Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:
Best Borg TV Series, Best TV Borg – Humans (AMC). No other series touches on the ramifications of technology, specifically the perils of an onslaught of real-world cyborg technology, like AMC’s Humans. This year three characters stood out, including Gemma Chan’s Mia, the cyborg Synth from past seasons, who sacrificed everything for the liberty of cyborgs in the UK. Then there was Ruth Bradley’s Karen Voss, a Synth who refused to live segregated from the humans, opting instead for a normal life for the cyborg son she assumed care for. And Katherine Parkinson’s Laura Hawkins, a human lawyer who fought so hard for the cause of the Synths all year, only to throw away all the good she had done, failing the first real challenge that was presented to her. This year’s best TV borg is shared by Synths Mia and Karen, as each showed the uphill battle any future outsider must overcome when faced with humans.
Best Sci-fi TV Series – The Man in the High Castle (Amazon). What had been a two-season build-up all came together in the series’ third season with the audacity of killing off key characters, wisely adhering to the framework of the source Philip K. Dick novel. The use of science fiction to tell an often gut-wrenching array of subplots and unique characters has set up a fourth season with plenty to address. Exciting, smart, scary, and even fun, it is an unusual science fiction show that isn’t merely trigger-happy sci-fi. Honorable mention: Humans (AMC), Counterpart (Starz).
Best New TV Series, Best Reboot, Best Ensemble Cast – Magnum PI (CBS). If you would have told us a year ago our favorite show this year would be a reboot of Magnum, p.i. starring Suicide Squad’s Jay Hernandez and an actress in the iconic role of John Hillerman’s Higgins, we wouldn’t have believed it. And yet, even as diehard fans of the original, we had to acknowledge that many elements of the reboot series were even better in the new series. With the dangerous risk of taking on a beloved property, the production maintained loyalty to the original while making it fresh, scoring Magnum PI high marks on all counts. Every character was smartly written–suave and confident Magnum, energetic Rick and TC, and a savvy Higgins–every actor was perfectly cast, and each show was another round of nostalgic fun for fans of the original. Best New TV Series Honorable mention for Best New TV Series: Counterpart (Starz), Lodge 49 (AMC).
Best Series, Best Drama, Best Comedy – Lodge 49 (AMC). Lodge 49 told two stories: a darkly serious drama of real people dealing with real-life 2018 adversity, and the other a comedy farce like no other. Hanging over our heads was the idea that this was going to be a fantasy show, complete with secret codes, hidden rooms, and psychic visions. If you’re looking for all the elements of great fantasy the hint of it all could be found throughout this series. And yet it wasn’t fantasy at all. An oddball Cheers? A southern Twin Peaks without the Lynchian weirdness? Star Wyatt Russell’s hero Dud could be dismissed as a typical young man with no vision, or maybe he’s that idealist that everyone needs to strive to be. Maybe we’ll learn more about that next season. Honorable mention for Best Drama: Counterpart (Starz). Honorable mention for Best Comedy: Baskets (FX).
Best Horror TV Series, Best Re-Imagining on TV, Best Writing for TV – Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix). Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s second winning series in a row (after Riverdale) shows the magic that can happen when the person behind a good property is the same person who gets to translate it to the screen. Fully equal to the source material in the pages of Archie Comics, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina equaled the first season of Riverdale in surprises, characterization, casting, and storytelling. As good or better than Stranger Things, it’s another of Netflix’s top properties if it continues at this pace. Funny and suspenseful, boasting themes of self-reliance and empowerment, it’s still finding its footing, but already the series is the best of its kind since Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Grimm. It’s hard to give better praise than that.
Best Fantasy or Historical Drama – Vikings (History). Beginning with the raids in England, to the death of Ragnar Lothbrok, to the battles of the Great Heathen Army, Vikings proved a series based on historical fact and historical legends could be as compelling as any series on television. With the rise of Lagertha and the battles escalating among the sons of Ragnar, History channel showed in its fifth season it could produce something that rivals all the pay TV productions.
Best TV Superhero Series, Best Soundtrack for TV – Marvel’s Luke Cage (Netflix). A second season that equaled its first, Marvel’s Luke Cage began by throwing viewers off-kilter and making the hero cocky early in the season. But when someone bigger came along it became clear this season would be about defining who would lead Harlem going forward. Luke? Mariah? Shades? Or someone new? When John “Bushmaster” McIver showed up all bets were off. Add even more twists, as Shades emerged from the shadows and Luke joined ranks with Bushmaster–there’s so much greatness from the series this season it’s incredible Netflix, Marvel, and Disney shut it and the other Marvel series down. It seems unlikely we’ll ever see anyone more perfectly carry the phrase “Sweet Christmas” than Mike Colter, but we were glad to have been able to watch it for two seasons. The incredible music in each episode continued to be relevant and integral to the show, creating a cool ambience found in no other series.
Best Second Wind – iZombie (CW). Just when we thought iZombie was about to dwindle away forever, the writers offered up some of their best stories this year, revitalizing every character in ways no fan could have predicted. Rose McIver’s talents at playing multiple characters, plus her comedic brilliance, and the chemistry with the other four lead actors on the show, drew in more viewers and saved the show from cancellation when any other series would have wrapped. Liv Moore’s leadership by season’s end was something we all hoped for, so we’ll all be back one more time next year to learn what is next.
Series We’re Most Likely to Be Watching Every Weeknight in Syndication in 5 Years – Private Eyes (Ion). This Canada-based series is in its second season, but if you were a fan of series like Nathan Fillion’s Castle, we’re wagering that if you watch it you’ll probably get hooked. It’s an easy episodic crime show without a dragging season-long arc as with many shows today. Genre favorites Jason Priestley (Haven, Psych, Medium, Tru Calling, Homicide, Tombstone, Quantum Leap) and Cindy Sampson (Supernatural, Being Human, Lexx) teamed up for fun each week with an equally strong supporting cast. We expect to see this one on cable down the road in the post-dinner time slot where you can’t help but watch it again and again.
Best TV Retro Fix – The Toys That Made Us (Netflix). Finally a nonfiction genre show worth watching. Its first two seasons didn’t have too much goofy theatrics, and we loved the interviews with toy company execs across the toy industry. With so many properties and franchises to cover, this series has the potential to survive for years.
Best Animated, Best Mash-up – Supernatural/Scooby Doo (CW). Supernatural is best at pleasing its fans, and it’s hardly been done better than dropping its real-world characters inside the classic cartoon, paired with the Scooby Gang to solve a crime in the fun episode “ScoobyNatural.”
Best British/UK Series – Shetland (BBC/BritBox). Thanks to BritBox we finally got the current season of the fantastic police procedural that the Brits call Shetland noir in the year it first aired in the UK. Everyone was in top form this year, from Douglas Henshall’s DI Perez to season guest star Stephen Walters, and the writing and cinematography beats out in series, UK or otherwise. In fact we’d tag this season perfect, but for an unnecessary finale coda. With season five in production, look for Shetland as a contender as best series in coming years. Runner-up: Requiem (Netflix). Honorable mention: The Five, Death in Paradise, Father Brown, Collateral.
Best TV Actress – Sonya Cassidy (Lodge 49). Her eerie calm in the face of circumstances that would have caused most people to give up long before made Sonya Cassidy’s Liz Dudley a different kind of superhero in the show’s inaugural season. She did everything a sister would do, supporting her brother in the extreme, then trying to shift her path, but only once she was herself would she overcome all that was holding her back. And when she finally cracked she cracked in a big way. One of the best performances and best characters of the season. Honorable mention: Alexa Davalos, The Man in the High Castle, Alfre Woodard (Marvel’s Luke Cage), Jodie Whittaker, Doctor Who.
Best TV Supporting Actress – Bella Heathcote (The Man in the High Castle). If you didn’t recognize the actress with a perfect German accent and the aura of Marlene Dietrich as the Australian star of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Dark Shadows, you weren’t the only one. Heathcote transformed completely and believably into a dark agent of evil who proved to be the decisive figure in the outcome of Season 3. Her character also provided one of the best lessons of the series, of loyalty and disloyalty in a world upside down. Honorable mention: Michelle Gomez (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Chelah Horsdal (The Man in the High Castle), Sara Serraiocco (Counterpart).
Best TV Actor – JK Simmons (Counterpart). JK Simmons’ style is vastly different than anyone else on television, shown in his roles from Law and Order to Major Crimes and Oscar-winning work on film. Although he only had two characters to play in the first season and beginning of season two this year (compared to Tatiana Maslany in several roles on Orphan Black), he played each with a depth that made one part calm and likeable and the other shocking and decisive. Each new role for Simmons only fails to surprise us in how exciting he’s going to make the next one. Runner-up: Michael Douglas (The Kominsky Method), Douglas Henshall (Shetland), Rufus Sewell (The Man in the High Castle), .
Best TV Supporting Actor – Theo Rossi (Marvel’s Luke Cage). From the beginning of Season One to the end of the final season this year, Theo Rossi’s Shades was always there, often in the shadows, but always a standout, who finally carved himself a role at the top this season. He also showed a layered, deeper side than most villains get to reveal in a TV show. It’s just too bad the network and studios nixed the series when it was only hitting its stride. Runner-up: Stephen Walters, Shetland. Honorable mention: Bradley Walsh, Doctor Who.
Best TV Villain – Bushmaster, Mustafa Shakir, Marvel’s Luke Cage (Netflix). Shakir’s Bushmaster nudged out dozens of the best villains Marvel has put on film in the past years (more than 100), even the popular Killmonger from this year’s Black Panther, which nudged out a bunch of Marvel villains than came before him. Bushmaster had his motivations, he had the super power, he had his backstory, and he had memorable confrontations with the series star superhero, and best yet, a peek at what a team-up would be like. After so many re-hashes of Wilson Fisk as go-to Marvel villain, Shakir’s excellent performance provided someone new, and his new villain was scary and unpredictable–just what fans want. A worthy follow-up to Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth from the prior season.
Best Cameo, Stunt Casting, or Guest Star – Corbin Bernsen as Ice Pick in Magnum PI. It was a brilliant idea to take long-time TV star Corbin Bernsen and drop him into the role of the cryptic villain/buddy of Rick originally played by one of Hollywood’s earliest and longest tenured actors, Elisha Cook, Jr. We only hope Bernsen gets even more screen-time next season. Runner-up: John Wesley Shipp returns in classic costume as 1990 Flash (CW). Honorable mention: Anthony Michael Hall as The Principal, (Riverdale), Bruce Campbell as The Captain (Lodge 49),
Best TV Episode – Riverdale Season 3, Episode 4, “The Midnight Club” (CW). In a third season that didn’t quite catch up to its first two seasons, a few episodes and scenes stood out, but none more than the homage to the 1980s and John Hughes movies. From pulling in Anthony Michael Hall to giving Lili Reinhart’s Betty her best script of the year to work with, to the great costumes, the episode is one not to miss. Honorable mention: Marvel’s Luke Cage, Season 2, Episode 6, “The Basement” and The Man in the High Castle, Season 3, Episode 5, “The New Colossus.”
Come back tomorrow as we reveal more of the borg Best of 2018!