The turning of the year offers the opportunity to reflect on the good things I’ve seen in 2017, and much of that has been on TV. In this age of Peak TV there are far too many shows for me to have seen them all, and so there are many which I have not seen, including some which others might have as favorites and award winners. This is but my small glimpse into this vast world. Even though some TV seasons are not yet complete, there have been plenty of great shows and episodes this year and these are my favorites so far.
As I’ve said on other posts about lists, although I’m not a fan of the awards culture mostly because I dislike making a competition out of art, I do like reading lists as a way of being introduced to work of which I was not yet aware. My list approach is not so much about what is ‘best’ but instead what are my favorites, which often has more to do with the impact a work had on me and how it sticks with me. I also don’t limit the number of shows on my list, or rank them against each other, other than acknowledging that each has received my rating of Must See or Should See, and hence are my ‘top’ shows. I list them by title in alphabetical order.
The Americans – FX
A transitional season to get us to next year’s final and the tension for the Jennings family has increased to the max. I don’t know how they’re gonna end this thing, but not everybody is gonna make it, can they? Can’t wait to find out.
Better Things – FX
I don’t resonate as much as others with the lives of Sam and her three daughters, but I love Pamela Adlon’s work and am happy to see another woman as the creative force behind a show. She takes great risks and usually reaps great rewards, and the family and their lives feel very real.
Big Little Lies – HBO
It garnered much deserved attention for the cast of really strong actresses, several of which were recognized at awards time. I loved watching them work, and I especially liked Shailene Woodley’s performance. The story arc missed a bit for me, but what a cast.
BoJack Horseman – Netflix
BoJack is going through some major life change, and it’s a pleasure to see the character evolve and the comedy deepen. I’m all in on this horseman. Read Full Post
Brockmire – IFC
Hank Azaria is perfect as the bitter baseball announcer whose career and life is on the skids in the minor leagues. I could listen to this guy all day. Amanda Peet is great as his romantic foil, and owner of the franchise. More please!
The Crown – Netflix
I found the first season better than this second, but Claire Foy’s superb acting in what is the final year for her in the role, and that of a very fine cast with very good storytelling throughout most of the episodes, makes this a strong Should See. Read Full Post
The Deuce – HBO
Creators George Pelecanos and David Simon, who gave us The Wire and Tremé, return to HBO to explore the sex trade in NY City in the ‘70s, and boy is this good! Read Full Post
Fargo – FX
The third season continues to impress, especially with this year’s cast, including a double role for Ewan McGregor and another superb performance for Carrie Coon (The Leftovers). The entire ensemble was stellar and this series blows me away.
Game of Thrones – HBO
Winter has most definitely come, and this season is setting up what should be an astounding final one in which many of the episodes run close to feature film length. I especially liked how Sansa and Arya consolidated their power and got their revenge – see ya Littlefinger – and the whole Jon Snow story is about to explode.
GLOW – FX
What a fun series! Marc Maron is great but nobody shines more brightly than Allison Brie as the too smart for her own good actress turned pro wrestler. Very funny comedy without caricatured characters.
The Good Place – NBC
This is as fast a moving story arc as there is in TV comedy, but the jokes do not get in the way of creating believable characters. The cast is stellar, and Ted Danson is the standout. I’m through season two (a Must See with 5 episodes airing in 2018). Read Full Post
Halt and Catch Fire – AMC
The final season had some incredibly good episodes and as a whole was one of the best seasons of TV, and the series finale may be one of the best ever. Go binge this now! Read Full Post
Insecure – HBO
Issa Rae’s second season improves on the striking first, with a building story arc and risk taking which pays off. Hella season!
The Leftovers – HBO
The final season crushed it, with amazing writing and production, and the ensemble cast in fine form, none more so than Carrie Coon. It seems hardly anyone watched this series. More’s the pity.
Legion – FX
The weirdest of all shows gets weirder and pulls it off. As creatively astounding as the story, and as impressive a cast as there is on TV. Plus, any opportunity to watch Aubrey Plaza do her thing is worth the time.
Master of None – Netflix
Some of the best written comedy episodes of the year and great creative production work to push the envelope on what TV comedy usually looks like.
Mindhunter – Netflix
Excellent 1960’s period piece about the birth of serial killer profiling at the FBI. The psychological angles and the detailed period work reminds me of Master of Sex, another series I love. I look forward to season two. Read Full Post
Mr. Robot – USA
Sam Esmail is the creative force behind this series and I don’t know how he manages to run the show and direct every episode without a drop in quality. Major consequences for the principals this season and a finale which hints at some interesting possibilities for what comes next. Oh, and Bobby Cannavale – yes please! Read Full Post
Planet Earth II – BBC America
Two factors have changed since the original series was created – image making technology has markedly improved, and we have even more evidence of Climate Change affecting our world. Combine those factors with the powerful storytelling of the original season and PE II is an amazing set of chapters spanning the globe showing footage that will blow your mind. Plus, David Attenborough narrates again – that’s gold!
Stranger Things – Netflix
The fun continues in this second season with the story picking up just about where we left off. It’s not as great as season one, but has plenty of the elements that made the series debut so much fun.
The Vietnam War – PBS
Ken Burns is responsible for so much of the best documentary work of the last 20+ years and it would be understandable to think the quality of his work would diminish. Not so, and I dare say this 10 part series on the defining war of a generation is as good as anything he and producing partner Lynn Novick have ever done. Bravo. Read Full Post