We’re just over six months into 2017, and there are only 10 new shows you need to know about. Kidding, of course: There are at least another dozen new additions to the television landscape than the chosen few below, but the IndieWire TV team has narrowed the list down as much as possible. In addition to the multitude of ongoing top-tier TV you’re already beholden to, these 10 demand to be slotted into your queue, no matter how crowded it may already seem. From disguises to dogs to divinity, the best new TV shows of 2017 cover a lot of ground. But they’re all worth your time.
Perhaps we’re just eager to contradict, but Lemony Snicket’s stern warning to avoid his new Netflix series only made partaking it all the more exciting. Three orphaned children with a fortune to their name fall prey to a villainous mastermind, first posing as their new guardian and later donning a variety of disguises to get at their inheritance — by any means necessary. The TV version, shepherded by Snicket mega-fan Barry Sonnenfeld and the original author, Daniel Handler, infuses a lot more fun into fuller interpretations of the novel. An inventive visual landscape makes for Neil Patrick Harris’ ideal creative space, and the Emmy- and Tony-winning actor has never been better. OK, maybe as Hedwig, but he’s so good in this, you’ll forget all about that other Count Olaf. Ignore Snicket. Watch this “Series of Unfortunate Events.”
This is our favorite approach to creating a spin-off: keep the best bits, and add in fun new characters and stories. “The Good Wife” was always a fun legal drama, and “The Good Fight” is very much in line with the qualities which made that show work for seven seasons, with the added bonus of a talented and diverse cast (god, why isn’t Delroy Lindo in everything?), a compelling central narrative and just enough leeway (due to its home on CBS All Access) to get a little salty with its language and content. It’s not revolutionizing the medium, but “The Good Fight” is some of the most solid, watchable television around.
Few series this year have shown as much love for their characters as “GLOW” does, giving every member of its misfit ensemble a chance to stand alone in the center of the ring. Anchored by a trio of terrific lead performances (Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin and Marc Maron), these are characters each looking for their own sense of redemption and fulfillment in this underground women’s wrestling gambit. The show lovingly captures the time period without veering into wacky ’80s clichés and the same goes for the wrestling itself. Ranging from the polished technical flair of the instructors, down to the actual “GLOW” performances, these momentary turns under the muted lights of a converted gym overflow with passion, even when they’re not as refined. There’s a careful focus on the stars, but we’re excited to see plenty more of what this whole team has to offer.
A fittingly wild start to a crazy year in TV (so far), Noah Hawley’s first foray into the superhero extended universe felt far more like a breakthrough than sharing any preexisting space. From dreamworlds to Aubrey Plaza’s dance moves, “Legion” wasn’t afraid to experiment with form, function, and good old fashioned fun. Yet amid the techno babble and visual tomfoolery, a romance blossomed and powers bloomed. Hawley effectively moved us through a challenging first season and set up more stunning shenanigans to come, staying true to his characters before all else. It’s the stuff dreams are made of, on TV and off.
One of the most distinctly unique TV shows we’ve ever seen, this unconventional take on female sexuality and art is a seemingly quick binge that never really leaves you. By aiming to provoke conversation about what it means to be a woman and an artist today, creators Jill Soloway and Sarah Gubbins created something truly distinct and beautiful, completely rewriting the concept of the male gaze and drawing a career-best performance out of the sublime Kathryn Hahn. Arguably the most feminist show of the year (in a year where its competition includes the freaking “Handmaid’s Tale”), “I Love Dick” wasn’t a revelation — it was an inspiration.
What can we say that hasn’t already been summed up beautifully by IndieWire Special Projects Editor Steve Greene’s lovely ode to the now-canceled ABC series? Plenty. Because until some network or streaming service wises up and gets “Downward Dog” back on our TVs, we’re not going to be quiet about the need for this heartwarming show that celebrates one creature’s need for another. Martin is the chatty and navel-gazing pup who is the conduit into his and his human Nan’s (Alison Tolman) world, and every wrongheaded pronouncement, every chagrined mea culpa, every pause or “like” or “you know” is a goddamned goldmine of vulnerability that is required to make real connections and real progress in this world. In this crazy, political, dog-eat-dog climate we find ourselves in, everyone could benefit from listening to Martin and have a good “cry into the wine” time. Binge it. Love it. Fetch it back. We’ll be waiting.
Justin Simien’s expansion of the Winchester University world that began in his film of the same name is just what America needs to stay woke, in all senses of the word. Lively and stylish, the series is a non-stop entertaining romp through higher education, social politics and cultural identity. Each episode becomes more addictive than the last thanks to its engaging cast, creative storytelling and vibrant visual palette. And while the series calls out learned prejudice and hypocrisy, no one is spared scrutiny and questioning — not even its protagonists. And that’s because “Dear White People” isn’t about an agenda against the people the title is addressing, but for anyone who is willing to examine their closely held beliefs, even if it’s about themselves.
Lenny. Lenny, Lenny, Lenny. Lenny the Pope. What an idea. Not only does the name call to mind a certain level of immaturity, but the simple concept of a pope that’s young was just the right combination of easy peasy and mind-bogglingly counterintuitive. Yet the brilliance of Paulo Sorrentino’s limited series (renewed for a mysterious “new” iteration) went far beyond the title and deep into the conflict within a church that refuses to acknowledge its own hypocrisy. As Pope Pius XIII, born Lenny Berardo, wrestled with his internal demons, growing up in front of an ever-diminishing clergy, so too did the discussion of faith driving “The Young Pope” toward wisdom beyond its age. May Lenny live a long, Cherry Coke Zero-fueled and kangaroo-filled life, reigning above us all.
“Big Little Lies” is the most fun we’ve had in a while, watching privileged mothers struggle for power in a gorgeous seaside community whilst an ongoing murder mystery is layered on for extra danger. But beyond the backstabbing, pretty kitchens and playdates is a poignant story of women who have fought for their place in this world despite abuse, failed marriages, and public perception. It’s also some of the best work by Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley to date, not to mention the junior cast who hold their own among these heavyweights. Add to that a soulful soundtrack, and this is the most delicious yet also satisfying limited series we’ve seen in a while. Come for the Elvis and Audrey karaoke; stay for the beautiful heartache.
It’s not enough to simply show a world where hope is fleeting and pain of all kinds are part of a daily routine. There are plenty of other TV dystopias that can (and do) indulge those impulses at every turn. “The Handmaid’s Tale” has become rich and challenging viewing because it investigates so many other viewpoints in this horrifying land of Gilead, both in its current form and back through its inception. The claustrophobic oppression visited on these handmaids comes through in the restriction of their speech, the framing of their faces and the actions they’re forced to endure. As each episode tracks the subtle shifts that transformed our conception of America into this fictional one, it’s a reminder that fundamental changes can happen with armed overthrow, but they can also come by way of small, insidious adjustments meant to pass unnoticed. This is more than transposing the words of a novel onto a television screen. It’s an endurance test designed to make any viewer consider and cherish the privileges of a free society.
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