5 Most Provocative Shows of 2018
Pose, Sharp Objects, Killing Eve
With 2018 all but finished, it’s time to take a look back at our favorite shows of the year. They say we’re living in a new golden era of television, with ratings less important than ever, which means advertisers have less importance than ever in dictating the content that goes on TV screens across the country. It’s the new wild west, with TV geared more towards adults than the lowest-common-denominator, the dumbest audience which has been traditionally catered to the most. No more. Maybe fewer people are watching these shows than watched some of the biggest shows ten or twenty years ago, but that’s fine. Thanks to streaming, anybody can watch any show they want, be it new classics, timeless oldies, or guilty pleasures.
FX has struck an incredible balance; first known for alpha male shows like The Shield, Rescue Me, and Justified, the network has since expanded its scope to include mega-producer Ryan Murphy; thanks to shows like American Horror Story, American Crime Story, and Pose, FX is successfully playing both sides, as both a home for macho action and provocative and political stories about feminism, gay rights, and the new, progressive frontier of Americana. Still, shows like Sons of Anarchy can tow the line down the middle – they are leather-clad bikers, after all. Pose earned praise for its unprecedented use of transgendered actors in leading roles, and for telling an uncompromising story about New York City in the 1980s juxtaposing gay culture with straight-laced Wall Street yuppies, and it’s already been renewed for a second season.
Before Netflix, before Hulu, and before Amazon Prime, there was HBO. Equally invested in long-running shows, feature-length movies, and sprawling miniseries, HBO never played by a traditional rulebook. Though the network is arguably a bit desperate and silly with all the gratuitous sex and violence on shows like Westworld and Game of Thrones, there’s no denying that HBO is running a whole other race from most other TV outlets. The crown jewel of HBO’s 2018 is Sharp Objects, a miniseries event based on the novel by Gillian Flynn. Featuring a career-defining performance from Amy Adams, the show is a startlingly introspective drama which makes incredible use of diegetic music to advance its storytelling.
When it comes to the hunter and the hunted, what’s the difference? The hunter’s pursuit of the hunted only binds the two together, blurring the distinctions between them. Such is the hook of Killing Eve, starring Sandra Oh as a dogged MI5 agent in hot pursuit of a psychotic killer, played by Jodie Comer. We’re finding that the sweet spot for binge-worthy dramas like this is eight episodes. Many series still run for thirteen episodes, but we prefer to trim the fat and keep us engaged for eight solid hours of non-stop, white-knuckle entertainment.
This BBC series (available in the states on Netflix) follows a bodyguard and his employer, a ruthless politician whose ideals skew significantly from her protector. From the jump, one can cut their sexual tension with a knife. A great mix of whirlwind romance, character-focused drama, and spy-thriller action, Bodyguard is probably the most surprising hit of 2018, but now it’s hard to imagine our lives without it.
Jason Bateman is on television, and he hasn’t aged a day in the last fifteen years. We don’t know how he does it, but let’s just be thankful for that fact. Presumably, he uses expensive moisturizer. We don’t want to spoil anything, but Ozark’s second season was even better than the first. At this point, the dweebs who insist on reductive comparisons to Breaking Bad can just curl up in a ball and die next to the dweebs who similarly compared The Hunger Games to Battle Royale, or Avatar to Ferngully. With enough practice, anyone can compare anything to anything in an attempt to make themselves seem smart; seeming smart and being smart are two very different things.