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Kaboom! Magazine.com 18 Most Explosive TV Shows of 2018

Kaboom! Magazine.com 18 Most Explosive TV Shows of 2018

Hundreds and hundreds of series air every year. To honor the year that was, Kaboom! Magazine.com is ranking the best TV shows of 2018. No mixed bags, interesting trainwrecks, or blockbusters that boast small screen. Just the true greats — shows big, small, and from around the world. From No. 18 all the way down to No. 1, these are the shows that left us blown away.

18.Glow (Season 2):

The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are back for the second season of Netflix’s pitch-perfect comedy series. On this second bout, the stellar ensemble cast shines as the individual women see their stories develop. But that doesn’t mean co-leads Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin don’t slip into the shadows, which their ongoing relationship getting fresh complications. Most brilliantly, the series handles the #MeToo movement with a sense of urgency that doesn’t feel forced (or, because of its ’80s setting, out of place). And at ten 30-minute episodes, GLOW is refreshing in our current heavy and overwrought TV climate—proving that it’s able to cover wide ground in brilliantly tight stories.

17.Snowfall (Season 2):

In the infinitely improved second season of Snowfall, John Singleton’s FX drama about the origins of the crack epidemic in America, power takes a multitude of forms: brute aggression, political maneuvering, financial capital, bravado. In Season 2, Snowfall no longer has to validate its characters’ ambitions quite so much, and the show is more persuasive for it. Snowfall’s historical grounding at the beginning of an American catastrophe allows Singleton to explore the structural elements that precipitated it, but it also gives the series a distorted kind of optimism at times. Each main character is deliberately myopic about the consequences of his or her actions.

16.American Vandal (Season 2):

Sadly, there’s one outlandish miscarriage of justice that Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) won’t ever get to the bottom of: Netflix shutting down the campus documentarians following American Vandal’s second season. At least they went down in a blaze of sophomoric glory, heading to the Pacific Northwest to crack open the case of a tony prep school living in fear of a scoundrel known only as the Turd Burglar. Although not as plainly uproarious as the show’s initial outing, season two went deeper on the things that elevated those phallic shenanigans, bringing its acute sense of characterization to bear on endearingly pretentious prime suspect Kevin McClain (Travis Tope), refracting its class commentary through basketball phenom DeMarcus Tillman (Melvin Gregg), and wrapping the whole saga in an extremely online package that’s the source of big laughs (what’s “Diapey” Drew Pomkratz hiding beneath all those pixels?), shocking twists (again—“Diapey” Drew and the pixels), and a damning critique that gives new meaning to the term “full of shit.” Take the hilariously grotesque/grotesquely hilarious cold open depicting the “brownout” as the final piece of evidence: American Vandalwas No. 2 to no other true-crime parody.

15.One Day At A Time (Season 2):

There was much ado about Roseanne returning to ABC, and the hope that it would give “working-class families” more of a presence. Anyone looking for a working-class family, however, already had a few choices. One is the Alvarez family from Netflix’s One Day at a Time. Penelope (Justina Machado) is a veteran and a single mom, dating and raising her two kids, living with her mom (Rita Moreno). The cast is divine, the show feels contemporary and smart (its explorations of sexual and gender identity feel particularly profoundly needed), and Rita Moreno can still crack your heart right open.

14.Westworld (Season 2):

This is a show that took more than a year (and millions of dollars) to make 10 episodes of mind-bending television told across multiple timelines—complete with people who weren’t really people, people who might not be living in the present or the past, people who were people who thought they were robots, and oh so much more than that. In its second season, Westworld graciously expanded its scope into something much bigger than a malfunctioning theme park. While the subject matter can be as confusing as it is ridiculous, Westworld is anchored by a number of fine, nuanced performances by Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Jimmi Simpson, and Ed Harris. In a show that asks questions about what it means to be a living, breathing human, it’s these actors’ performances that bring actual humanity to their characters—even if they may or may not be robots. Meanwhile, it worked in a number of themes about artificial intelligence, power, and the ethical treatment of what we consider others—all of which will be important conversations now and in the future.

13.The Chi:

Chicago’s notoriously violent South Side neighborhoods have long needed a fictional drama that humanizes their struggle the way The Wire characterized Baltimore and Boyz n the Hood depicted South Central Los Angeles. Creator Lena Waithe pulls it off here. The show is fueled by Jason Mitchell’s emotional turn as an aspiring chef whose ambitions are threatened by his brother’s murder and Alex Hibbert’s beyond-his-years performance playing the middle-schooler who saw the killing happen.

12.Vida:

On the surface, it’s a familiar story: Two sisters who left home return after a parent’s death to face all the complications left behind. But this series breaks new ground because the sisters are Latinx, they are returning to take ownership of a crumbling bar in a gentrifying East Los Angeles neighborhood, and they never knew their mother was a lesbian who married her partner and left her spouse one-third of their family business. Couching a familiar story in an authentic, specific experience helps create transformative, groundbreaking television. And Vida delivers.

11.The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 2):

Hulu’s most successful venture into original programming doubled down in Season Two. After a sickeningly morbid opening scene, the handmaids of Gilead have the odds stacked against them in a collection of episodes that both parallels our own world and toes the line of being too dark for consumption. With episodes highlighting the stories behind Alexis Bledel and Yvonne Strahovski’s characters, The Handmaid’s Tale’s first season away from its source material found its golden ticket: remembering the immense well of talent it had in its ensemble cast.

10.On My Block:

Unlike shows like Stranger Things and Everything Sucks!, which play on nostalgia in order to attract viewers, On My Block takes place in the here and now, in a place where most of the country thinks of as a hotbed of violence and misery. That’s the refreshing aspect of the show; these kids are just living their lives, with a lot of the same worries kids that are entering a new and scary phase have, no matter where they live. Their lives just happen to be a bit complicated by gangs and gunshots. This is likely due to an interesting balance among the show’s creators: Eddie Gonzalez and Jeremy Haft (writers for Gang Related and Empire), and Lauren Iungerich (Awkward.).

9.Mayans M.C.:

Mayans M.C., FX’s new continuation of the “Sons of Anarchy” universe, it’s revealed the eponymous Southern California biker gang transports drugs via the poofy waistline of prom dresses. This, on its face, is both a hilarious juxtaposition of the tattooed men’s butch aesthetic, as well as a not-so-subtle “fuck you” to anyone investigating their outlaw lifestyle. The dialogue can be as blunt as the cold-blooded torture devices, making “Mayans M.C.” a show you have to want to watch to enjoy. But the sequel is far from a careless follow-up; it’s a deliberate expansion that’s at least within spitting distance of “SOA” quality.

8.The Last O.G.:

In this single-camera comedy, Tracy Morgan stars as Tray Barker, an ex-con who returns to his Brooklyn neighborhood to find that it has been gentrified and that his ex-girlfriend (played by Tiffany Haddish) is now married and upwardly mobile. The humor is ratcheted up at the halfway house Barker is staying at, with Cedric the Entertainer and Morgan playing amiable foils. Your ability to care about all this directly corresponds to your interest in Tracy Morgan’s brand of humor.

7.This Is Us (Season 2-3):

In the second series, though, Jack is firmly part of the action, in the past at least. He and his wife Rebecca decide to take a break from their marriage after a fight in the first season’s finale, sitting their three children — Kevin, Kate and Randall — down in a diner to go through the usual motions of separation. The intense focus on the pitfalls of family makes This is Us slightly reminiscent of other US series from the past decade such as Brothers & Sisters (excellent in its early heyday), Parenthood (decent if unremarkable), or the recent Here and Now (which was just tiresome). But the strong performances across the board, and the sense of quiet intrigue provided by a tragedy looming in the distance, renders it a family affair worth sticking with.

6.Ozark (Season 2):

If anything, Netflix’s perennially tense crime drama was even more rewarding in season two; especially with regards to the development of Laura Linney’s increasingly formidable Wendy in the money laundering, drug cartel assisting game. Essentially a tale of two very different families, albeit ones whose fates have become gradually more and more entwined, the lakeland setting and moody cinematography built the atmosphere. But it was the core characters, and the constant inventiveness they had to use to survive, which helped make this such a gripping watch.

5.The Good Place (Season 3):

There are few comedies as consistently joke-packed as NBC’s The Good Place. Physical comedy, dumb puns, brilliant one-liners, unexpected observations — it doesn’t discriminate. But the show’s other calling card is its genuine — and well-researched! — considerations of philosophy. It asks over and over: What does it mean to be a good person? What do we owe to each other? In its third season, as Michael (Ted Danson) and the gang face new questions together, it remains a high-stakes, thrillingly inventive series with one of TV’s most consistently compelling casts.

4.The Americans (Season 6):

The final season of this slow-burn, serious-minded series about a pair of KGB agents planted in the U.S. to raise a family and spy on government officials had its fans worried. Could the show, which so intricately examined the world of ’80s spycraft through the lens of a thrillingly intense domestic drama, nail the dismount? Would Philip and Elizabeth (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) survive? Would their daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), follow in their footsteps? Would their son, Henry (Keidrich Sellati) … um, OK, no one wondered about Henry. The series finale managed to feel both surprising and inevitable, in a hugely satisfying way.

3.Succession:

The last thing America needs right now is another hyper-wealthy family of white powerful assholes. But the Roy family is exactly the one America deserves. Patriarch Logan Roy is a modern-day equivalent of Orson Welles’s Charles Foster Kane: a biting hybrid satire of the Murdoch and Trump empires. He’s a ruthless scumbag whose business empire extends to politics, media, entertainment—even theme parks. His bumbling children (brilliantly played by Alan Ruck, Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, and Kieran Culkin) all spend their time clawing up the corporate hierarchy through little actual merit of their own and bickering over their inheritance. From director/producer Adam McKay, Succession is often hard to watch for its realistic depictions of horrible people and their abuse of power. The genius of Succession, however, isn’t simply in pointing out the evils of the one percent. It’s in how the HBO show is able to make you like these characters against your will, while you’re laughing or cringing at how deeply shitty they are.

2.Killing Eve:

This may be the strangest — and most compelling — story of how opposites attract on TV this year. Sandra Oh is acerbic and knowing as Eve Polastri, a deskbound, low-level staffer in British intelligence who instinctively figures out how to track a notoriously psychopathic assassin, played with maniacal glee by Jodie Comer. Executive producer Phoebe Waller-Bridge subverts every male-centered trope of espionage thrillers as Eve and the assassin play a deadly cat-and-mouse game fueled by their mutual fascination with each other.

1.Atlanta (Season 2):

Donald Glover’s half-hour comedy-drama was more surprising, beautiful, and mysterious in its second season than in its first — a remarkable achievement considering how boldly that first batch of episodes advanced the form. Largely avoiding situations that would bring the show’s ensemble together for a single event or plotline, Atlanta Robbin’ Season scattered them to the four winds, the better to allow each to go on a self-contained adventure that was shaped as elegantly as a postmodern short story and revealed character mainly through incidents. Even more daringly, the main character in each episode was often placed in a reactive position, encountering a series of bizarre or terrifying characters that became the de facto lead for that week’s tale; “Teddy Perkins,” a miniature horror-psychodrama starring Lakeith Stanfield’s Darius, and “Woods,” which sent Brian Tyree Henry’s Alfred on an odyssey through what felt like a cursed fairy-tale forest, were the most vivid examples, but they all had a touch of this quality. Every one raised powerful questions simply by presenting a series of indelible images: Rorschach tests for viewers.

What was your favorite TV show from 2018? Let us know right now by leaving your comment below.