We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all TV shows are not created equal, that the very best are endowed by their creators with intricate plotlines and kick-ass characters, that among these are time-traveling novelists, couch-surfing comedians, and Tom Hardy's top hat. But with so much TV clamoring for attention these days, how can anyone find the very best?
Read on -- this obsessively curated list is designed to help you establish your binge-watching priorities. Just like last year, we'll be updating and ranking the shows and miniseries we greatly enjoyed so that you'll always have something to watch next. To be eligible, a series needs to be two things: 1) an episodic program that debuted or began a new season in 2017, and 2) awesome.
⇡ 12. Time After Time (ABC)
This sci-fi lark only just started and already my life has been changed forever -- much as the series, from writer Kevin Williamson (Scream, Dawson's Creek, The Vampire Diaries), has irrevocably re-imagined the fates of pretty-boy scribe H.G. Wells and his murderous frenemy Jack the Ripper by transporting their pale, Victorian hineys to 2017. It's Castle meets the lost-classic Voyagers! -- a reference you may need a time machine to get.
⇡ 11. Frontier (Netflix)
A six-episode showcase for the charismatic brutality only Jason Momoa can muster, Frontier is a rollicking Netflix and Discovery Channel Canada co-production about the (literally) cutthroat 18th-century North American fur trade. The adventure series isn't as ambitious or engaging as Momoa's star-making Game of Thrones, but if you squint hard enough at the right moments you'll swear that it's Khal Drogo himself.
⇡ 10. Legion (FX)
Were this ranking based solely on effects-wizardry and non-linear storytelling, Noah Hawley's eight-episode series about a powerful Marvel Comics character (played by Dan Stevens) would be right up top. If only the show weren't so damn confusing! There'd better be a big-budget, big-reveal payoff that actually makes sense soon, or Legion's getting psy-banished to that netherworld occupied by so many other disappointing shows with unreliable narrators.
⇡ 9. Sneaky Pete (Amazon Prime)
Perhaps the name turned you off. Maybe it was the idea of spending hours watching "that guy" actor Giovanni Ribisi play the titular con man. We get that. But Sneaky Pete's subtle charms materialize if you view it as a companion piece to Justified (Graham Yost serves as showrunner and Margo Martindale plays the wise matriarch of a rural bail-bonds business) and Breaking Bad (Bryan Cranston serves as executive producer and recurs as a Heisenberg-y gangster).
New ➤ 8. Big Little Lies (HBO)
This mystery miniseries starring Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley is prestige drama filtered through the lens of prolific network producer David E. Kelley (The Practice).
⇡ 7. Baskets (FX)
Fed up with all things Bakersfield, Zach Galifianakis' misanthropic man-child hopped a train, hobo-style, in the first-season cliffhanger. Whither the failed rodeo clown in Season 2? Back in Bakersfield, of course, and still rolling with Mama (Louie Anderson), brother Dale, and Costco rep Martha. But this isn't your father's Chip Baskets: He's all grown up -- well, if you consider that he still lives with his mom, throws tantrums, and needs to bum rides off people.
⇡ 6. The Young Pope (HBO)
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.
5. Crashing (HBO)
The comedian Pete Holmes revisits his years coming up in the stand-up scene and semi-hilarity ensues. Flash is added by the established comedians he encounters in his pursuit of his dream (Artie Lange and T.J. Miller have turned up to add yuks so far), but it's the mundane travails the earnest suburbanite-turned-New Yorker endures -- as well as Holmes' John Ritter-esque charm -- that give Crashing a surprising amount of heart.
⇡ 4. The Missing (Starz)
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. Save up the eight episodes of Season 2 until they've all aired and then watch them in one fell swoop -- it's like a mystery novel you can't put down.
New ➤ 3. The Americans (FX)
The season-five premiere ended with a long, silent sequence involving digging. Lots and lots of digging. It was a lot more intense than it sounds.
⇣ 2. Feud: Bette and Joan (FX)
The Ryan Murphy renaissance continues with this nostalgic look back at the very public ego-battle between the aging divas Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon). The premise seemed to promise lower-stakes nostalgic camp, but the eight-episode 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.
1. Taboo (FX)
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.
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