The Best TV Shows of 2017
Like The Hobbit movie series or that Don McLean song, 2017 just never seemed like it would end. Luckily, we had, like, a million TV shows to get us through to 2018, where we've been greeted by... a lot more shows to watch. But before I can truly put the year into cold storage like those naked, decommissioned robots on Westworld, I'm giving this compendium of every 2017 TV show worth watching one last update.
And so my quest to identify the stand-out shows and miniseries of 2017 as they came along has reached its end. (Note: I considered only scripted episodic programs that made their American debuts or began new seasons during the calendar year.) To find out which shows made the cut, and to see a photo of Tom Hardy gazing at a horse, read on.
To catch up on other things you may have missed from 2017, check out our recommedation guides for Best Movies, Best Albums, and Best Memes. And when you're ready to embrace this year's binge-worthy shows, head to The Best TV Shows of 2018 (So Far).
55. Manhunt: Unabomber (Discovery)Miniseries. 8 episodes.
It plays loose with the facts of the FBI Unabomber investigation and it won't teach you how to remember to spell Ted Kaczynski. But sometimes you just can't stop yourself from bingeing a nicely paced true-crime dramatization with unlikely actors in the crucial roles, like we have here with Avatar's Sam Worthington (as a dogged FBI agent who uses linguistics to track down the Unabomber), Avengers: Age of Ultron's Paul Bettany (as the hermetic, manifesto-writing mad bomber), and Party Down's Jane Lynch (as Janet Reno!).
54. Future Man (Hulu)Season 1. 13 episodes.
In this stoner action comedy executive produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Josh Hutcherson is a janitor at a research facility who is really good at a video game called Biotic Wars that is impossible to beat. When he eventually beats it, the game turns out to be a recruitment tool for the very real interplanetary battle depicted in the game, and he travels through time to prevent the event that set off the war. It also involves a lot of herpes jokes, so don't think it's a noble mission or anything.
53. Crashing (HBO)Season 1. 8 episodes.
Comedian Pete Holmes revisits his years coming up in the stand-up scene, and a moderate amount of wholesome hilarity ensues. Flash is added by the established comics (Artie Lange, T.J. Miller, Sarah Silverman, and others) who counsel the lovelorn naif as he pursues his dream, but it's the star's John Ritter-esque appeal that elevates Crashing above its navel-gazing premise.
52. The Sinner (USA Network)Limited series. 8 episodes.
This USA Network limited series is a well-wrought Hitchcockian whodunit that also kicks off the Bielaissance, thanks to the revelatory performance by Jessica Biel as a woman who stabs a stranger to death at the beach, seemingly for no reason.
51. Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)Season 5. 13 episodes.
The season plays out over the course of a single day at Litchfield. Prison riot! There's no 24-style on-screen beep-beep-beep countdown clock or anything, but the gimmick works here, allowing storylines that, if handled in a single episode of a larger arc, may have felt rushed or tangential.
50. Legion (FX)Season 1. 8 episodes.
Based solely on effects-wizardry and non-linear storytelling, Noah Hawley's eight-episode series, about an institutionalized, bed-headed Marvel Comics character (played by Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens) fighting to control the powerful personalities in his brain, is right up near the top. But I've psy-knocked Legion down a few dozen notches for being overly stylized and maddeningly withholding.
49. Master of None (Netflix)Season 2. 10 episodes.
The food-obsessed Dev finally returns, and brings an homage to Vittorio De Sica, a second tour through New York restaurant scene, and a kickin' soundtrack along with him. These ten episodes -- including "Thanksgiving," the dazzling, Emmy Award-winning episode focusing on costar Lena Waithe's Denise (pictured above) -- will go by quickly, so make sure to stop and savor the Jabbawockeez.
48. Godless (Netflix)Season 1. 7 episodes.
In this Western, Jeff Daniels stars as an hombre with one arm and a bad attitude who menaces a town governed nearly entirely by women due to a tragedy at the local mine. I reckon Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery, as a no-nonsense widow, is also along for the ride, so kick them spurs and hock your chaw into the spittoon, and get to streaming, ya hear?
47. Black Mirror (Netflix)Season 4. 6 episodes.
The feature-length Star Trek holodeck homage is a must-see.
46. Broadchurch (BBC America)Season 3. 8 episodes.
David Tennant and Olivia Colman are back for a final time as beleaguered detectives sleuthing murders and dealing with their generally miserable personal lives in the fictional seaside British town with a perilous cliff.
44. Fargo (FX)Season 3. 10 episodes.
While not ultimately as fulfilling as the first two installments of FX's loosely connected anthology, the third season stars Ewan McGregor as not one but two different characters (petty, squabbling brothers). That alone should make it essential viewing, but he's joined by The Leftovers' Carrie Coon, 10 Cloverfield Lane's Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and a half-dozen other scene-chewers bringing their A-games.
43. The Missing (Starz)Season 2. 8 episodes.
Picking up from its addictive, if flawed, first season, this BBC and Starz co-production tracks a more convoluted and sinister case this time around. Back once again is retired French detective Julien Baptiste (played by Tchéky Karyo), whose obsessive need to close an unsolved missing-persons case is rekindled by a new development in an 11-year-old abduction at a British military base in Germany.
42. The Same Sky (Netflix)Season 1. 6 episodes.
This diverting German spy drama set during the Cold War is like The Americans meets Deutschland 83.
41. Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)Miniseries. 8 episodes.
Ryan Murphy expands his TV empire with this nostalgic limited series about the very public ego-battle between the aging Hollywood divas Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) circa the making of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? The premise would seem to ensure lower-stakes camp, but the series explores something more meta and still very relevant today: the challenge established actresses face in reinventing themselves and landing marquee roles as they get older. Pour yourself a martini and binge away.
40. The Crown (Netflix)Season 2. 10 episodes.
More fun with Claire Foy's exquisite Queen Elizabeth II and her merry band of British royals. The stately action picks up roughly where it left off, circa the Suez Canal Crisis, and keeps calm and carries on for another decade or so, welcoming some notable visitors from Camelot across the sea along the way.
39. Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All-Access)Season 1. 15 episodes.
More like the recent Star Trek movies than the previous television entries in the franchise, this energetic attempt takes place roughly a decade prior to the events depicted in the original series and focuses primarily on the Federation's war with the Klingons.
38. Search Party (TBS)Season 2. 10 episodes.
The theme song of this mystery series will be etched in your head for another year.
37. Big Little Lies (HBO)Miniseries. 7 episodes.
This mystery, starring Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley, won big at this year's Emmy Awards as a miniseries, even though it has now been renewed for a second season. It's prestige TV as filtered through the lens of prolific network producer David E. Kelley (The Practice), but the performances by the aforementioned power trio, along with the envy-inducing houses their characters live in, more than acquit this adaptation of the 2014 best-selling novel.
36. Baskets (FX)Season 2. 10 episodes.
What's Zach Galifianakis' misanthropic man-child up to in Season 2? He's still rolling with Mama Baskets, tormenting brother Dale, and hanging with Costco rep Martha, of course, but this isn't your father's Chip Baskets. This time around, the failed rodeo clown's all grown up -- well, if you consider that he still lives with his mom, throws tantrums, and needs to bum rides off people.
35. Sneaky Pete (Amazon)Season 1. 10 episodes.
Don't let the name turn you off. The ample charms of Sneaky Pete -- which focuses on a long con devised by a newly paroled career swindler (played by Giovanni Ribisi) -- materialize when you view it as a companion piece to Justified (Graham Yost serves as showrunner) and Breaking Bad (co-creator Bryan Cranston plays a scene-stealing villain).
34. Broad City (Comedy Central)Season 4. 10 episodes.
After a subpar Season 3, Abbi and Ilana return to high-end high jinks, including a mostly animated episode where they take mushrooms.
33. The Americans (FX)Season 5. 13 episodes.
The fifth-season premiere ends with a long, mostly silent sequence involving digging. Lots and lots of digging. It's a lot more intense than it sounds, which is also a good way to sum up this Russian-spies-in-Reagan-era-America drama in general and the latest season in specific.
32. Call My Agent (Netflix)Season 2. 6 episodes.
This delightful French farce is set at a small Hollywood-style agency in Paris and features cameos by French film stars like Juliette Binoche.
31. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)Season 1. 8 episodes.
Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls), this dramedy is about a young married Jewish woman (the delightful Rachel Brosnahan) who becomes a successful stand-up comedian in 1950s New York City. One of her jokes isn't "Take my husband... please!" but given what a stinker he is, it might as well have been.
30. GLOW (Netflix)Season 1. 10 episodes.
Are you ready for some football!? Then don't watch GLOW, a campy Netflix original that casts a fictional eye on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, an actual and marginally successful curiosity from the Reagan and Bush eras. Season 1 tackles (pun intended!) the mid-'80s formation of the low-budget endeavor and, like many light comedies from that period, pumps up its genial low-stakes plot points with big hair (most notably on the frenemies played by Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin), pop jams (e.g., "The Warrior"), and a sarcastic ringleader (played by Marc Maron) with a heart of gold.
29. Ozark (Netflix)Season 1. 10 episodes.
If Breaking Bad and Justified had a baby that was adopted and raised by Bloodline, you'd get something not unlike this dark drama about a Chicago family whose unwitting connection to a drug cartel forces them to relocate to BFE, Missouri. Jason Bateman plays a quick-thinking financial planner who talks his way out of his certain death by promising huge returns from an Ozarks venture he hasn't thought through.
27. Top of the Lake: China Girl (SundanceTV)Season 2. 6 episodes.
Set a few months after the emotionally draining events of Season 1, this continuation tracks lone-wolf detective Robin (Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss), now back in Sydney, as she attempts to solve another case involving predatory men. The investigation -- complicated by turmoil in her personal life and the awkward, less seasoned policewoman she's paired with (played by Game of Thrones' Gwendoline Christie, behaving nothing like Brienne here) -- feels more contrived and predictable than the 2013 installment. But solid, surprising performances by Moss, Christie and Nicole Kidman, as an supremely overbearing mother, twist the relentlessly downbeat proceedings into a must-see.
26. Insecure (HBO)Season 2. 10 episodes.
A second round of salacious L.A.-single-gal shenanigans, starring Issa Rae.
25. Line of Duty (BBC)Season 4. 6 episodes.
This British series, exclusive to Hulu in the U.S., is a police-drama-binge-watcher's best mate, especially with this season's addition of Thandie Newton, as a detective whose rabid pursuit of a serial killer raises AC-12 alarms.
24. Younger (TV Land)Season 4. 12 episodes.
If a new episode of Younger -- the ongoing saga of a 40-something divorceé who fibs about her age to land a job in the publishing industry -- were on every single night of the year, life would be much better.
23. Great News (NBC)Season 1 & 2. 23 episodes.
It's fitting that one of the funniest network comedies to arrive since 30 Rock left the air is executive-produced by Tina Fey. Great News, which stars Briga Heelan as a Liz Lemon-esque producer dealing with the buffoons and egomaniacs working at a cable news show, offers up actual belly laughs over its two seasons, thanks to next-level work by John Michael Higgins as a blustery anchor who'd make Ted Baxter look humble.
22. Wormwood (Netflix)Miniseries. 6 episodes.
Errol Morris' docuseries mixes re-enactments starring Peter Sarsgaard and Bob Balaban with interviews with people to tell the story of the cover-up of the death of a CIA agent who was given LSD and subsequently fell or jumped from a high rise in New York City.
21. The Young Pope (HBO)Miniseries. 10 episodes.
If you're virtuous enough to stick with this Jude Law popemobile as it toots through its supremely strange early episodes, you'll be a convert after the masterful ninth, which focuses on the Vatican's investigation of the Archbishop of New York. The affecting, ambiguous finale further redeems a series that began as a merciless meme, obscured crucial plot points with quirky flourishes (e.g., the pet kangaroo and the Greenland episode), and seemed hell-bent on fetishizing Law's pontiff as a cigarette-smoking, shades-wearing maverick. So is The Young Pope good or is it nonsense? As Lenny, aka Pope Pius XIII, himself might say, it doesn't matter.
19. BoJack Horseman (Netflix)Season 4. 10 episodes.
Somehow, the animated travails of a depressive and chronically sarcastic equine actor (voiced by Will Arnett) and his stable (sorry) of both human and talking-animal pals has built into one of the most affecting, inventive shows coming out of that town they call Hollywoo.
18. Dark (Netflix)Season 1. 10 episodes.
This German show developed by Netflix is like The X-Files meets Stranger Things. Make sure you watch in German with the subtitles on, or you'll be subjected to some seriously bad English-language dubbing.
17. The Deuce (HBO)Season 1. 8 episodes.
If you loved The Wire, you will like this show. I loved The Wire.
16. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)Season 9. 10 episodes.
It's no mystery what this long-awaited season is about: Larry David's many, many neuroses and opinions vis a vis his daily interaction with other humans.
15. Dear White People (Netflix)Season 1. 10 episodes.
Prediction: you will blow through Justin Simien's legitimately funny and knowingly woke adaptation of his 2014 movie about social politics at a predominantly white college in a single sitting.
14. Taboo (FX)Season 1. 8 episodes.
Bona fide movie star Tom Hardy stops by FX to play James Delaney, a top-hat-wearing shipwreck survivor who's determined to thwart the many Londoners seeking to steal his inheritance circa 1814. The actor's relentlessly intense performance elevates a show that intertwines maritime trade, the War of 1812, and incest into a cracking yarn. Binge it immediately -- the top-hat industry demands it.
13. Peaky Blinders (Netflix)Season 4. 6 episodes.
Say it with me, Peaky Blinders fans (Peaksters? Peaky Keens?): Peaky Fookin' Blinders. Not much is different in Season 4, but the body count quickly piles up, thanks to the revenge-seeking mafioso played by Adrien Brody.
12. Billions (Showtime)Season 2. 12 episodes.
Who is the hunter and who is the hunted? Paul Giamatti's U.S. Attorney and Damian Lewis's cocky hedge-fund guru have spent two intense seasons answering that important question, and we still don't have the definitive answer. But we do have some amazing shots of them eating, as well as a legitimately complex and surprisingly quirky examination of obsession and avarice.
11. Game of Thrones (HBO)Season 7. 7 episodes.
As GoT fans know, the night is dark and full of terrors, and that's entirely because this epic adaptation of George R.R. Martin's fantasy series about the never-ending jockeying for an incredibly uncomfortable seat made out of swords, is winding down. No amount of theorizing or shipping is going to change the fact that the show isn't returning for its final season until 2019.
10. American Vandal (Netflix)Season 1. 8 episodes.
"Who drew the dicks?" is the very important question at the center of this true-crime parody series told in the style of Making a Murderer and Serial. The docu-drama is executed so well that you might forget it's not about someone claiming to be wrongfully accused of killing someone but instead it's about a SoCal high-school stoner goofball (played by Jimmy Tatro) claiming to be wrongfully accused of spray-painting phalluses on teachers' vehicles. Season 2 can't arrive quickly enough.
9. The Good Place (NBC)Season 2. 13 episodes.
Four deceased individuals try to avoid going to Hell for all eternity by gaming the afterlife, with the help of a disgraced immortal played by Ted Danson.
6. Better Call Saul (AMC)Season 3. 10 episodes.
The action's inching ever closer toward the events depicted in Breaking Bad's first season, what with the arrival of Gus Fring into Jimmy McGill's life this season. But Better Call Saul is so much more than a mere spin-off. Few shows depict sibling rivalry as affectingly, and each new interaction between Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) and the man also known as Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) is sadder than the last.
5. Difficult People (Hulu)Season 3. 10 episodes.
The bitchiest comedy on TV right now, and possibly ever, Difficult People -- created by Julie Klausner and starring herself and Billy Eichner as pre-fame versions of themselves -- is your best source for prescient one-liners about Kevin Spacey ("His hand shot up faster than Kevin Spacey's fly at the opening of Newsies."), obscure pop-culture references ("What do you think John Landis’ worst contribution to society is: his alleged manslaughter or his son, Max?"), and snort-inducing burns ("Ever since Trump replaced the Department of Health with Jenny McCarthy’s blog, nothing makes sense."). Of course it was canceled. RIP, Difficult People.
4. The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)Season 1. 10 episodes.
This timely adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel -- about an oppressive religious cult that comes to power in America and enslaves fertile women to breed for its sterile elite class -- stars Elisabeth Moss and deservedly won a bajillion Emmys.
3. Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)Season 4. 10 episodes.
I'm consistently shocked when people -- especially friends of certain age who are obsessed with classic gaming and essentially speak about online culture as if it hasn't progressed much from when they were surfing cyberspace via a Netscape browser circa 1996 -- tell me they've never watched Halt and Catch Fire. My reply is always: just watch this show, which follows a group of computer programmers and entrepreneurs from the early 1980s to the '90s and which stars Lee Pace and Mackenzie Davis (who should literally be in everything), because you will not regret it. And you won't.
2. The Leftovers (HBO)HBO. 8 episodes.
If you're the type of person who said they'd never forgive the people responsible for the ending of Lost but you haven't watched The Leftovers yet, please get on that immediately so that you'll finally let Damon Lindelof -- one of the co-writers of that much-reviled 2010 finale who co-created this continually surprising HBO series about the sudden disappearance of 2% of the Earth's population (and who also co-wrote its immensely satisfying series finale) -- off the hook.
1. Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime)Limited event series. 18 episodes.
Mark Frost and David Lynch's beautiful, brain-bending revival of their iconic early '90s series about an investigation into the slaying of teenage girl in a quirky Pacific Northwest town is so far ahead of everything else on this list, it's like Secretariat at the Belmont Stakes. Not that Lynch, who directed every episode and considers Twin Peaks: The Return to be a movie told in 18 parts, is concerned with that. The limited series, like much of the director's work, is designed to challenge your assumptions, and requires you to approach it with an open mind and a tacit acceptance that some questions aren't meant to be answered. That's not to say this is esoteric nonsense. The story, set some 25 years after FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle Maclachlan) gets trapped in the metaphysical prison known as the Black Lodge and replaced in the real world by the aforementioned ne'er-do-well doppelgänger (also played by Maclachlan), bounces deftly between mysterious events happening primarily in three different locations, but it's all built around the real Cooper's bizarre odyssey to return to the real world. Drink full, and descend.
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