In 2017, Netflix invested $6 billion in original content, and — shockingly — not all of that went toward new shows. Glancing over the first seasons from the streaming giant alone would make for a formidable list of quality binges, including “Mindhunter,” “Alias Grace,” and “Godless.”
But none of those made IndieWire’s list of this year’s best new series. And 2017’s top freshman series also didn’t come from Netflix.
Ranking the best new shows of 2017 is no easy task, even when eliminating several options on technicalities. “Twin Peaks,” for instance, may be considered a limited series, but it’s really just the third season of David Lynch’s masterwork — not new. Similarly, revivals like “Will & Grace” aren’t eligible, even if reboots are. (One made the cut.) Finally, unscripted shows (or hybrids) aren’t eligible for IndieWire’s list, either, as much as we love “Nathan For You.”
Below, here are the just-formed shows that you need to be watching. Twenty may sound like a lot, but at least you’re catching these shows at their very beginning, when a quick binge can still bring you up to speed. Enjoy your holiday homework.
20. “Star Trek: Discovery”
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Rather than playing it safe, the producers of this new take on “Star Trek” took bold steps to create a mix of serialized storytelling and standalone narratives. We remain fascinated by those choices, as well as the stellar cast and unique characters. It’s not the “Trek” we knew before, but it’s still classic.
19. “The Sinner”
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USA’s surprisingly addictive summer whodunnit couldn’t have come at a better time. Primed by “Twin Peaks” and “Game of Thrones,” viewers were more than ready to dig into the strange world of Cora’s (Jessica Biel) psyche and spin wildly elaborate and twisted theories about why she would suddenly, without premeditation, stab a total stranger to death. Beautifully rendered and anchored by a poignantly distraught Biel and Bill Pullman as her troubled ally, the show had a weight and heft that belied its summer programming slot. It was a look into what ways trauma can affect the present, and how some things — such as a simple song – can dredge up the past.
There aren’t many shows on TV with the goofy abandon and honest bonds of friendship running through it like in “Detroiters.” As close compatriots running their own ad agency in Detroit, Tim Robinson and Sam Richardson bring a loose, refreshing vibe to the world of local marketing, especially when their characters do anything but make commercials. There’s an unpredictability to the specific kind of zaniness of their ads that only their city and their friendship can truly bring to life. Robinson and Richardson are unapologetic in their commitment to playing Tim and Sam, which makes the work they do all the more enjoyable to watch.
17. “American Gods”
The chances taken by showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green were truly audacious, and we’re sad that Season 2 won’t be run by them. However, the framework for some truly crazy television was established by these first eight episodes, as we witnessed the birth of a television show which wasn’t afraid to question the concept of faith, especially in a modern context. What do you truly believe is never an easy question to answer, but watching the characters of “American Gods” confront it proved to be fascinating TV.
16. “She’s Gotta Have It”
Spike Lee may think he made a “long film” with the first season of “She’s Gotta Have It,” but he actually made one helluva TV show. Employing a slew of female writers as well as co-showrunner Tonya Lee Lewis to help extend the story of Nola Darling beyond Lee’s 1986 film, there are beautiful episodic arcs throughout the challenging and lovingly captured first season. The premiere episode functions as an authoritative introduction — or a pilot, if Lee would let himself speak in TV terms — while later episodes circle around Nola’s “little black dress,” what she does when locked out of her apartment, and a climactic Thanksgiving Day dinner. Lee has started a series that appears built to last, and that’s the nice thing about TV: It can.
15. “One Day at a Time”
Sorry, “Fuller House,” but if you want to see how a reboot of a beloved family sitcom should be done, this is it… this is it! (Sing along, everybody.) While our faith in Norman Lear has never wavered, this solidified our view that he has an unerring instinct for making important and relevant television. For this reboot of the 1970s and ‘80s comedy, he handed the reins to Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce, who reimagined the classic sitcom with a Cuban-American family. While the show tackles important issues of the day such as immigration, PTSD, and a youth coming-out story, what makes this really work is the amount of sincerity and heart at its core. It’s feel-good TV at its best because it does actually make viewers feel, and that’s not an easy task these days as viewers are bombarded to the point of desensitization.
14. “The Bold Type”
Finally: Justice for millennials! This Freeform comedy set in the offices of Scarlet women’s magazine – basically Cosmo or Teen Vogue (RIP) – is the answer to an older generation that laments what will become of the world in the hands of today’s youth. Don’t worry — “The Bold Type” demonstrates how today’s young workforce can be ambitious, hard-working, tenacious, and incredibly engaged with social issues. But best of all, the show is optimistic in a way that actually makes viewers feel light and hopeful. We didn’t know we needed “The Bold Type,” but we are so happy Freeform brought us this fun and funny show with such a strong and confident voice.
Frankie Shaw’s series about single-mom misadventures in the greater Boston area is far more than a comedy of keeping it together. On an episode-by-episode basis, Shaw and an impressive collection of directors/writers have turned Bridgette’s story into an ambitious lens through which to view female empowerment and a specific kind of independence. In the span of a single season, it’s gone from solid, humble origins to a show that will toss in a spot-on “Run Lola Run” tribute just a month into its run. The show has a phenomenal cast that’s already beginning to gel, including Connie Britton, Samara Weaving, Miguel Gomez, and a never-better Rosie O’Donnell. The season finale airs on New’s Year Eve, so squeeze in this first batch of episodes while you can.
12. “I Love Dick”
Idiosyncratic, aloof, yet deeply intimate, the Jill Soloway- and Sarah Gubbins-created half-hour Amazon series defied so many definitions while also keeping us hooked by the eclectic characters residing in Marfa, Texas. A story about making art is hard to execute in the context of art itself, yet somehow this series achieved that.
Put simply, “Legion” is a stunner. But there’s nothing simple about “Legion.” Yes, Noah Hawley’s serialized follow-up to “Fargo” is gorgeous and colorful, but it’s also intricately plotted with a narrative that zigs and zags all over the map. It’s kind of astounding to believe Hawley could hold it all together, but Season 1 features a number of riveting reveals, intimate connections, and well-timed teases that make it an absolute treat to devour. Come for the crazy dance sequences, stay for the black-and-white silent movie sequence. Wait. No. Come for all of that. Stay for what we can’t talk about.