And so, we enter the top 10. If the quality of our top 15 is anything to go by, we’re in for a great second part to the year. Stay tuned for our final part, containing the top five shows of the first six months of the year.
A Very English Scandal – There are parts to Russell T Davies and Stephen Frears’ three-part miniseries that would be laughably far-fetched, if they weren’t completely true. Hugh Grant delivers a career-best performance as Jeremy Thorpe, a promising liberal politician in the late 50s/early 60s who begins a gay relationship with Ben Whishaw’s tragically naïve Norman Scott. In an era when homosexuality was illegal, Thorpe resorts to increasingly extreme measures when Norman threatens to expose their affair, resulting in a show that is both hilarious, thrilling and heartbreaking.
The Handmaid’s Tale – To suggest that its success is solely down to a near prophetic timeliness does a disservice to The Handmaid’s Tale, but it certainly hasn’t hurt. Season two finds it unmoored from the source material and forging its own way, which has resulted in a few missteps and a little less subtlety, but it still packs an emotional wallop, not least in an unbearably harrowing opening scene that turns the defiant season one finale on its head. Ann Dowd and Elisabeth Moss continue to blow minds, while Yvonne Strahovski quietly works her way up to MVP as true believer Serena Joy starts to show signs of doubt.
The Let Down – This Aussie paean to new parenthood has been one of the surprise delights of 2018. It appeared on Netflix with little fanfare, but has developed a sterling reputation through word of mouth. A combination of fierce honesty, astute observations and sparklingly hilarious dialogue elevates it way beyond the average “parenthood as living nightmare” fare, making this one of the best Australian shows in a very long time.
Flint Town – The plight of the people of Flint has been covered by everyone from Michael Moore to Sufjan Stevens, but never before has it been as unflinchingly represented as in this hard-hitting Netflix series. Underfunded, understaffed and under fire from the community, the city’s police aren’t deified here, but viewed through a prism that shows how fear and bad policy can lead to tragic mistakes and poor judgement. It’s a hard watch but an essential look into the circumstances that have led police and communities to be at such loggerheads.
Queer Eye – You’d have to be some kind of MAGA-hat-wearing, misanthropic, nature-hating sadist to look at our world today and see a lot to be positive about. And while it’s more important than ever to keep our heads out of the sand, there’s also a need to keep spirits high by finding the few parts of this world that speak to kindness, inclusivity and joy. That’s exactly what Queer Eye is: a balm for our battered hearts. The new Fab Five radiates positivity, going about these “make-betters” (not make-overs) with indefatigable optimism, tackling every obstacle with sensitivity, good-humour, crop tops and grapefruit and avocado salad. Bobbi might be an interior design wizard, Antoni might have the best band shirts, but it’s Jonathan Van Ness who has won our hearts. His snappy sass is always accompanied by a touching sincerity that spreads a healing glow like it’s melted butter.