15. THE LETDOWN – One of the biggest surprise delights of 2018, The Letdown is a rare creature in that it depicts parenthood not as a series of nightmarish trials or unadulterated joy, but a rollercoaster that rattles between the two at terrifying, confusing, exhausting speed. One second you’re laughing at being peed on, the next you’re crying because you’re covered in pee. Alison Bell (who co-created the series with Sarah Scheller) is an utter revelation as Audrey, a new mum who realises her theory of pragmatic parenting isn’t as easy to execute in practice.
14. SUCCESSION – There’s a perverse joy in watching awful people being awful to each other, but there’s never been as awful a bunch as the Roy family. Led by Logan Roy (Brian Cox as a very thinly veiled version of Rupert Murdoch), as ruthless a patriarch as he is a media magnate, the family is a squabbling, self-obsessed, viciously disloyal bunch jockeying for position to take control when their father steps aside. Sarah Snook and Keiran Culkin are particularly wonderful as Roy siblings Shiv and Roman, while Matthew Macfadyen is a hoot as Snook’s husband, either a hateful kiss-ass or bully, depending on who he’s dealing with. But it’s Jeremy Strong who impresses most as eldest son Kendall, the one member of the family with any semblance of humanity left.
13. MANIAC – Twisty, heady psychological dramas, even ones as funny as Maniac, often come at the expense of emotional connection, but that couldn’t be further from the truth here. For all of Maniac’s copious weirdness (mostly thanks to Justin Theroux), it’s proven remarkably adept at crippling emotional blows, like the devastatingly brutal one that ends episode two. It’s frequently very funny but almost funnier for the fact that its focus is always elsewhere. And if there was anyone left in any doubt about Jonah Hill and Emma Stone’s acting chops, consider those qualms firmly put to bed.
12. HOMECOMING – Homecoming was primarily touted as Julia Roberts’ big move onto the small screen, but it’s so beautifully understated that it almost succeeds despite its megastar, rather than because of her. Make no mistake, Roberts is superb as Heidi, a counsellor at a facility that helps military personnel readjust to civilian life, but a less subtle actress could have overwhelmed this quiet, slow-burning wonder. It unfolds ever so deliberately, allowing the weight of each revelation to hit home with maximum force. That this isn’t in our top ten is only further proof that this has been a truly outstanding year for TV.
11. BASKETS – If I could write about Baskets every single week, I would. Zach Galifianakis has long excelled as a sad clown, but his stunning FX show gives him the opportunity to literally play a sad clown. Chip Baskets is all blustery, deluded arrogance (despite failing horribly at a French clowning school) but the deeply sad, lonely and sensitive man beneath all that came to the fore more and more over the course of the show’s wonderful third season. Christine (an always exceptional Louis Anderson) buys the failed rodeo to run with her sons (Chip and his far more tragically awful brother Dale), leading to hilarious catastrophe after hilarious catastrophe, none more catastrophic or hilarious than her TV interview alongside a heavily drugged-up Dale or ageing cowboy Eddie’s drunken incident with the Korean church next door.