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The Best New TV Shows of 2018

Another year of peak TV, another 15 brilliant series to add to your watch list.

"The First," "Homecoming," and "Pose" Best New Shows 2018

“The First,” “Homecoming,” and “Pose”

Hulu / Amazon / FX

5. “Barry”

Barry Season 1 Bill Hader

Bill Hader in “Barry”

John P. Johnson/HBO

In the hands of creators Alex Berg and Bill Hader, the simplicity of “Barry’s” premise — a hitman tries to give up his murdering ways to become an actor — springs forth a nearly endless well of emotion, with no shortage of black comedy to boot. Hader gives an unbelievable performance (he deserved that Emmy), his dead-eyed gaze bringing with it either awkward hilarity or all-too-real terror, while all around him swirl the epic dramatics of Los Angeles’ most desperate and aspiring thespians. With acting coach Gene (Henry Winkler, who also took home an Emmy), Barry enters a world where a lost part or blown audition feels like life or death, all while dragging along the connections to his old life, which remain inescapable. “Barry” asks the audience to consider whether a person can really change, with the end of Season 1 providing perhaps one of the most haunting television moments of 2018. – LSM

4. “Killing Eve”

Jodie Comer and Olivia Ross, "Killing Eve"

Jodie Comer and Olivia Ross in “Killing Eve”

Nick Briggs/BBC America

Like desk-bound MI5 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh), jaded TV viewers learned what obsession was this past spring when creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s sexy and stylish espionage thriller brought a whole new audience to BBC America. Consumed with exploring identity and dark desires, the series never met an impulse it didn’t pursue to its extreme. For every clumsy move that Eve makes in hunting down gamine assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer), the killer herself answers with reckless flamboyance. As the two circle each other — each both simultaneously predator and prey — the chemistry is addictive. Outrageous and often off-kilter dark humor only highlights the show’s transgressive charms, as viewers are asked to admire a psychopath, if only for her sartorial excesses and cheeky élan, and hope against hope for an ill-advised romance. Not since “Hannibal” has such a fatal pairing felt so right. – HN

3. “The Terror”

Tobias Menzies as James Fitzjames - The Terror _ Season 1, Episode 3 - Photo Credit: Screengrab/AMC

Tobias Menzies in “The Terror”

AMC

Boarding AMC’s “The Terror” should come with a warning: Despite its period setting and starched collars, this is one chilling journey guaranteed to induce bouts of horror-induced queasiness no Dramamine could cure. Inspired by the true story of a Victorian-era expedition in which the crews of two Royal Navy ships get stuck in the Arctic ice, the drama is an example of exquisite craftsmanship from stem to stern. The wintry flurries and towering sheets of ice — all created on a set or with CGI, not on location — combined with the ships’ meticulously realized interiors serve as the starkly beautiful yet claustrophobic setting for the pervading atmosphere of wonder, dread, panic, and fatal resignation. While Ciaran Hinds and Jared Harris are the deserving captains steering the ships — and the show’s initial tragic premise — the entire cast do their part to create engrossing men whose psyches are laid bare for better or, more often, for worse. It’s an insidious story that begins with hubris and inexorably closes the vise within the taut, packed 10 episodes to its breathless, doomed conclusion. – HN

2. “Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects Episode 3 - Chris Messina Amy Adams

Chris Messina and Amy Adams in “Sharp Objects”

Anne Marie Fox/HBO

Women ruled the summer yet again. Following up “Big Little Lies” with another addictive limited series, let alone another season, was a tall order few would have wanted to accept prior to “Sharp Objects'” debut. Sweaty and chilling, scarred yet stunning, HBO’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s debut novel took all the simmering undertones of a pulpy mystery and brought them bursting to down-home, country life on screen. Amy Adams dominates the screen. Patricia Clarkson embodies the overbearing mother you love to hate. Jean-Marc Valleé fills the frames with more implications and information than anyone could grasp in one sitting. And in the end, “Sharp Objects” delivers the whopper of an ending worth talking about for many long summers to come. It’s of the moment and timeless — the perfect combination. – BT

1. “Homecoming

Homecoming Julia Roberts Amazon

Julia Roberts in “Homecoming”

Jennifer Clasen / Amazon

In adapting the Gimlet Media podcast for Amazon, director Sam Esmail and creators Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz made a huge splash on the TV landscape. Two key factors: inspiration from old-school filmmaking and crucial unprecedented choices. For one thing, a half-hour thriller? That’s an idea so crazy it worked. Vertical framing? Hey, it’s not just a stunt for the iPhone generation. What’s Julia Roberts up to? Why not cast her as the series lead? And while you’re at it, take one of the year’s strongest supporting casts and let character drive the action. There were plenty of edge-of-your-seat moments over the course of the first season, but the biggest twist revealed by “Homecoming” is that despite the release of hundreds of shows each year, television is still capable of surprising us. – LSM

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