so there’s as much TV to come as we’ve already had, and what we’ve already had has been considerable in terms of quantity and quality. In the interest of posterity, we’d like to pause and pay homage to the best TV shows of the first half of 2018, Without further ado, here’s part one of our rundown of the top 15 shows of the year so far. Stay tuned for part two.
15. Archer: Danger Island – Adam Reed has shown how fearless he is when it comes to reinventing his much-loved animated series, shifting it from a spy show to film noir and now tropical adventure a la Indiana Jones. It’s still a ways short of its absolute best, but this iteration allowed for plenty of self-referential humour (the reappearance of David Cross’s Noah, Archer effectively becoming his nemesis Rip Manley) and the inspired decision to make Krieger into a talking parrot.
14. Wild Wild Country – Often, documentaries about cults rely on people on the periphery or archival footage to piece together what really happened. What sets Wild Wild Country apart is its access to the people who were at the heart of the strange happenings in rural Orgeon in the 80s. This included mass salmonella poisoning, attempted murder and violent orgies, all perpetrated by the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian guru who had created a city for his followers, next door to a sleepy rural community. The real star is his ‘personal secretary’, the terrifyingly unapologetic and megalomaniacal Ma Anand Sheela.
13. Legion – As the show’s second season has got ever weirder, it’s fanbase has begun to dwindle, which is a shame as it’s easily the most daring Marvel adaptation on the small screen. The pace is notably slower than the first season, but that’s allowed Noah Hawley to explore the emotional connections between the characters while edging slowly and ominously towards its devastating finale. The returning cast (particularly Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza) are as superb as ever, but it’s new addition Navid Negabhan, as the nefarious Farouk, who has really impressed.
12. High Maintenance – HBO’s series follows an amiable stoner as he cycles around New York selling weed, peering into his customers’ lives without offering judgement. It’s the antithesis of how the world can sometime feel of late, an empathetic show with little message beyond “aren’t we all so wonderfully weird?” Co-creator and star Ben Sinclair is wonderful as the nameless central character, the kind of gentle soul you can’t help but want to befriend. The season premiere is one of the best, funniest, most compassionate takes on one of America’s darkest hours.
11. Barry – Bill Hader’s HBO series about a disillusioned hitman who develops a taste for acting sounded like a straight up comedy but turned out to be far, far darker than that. Hader plays the titular ex-special ops natural born killer as a stilted fish out of water, bemused and bewitched by the melodrama of the acting class he accidentally wanders into. That class is taught by scene stealer Henry Winkler, leading a supporting cast that includes a fantastic Stephen Root as Barry’s handler and Glenn Fleshler and Anthony Carrigan as Chechen gangsters. Barry succeeds because of Hader’s dramatic talents, as much as his comedic talents, as well as its willingness to delve right down into the darkness of his profession.