1. Star Wars Rebels (Disney XD)
2. Legion (FX)
3. Better Call Saul (AMC)
4. Stranger Things (Netflix)
5. Voltron: Legendary Defender (Netflix)
Honorable Mentions: Game of Thrones (HBO) and Trollhunters (Netflix)
2017 was a crazy year for my TV watching, and I was only able to commit to watching a few shows in their entirety, but I have a long list of partially watched shows that I look forward to digging into (I'm looking at you Godless, Mindhunter, The Punisher, and Black Mirror).
While Star Wars Rebels may not have lived up to the peak later seasons of The Clone Wars early on, it has only gotten better with time, and 2017 has seen a number of amazing episodes, including an appearance from Obi-Wan Kenobi and the perfect final chapter for Darth Maul's story. With season 4 heading into the final half in 2018, expectations couldn't be higher for the show (or the future of Star Wars animation).
While comic book properties, particularly in the X-Men franchise, are finally being brought to the big screen in ways that defy traditional genre conventions with movies like Logan, Legion did the same thing on the small screen. The show was visually stunning, cerebral, and very well written. Some of the most re-watchable TV I've seen recently.
Better Call Saul is clearly doing something different from Breaking Bad but has already established a compelling backstory and sympathetic descent into crime for Saul Goodman, AKA Jimmy McGill. Likewise, Stranger Things 2 is an evolution from what came before in a way that almost puts it into a new genre altogether, but it kept the heart of the first season and made its excellent cast a fixture in pop culture.
Netflix has been doing some excellent work in animation, particularly in its partnership with Dreamworks. Shows like Voltron: Legendary Defender and Trollhunters are great examples of how animation doesn't have to sacrifice quality storytelling or deep lore for a more childish or humorous tone. The shows have something to offer for all ages, looking absolutely amazing in the process.
1. Star Trek: Discovery (CBS)
2. Legion (FX)
3. The Punisher (Netflix)
4. The Good Place (NBC)
5. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW)
Honourable Mention: Doctor Who (BBC)
Was this an incredibly good year for the portrayal of mental illness on television, or do I just not watch enough TV? The answer is, of course, both.
I’ve been a mild Trekkie my whole life, but even I was surprised with how much I loved Star Trek: Discovery. Its highest points were the episodes that could easily have slotted into any other Star Trek series - and I’m looking especially at you, “Magic To Make The Sanest Man Go Mad” - except that they were written with a kind of intelligence that Star Trek has too often lacked.
Meanwhile, Legion’s musical sequences were some of the highlights of the year. My favourite, at the series’ peak, was set to a piece famously written in the grips of madness, and it showed, in the best possible way. The Punisher, too, used music to great effect, but mostly I wanted to talk about how that show has a scene in it that is so violent, even I - a noted lover of violence! - had to turn away from my screen. The Good Place is even better this season than the last, as is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I’m in a good position to know with the latter, because I marathoned the entire series up until its hiatus over about two weeks. It just keeps getting better.
Also, I hope all but one particular person involved with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency gets to work together again someday soon.
1. Mr. Robot (AMC)
2. American Gods (Starz)
3. The Good Place (NBC)
4. The Exorcist (FOX)
5. The Leftovers (HBO)
In a TV landscape so saturated with prestige shows that employ shocking twists in place of narrative, Mr. Robot remains the rarest thing of all: a genuinely unpredictable, challenging, painstakingly constructed story that serves character above all else. But that’s to be expected from Sam Esmail. Also expected was the impossibly wonderful combination of three of my favorite storytellers: Neil Gaiman’s American Gods as adapted by Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Kings) was the perfect response to the nightmarish turn our world has taken.
The biggest surprises of my year were The Good Place - a sharply funny but warm-hearted sitcom that is constantly reinventing itself - and The Exorcist. Who could have predicted that a TV adaptation of a classic horror film would be one of the most sincere, inclusive shows of 2017?
Like American Gods and The Exorcist, The Leftovers’ final season dealt with huge questions about faith, grief, and humanity on an individual level, and was all the more affecting for it. The Leftovers went out as it came in, which makes its aching, tender final episode one of the greatest finales I’ve ever seen.
1. The Leftovers (HBO)
2. Stranger Things (Netflix)
3. Black Mirror (Netflix)
4. The Good Place (NBC)
5. Better Call Saul (AMC)
Honorable Mentions: Bates Motel (A&E), Channel Zero (Syfy)
Between the offerings on broadcast, cable (basic or premium) and streaming, the small screen continues to be an embarrassment of riches for anyone looking to watch memorable characters participate in fascinating stories. Topping my list is the excellent final season of The Leftovers, one of HBO's best dramas to date. Was what Nora told Kevin in the series finale true? Ultimately, it doesn't really matter, as the journey to that ending was nearly flawless. Over on Netflix, while some have argued that Stranger Things season 2 wasn't as good as season 1, I enjoyed it on an equal level, and yes, I even liked "The Lost Sister." Season 3 can't get here soon enough.
Barely squeaking into 2017 was Black Mirror season 4, and thankfully, the latest round of (mostly) dark and twisted episodes from the mind of Charlie Brooker proved to be just as thought provoking and captivating as past batches. Leaving the subscription service realm, The Good Place surprised and delighted me with just how enjoyable it's been to watch, and also how delightfully wicked its ingenious concept of an afterlife has turned out to be. On the more dramatic side of commercial TV, there's Better Call Saul, which I'm increasingly convinced will end up just as transcendentally good as Breaking Bad by the time all is said and done.