The best of TV 2018 and what’s coming up in 2019

Some highlights from the past year.

ELISA DEL GENIO and Ludovica Nasti play Elena and Lila, the twin heroines of ‘My Brilliant Friend.’ (photo credit: HBO)
ELISA DEL GENIO and Ludovica Nasti play Elena and Lila, the twin heroines of ‘My Brilliant Friend.’
(photo credit: HBO)
The new golden age of television is still going full swing, and this may have been the most exciting year so far.
That’s because, in addition to the dozens of high-quality series – too many for any one person to keep track of, let alone watch – there were original movies, documentaries, comedy and musical specials. Here are some highlights from the past year:
1. The latest movies by Oscar-winning directors, streamed into your living room: Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, which topped all the critics’ polls as best movie of the year, and the Coen brothers’ latest, an anthology Western, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, both streamed on Netflix. These films were shown at festivals and in limited release in large US cities – a requirement for Oscar eligibility – but most audiences will watch them at home.
2. Orson Welles’s last film, finally edited and released: The Other Side of the Wind, the satirical look at the movie business that the Citizen Kane director worked on for more than a decade, was finally brought to the (small) screen thanks to a Netflix restoration project.
3. The finale of The Americans: One of the most complex and gripping shows, its final episode did more than tie up loose ends. It featured a scene so tense and well written it will likely become a staple of acting classes.
4. There was a lot to make fun of in Washington, and comedy shows rose to the challenge: Saturday Night Live led the pack with topical humor and celebrity cameos, featuring an It’s a Wonderful Life parody (What if Trump hadn’t won the election?) and many other spot-on skits. Stars included Robert De Niro as Robert Mueller, Ben Stiller as Michael Cohen, Matt Damon as Brett Kavanaugh, John Goodman as Rex Tillerson and, of course, lots of Alec Baldwin as POTUS. Even Stormy Daniels appeared – as herself. John Oliver, on Last Week Tonight, also found ways to elicit laughter, rather than tears, from the news.
5. HBO scored a win with the tricky My Brilliant Friend adaptation. The series based on the first volume of Elena Ferrante’s popular Neapolitan quartet pleased even purists with its attention to detail and superb cast.
6. Great music: Springsteen on Broadway, a special based on the Boss’s live show, is currently streaming on Netflix. There were also documentaries about Lady Gaga, Quincy Jones, Nina Simone, Eric Clapton, The Beach Boys and many others.
7. Improbably entertaining series about people on the autism spectrum: On the Spectrum, an Israeli series, portrayed three young people with autism living in an apartment in Tel Aviv, with affection and empathy. The BBC drama The A Word, based on the Israeli series Yellow Peppers focused on a family in the Lake District coping with their son’s autism diagnosis.
8. Black was the new black: Shababnikim, a series that was reminiscent of Entourage, but set in the Jerusalem yeshiva world, was a surprise hit.
9. Truth was just as interesting as fiction: Dozens of fascinating documentaries were screened on television. Among the highlights were RBG, a portrait of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Arthur Miller: Writer, an intimate look at the celebrated playwright by his daughter, Rebecca Miller.
10. The Good Fight continued: The second season of this spin-off of The Good Wife starring Christine Baranski was even better than the first. There is a lot to look forward to in 2019, as many popular shows will return with new seasons. Probably the most anticipated of these is the final season of Game of Thrones, which is coming up in April, and the word is there will be a big battle involving dragons, zombies (white walkers), etc. Season three of The Crown will pick up in the 1970s with Olivia Colman (Broadchurch), Tobias Menzies (Outlander) and Helena Bonham Carter.
Other returning shows include Big Little Lies, which will add Meryl Streep as Nicole Kidman’s motherin- law; Stranger Things, much of which will take place in a shopping mall; the final season of Homeland; GLOW, in which the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling head to Las Vegas; and the final season of Jane the Virgin, in which we may discover the identity of the narrator.