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Best of TV 2018

As it has become customary of the course of the past few years, the quality of television programs released in 2018 continued to exceed expectations. Growing evermore cinematic in quality and content, the line that divides television and film has become thinner than ever. Below are my three favorite seasons of television I saw in the past year.

THE AMERICANS (Available on Amazon Prime)

After five spectacular, thought-provoking seasons, THE AMERICANS came to a fitting end this year with a 10-episode sixth season that did not disappoint. Much like BREAKING BAD, THE SOPRANOS, and OZARK, the show featured anti-heroes that would be the antagonists in virtually any other production. Despite their deceit and homicidal tendencies, the audience finds themselves hoping that Phillip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) Jennings will find a way to elude authorities once and for all, and find some sort of peace for themselves, and their children.

The final season of THE AMERICANS never felt as if it were merely attempting to tie up loose ends, but rather, racing towards a conclusion that I wasn’t quite ready to accept. Though it was obvious that the series was reaching the point where it was time to bring the saga to a close, I also knew that I would miss the characters and their plights when they were gone. From the very beginning, we knew that the Cold War would come to a close and the USSR would cease to exist, but we did not know how the dissolution of the conflict would affect the Jennings family. With daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) immersing herself within the lifestyle that brought her parents to America to begin with, and the clueless Henry (Keidrich Sellati) away at school, Peter and Elizabeth found themselves at a crossroads. Elizabeth was still fervently fighting for the cause, willing to seduce and murder anyone who stood in her way, while Phillip was growing evermore accustomed to the American way of life. Whereas she was stealing schematics and infiltrating the offices of government officials, he was going out and learning to line dance. The question that permeated throughout this final season (and really, the series as a whole) is what would happen when the world, and more importantly, their neighbor and FBI agent Stan (Noah Emmerich) discovered the truth behind their facade. The answer to that question was delivered in expert fashion in a final episode that served as a fitting conclusion to one of my favorite series of all time.

OZARK (Available on Netflix)

The first season of OZARK was thrilling and intense, and instantly became one of the strongest original series in the Netflix catalog. The fear, as often is the case when a debut season is that good, was that the story of a family of money launderers working for the cartel in the atmospheric Ozarks would suffer from a sophomore slump and fail to live up to its lofty expectations.

Much like its first 10 episodes, the events that unfolded in the second season of OZARK kept the viewer on the edge of their seat for its entire duration. Everything about the production is top-notch. From the moody yet beautiful scenery, to the sardonic humor, to the shocking twists the drama takes along the way, it captures the very essence of why “binge watching” has become synonymous with modern television viewing.

Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, along with co-stars Julia Garner, Sofia Hublitz, Skylar Gaertner, Peter Mullen, and Lisa Emeruy lend a level of believability to the increasingly outlandish events that unfold around them. There were a few moments within the course of the season that were certainly over-the-top (and perhaps even a little ridiculous), yet at the same time contributed to the overall character arcs and storylines that melded together to help keep its audience on the edge of their seat and yearning for season three to be released as soon as possible.

HOMECOMING (Available on Amazon Prime)

A few short years ago, it would have seemed downright absurd to imagine an A-list movie star appearing on a television series in any capacity other than a quirky cameo. This all changed when programs like TRUE DETECTIVE and BIG LITTLE LIES (among others) burst onto the scene, proving that names like Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Matthew McConaughey could receive the same level of praise and accolades on the small screen as they did in the realm of film.

2018 saw Julia Roberts tackle the lead role in Sam Esmail’s complex and enthralling HOMECOMING. Bringing the same visual flare and intriguing storytelling that he has exhibited over the course of three seasons in USA’s MR. ROBOT, he has crafted an homage to Hitchcock that feels entirely new and refreshingly original.

Roberts plays Heidi Bergman, a counselor who works in a privately funded facility that helps veterans assimilate themselves back into society after returning home from active duty. The series travels back in time to the events that unfurled while Heidi was assisting the soldiers, and then flashes forward to the present where she now works, virtually anonymously, as a waitress at a seaside diner. When Agent Thomas Carrasco (Shea Whigham) from the Department of Defense arrives to question Heidi on an incident that occurred at the Homecoming facility, she seems to have no recollection of the people involved, or, as it turns out, any of her actions perpetrated while she was employed there.

With episodes clocking in at right around 30 minutes each, the 10-episode run made the most of every scene, and every snippet of dialogue. The visuals are stunning, the style is superb, and the performances by Roberts, Whigham, Bobby Cannavale (as the shady head of Homecoming), and Stephan James (as the likable and impressionable patient, Walter Cruz) are all outstanding. Whether the second season of HOMECOMING will continue with the story that was presented in its freshman foray, or if it will be another standalone story remains to be seen, but whatever the case may be, I’m optimistic that it will be well worth the wait.

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.