The Best TV shows of 2017

By Zac Fallon, John Flannagan, Mathan Gore, Matt Miller and Rusty Odom

15. The Punisher

After a couple of missteps with “Iron Fist” and “The Defenders,” “The Punisher” is a welcome return to form for Marvel’s Netflix universe and arguably is the studio’s best series to date. The series manages to both captivate and frighten throughout its run, and the performance of the entire cast – Jon Bernthal in particular – truly is something to be admired. Shown along Frank Castle’s path of vengeance is the extreme intensity of the pain of loss, a vivid and frightening look at the difficult struggles of post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by combat veterans and the Machiavellian manipulations of idealistic men. Justice and righteousness are not a part of Castle’s motivations, nor do they belong there. There are no superpowers, no outlandish tropes and no grand scheme to rule the world. All of that is stripped away, and in its place is a story of a broken man’s quest to punish the men who took everything away from him. It is exactly what it needs to be and nothing more. – Mathan Gore

 

14. Rick and Morty

After the resounding success of its first two excellent seasons, the wait for season three of “Rick and Morty” was excruciating for its notoriously rabid fan base. But then a surprise season debut, “The Rickshank Rickdemption,” premiered on April Fools’ Day. One of the best episodes of the entire series, it set season three on the course to meet and exceed the high expectations surrounding it, and it ignited a nationwide fervor for a 20-year-old McDonald’s condiment. For a show that thrives on absurdity and unpredictability, it’s almost surprising how brilliantly written each episode continues to be. The show’s wit and cleverness repeatedly present themselves, with pockets of unexpected yet deep emotional resonance strewn throughout. Despite the majority of episodes being essentially standalone, there are subtle signs of a larger picture looming in the background. The “Ricklantis Mixup” brings this larger picture into full view, and it significantly changes the landscape of the entire show. Not only is it the highest rated episode (9.9/10 on IMDb), its weaving storyline illustrates the superb writing of the show at its best, and it highlights the writers’ collective ability to seamlessly and effortlessly transition between multiple plotlines before tying them all together in a logical and captivating way. Each and every episode leaves the audience aching for more, even more than Rick aches for that sweet, sweet Szechuan McNugget sauce. – MG

13. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Amazon has earned a spot on our year-end film and television lists for the last several years running. Yep, Amazon: the same company that probably will create robots that will take over our jobs before killing us all. We’ll probably regret giving them so much burn then, but for now, credit goes to where it is due. One of the cooler things that Amazon does is “Pilot Season,” in which they throw a gaggle of shows up on the Prime platform and let viewers decide what they like. This is where we first were introduced to Midge Maisel (played effortlessly by Rachel Brosnahan). Maisel is a spunky yet traditional Jewish gal looking to live an all-American life in New York in the 1950s. Of course, as is the case with all great comedies, things don’t go as planned. The show presents the character’s attempts at forging a stand-up comedy career, and it is an honest portrayal of the scene at that period of time. There’s plenty of “antiquated thinking” in the series, and its creators did the right thing by ignoring modern-day political correctness that would have seemed forced and unrealistic in the context of the story. Instead, they make a stronger statement by letting the lead walk viewers through why those kinds of ideas don’t work. The cast is wonderful, but Brosnahan breaks a leg every time she’s on the screen, and she is deserving of some hardware come award season. – Rusty Odom

12. Narcos

While the first two seasons focused primarily on Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror and subsequent demise, season three turns its focus to the Calle Cartel. The challenge with shifting gears from Escobar to other cartels: Would the new focus keep viewers engaged as much as the soap opera-like antics of the Escobar storyline? Although the season begins slowly, it actually ends up being more compelling than the previous two seasons, building momentum before culminating in a huge attack scene at the season’s end. While some aspects of the plot seem to rip off familiar gangster films like “Goodfellas” (DEA agent Pena’s narration) or “Scarface” (the general gaudiness), “Narcos” still manages to effectively tell the stories of the big Colombian cocaine cartels, tying in all the inherent violence and heartbreak and continuously shifting its focus to the “next man up” in the Calle Cartel. The show wins in how it ended the Escobar saga instead of dragging it out until he dies in a hail of bullets. By moving on to the next problem, it adheres to how the DEA and future drug cartels in the area would operate in real life. If you’re a fan of the first two seasons, stick with the third, and you will be justly rewarded. – John Flannagan

11. Silicon Valley

In its fourth season on HBO, “Silicon Valley” still is one of the funniest shows on television. The cast has gotten more comfortable with one another. The writing is just as solid as ever, but that’s not why this show is so special. This year, the Hacker Hostel boys took on the seemingly impossible yet incredibly noble task of building a new internet. User operated and powered by the unused computing power of the phones in each of our pockets, the new technology would render traditional servers and ISPs obsolete – and would be dependent on net neutrality. With each passing year, “Silicon Valley” is looking less like a show about computer nerds and more like a show about vigilantes. It’s easy to root for them, and the stakes are the highest they’ve ever been. That makes for some great TV. – Zac Fallon

10. The Deuce

A typical David Simon slow burn, season one of “The Deuce” takes it easy with tons of character development, much like “The Wire” (one of the best series of all time and my personal favorite). Some may complain that his series move too slowly, but they always pay off in the end, and that’s what fans can expect with this, a look into the beginnings of the pornography industry in 1970s New York City. Maggie Gyllenhaal expertly plays the lead protagonist, and James Franco portrays a pair of twins with drastically opposing takes on life. A who’s who of others shares the small screen to perfection, and the series pulls no punches how it presents the brashness of New York street life in that era. – RO

9. GLOW

Alison Brie leads a band of women seeking to break into show business but who settle for a gig as professional wrestlers. Her character, Ruth, is the show’s driving force, but Marc Maron’s Sam Sylvia provides sparkling loser comedy throughout, as well. As they encounter various bumps in the road, the Glorious Ladies of Wrestling begin to take shape, and in the end, it’s hard not to root for all involved, no matter how damaged each individual is. Luckily, Netflix has picked up the show for another season. – RO

8. Snowfall

FX and John Singleton this year debuted a gripping of tale of how crack cocaine was introduced to Los Angeles in the early ‘80s. The story centers on young Franklin, who, in a classic tale of trying to better himself, gets mixed up in the new world of dealing cocaine. While the show, much like “Narcos,” is scattered at times and has its share of issues early on, it eventually rights the ship. The series also focuses on Teddy, a CIA operative moving in the underground world and helping the U.S. combat the spread of communism in Central America. Singleton weaves the stories of Franklin and Teddy throughout the first season, making for fascinating viewing. I really can see “Snowfall” finding its legs in a second season as we watch whatever innocence Franklin and Teddy have left slowly fade away. – JF

7. Curb Your Enthusiasm

After six years of uncertainty, Larry David continues his long, unconventional HBO run with season nine of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” one of the best seasons yet. The show’s strength has always been David’s shameless attack on uncomfortable social customs, and his lack of concern for political correctness is needed now more than ever, as he continues to push the boundaries of modern comedy. This season’s topics are as fresh, unique and relevant as they have ever been in the show’s run. The entire cast continues their streak of improvisational excellency, executing their mostly unscripted scenes with the same energy and wit that made “Curb” the innovative genre leader to begin with. David’s only obligations are to truth and humor, a unique combination presented in ways that can sometimes feel uneasy yet relatable and always hilarious. Even with his boundless ability to provoke and offend, David has become one of pop culture’s most beloved ethicists, a realist without a filter, making him one of the greatest television characters of all time. With season 10 already confirmed, we can’t wait to see with what David has a problem next. – Matt Miller

6. Fargo

With the quality of TV continuing its ascension, casting is the one aspect that seems to be more crucial now than ever before. As writing, directing and cinematography become much more complex and intelligent, it seems as if the acting, the authenticity and the relatability of the characters determine both critical and commercial success. “Fargo” once again delivers with superb casting for another original story, one that is mostly independent from the movie and past seasons of the show. This type of structure is beginning to pick up steam (i.e. “Black Mirror” and “True Detective”), and “Fargo” may be the first to truly master it. Ewan McGregor shines in his dual role as brothers Emmitt and Ray, and Carrie Coon (“The Leftovers”) delivers another critically acclaimed performance. The writing and story structure remain consistent throughout. Although this season may not be quite as loved as the previous two, it still makes for terrific television. “Fargo” received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Miniseries once again, and for good reason, as it delivers a superb story with excellent casting in a truly unique way. – MM

5. The New Edition Story

 

One of the best music-based biopics of all time, “The New Edition Story” covers a lot of ground in three hour-long episodes. The miniseries premiered on BET in January, and it didn’t take long for it to become the toast of young adults raised in the ‘80s. It starts in Boston with a prepubescent Bobby Brown tanking at a talent show but later bragging about it, not knowing that his friends (Ricky Bell and Mike Bivens) were there to see it. After realizing that he can’t make it on his own, he commissions the help of Bell and Bivens, along with a karate-practicing Ralph Tresvant and later, Ronnie DeVoe. As the band forms with the help of manager Brook Payne, they gain some steam. Then the group drops “Candy Girl,” and the roller coaster ride starts. Throughout the series, members come and go, and each storyline takes on a life of its own. It’s beautifully acted by a huge cast, and it’s directed well by Chris Robinson. It’s a must-see if you grew up in the ‘80s or are a fan of New Edition, Bell Biv DeVoe or Bobby Brown. – RO

4. Better Call Saul

While the complaint about “Better Call Saul” is that its pacing is too slow at times, that narrative isn’t necessarily true, as the series carefully crafts the complex back story of Jimmy McGill’s meteoric rise in the law profession. The beautiful part is that viewers see McGill not as the selfish, ambulance-chasing monster from Breaking Bad, but rather a more nuanced character that cares deeply for others. The central theme in season three is goodbyes. While multiple storylines and subplots unfold and interpersonal issues are happening, you see the jockeying for position within the drug operations. Meanwhile, the best character on television, Mike, keeps plugging along seemingly making every right move as he gets deeper and deeper into the shady world of Nacho, Gus and Hector’s empire. No word yet as to whether or not AMC is picking up a new season, but here’s to hoping it does. – JF

3. Nathan for You

 

Nathan Fielder is back from a short hiatus to bring us the latest installment of his namesake show. While the Comedy Central program traditionally has seen Fielder offering unusual ideas to struggling small businesses, “Nathan for You” seems to have grown into something much more significant in its fourth season. Five of the seven brand new episodes expanded and celebrated the formula of interesting plus awkward that made the show great to begin with. The other two, however, brought something new and unexpected. Fielder shows the painstaking lengths and expense he’s willing to go, such as spending over $350,000 to orchestrate a single outlandish scenario just so he’ll have something interesting to say on his appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s show. It reaffirms his reputation as one of the most inventive minds in comedy and in television. Then there is “Finding Frances,” the two-hour season finale in which Fielder helps William, a Bill Gates impersonator, reconnect with a lost love while he himself considers a romantic partner of his own. Digging deeper, a story is uncovered that is far more involved than any fairytale. The season is rock solid from start to finish, but the finale is a masterpiece. It is two hours of must-see comedy. Not just for 2017, mind you, but for the foreseeable future, as well. – ZF

2. Stranger Things 2

As if just to prove there are no sophomore slumps in the Upside Down, season two of “Stranger Things” returned bigger, weirder and with more nosebleeds than the first season dared to include. A cat-eating demodog, a reality-altering teenager and a mind-controlling monster straight from the mind of H.P. Lovecraft highlight the ever-evolving world of “Stranger Things,” suggesting to us that the showrunners are not afraid to throw into the mix the craziest ideas they’ve concocted. Truly the craziest thing about those ideas is that they work – some more so than others, although everything ends up falling into place by the season’s conclusion. Season two is not without its problems, but all are quickly forgiven if for no other reason than the stellar acting of the cast, particularly the masterful performances from David Harbour, Winona Ryder and Millie Bobbie Brown. There’s something for everyone in “Stranger Things 2,” and if nothing else, we all can agree that if you’re not on Team Steve, then you’re not on our side. – MG

1. Ozark

 

2017’s best piece of artistry is “Ozark,” the Jason Bateman-helmed Netflix series that dominated the summer months upon its release. In my estimation, it was better than any of the year’s albums, movies or other TV shows, and it stands as one of the most riveting opening seasons in recent memory. Bateman has long been known as a funnyman, but his portrayal of Marty Byrde proves not only that he can play a straight role, but that he also can direct with the best of them. The show follows Byrde and his family from their comfortable home in Chicago to the Ozarks after his partnership with a drug cartel goes awry. Hoping to find solace in a touristy yet rustic Missouri town, Byrde can’t seem to outrun his problems, instead finding that they are compounding. When one crisis is averted, another presents itself, keeping the Byrde family in a perpetual state of alarm and leaving viewers wringing their hands. The cat-and-mouse game that takes place within the main character’s psyche (and Bateman’s ability to convey his inner demons) is the crowning achievement of the show. It’s the best of the best from 2017, and we can’t wait for season two. – RO

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2017 Movies of the Year

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