My Favorite TV Shows of 2018

When I’m not performing or teaching Burlesque, I spend a lot of time writing, editing, and researching. I literally spend hours each day editing words, images or videos. This means, I play a lot of tv in the background. If I’m editing photos for five hours on one screen, it just helps to have music or a tv show playing on another screen.

Or, I mean…imagine the hours upon hours of DIYing my costumes and adding rhinestones and trim. There’s just a lot of time to have some sort of entertainment on in the background. What’s been amazing is there are so many amazing, quality and thrilling shows being produced and my mind is racing creatively. Considering Burlesque is a parody of Pop Culture, these tv shows also serve as research and inspiration for my acts, my classes or my shows.

These are my favorite tv shows of 2018.

Here are some caveats to take into consideration or things of note.

  • “My Favorite Tv Shows of 2018” means I watched some season of the show this year. Most of them premiered this year or had a new season this year. Still some shows, what I watched was their current season. In the case of Sinner, I still haven’t seen season 1 but I loved watching season 2. Or with Shameless, I watched all 9 seasons over a series of weeks.
  • Its clear there are certain tropes, themes or devices I like. Such as; dark comedy and psychological thrillers. Or there’s something appealing about strong, prolific yet tragic and broken women such as Fiona in Shameless, Alison in the Affair or Fleabag in Fleabag. Whether a show was a drama or a thriller, I seem to really love a good mind fuck that plays with perspective. I also love a good spy or government conspiracy show.
  • My list is in no particular order. I love them all.

1. Kidding – Season 1 – Showtime

“Kidding follows Jeff Pickles, a man who is iconic in children’s television. Jeff, aka Mr. Pickles, is a pillar of kindness and wisdom to the impressionable minds of America’s youth and to the parents who grew up with him. When Mr. Pickles’ family begins to implode, his life starts to take a downward spiral. He must put the fables and puppets aside to get through this newest crisis in life. As the slow leak of sanity advances faster than he can cope with it, the cruel world breaks his heart.”

If you enjoy the movie “Death to Smoochy” or the musical, “Avenue Q” or the quirky serious works of Jim Carrey such as “The Truman Sow” or “Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind,” you’ll more than likely enjoy this American comedy-drama.

2. The Looming Tower – Season 1 – Hulu

“The Looming Tower traces the rising threat of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida in the late ’90s and how a rivalry between the FBI and CIA during the time period may have inadvertently set the path for the attacks of 9/11. The series follows members of the I-49 Squad in New York and Alec Station in Washington, D.C. — the counterterrorism divisions of the FBI and CIA, respectively — as they travel around the world, fighting for ownership of information while seemingly working toward a common goal of preventing an imminent attack on American soil. The drama is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name by Lawrence Wright.”

This American drama web television miniseries felt so real. At times they use real media and news footage throughout the series and it makes all the difference. As I watch the drama unfold, I had to keep reminding myself, this did happen in real life.

3. The Man in High Castle – Season 1 – Amazon Prime

“This series, loosely based Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, takes a look at what the world might look like had the outcome of World War II turned out differently. In this dystopian scenario, the Axis powers won the war, leading to the United States being divided into three parts, an area controlled by the Japanese, a Nazi-controlled section, and a buffer zone between the two. Despite the oppression, a new hope emerges when films turn up that seem to show a different world. A woman believes the films contain the key to freedom and is determined to find their mysterious guardian.”

This American television series depicting a dystopian alternate history is a total mind f*ck. History could have been completely different and the world created in The Man in the High Tower portrays quite an interesting take on what it would be like. I love people who dream up ideas like this.

4. Fleabag – Season 1 – Amazon Prime

“A young, dry-witted, sexual, angry, London-based woman tries to cope with life in a big city while simultaneously coming to terms with a recent tragedy. The show is adapted from Waller-Bridge’s 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe one-woman  play of the same name which won the Fringe First Award. The initial idea of the character of Fleabag came from a challenge by a friend, where Waller-Bridge was tasked with creating a sketch for a 10-minute section in a stand-up storytelling night.”

This British comedy-drama television series is weird and quirky as fuck but nuanced and so real. I loved this show so thoroughly. Just go read “Fleabag Feels Differently From Anything Else on TV” via Vulture for a good write up.

5. The Americans – Season 1-6 – FX

“Philip and Elizabeth Jennings are two KGB spies in an arranged marriage who are posing as Americans in suburban Washington, D.C., shortly after Ronald Reagan is elected president. The couple have two children, teenager Paige and preteen Henry, who are unaware of their parents’ true identities. The complex marriage becomes more passionate and genuine each day but is continually tested as the Cold War escalates. As Philip begins to warm up to America’s values and way of life, his relationship with Elizabeth becomes more complicated. Further complicating things is the arrival of the Jennings’ new neighbour, FBI agent Stan Beeman, who is part of a new division of the agency tasked with fighting foreign agents on U.S. soil. The drama series was created by former CIA agent-turned-author Joe Weisberg.”

The Americans is an American period spy thriller television series and is ALL THE THINGS. I love how really beyond being Russian spies, the show explores a couple as they fall in love with one another and then try to grow as their relationship and personal selves evolve…after having to work together as a fake married couple. Like what happens when you fall in love with your husband for the first time, after being married for decades out of obligation? The Americans happen.

6. The Sinner – Season 2 – USA

The Sinner TV Show - www.ShayAuLait.com

“Detective Harry Ambrose returns to his hometown in rural New York to assess an unsettling and heart-wrenching crime — parents murdered by their 11-year-old son with no apparent motive. As Ambrose realizes there’s nothing ordinary about the boy or where he came from, the investigation pulls him into the hidden darkness of his hometown. He’s pitted against those who will stop at nothing to protect its secrets — and the mysterious Vera, who proves to be a complicated, enigmatic piece to this haunting puzzle.”

This American anthology crime drama mystery television series was a real mind trip. I actually need to watch it again and I don’t even understand everything I saw. I haven’t really evaluated why certain things were impactful. I remember really being fascinated by the ritual session and moments between Vera and Harry. There was something about pain, desire and passion that I need to think about based on some scenes.

7. Shameless – Season 1-9ish – Showtime

Shameless Tv show - www.shayaulait.com

“William H. Macy stars as Frank Gallagher, a single father of six who spends much of his free time drinking at bars or in search of misadventures. The Gallagher children — led by oldest daughter Fiona (Emmy Rossum), who takes on much of the child-rearing responsibility due to her mother’s absence — manage to raise themselves in spite of Frank’s lack of parenting and unusual parenting style when he does choose to act like a father. The drama is an adaptation of the BAFTA Award-winning British show of the same name.”

“The show’s producers sought to distinguish this production from previous American working-class shows by highlighting how Frank’s alcoholism affects his family. The show’s creator Paul Abbott said, “It’s not My Name Is Earl or Roseanne. It’s got a much graver level of poverty attached to it. It’s not blue collar; it’s no collar. Showrunner John Wells fought efforts to place the show in the South or in a trailer park. “We have a comedic tradition of making fun of the people in those worlds,” he said. “The reality is that these people aren’t ‘the other’—they’re people who live four blocks down from you and two blocks over.” “

This American comedy-drama television takes place on the south side of Chicago and I didn’t find any of it to be ridiculous or exaggerated. I found it to be honest and accurate. Parts of it reminded me of my own childhood or neighborhood growing up. (I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago.) Though the show is in its 9th season, I hadn’t seen it before this year and I just found Fiona’s character so relate-able. I just want her to be free but I don’t know if that’s possible. Same for the lead character in Fleabag. And later, it will be the same for Alison in the Affair. My heart goes out to these amazing, prolific and yet tragic lead characters.

8. Homecoming – Season 1 – Amazon Prime

Homecoming - www.ShayAuLait.com

“Heidi Bergman is a caseworker at Homecoming, a facility that helps soldiers transition back to civilian life. She leaves Homecoming to start a new life living with her mother and working as a small-town waitress. Years later, the Department of Defense questions why she left, which makes Heidi realize that there’s a whole other story behind the one that she’s been telling herself. Oscar winner Julia Roberts stars as Heidi in the first regular TV series role of her career. “Homecoming” is based a podcast of the same name.”

I wasn’t really paying attention, nor honestly watching the first episode of Homecoming when I started playing the episode as background noise during some chore. I turned it off but weeks later Amazon Prime suggested I try it again. This time I paid attention and I was immediately inspired to google the style of filming I was watching. The colors, the cinematography, the music, the angles….it was all so dramatic but intentional and it worked and I was getting more and more hooked. Google kindly reminded me that I was watching an American psychological thriller web television series. But its filmed in a 70’s paranoia cinema format. Its like Neo-Paranoia + a Psychological Thriller. I loved it. I loved the style! OMG! (Also The Sinner, Handmaid’s Tale and many others on this list have so many amazing cinematic qualities.) This show though….once I got into it, had me rewatching simple scenes like how the man was preparing the chicken over and over again. Or the scene from the fruit in the field making its way to the plates of the soldiers. I kept rewatching it. I knew they had me as I kept rewatching simple scenes because they are filmed and edited so perfectly.

9. Live PD – Season 2-3 – A&E

Live PD Tv Show - www.Shayaulait.com

“Emmy-winning documentary series like “Intervention” and “Born This Way” illustrate A&E Network’s commitment to provocative, culturally relevant programming. Fitting perfectly alongside such projects is “Live PD,” which shines a light on the hot-button issue of policing in America by presenting a transparent look at law enforcement on duty. Incorporating dash cams along with fixed rig and handheld cameras, the series captures the work of a mix of urban and rural police forces on a typical Friday night. As host, veteran journalist Dan Abrams gives insight into what viewers are seeing in real time with analysis provided by Tom Morris Jr. and Sgt. Sean “Sticks” Larkin. As this show is live and yet because of the risk of confidential or otherwise inappropriate material being aired, A&E imposes a broadcast delay on the show which may range from a few seconds to several minutes.”

My partner got me addicted to this American reality documentary show. I now feel better equipped to understand and communicate and act should I ever get pulled over by the police. Honestly, its also taught me how to NOT get pulled over considering the repeat reasons someone ends up in trouble. The show also revealed to me how prevalent and devastating drug use is across America. I also developed even more empathy for police officers by learning more of their perspective on their calls. Most are investigating a call or suspicious behavior or a violation and they are doing so without any information and have to make a lot of decisions real quick. Its fascinating and also the whole show is one slice of good ole’ American culture.

10. The Affair – Season 4 – Showtime

the affair tv show - www.ShayAuLait.com

“The Affair explores the emotional/psychological effects of two affairs. Young diner waitress Alison and her husband, rancher Cole, are struggling — personally and financially — in the wake of tragedy. Noah, a settled teacher and would-be novelist, is summering at his in-laws’ Hamptons estate with his wife, Helen, and four kids. When Noah meets Alison, they begin an affair. For her, he’s a welcome escape; for him, she’s a pretty distraction. But, the tryst eventually ends two marriages — one that was already a bit shaky, the other that was on solid ground.” 

“In the fourth season, following divorces, new marriages, moves, jail, deaths and more….Noah has moved to Los Angeles to be closer to his younger children Trevor and Stacey, as Helen and Vik have moved there. Cole and Luisa are living together in Montauk, while Alison is working as a grief counselor. Season 4 features opening flashforward sequences, featuring Noah and Cole, in its first four episodes, which ultimately lead to the discovery of Alison’s death.”

I’ve loved this show since the beginning as I love the devices they use to tell the story such as different perspectives of two people each telling their side of the same incident and there being enough differences between the retellings that you aren’t sure which one is 100% true or if the truth is something else all together. The reoccuring theme is I like a good mind fuck whether its a psychological thriller or something like the Affair which is an American television psychological mystery drama series. Also, sometimes I feel like Alison. And a bit like Fiona from Shameless. I don’t know how to explain that. Eh.

11. Handmaid’s Tale – Season 2 – Hulu

Handmaid's Tale - www.ShayAuLait.com

“Based on the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, this series is set in Gilead, a totalitarian society in what used to be part of the United States. Gilead is ruled by a fundamentalist regime that treats women as property of the state, and is faced with environmental disasters and a plummeting birth rate. In a desperate attempt to repopulate a devastated world, the few remaining fertile women are forced into sexual servitude. One of these women, Offred, is determined to survive the terrifying world she lives in, and find the daughter that was taken from her.”

 I read the book years ago and LOVED it. In fact, I still have my best friend’s copy. We swap books with each other and NEVER return them to each other. So I still have her copy maybe from 15 years ago. I loved the book and I love the show. The book and the tv show follow a similar storyline and then the tv show outgrows the book and keeps telling an amazing story. And now, I hear Margaret Atwood is going to write a part two to the book. WHAT!?!?! This American dystopian drama is such an amazing television series. If you like this show, you should also read the book. And separately read “Children of Men” and watch the movie “Children of Men” too.

12. Mr. Robot – Season 3 – USA

mr robot tv show - www.shayaulait.com

“The series follows Elliot Alderson, a young man living in New York City, who works at the cyber security company Allsafe as a security engineer. Constantly struggling with social anxiety disorder, dissociative identity disorder and clinical depression, Elliot’s thought process seems heavily influenced by paranoia and delusion. He connects to people by hacking them, which often leads him to act as a cyber-vigilante. He is recruited by a mysterious insurrectionary anarchist known as Mr. Robot and joins his team of hacktivists known as fsociety. One of their missions is to cancel all consumer debt by destroying the data of one of the largest corporations in the world, E Corp (which Elliot perceives as Evil Corp), which also happens to be Allsafe’s biggest client.”

I love this entire American psychological drama thriller television series. It feeds the little bit of conspiracy theorist inside of me. And the whole show is so “pop culture.” Season 3 was just as good to me as the very first episode from season one. The season finale wasn’t surprising and I enjoyed it. It was epic and anti-climatic, if that’s even possible…in all the best ways.

13. Counterpart – Season 2 – Starz

Counterpart Tv Show - www.ShayAuLait.com

“What might be different if a person could co-exist in an alternate world? Howard Silk, a low-level agent whose career is winding down after 30 years at a Berlin-based United Nations spy agency, unwittingly learns the answer. Upon discovering his organization is harboring a secret, that of a gateway to a parallel dimension (the “Prime world”), Howard becomes immersed in a mysterious world of espionage, intrigue, and government conspiracies. There, the only man Howard can trust is Prime, his almost identical counterpart from a divergent reality. The “Prime world”), a copy of Silk’s world, was created by East German scientists in 1987, and which has been diverging ever since. Silk’s “other” self, his counterpart from the Prime world, is, among other things, a field agent who regularly makes crossings to Silk’s world (the “Alpha world”) to retrieve “others” who have gone rogue. Factional in-fighting in the agency in the Prime world spills over to the Alpha world, endangering Silk and his comatose wife, Emily.”

This show combines so many things I love. Its a thriller. There are conspiracies. There are spies and government agencies. I can’t get enough of this American science fiction thriller television series. This show gives me Fringe vibes and that’s fucking great cuz I still haven’t accepted that that show has ended. I also love that Counterpart take place in Berlin. That’s my favorite city in the entire world…of all the world that I’ve seen.

14. Atlanta – Season 2 – FX

Atlanta Tv Show - www.ShayAuLait.com

“Atlanta is one of the top cities for young rappers looking to make a name for themselves in the business. Among those up-and-comers is Alfred Miles aka “Paper Boi”, a hot new artist who is trying to understand the line between real life and street life. He is managed by his cousin, Earn, who gets caught up in the local rap scene and his cousin’s career after returning home to the ATL after dropping out of Princeton University. Earn does whatever he can to try to get Alfred’s career to the next level. Darius, the rapper’s right-hand man and visionary, is also in Alfred’s entourage. When Earn isn’t busy managing his cousin’s career, he spends much of his time with best friend Vanessa, who is also the mother of his daughter.”

This sometimes surreal American comedy drama television series is so “Pop Culture.” It reminds me that if Burlesque was a tv show, it would be Atlanta.  Have you seen the “Teddy Perkins” episode? Or “Money Bag Shawty”? Or “Barbershop”? Or “Champagne Papi”? Honestly, every episode! This show is so “‘America.”In full disclosure I haven’t seen episodes, 1, 2 and 4 of this past season yet.

What were some of your favorite tv shows in 2018?

I definitely want to go back through my list and make note of any characters or scenarios that might inspire some new acts for performing, themes for shows or lessons for burlesque dance class with my students. Imagine a “Teddy Perkins” burlesque dance number. Or a Handmaid’s Tale themed narrative burlesque show?

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