The best under-the-radar genre TV shows of 2018

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Dec 23, 2018, 10:00 AM EST

Who has time to watch even a fraction of the new television shows coming at us every month? For every TV series binge watch we allow ourselves, there's always a watch list in the wings, quietly mocking us for our inability to keep up.

So, what happens? We miss a lot of great shows, especially niche, genre shows that are fantastic but get lost in the streaming sauce of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, cable, and broadcast press cycles. Plus, with more than 400 scripted TV series in 2018 to choose from, it's a lot harder for smaller shows -- those without a Game of Thrones-level budget -- to make it onto our entertainment radars.

Well, we're here for you and your FOMO, because we watch a scary amount of genre television and we definitely have some favorites that we feel deserve a lot more love from the masses.

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12 Monkeys (SYFY)

Time travel is hard. Adapting a movie into a TV show? Also hard. Doing them both in a compelling way that actually makes sense? Nigh impossible. But, against all odds, 12 Monkeys pulled it off. The final season of the series took a massive time-travel saga with moving parts for centuries and actually managed to land it all. It paid off the lingering story threads, was loaded with character moments, and actually made sense within the rules and universe the creative team has spent the past few years building. It was already one of the smartest shows on television, but the final season made it one of the best. - Trent Moore

Black Lightning

Credit: The CW

Black Lightning (The CW)

I know, another superhero show from the CW's Arrowverse. But I challenge you to watch a few episodes and then come back telling me you feel the same. Black Lightning might have taken a little while to truly find its footing, but this is a series with a strong point of view. Jefferson Pierce isn't just meting out vigilante justice for some vague sense of honor, or to right the wrongs of his past. He is fighting for his community and taking on system issues of race and class that plague our very real nation. - Tricia Ennis

Castlevania Netflix

Credit: Netflix

Castlevania (Netflix)

Even if all you did was just listen to Netflix's Castlevania, it would be worth it. The vocal cast, including Graham McTavish, Richard Armitage, and James Callis, is the aural equivalent of happiness as far as I'm concerned. But the Netflix series also boasts gorgeous animation, a compelling story, and one of the best female villains we've seen in a while. Brutal and beautiful, Castlevania takes beloved elements from the video game series and weaves a story about love, loss, loneliness, and revenge that sucks you in and leaves you craving more. - Shana O'Neil

Channel Zero: The Dream Door, Maria Sten

Credit: SYFY

Channel Zero (SYFY)

While both the mainstream press and viewers have been lamenting the decline of horror franchises American Horror Story and The Walking Dead, SYFY's Channel Zero has quietly amassed four seasons of compelling and consistently terrific horror storytelling. In 2018, there were two Channel Zero installments: Butcher's Block, with Rutger Hauer, and The Dream Door, featuring a human contortionist nightmare dubbed Pretzel Jack. Despite these two seasons being very different in tone and execution, they're both rooted in emotion and character-based storytelling. There are no cheap scares; instead, Antosca and his writers explore topics like grief, addiction, mental illness, and realistically messy relationships via unsettling horror metaphors. - Tara Bennett

Colony episode 301 - Will, Katie, Bram

Daniel Power/USA Network

Colony (USA Network)

Talk about a show that was ahead of its time. Colony posited a near future in which alien invaders section off the remains of humanity into tightly controlled neighborhoods that exist behind massive walls. Creators Carlton Cuse and Ryan Condal mined history, specifically the World War II French Resistance movements, and the peril's of modern technology to weave together a potent story of the Bowman family trying to survive opportunistic humans leveraging one another for a place in the new world order. It only got more relevant, thought-provoking and heartbreaking as it progressed deeper into its run. - Tara Bennett

CPS2_204 Yanek (James Cromwell), Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons)

Yanek (James Cromwell), Howard Silk (J.K. Simmons)

Counterpart (Starz)

It's an existential sci-fi take on the Cold War spy thriller. Instead of the Berlin Wall, we have a metaphysical divide between two parallel dimensions, giving nearly every character a doppelgänger. Sometimes, the two selves are identical. More often, you're incredibly different, depending on where life events diverged... such as becoming a musician in one world, an assassin in the other. The show asks a lot of questions about the nature of identity and what it means to confront one's self, while also giving us plenty of the sex, violence, and WTF moments you'd expect from a prestige cable thriller. - Jennifer Vineyard


The Innocents (Netflix)

The Innocents is what you get when you put teen angst, Luther, and shapeshifting in a blender. The interwoven story follows June (Sorcha Groundsell), who escapes her father's overprotectiveness with boyfriend Harry (Percelle Ascott), and finds out that she has the uncontrollable ability to shapeshift. Add to that a police investigation, an enclave of shifters trying to rid themselves of their abilities (led by Guy Pearce), and June's part-Rogue, part-Mystique powers, and you have a supernatural mystery with a climactic conclusion. - Karama Horne

Into the Dark Pooka!


Into the Dark (Hulu)

Ever get that something-awful-is-going-to-happen feeling that slithers up your spine, ending in the realization that there is no way out of some inevitable horror? Instead of relying on gore shock or zombie hordes, Hulu and Blumhouse's anthology series builds the kind of tension every month with a new story that sucks you in until you've reached the event horizon of something unspeakably horrible. Just in case you're not freaked out by a body that is not the Halloween prop it seems to be, or psychopathic serial killers in plain sight, it's guaranteed the creature suit with a mind of its own in "Pooka!" will burn itself into your nightmares. – Liz Rayne


Credit: Hulu

Marvel's Runaways (Hulu)

Marvel's Runaways is not a show for everyone, but it is definitely a show for anyone who wants something new and different from their superhero television. It's truly an ensemble piece, and a coming of age drama about standing up for what you believe in, even if it's against the people you are supposed to trust the most. If you enjoy other mainstream Marvel TV or the DC dramas on The CW, then Runaways provides what those series haven't yet: a drama that hits the sweet spot for teens and adults alike. Plus, who doesn't love a psychic dinosaur? - Tricia Ennis


Murphy finds Auggie sabotaging the ship, so Auggie murders him.

Nightflyers (SYFY)

Not only will no one hear you scream in space, but in SYFY's adaptation of George R.R. Martin's sci-fi-horror novella (which couldn't be more different from Game of Thrones if it tried), you might not even have the chance to scream before something potentially fatal happens. Elevated heartbeats of fear will pound in your chest long after finishing the series, and the unnerving non-linear storyline will have you saying "what the-" until you piece the shards together and realize what new kind of doom the crew of the Nightflyer is plunging into. – Liz Rayne

Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams - Episode 1

Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams (Amazon Prime)

Sure, not every episode of this anthology series is as amazing as one might hope...but, then again, neither is every episode of Black Mirror. It's the brilliant standouts that count, all with a Philip K. Dick twist. "Kill All Others," written and directed by Dee Rees, takes out the aliens from the original story ("The Hanging Stranger") and layers in a political narrative about the dangers of being the lone voice of opposition (Also worth your time: "Safe and Sound," "Autofac," and "The Hood Maker"). What's especially unnerving is how relevant Dick's paranoid visions of authoritarianism remain today. - Jennifer Vineyard

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The Terror (AMC)

Adapted from a fictionalized version of true events written by Dan Simmons, The Terror speculates about what really happened on the doomed Northwest Passage expedition led by British naval officers back aboard the H.M.S. Erebus and the H.M.S. Terror. Both ships and the entirety of their crew mysteriously vanished, and though multiple searches were convened in the wake of their disappearances, the wrecks of the Erebus and the Terror were not discovered until 2014 and 2016. The Terror brilliantly blends the very real horrors of starvation, mutiny, and paranoia percolating in a close-quarters environment with the terrifying threats that lurk beyond the ship out in the Arctic wilderness — but nothing may be quite as dangerous, or as deadly, as the monster that lies within man. - Carly Lane

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Credit: Darren Michaels/Sony/NBC

Timeless (NBC)

If there's a recent show that's earned the title of "Most Beloved Show You've Never Seen," that would be Timeless. Canceled after one season in 2017 and then renewed three days later due to overwhelming fan support, it came back with a second season only to be canceled again due to poor ratings. There's good reason, however, for the fans' passion. Timeless is a time-traveling adventure that's also dedicated to history and how people throughout history have contributed to our present. Each week, it tackles a new time period and explores the past in real, human terms while also being full of intrigue, romance, thrilling heroics, and heartbreaking drama. It's a little cheesy, full of heart, and intelligent all at the same time. -Shana O'Neil


Travelers Season 3

Travelers (Netflix)

This series, from former Stargate SG-1 producer Brad Wright, follows a team of "travelers" sent from the future to the present day to try and avert a future cataclysm. It's a fun sci-fi concept at its core but, beyond that, it's the story of people trying to adjust to a life that's not theirs, dealing with everything from drug addiction to spouses they don't even know. The last few seasons have introduced some twists to the sci-fi story, but never at the expense of the "travelers" whose stories make the show tick (pun intended). Yes, there's a lot to watch on Netflix, but this one is well worth tracking down. - Trent Moore

Trollhunters Season 3

Trollhunters Season 3

Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia (Netflix)

This show contains the best new fantasy stories being told right now, full stop. Created by Guillermo Del Toro and overseen by Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman, this animated wonder started strong in Season 1, went bigger in Season 2, and blew the bloody doors off with Season 3. It's seriously funny, but also knows when to pull back and get real. The result is a troll/wizard/adventure show that repeatedly has you on the edge of your seat, unawares that your heart has just been ripped out. With a voice cast that can't be beat (Kelsey Grammer, Mark Hamill, Lena Headey, David Bradley, and the dearly departed Anton Yelchin as the lead), this show demands more attention than it has gotten so far. "Don't think… become." - Brian Silliman

Team Voltron

Credit: Netflix

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Netflix)

In the last three seasons of Netflix's reboot of Voltron, we got some of the finest episodes of the series. The depth and the layers of Shiro's leadership, Keith's search for identity and family, the duplicity of Lotor, and the long journey home to Earth are just some of the big highlights of what was a year to remember for the Voltron franchise. Closing out Voltron's run with 76 episodes, showrunners Lauren Montgomery and Joaquin Dos Santos broke the show out of its repetitive, '80s-formulaic mold and gave it a serialized spit-shine, rich character arcs and thrills that we can only hope for with any nostalgic reboots. – Ernie Estrella