According to the good folks at FX Networks, there were 495 original scripted TV series in 2018 — 160 on streaming services, 146 on broadcast networks, 144 on basic cable and 45 on pay cable. And those were just scripted series, not counting reality shows and documentaries and news and sports and everything else.
No single person can possibly keep up with 495 scripted series. No single person can possibly keep up with the good ones. Even if that’s 1 in 10, that’s still 50 good TV series.
So now, more than ever, an annual best-of TV list is a snapshot. Frankly, I lean toward shows I’m obsessed with. Shows where I can’t wait to see what happens next. And narrowing that to 10 is all but impossible.
If a show isn’t on the list, it doesn’t mean I don’t like it. I may even love it. But this is a top 10 list.
1. “The Good Fight” (CBS All Access) • For seven seasons, “The Good Wife” was one of the best shows on TV. It was No. 1 on my list of 2013’s best shows.
“The Good Fight,” a spinoff of that show, is better.
This legal drama is smart, pointed, engaging and often laugh-out-loud funny, with some of the best characters on TV — beginning with Diane Lockhart (played by the inimitable Christine Baranski).
Diane’s disgust with the world as warped by Donald Trump colors every episode. The show sometimes deals with Trump directly — like the episode about the (alleged) pee tape — and sometimes with more subtlety. But always in a way that will make you think while it entertains you.
I am obsessed with “The Good Fight.”
2. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (The CW) • I will argue to my dying day that this show does not get the credit it deserves. Not just because it is hugely entertaining, but because it revolves around a character battling mental illness and it features original musical numbers — sometimes big productions — in every episode. There’s never been anything like this.
3. “Better Call Saul” (AMC) • This is a show that has always defied expectations — which is saying something, given that it’s a prequel to “Breaking Bad” so we know where it’s going to end up. And as we get closer to Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) completely transforming into Saul Goodman, it’s absolutely enthralling.
4. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon) • There’s something magical about “Mrs. Maisel.” I’m bewitched by this show. I love the characters, the dialogue, the costumes and the sets. I love that it’s a period piece set in the late 1950s, and that it’s about a woman battling for equality long before today’s adoption of inclusion riders, demands to close gender pay gaps on set and the transformative #MeToo movement.
5. Queer Eye (Netflix) • This is the ultimate example of why rebooting old shows can be a great thing. In the 11 years since the original “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” went off the air, the world has changed a lot. And this Fab Five (including Utah resident Tan France) is able to take the show beyond just makeovers, redecorating and cooking — it opens eyes and builds bridges.
6. “The Good Place” (NBC) • At the risk of sliding into complete hyperbole, there may never have been a TV show as surprising as this. On an almost weekly basis, the writers seem to have painted themselves into a corner, only to move on in unexpected directions. And it’s hilarious.
7. “Succession” (HBO) • This drama about an uber-rich, uber-dysfunctional family of media moguls is the best prime-time soap to come along in years. And, yes, I enjoy it more because it’s so clearly based on the lives of Fox/News Corp. mogul Rupert Murdoch and his family.
8. “The Expanse” (Syfy) • This is the best outer-space show since the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot — and if that sounds like faint praise, it’s not. This adaptation of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck’s (writing as James S.A. Corey) novels is brilliant. Big thanks to Amazon, which saved it after Syfy’s cancellation. (It will return with Season 4 sometime in 2019.)
9. “The Americans” (FX) • After six critically acclaimed seasons, this show about a married couple who were deep-undercover Soviet spies in 1980s America signed off with a truly great finale. No real happy ending, but a conclusion that left viewers feeling unsettled and somewhat disturbed — an entirely appropriate way to wrap things up.
10. “Atlanta” (FX) • Season 2 of this amazing comedy — “Robbin’ Season” — was, if anything, better than the amazing first season. You never know quite what to expect from episode to episode, except that it’s invariably good.
Honorable mentions: “America to Me” (Starz), “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” (FX), “Atypical” (Amazon), “The Big Bang Theory” (CBS), “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Netflix), “Escape at Dannemora” (Showtime), “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu), “Homecoming” (Amazon), “Jane the Virgin” (The CW), “Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert” (NBC), “Killing Eve” (BBC America), “The Late Show with Steven Colbert” (CBS), “Maniac” (Netflix), “9-1-1” (Fox), “One Day at a Time” (Netflix), “Pose” (FX), “Star Trek: Discovery” (CBS All Access), “Superstore” (NBC), “This Is Us” (NBC), Young Sheldon” (CBS).