Editor’s Note: Find all of The Atlantic’s “Best of 2018” coverage here.
Trying to pick the best television series of 2018 is a bit like trying to judge a cuteness contest in a zoo: There’s way too much to choose from, and very little of it looks alike. How to compare, say, a peerless drama about repressed Edwardian England with a satirical animated comedy about an anthropomorphized, alcoholic horse actor? Or a thoughtful, in-depth documentary series about inequality in a Chicago-area high school with a bleakly comic fable about America’s nastiest and most overprivileged media dynasty?
Television’s current abundance means not just a laundry list of new quality shows each month, but also new styles and techniques with which TV creators are pushing the limits of the form. With that in mind, this list of the best series of 2018 tries to recognize things that TV has done exceptionally well this year, from complex and dynamic female characters, to empathetic cringe comedy, to experimental modes of storytelling, and everything that comes in between.
Docuseries: America to Me, Starz
Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and his three co-directors spent a year embedded in Oak Park and River Forest High School near Chicago, which granted them significant time with individual students, teachers, and parents. The result is this nuanced, engaging, often infuriating portrait of two of the most charged subjects in America: race and the school system.