At the year’s halfway point, it makes sense to take stock of the amazing TV we’ve seen so far — because oy, what a year it’s been already. To mention house fires, Antonioni homages, magic kangaroos, horrifying dystopias and fake Shonda Rhimes dramas barely scratches the surface of beautiful weirdness we’ve witnessed so far this year. Add “The Leftovers” into the mix and there’s no denying that 2017 has been a really special time for television. Below are IndieWire’s picks for the best shows to air so far, new and returning. Come December, our minds might change about some of this. Especially given that…
Honorable Mention: “Twin Peaks” (Showtime)
We’re not even halfway through David Lynch’s revival season, and it’s already delivered some of the most memorable TV moments of the year. But despite claims the new “Twin Peaks” is somehow more than television, the first eight episodes have shaped an enticing murder mystery, built on past seasons’ storylines, and fit Lynch’s unique artistic visions into “parts” defined within 60-minute timeframes. Each part feels distinct to itself, and if that’s not a TV show, we don’t know what is. So why is it placed just outside the Top 10 (So Far)? It’s snagging an honorable mention solely because it’s not over. When Season 3 wraps, we’ll know if it belongs, but it’s well on its way.
10. “Review” (Comedy Central)
We don’t say this lightly: “Review” is one of the great TV comedies of the decade. With a stunning three-part run to cap off the ongoing, escalating tragedy of live reviewer Forrest MacNeil, the ending of “Review” was as logical as it was shocking. The show managed to fit a longer season’s worth of intricate plotting and deep existential dilemmas into a handful of episodes, not straying too far from the established twists and turns that had previously led Forrest to space, homicide and stints in a coma. Sidekick A.J. Gibbs got a chance to turn the tables, producer Grant got one last opportunity to twist the ultimate knife of TV villainy, and the slow-motion 50-car pileup of Forrest’s life got the farewell it was heading towards all along.
9. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (FX)
It’s time to acknowledge it: For 12 years now, we have been taking the madcap antics of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” for granted. Not only have Charlie, Dee, Dennis and Mac been delighting us consistently each season with their bad behavior, but the creators have never shrunk from the opportunity to challenge themselves. Over the course of Season 12, episodes experimented with new genres like documentary and multi-camera sitcom, while also revisiting the musical format and crafting perhaps modern television’s best “Quantum Leap” joke run. Oh, and it even dared to do something we maybe never thought we’d see “Sunny” attempt — let one of its characters grow up. Season 12 ended with the bold decision to let Dennis leave behind his friends for a new life with a ready-made family, throwing the show into a new and uncertain place (behind the scenes as well). It may be a while before we see another season of “Sunny” — but when we do, better be sure that we won’t take it for granted ever again.
8. “Dear White People” (Netflix)
What made the first season of “Dear White People” so special is the fact that it sought to truly represent multiple points of view, avoiding any sort of dogmatic statement on what it means to be a person of color in America today. The characters at the center of each episode are complex, fully realized individuals with hobbies, hopes, and passions. As the issue of race relations on a liberal arts university campus becomes more and more heated, we remain hooked because each of these people feels so real. Season 2 just got greenlit by Netflix, and we’re oh so excited to see our fictional friends again.
7. “The Young Pope” (HBO)
Creator, director and writer Paolo Sorrentino’s vision for a show about the modern-day papacy could not have been predicted, and therein lies its genius. When the stuffy Roman Catholic Church gets turned inside-out by the angelically handsome yet devilishly unconventional, Cherry Coke Zero-swilling Lenny Belardo, aka Pope Pius XIII (Jude Law in one of his best roles to date), neither we nor the Vatican know what to make of him. (Only the kangaroo seems to understand him, really.) But this is no takedown of the Roman Catholic Church — instead, it’s a thoughtful and playful examination of it. Cheeky and bizarre, but also deadly serious and empathetic, “The Young Pope” is very much an auteur’s vision of what religion means to him. Sorrentino works in mysterious ways, and we mortals are just shadow and dust watching HBO.
6. “Veep” (HBO)
After Season 4, “Veep” had to answer a daunting query: Could the Emmy-winning HBO comedy survive without its creator? Turns out Armando Iannucci’s departure didn’t equate to a dip in quality — far from it. Season 5 thrived. But it, too, ended on a challenge for the next set of episodes: Can a political comedy find success outside of politics?
And what do you know: David Mandel once again rose to the occasion, crafting an exploratory season as unpredictable as it was hilarious. By studying Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) not only outside of the Oval Office but on the outside looking in at the political system overall, Season 6 was a deeply personal and hugely satisfying next chapter of a saga with no end in sight.