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X-PRESS TOP 20 TV SHOWS 2018


With the golden age of streaming firmly upon us, it’s harder than ever to watch all the shows you might want to. So here’s some festive season catch up tips in the form of the X-Press top 20 TV Shows for 2018. Not surprisingly our top three come from Netflix, Stan and free to air, and given the dominance of those streaming mediums they’re not the only shows from those sources, either. But scratch a little deeper and there’s plenty of other networks represented, from HBO to Starz to FX to AMC. 

20. SMILF

A raw and hilarious look at single parenthood that doesn’t shy away from the gritty reality of juggling love, relationships, family, co-parenting and a social life with a young child. Sex positive and confronting, SMILF is feminism at its funniest. – NATALIE GILES

19. Planet America

Campaign insiders, top reporters and pundits join the ABC’s John Barron and The Chaser‘s Chas Licciardello on arguably Australia’s best weekly discussion of contemporary American politics. They provide an enthusiastic and animated presentation of the events of the week, interviews and at the facts behind claims and policies. We get historical back-story as well as fact checking and the statistics behind the big stories of the week. Planet America cuts through the hysteria and partisanship rife in Washington today. This is essential viewing for political junkies or those just trying to work out what on earth is going on in Trump’s White House. – ANNE PAVY

18. Killing Eve

BBC America’s spy thriller based on the Luke Jennings’s novella series Codename Villanelle was given a short season of 8 episodes that was captivating from beginning to end. Quirky British Intelligence Operative Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) risks her life as well as those around her in the pursuit of notorious assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). Through a series of dalliance’s the two women become obsessed with each other where the deathly and romantic become entwined. Oh’s quality at her craft is known, but it is Comer who owns each episode as she is perfectly cast as the most likeable psychopath on TV. Killing Eve balances gore, wit and warmth with aplomb. – CHRIS HAVERCROFT

17. The Sinner

Crime-dramas are a big thing right now, and there’s nothing like a creepy kid killing his parents to get the couch detective theories rolling. As is the way with The Sinner series, there’s a fucked up small town “we don’t talk about it” secret, all about to become unstuck by our friendly retired Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman). Ambrose returns to his home town as a special favour to help the local police figure out if the kid is Damien from The Omen reincarnate, or a product of maternal religious manipulation, all while battling his own inner demons.  The Sinner season two successfully produces a quality and engaging southern gothic TV series, with enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes. – Q

16. Westworld

HBO’s adaptation of the 1973 Michael Crichton sci-fi classic of the same name was an instant sensation when it hit our screens in 2016 and its second season did not disappoint. Set in a futuristic western-themed android theme park, where wealthy guests indulge their wildest and often darkest fantasies free from consequence, Westworld continues to challenge notions around human nature, consciousness and free will. If the ambitiously breathtaking visuals don’t hook you in, the nuanced performances and thought-provoking narrative likely will. – BLAIR ADAMSON

15. The Expanse

Based on a series of novels by the same name, The Expanse is award winning sci-fi detective noir space opera set in a universe of rich characters and complex political machinations. The third season was arguably the series’ strongest to date, with rising tensions between Earth and Mars inevitably overshadowed by the appearance of a mysterious ring-shaped object in the outer reaches of our solar system. The Expanse almost met a tragic early demise in 2018 when Syfy announced its cancellation. Thankfully, following heavy lobbying by fans, Amazon came to its rescue and announced it has picked up the series for a fourth season. – BLAIR ADAMSON

14. The Deuce

The Deuce returns to the squallered streets of New York, jumping forward to 1977. Appropriately opening with a specially recorded rendition of Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Girl, season two is all about the rise of Candy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) from street girl to adult film producer, at the end of second-wave feminism. Filled with rich love-to-hate characters, raunchy sex scenes and costumes that will make op-shop hunters envious, The Deuce hasn’t lost any of it’s appeal. It’s still binge-worthy watching. But be warned, this season kills off more pimps and pushers than an episode of Game of Thrones, ensuring things won’t be as they were for (reportedly the final) season three in 2019. – Q

13. Succession

When this excellent HBO series landed there seemed to be a general consensus around too many unlikable characters for it to succeed. But it’s not like that ever hurt HBO’s flagship Game of Thrones, and Succession‘s filthy rich family behaving badly dynamics were never short of entertaining. Point in case: Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy, son of media tycoon Logan Roy (essentially a fictional Rupert Murdoch). Culkin doesn’t just light up every scene as the snarky and entitled rich kid, he’s a complete joy to revel in. Bring on season two. – HARVEY RAE

12. Legion

There is something to be said for escaping the mindset of fidelity to the source material. In adapting from the broadest strokes Legion has been able to create one of the most unique and audacious takes on the superhero genre to ever reach our screens. This is a visual and aural treat from Noah “Fargo” Hawley (who also provides the music), and a complete mind-fuck to boot – as the realms of the Astral plane, drugs, time travel, schizophrenia, weird science, and just sheer quirkiness all meld into powerful telepath David Haller’s life. The result is what you might expect if David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick and Dennis Potter all sat down and decided to write an X-Men comic. There is nothing else like this in the Marvel stable, and very little like this on TV, period. The fact that Aubrey Plaza and Jemaine Clement also star, is just the cherry on top of the sundae. – DAVID O’CONNELL

11. Sharp Objects 

A breath of fresh air – finally! – a show that focuses on complex females, who are neither good nor bad, but a mixture of both. And it doesn’t stop there. Sharp Objects also explores the relationship between a mother (Patricia Clarkson) and daughter and sisters, in fact the show is more about these inter-relationships and getting to know Camille Preaker (Amy Adams), the protagonist, than it is about who is murdering young girls. It also explores themes of denial, mental well-being and the dangers of repression, self-harm, female objectivity, dependencies and love and loss. Added bonus – there is hardly a male-female love story in sight. As well as breaking ground for female characters and actors, the dark and cerebral Sharp Objects is also beautifully shot in a constant gothic, dream-like and surreal state, with outstanding acting from Adams and Clarkson in career best form. – LARA FOX

10. Happy!

Based on the four issue comic book series by Grant Morrison, Happy! is a gritty black comedy crime series centred around Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni), a jaded, suicidal alcoholic hitman, and Happy (Patton Oswalt) an imaginary friend in the form of an animated, winged blue unicorn, as they join forces to save a kidnapped little girl. Not for everyone, Happy! will enthrall lovers of film noir who will appreciate this dark tale sprinkled with a handful of fairy-dust… ahhh who are we kidding, this gonzo show snorts fairy dust by the line. And all of that craziness allows Meloni and Oswalt to shine. – ANNE PAVY

9. Get Shorty

For many, season one of this Elmore Leonard adaptation appeared on Stan earlier this year. Thankfully, it was quickly followed by season two, making it a satisfying binge. A fast talking Hollywood gangster satire that pairs Breaking Bad drug violence with Fargo‘s hilarity (and ultimate insanity), season two wasn’t quite as sharp as its 2017 counterpart, yet there are few better characters on television right now than Chris O’Dowd’s gang enforcer Miles Daly and Hollywood has-been Rick Moreweather, played with unexpected restraint by Ray Romano. – HARVEY RAE

8. Counterpart 

A Cold War spy thriller, for those that wondered what Fringe would be like if it were written by John le Carre. Counterpart gives you double the JK Simmons as two alternate reality doppelgangers team up to investigate a conspiracy that threatens both their worlds. The brilliance of this is, despite its high concept sci-fi basis, is that this is unapologetically a spy thriller, and a rather dark and gritty one at that. The inevitable confrontation of both Howard Silk’s is a master class in acting delivered by Simmons, as they verbally spar with each other across the divergent realities. – DAVID O’CONNELL

7. GLOW

The reason season two outdoes its predecessor lies in sheer depth of narrative and beautiful character development. There are more parallels drawn regarding the trajectory (or lack there of) women’s rights and the growth of feminism, and the women grow into their own as their strength together and individually is tested. It’s glorious storytelling with an empowering message that refuses to be ignored or silenced, and season three promises more of the same. GLOW is girl power, and long may it (and Marc Maron) reign. – NATALIE GILES

6. The Good Place

Let’s face it, this show belongs on the list for Janet’s bar fight alone, but in its third season The Good Place still shows it is willing to tinker with formula to produce surprising and innovative TV. This odd blend of philosophy 101, sharp comedy, and magnificent character actors continues to impress, as it steps between celestial bureaucracies and realms where no one speaks with a convincing Australian accent. – DAVID O’CONNELL

5. Better Call Saul

Superbly written, brilliantly acted and as captivating as ever, the best and bleakest season of this excellent comedy-drama grabs the viewers’ attention by the balls right from the off and doesn’t let up until its jaw-dropping conclusion. As great as Breaking Bad was, the way Jimmy McGill’s transformation into Saul Goodman dramatically unfolds against a backdrop of a power struggle in the New Mexico drug trade is so compelling that by the end of it, the series has transcended its popular parent show to take its rightful spot among the best shows on television. – ZACK YUSOF

4. The Terror

As relentless, chilling, and beautiful as a glacier, The Terror is without a doubt amazing TV. It’s a brutal examination of the degradation of order and the approaching existential dread of truly being off the map. A phenomenal cast of veteran actors get a subject matter they can really sink their teeth into, and go to town. Then there is the most surprising polar bear since the first season of Lost. Guaranteed to give you chills. – DAVID O’CONNELL

3. Kidding

In Jim Carey’s return to the small screen, Kidding is a unique black comedy that will draw you in right from it’s tragic beginning.  Director Michael Gondry uses childlike make-believe juxtaposed with violent fantasy to tell the story of a broken family trying to move on, while one man falls behind. Carey’s performance as the awkward, and sometimes desperate, Mr Pickles is truly one of the best performances on TV this year. It’s worth Netflix users switching over to Stan just for this. – Q

2. The Handmaid’s Tale 

Dystopian tale, dire warning, or terrifying glimpse into the future of the USA, The Handmaid’s Tale is certainly not lacking for political relevance in this day and age. This season didn’t quiet match the punch of its debut, but it still has enough clout to make your eyes water and your head ring. The Handmaid’s Tale is still a show of intense emotional investment, that will plunge you to the depths of despair before showing you the first green shoots of new hope. – DAVID O’CONNELL

1. Maniac

Emma Stone and Jonah Hill star in this binge-worthy, surreal exploration into emotional trauma and mental illness. The series centres around a pharmaceutical trial – using emotionally flawed human subjects – of a hallucinatory drug claiming to be capable of ‘healing the brain’ and curing all mental trauma. While Maniac offers a far from perfect examination of such complex themes, it never attempts to take itself too seriously and really shines in its unapologetically indulgent retro-futuristic aesthetic (see: cassette futurism). The result is a strange but heartfelt, hyper-stylised and genuinely unique gem from Netflix. – BLAIR ADAMSON

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