The Best TV Shows of 2017

by thethreepennyguignol

So, it’s that time of the year once more. I may not have been the most positive I’ve ever been about TV this year – between the outright awfulness of Doctor Who, to the sproadic weirdness of Vikings, to the who-the-fuck-knows-seriously of American Horror Story, I seem to have spent a lot of time exasperated with the small screen. But I still love my TV,  we’re closing out on 2017 and for once, I feel like being a little positive. So let’s take a look at my ten best shows of the year!

10. American Vandal

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This is a late entry to the list, considering I only watched it a few weeks ago, but boy howdy does it deserve it’s spot here: American Vandal is one of those shows that I avoided for ages, so sure it wasn’t for me, certain it would be nothing but eight episodes of a protracted dick joke that would wear thin in the first ten minutes. But it’s so far from that: the pastiche of the true-crime genre is deadly accurate, and the natural overinterrogation that comes with teenage territory lends itself almost absurdly beautifully to the parody. Incredibly funny and often surprisingly heartfelt and warm, there’s still time to binge-watch American Vandal before the year’s end.

9. Legion

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Stark, striking, and brave, Legion was to superhero TV shows what Logan was to superhero movies – something flawed but utterly different and compellingly new. An excellent leading performance from Dan Stevens guided TV’s most psychedelic show to delve into questions of mental illness and memory, and, while occasionally messy, it held it’s nerve just well enough to land a well-earned spot on this list.

8. A Series of Unfortunate Events

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Look, there was never a chance that this show was ever going to miss out on it’s spot here. I grew up on this series of books and as soon as I heard that Neil Patrick Harris had landed the lead role of the exquisitely camp villain Count Olaf, I knew I was in for a treat. And I was – it’s not a flawless season by any means, but for me, it captured the exact same atmosphere I got listening to the books on audiotape read by Tim Curry on long car journeys when I was nine, and that kind of seductive nostlagia is hard to beat. And Klaus actually had fucking glasses this time, thank Christ.

7. American Gods

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Bryan Fuller’s back, bitches, and it’s with an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s classic fantasy novel that’s way better than the book that it sprang forth from. American Gods was a fucking madcap show, manic and irrepressible and creative and addictive and it had Kristen Chenoweth and Gillian Anderson in it to boot.  Almost absurdly inventive and staggeringly beautiful, American Gods represents all of Bryan Fuller’s wilder instincts writ large by the pen of Ian McShane, and you just can’t argue with that.

6. Riverdale

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Cheryl’s liquid lipstick game is forever curing my eczema and causing my crops to flourish.

Fuck, what is there to say about Riverdale that I haven’t already struggled to convey in the thousands of words I’ve already written about it this year? A Gossip-Girl-Giallo, TV’s weirdest show opened it’s arms and pulled me in close and has been whispering threats in my ear ever since and now I’m too scared to leave. I love it. I hate it. I can’t wait for it to come back from the midseason break.

5. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Of course this is on my fuckin’ list. Have you seen this show?! Samantha Bee says “cunt” almost as much as I do, and for that alone I’ll love her for life. Of all the late-night political shows, this is the one that continues to feel the most genuinely anarchic and boundary-pushing, plus I will never stop lusting after Samantha Bee’s extensive and erotic blazer connection.

4. Big Little Lies

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Look, there’s not many shows that fucked me up worse this year than Big Little Lies, and that alone means you should watch it. A nuanced and devastating look at domestic abuse, rape, survival, motherhood, and womanhood, the indescribable power of watching a cast of incredible actresses at the top of their respective games (Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley) helps over come a couple of bumps in the road and earns Big Little Lies it’s place on everyone’s top ten list. Or at least it should.

3. Bojack Horseman

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Are you ready for the depressive episode of a lifetime? No? Okay, then avoid this season of Bojack Horseman – TV’s bleakest comedy returned with an exposed nerve of a series, with the show tracing the history of Bojack’s dementia-ridden mother in an impossibly painful few episodes that effectively explore the attempts in every family to smooth down the rough edges of the bad things we’ve done. As well as featuring some of the most laugh-out-loud moments of the year, season four of That Animated Sad Horse Show will ruin your life and leave you begging for more.

2. Search Party

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Fuck, why is no-one watching Search Party?! The first season was great enough, but the second – finishing just a few weeks ago – was a dazzling achievement in writing, direction, performance, and storytelling. Swinging between screechingly funny and nauseatingly out-of-control, Alia Shawkat dominates in a woozy, wacky, endlessly watchable performance to front out a phenomenal cast of characters and performers. Fucking…just watch it. Please. I need people to talk to this show about, and you won’t regret it.

  1. Alias Grace

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Full disclosure: I’ve tried to get through The Handmaid’s Tale, the other Margaret Atwood adaptation that was out this year, a bunch of times but I keep on having to turn it off because I just can’t handle it at the moment. But I still had a craving for some prestige Atwood on my TV, and thus entered Alias Grace. A six-part miniseries, there’s not one part of this show that isn’t perfect: Sarah Gadon’s guarded but somehow raw lead performance as the titular Grace, the carefully-constructed story that peels itself apart around the edges as the show barrels towards it’s inevitable conclusion, the period detail, the character work, the investigation into historical misogyny, the prescience of the central themes of depowerement and violence against women. Alias Grace is a hard watch but an explosively and constantly rewarding one, and for that alone, it’s my best show of the year.

So, that’s us for 2017. Thank you so much for reading the Guignol this year, and I really hope you’ll return again soon – if you want to support me in the coming year, you can do so from as little as a couple of bucks a month on Patreon (and get access to an exclusive set of TV recaps to boot!) or check out my recently-launched film site, No But Listen. Many happy returns, and I wish you all the best for an amazing 2018!

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