Six of the Best: Best New Television Through the First Six Months of 2018

Culty.

Culty.

With no Game of Thrones to quench our thirst for incest and ice zombies, and no other obvious contenders to steal the pop culture zeitgeist, expectations were low, but so far 2018 has been a huge surprise with a shit-load of new and interesting content. So now when you’re caught shame-watching The Big Bang Theory you really have no excuse. Read on below to find your new favourite hungover binge. 

Killing Eve

In my opinion the undisputed best new show of 2018. If you haven’t seen Killing Eve yet what have you been doing this year? Phoebe Waller-Bridge (creator of Fleabag, sassy robot from Solo) stamps her mark on prestige drama, using the international (wo)manhunt/cat and mouse structure to give a meditation on obsession and unhealthy desire that feels more urgent and exciting than anything else in the prestige game right now. 

Buoyed by the incredible performances of the two leads: a resurgent Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) and newcomer Jodie Comer, who plays an enigmatic, hyper-competent and just plain nuts assassin, they are two sides of the same coin, constantly tugging back and forth on the tension (sexual and otherwise), pace and Waller-Bridge’s signature dire absurdity. There’s a reason this was the biggest unexpected sensation of the last 6 months. Killing Eve is finally starting up on regular NZ telly (TVNZ 2) so there’s still room on the bandwagon, hop the fuck on.

Barry

Sympathetic assassins are so hot right now! Famous funny guy and SNL royalty Bill Hader’s ambitious HBO project follows Barry (Hader) a former military vet turned assassin who stumbles into an acting class and falls in love with the craft. Considering his fame and accomplishment as a comic performer, Hader does an incredible job of playing the straight man and leaving the giggles to his supporting cast including Henry Winkler, basically playing himself as a washed up acting teacher, and an incredible heat-check performance from Anthony Carrigan as an Estonian mobster who steals every scene he’s in. 

With so many big-budget new shows failing recently, its smaller, more considered projects like Barry where someone is given an auteur’s leash to just fucking go without expectation or interference that are leaving a mark. Speaking of such projects…

Atlanta: Robbin' Season

It's summer time in Atlanta that means Robbin' Season, everyone’s hungry and doing what they can to eat. More a sequel in the film sense than a second season, Donald Glover’s Twin Peaksy science experiment continued to embrace the weird in its return. Whether it was Glover in some creepy Michael Jackson/Norman Bates get up, pet alligators or naked frat boys dancing to D4L’s ‘Laffy Taffy’, Atlanta wasn’t afraid to push the boat out in search of striking or enduring moments in lieu of narrative structure or plot momentum. 

The second season also gives the cast more room to grow and explore their characters, with everybody getting at least one stand-alone episode. Since Atlanta, LaKeith Stanfield (Darius) has become an indie film darling (Get Out, Sorry to Bother You), Zazie Beetz got some of that 'fuck you' Marvel money (Deadpool 2) and the MVP Bryan Tyree Henry has some OSCAR-bait in the pipeline (Widows). 

The success these three are having on the back of Atlanta is a testament to their talent and the Glover’s ability to maximise it. Confirmed to be coming back for a third season, I’m excited to see what weird shit Donald and Co come up with next.

Succession

With the recent string of big budget golden-era knock off failures from HBO and other networks (Vinyl, Mosaic, Altered Carbon) I didn’t have high hopes for Succession. It seemed destined to end up in the rubbish after one season. Also the concept of watching a Rupert Murdoch-esque media mogul and his family squabble internally for power and wealth seemed tonally off considering the current social and political landscape. But holy hell this show is fun.

Instead of trying to elevate the shitty rich people doing shitty rich things concept, Succession leans into its own absurdity and separation from reality, becoming more Arrested Development than Mad Men.  Filled with a deep cast of weirdly lovable sociopaths, this show finds a way to make rich people problems the best kind of voyeurism without the patronising guise that their conflicts and insecurities are at all relatable.

Wild Wild Country

True crime and weird cults, two of the biggest trends in recent docudrama TV come together in a big way here. While there’s an oversaturation of shows like this today, as every unsolved murder, every bank robbery or fake messiah is mined for IP, Wild Wild Country manages to rise above them all. Focussing on an Indian guru and his devoted followers who set up a commune in Oregon, this has a little bit of everything in a tale that’s befitting a Tarantino script. 

The story follows the rise in popularity of guru (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh), the building of (Rajneeshpuram), the ideological struggles between the followers who moved there seeking utopia and small-town country folk who (please read this next part in a southern accent) don’t take too kindly to new folk. It’s the perfect collision of the power of collective belief, the dangers of charisma and the fear of the unknown in a story I still can’t believe is true.

The Terror

Sometimes you just can’t beat a good man vs the elements struggle. David Kajganich’s series slowly and methodically follows a group of old timey sailors whose ships get frozen and their individual and collective unraveling.

It’s pretty bleak stuff, but watching them all battle against starvation, sickness or the supernatural force that seems to be fucking with them (just to make things worse you know), is stark reminder that the real *cough* terror, comes from inside us, and you’ll find yourself all too often throughout the season asking yourself what you would do if you were trapped at the edge of the world and trying to survive.