Vada’s Best TV of 2018 – Part 2

Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people.
Adam Lowe

2018 has been a great year for TV. With a mix of returning and debut shows, there has been plenty to choose from. Streaming has changed the TV landscape for good, and it’s making everyone up their game. Our countdown from 5-1 takes in comedy, teen angst and the most deadly nail art we’ve ever seen! (For numbers 10-6, see part one.)

We look forward to 2019 and what’s in store for avid TV fans around the world.

5. Riverdale

This year we got the second half of season 2 (full of murder and vigilantes) and the first half of the second season. In that time, Riverdale has gone full-on batshit crazy. And I mean, even more than usual.

Season 2’s second half was dark and tense, making for utterly gripping (if ludicrous) storytelling. And despite the letdown that was the promised gay kiss (yawn), the first half of season 3 has seen both Archie (KJ Apa) and Betty (Lili Reinhart) have been imprisoned and escaped, Jughead (Cole Sprouse) has delved head-long into the Satanic Panic mythos of Griffins and Gargoyles, and Veronica (Camila Mendes) has been playing politics against Daddy. For added bonus points, we get a cover of Dokken’s ‘Dream Warriors’, which is a sublime throwback for fans of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3.

You can never be sure where the show will go next – although you know there will be topless men aplenty – and its fickle characters make sure you can’t guess, either – but that’s its charm. Riverdale is fun, chaotic and brooding, and it seriously makes me long to be a teenager again.

4. One Day at a Time

I love One Day at a Time. It’s a remake of a 1975-1984 American sitcom, which at the time followed a single mum as she raised her family.

This revamped version has the lead, Penelope Alvarez, played by Justina Machado: a military vet and nurse who raises her children and lives with her Cuban immigrant mother (Rita Moreno) in a small apartment serviced by charming playboy landlord Schneider (Todd Grinnell).

It’s full of heart and laughs alike, and takes a meaningful look along the way at PTSD, religion, sexuality and cultural pride in contemporary America. It deals cleverly with big issues, but never forgets to be either funny or moving as it does so.

It also has LGBT representation with queer daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez) and her non-binary partner, Syd (Sheridan Pierce).

With its non-traditional family and excellent cast, we can’t for the new season of One Day at a Time, which arrives on 8 February 2019.

3. The Expanse

The Expanse is going from strength-to-strength, and now that Dark Matter has been cancelled, it’s our main fix of science fiction TV. Like Dark Matter, Syfy also cancelled this show – but unlike that one, Amazon Video rescued it.

Jim Holden (Steven Strait) continues to be an insufferable prat, but his crew outshines him and keeps us watching: Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), Amos Burton (Wes Chatham), and now Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) and Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) too.

The latest additions (Bobbie and Avasarala) are clearly the best characters anyway, so it was delightful to see more of them. Bobbie’s conflict at having to serve a UN exec, as a Martian marine, makes their relationship fertile for storytelling. Bobbie is with Avasarala – despite her in-grained nationalism – because she knows this Earther woman wants the same thing: peace for all humans.

We also got to spend some decent time with Camina Drummer (Cara Gee) as the Belter captain of the Behemoth and second-in-command to Fred Johnson.

It’s the presence of these conflicted, often opposed characters – forced to come together in desperate situations – that makes the show so watchable.

We can’t wait for season 4!

2. GLOW

GLOW is pure joy to watch. Based on the true story of an all-female wrestling show, GLOW (Glamorous Ladies of Wrestling) centres some really interesting and colourful women characters. This diverse set of misfits really work together and their individual struggles make this a really heart-warming show.

Alison Brie (Community) and Betty Gilpin (Nurse Jackie) really work as the former best friends-turned-rivals-turned-friends again. The tension and competitiveness between them – but also the collegiality they show – is key to making the disparate characters and their needs form a coherent story. Ultimately, this is a show about sisterhood but also it’s about having fun with what you do – whether that’s wrestling, directing or relationships.

One of the highlights of this season is the touching sub-plot where in-the-closet Bash (Christopher Lowell) has to deal with the death of his (presumed) lover from AIDS, at a time when stigma around the illness was at an all-time high.

1. Claws

We only discovered Claws this year – but oh my God is it fabulous! The life-threatening but frequently hilarious exploits of these manicurists-cum-criminals is riveting. The first season is heavier on the drama and impending death, but by season 2 the comedy is taken up a notch – culminating in some outrageous storylines and even the odd musical number.

Niecy Nash (Scream Queens) stars as Desna Simms, the owner of a nail salon that launders money for the Dixie Mafia in Manatee County, Florida. When she decides to take back control of her business – and her life – she finds herself even deeper in trouble than she was before. Throughout it all, her gang of fearsome women warriors has her back.

With a magnificent ensemble cast – including Carrie Preston (True Blood), Judy Reyes (Scrubs), Karrueche Tran and Jenn Lyon (Justified) – Claws sees Desna negotiate the world of crime, complex love lives and caring for her autistic brother. Harold Perrineau portrays said brother in a scene-stealing role that really gives the show a lot of heart.

If the nails don’t slay you, the high-danger soap opera plots and killer costumes will.

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