Many out there reckon we’re in the golden age of television right now, and given the difficulties our team had in creating this list, we don’t disagree. After much debate, here now are the ten TV shows that have aired so far this year on TV and streaming services, that we consider to be the best of the best…
10. Girls: Season 6
What We Said: “There’s definitely something to be respected in a series that gracefully ends things on its own terms, and Girls checks all the boxes in its final run. Every creative choice feels deliberate and precise in a way that makes you think about and engage with the series and look back on it with a degree of nostalgia. Warts and all, Girls manages to sustain itself and remain compelling all the way to to the final set of credits.” – Fergus Halliday
9. Big Little Lies
What We Said: “Though the eventual murder is alluded to as a violent affair, I don’t imagine anything will cut as deep as the dialogue on hand. This is poetry at its most ferocious, and though audiences may be surprised at some of the melodrama on hand, there’s no denying at how wicked these overly-constructed scenarios prove to be. This is rich, addictive television, with the only downside being you have to wait from one week to witness progression.” – Peter Gray
8. GLOW: Season 1
On one hand, GLOW is a pretty typical Netflix show. It’s got a fantastic premise, colorful and diverse casting and sharp-with-heart writing. Then again, it’s hard to complain too hard when the formula results in a show like this. Alison Brie and Marc Maron bounce off one another with compelling ease, regardless of whether the material is funny, tragic or a combination of both. Wrapped up in the gorgeous fashion sense and culture of the 1980s, GLOW is thrilling in a way that’s easy to watch and easier to get caught up in. – Fergus Halliday
7. Master of None: Season 2
“After the surprise hit that was the first season of Master of None, it was fair to say the team behind the series has their work cut out for them to deliver something as interesting and surprising as the first. But they delivered in droves. While the first season dealt with the birth and death of a relationship across a season, with a few wonderful side stories along the way. This season dealt with infatuation, and the long build up towards a potential relationship, partially set in Italy and supported by some wonderful side stories of its own, too. The “Thanksgiving” episode is hands down one of the best pieces of television ever produced.” – Larry Heath
6. Homeland: Season 6
“Yes, this was possibly Homeland’s most inconsistent season since season 2 but one thing really pushed it over for me, which was Quinn. Rupert Friend’s acting really picked things up when almost everyone around him was letting the show down, tasked with completely flipped what we knew of the character around and embodying a disability while still remaining in-line with the super effective trained killer he has always been. Besides, those last few episodes really came together – as they usually do with Homeland – giving us a satisfying dose of action as well as real character progression, which is impressive for a show this far into its run.” – Chris Singh
5. War on Waste (ABC TV)
A brilliant and important documentary mini-series by ABC TV in Australia from The Chaser’s Craig Reucassel was among the most gripping television produced in this country this year. A documentary series. About waste. Who would have thunk it? Make sure to check it out on iView, it’s worth every minute.
4. American Gods: Season 1
“Bryan Fuller’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantastical novel is a fever dream of equal parts mythic and sweeping central performances by Ricky Whittle and Ian McShane and powerfully intimate story beats to tie them together. Whether you’re familiar with the source material or not, it’s got a surreal sense of charm that draws you in and – gods be willing – it’ll hold onto that magic going forward into future seasons.” – Fergus Halliday
3. Better Call Saul: Season 3
“The team behind Better Call Saul are really enjoying their intensely detailed, slow-moving plots aren’t they? The artistic side and dramatic heft behind this show has always been the driving force of it’s critical success, but season 3 really zoned in on the fine line between James and Saul. The dynamic between James and his brother Chuck remains one of the most complex and heartbreaking things put to television in the past few years, and to see it eat deeper and deeper into the very fabric of sibling rivalry has been fascinating to watch. Oh, and then there’s Mike, Nacho, Hector and Gus upholding the more violent side of the show, helping steadily build up to what will no doubt be a memorable fourth season.” – Chris Singh
2. Legion: Season 1
“Legion was a show that capitalised on the potential of the X-Men franchise that the films have largely failed to realise. Given Noah Hawley’s eclectic filmography, audiences were expecting something a bit different, and he delivered in spades. Equal parts strange, horrifying and surprisingly sweet, Legion tells its tale of schizophrenic mutant David Haller with a panache that’s not often seen in modern TV. The show is guided by brilliant performances, particularly that of Beauty and the Beast’s Dan Stevens, who displays all the fragility and strength of Haller, and crafts a character that breeds genuine empathy. Overall, Legion was a stunningly realised and vibrantly different tale of superheroism, and the deep struggle of mental illness.” – Leah Williams
“Given how rarely the X-Men movies get the franchise right, the idea that a spin off based around one of Marvel’s many semi-obscure mutants would do the series seemed outlandish. Legion is funny, dark, inventive, engrossing and cinematic. It’s got a cast that sparkles with energy and a script gives them the opportunity to really dig into the larger of things subtext. The show’s first season isn’t just great “for a superhero show” but outstanding television in its own right.” – Fergus Halliday
1. The Leftovers: Season 3
“I don’t know what to write about The Leftovers. I wanted to write a full feature – one, maybe two thousand words – but I think the show needs to linger with me a bit longer in order for me to fully gather my thoughts. I am confident in saying one thing though, this is one of the greatest pieces of art I have ever seen, in any medium, and I am far from the only one who thinks that.
Despite constant 9s and 10s (each episode) and every critic (who knows what they are talking about) the world over unanimously deeming this exceptional – and important – television, ratings remained low, and because they did they show was only granted three seasons when evidently it needed at least four. I have never been more irrationally angry at the world for not watching a television show.
This is heady, high-brow art that simultaneously rips you apart and stitches you back together, throwing you into existential crises, making you tear up at the most unexpected moments – even with the first note of one of Max Richter’s genius compositions – and then bringing you back to the ground a brand new person. Consistent and ever-evolving at the same time, what Damon Lindelof has done with this, where he has taken certain narrative arcs, and how he tied it all together in the end with one unifying theme is mind-blowing. He essentially split the show into two concurrent versions at one point in season 2, really digging into the “science vs faith” theme he almost perfected with Lost. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like it again.
And of course, nothing can be written about The Leftovers without a special nod to the acting. You thought Justin Theroux was good? Carrie Coon has emerged as the best working actor on television right now (pulling double-duty in Fargo’s third season) and where she took her character of Nora is pure magic. Then you’ve got the great Christopher Eccleston, Regina King, Amy Brenneman, Liv Tyler, and Ann Dowd – amongst others – all whom had their own fair share of scene-stealing moments that helped bring Lindelof’s script and Tom Perotta’s story to life in the most fascinating way.”
– Chris Singh
“Given Damon Lindelof’s track record, it was easy to assume that the brilliant and underrated The Leftovers would go out on a whimper, not the bang that was needed to seal its fate as television’s most overlooked show. Somehow, despite the weight of expectation placed on the the show, the final season will most likely be remembered as the best, thanks to the unfathomably brilliant performances of its leading cast, and the emotional and resounding ending. One of the biggest highlights of the final season was the penultimate episode, ‘The Most Powerful Man In The World (and His Identical Twin Brother”, a skillfully paced episode which sees lead Justin Theroux taking on a duel role as the President of the United States, and his would-be assassin. The Leftovers is a series that has always asked deep questions, and provoked heartfelt, genuine emotion. The final season, in all its perfection, cemented the show’s legacy as one of the most thought provoking and genuine television shows in recent memory.” – Leah Williams
Honourable Mentions: Atlanta, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Young Pope, The Man in the High Castle, House of Cards, Broadchurch, Wentworth