There was seemingly no end to the amount of incredible storytelling on TV this year. To pare a simple list down to just 10 is a herculean task.
For a full explanation of our selections, you can read additional thoughts at our best-of post. What you’ll see here on the following pages are excerpts from our reviews for each show. Buckle up and let us take you through the greatest of what 2017 had to offer.
“The true wonder of this series comes from the ideas that these jokes, when carefully stacked on top of each other, build out a fully realized high school environment that serves as a high school chronicle. There’s just as much intrigue and interpersonal tension here as in any other school-set TV dramas that don’t involve archival footage or talking head interviews…By the end, the humor comes from how much the audience has invested in these characters as people rather than the butts of a format. With the liberty to guide the story in whatever direction they choose, ‘American Vandal’ gets the best of both worlds.” — Steve Greene
“Without giving away any of the finely placed details, Ansari excels as a tortured soul, while Dev subverts stereotypes about the onscreen allure of tall, dark (read: white), and handsome romantic leads by building one of the most honest, moving, and unpredictable love stories in recent memory. He and his partner burn down the screen with their chemistry and do so without falling back on steamy sex scenes or pandering to the audience. They build heat the old fashioned way, and it feels as authentic to reality as it does to the honored genre.
Like the art house cinema it pays homage to throughout, ‘Master of None’ isn’t here to propagate myths. It’s striving to find truth. And what’s uncovered in Season 2 is a lot like the life Ansari and Yang expertly recreate: surprising, enriching, and oh so divine.” — Ben Travers
“And all of that is in service to what makes the series so genuinely interesting, especially in the wake of all the ‘Law & Order’-esque narratives we’ve been marinated in all these years. Because it’s honestly weird how ‘Better Call Saul,’ a show based on the premise of a halfway decent lawyer becoming a completely corrupt crook, is one of the most ethically engaged shows on television.
This is not really to the credit of Jimmy, let’s be clear, but rather the lawyers who surround him, and the emphasis on the law’s less sexy attributes. ‘Better Call Saul’ isn’t afraid of the criminal underbelly of Albuquerque, but it also still seems to believe that the law can truly serve those who need it.” — Liz Shannon Miller
“But for as much as ‘Halt and Catch Fire‘ invites you to live with these people and be content doing so, the use of time demands acknowledgement of the end. Whether it’s the always looming black figure of death or merely the final episode of the series, an end is approaching, and ‘Halt’ knows it. The time jumps make it clear the creators are aware they’re short on time, and they want to get to the good stuff; the heart of the matter.” — BT
“By tracking characters confident enough to challenge the status quo but young enough to adapt when challenged, the series never feels self-righteous. Moreover, Simien’s focus on the party as a game-changing event for everyone on campus grounds the characters’ responses in immediacy: They have to act now, and they do. They all do, which gives ‘Dear White People’ an inclusive voice even as it shouts harsh truths. Given the rise in nationwide protests and societal discourse, the series may be even more timely than the film.
Simien shows great situational awareness within his new serialized format. By thoroughly defining his characters, the show’s messages come across without alienating anyone he hopes to address. As quick to back up its arguments as it is to acknowledge differing opinions, ‘Dear White People’ always feels like a personal story first and intelligent satire second.” — BT
“No one’s ever really OK on ‘BoJack Horseman.’ The people who say they are are lying, and the people who know they’re not are constantly grappling with that knowledge. But Season 4 features less lying, more people trying to push through to a better state of being, and discovering that maybe sometimes, when you least expect it, there’s real hope of finding that happier place — maybe even finding it in other people.” — LSM
“Not that you have to tell women anything about terror. ‘The Handmaid’s Tale‘ is a narrative that’s had a lot of different labels and genres assigned to it, and technically the most applicable one is speculative fiction. But that ultimately doesn’t feel accurate. This is a horror story, except the horror isn’t rooted in fantasy or gore. The human spirit is the victim here — and the word human is used deliberately there, because when we delineate genders, the resulting opportunity to ‘other’ that which is not in power is what creates the monster.
Because here is something important to understand: So many women are always a little bit scared. It’s not always the first thing on our minds, this fear, but thanks to society, especially right now, we can’t escape it. It’s not just walking alone in the dark with our keys laced through our fingers, preparing for attacks. It’s reading the news every day, crying for women who can’t get the health care they need, or discovering that their sexual harassment claims have no impact on the conglomerate which seeks to protect their on-camera talent, or any of the hundred other ways society tries to put us ‘in our place.'” — LSM
“‘Twin Peaks‘ is a show that’s hard to explain in any direct fashion; often it lends itself more easily to metaphor. Let’s try this one: Imagine the pieces of a puzzle, scattered across a tabletop. You pick up each piece, and you understand what’s on it: a tree, a flower, a cloud. You start to assemble it — and you like puzzles, so you’re having a good time. But then you come across a piece with a microchip on it. Another piece with a quote from the Bhagavad Gita. A piece that doesn’t have any parts that interlock with others…The pieces of this puzzle inspire rapture. But when you try to assemble them, what kind of picture do you create?” — LSM
“To say Sam Fox doesn’t take any shit isn’t entirely true; she’ll do anything for her daughters, but she never loses her identity. There’s a level of maturity within Sam that’s replicated by the series. To identify with her is to accept her contradictions; a melancholic episode illustrating her motherly adoration for her kids might be followed up by an episode where she flees the house without explaining where she’s going, shouting back at her daughters, ‘I don’t care. You guys can move out and get an apartment together [for all I care].'” — BT
“In ‘The Leftovers,’ happiness is probably too high a bar; those who accept that everything can’t be explained can only hope to be OK. They’re haunted by the mystery of death, and ‘The Leftovers’ is a show willing to let that mystery be, longer and with more awareness than any other show would dare to do.
Season 3 does, in its own way, answer the unanswerable question: It’s the time we have here, the aspects of life we can control, that need attention…Pretending it’s OK isn’t the same as being OK, and people aren’t always willing to venture outside their bubbles of belief.
‘The Leftovers’ is here to blow up that bubble, and the people are finally ready. They’re ready not for the end, but for the moment we’re living in right now. The world has caught up to ‘The Leftovers.’ And it’s time to fucking explode.” — BT