2017 has been an insane year. If you are anything like me you have done everything possible to keep yourself distracted from what is happening in the world. I have buried myself in Television. Lots and lots of television. Because of it, I have found myself in conversations with friends about whether or not this is the new “Golden Age of Television”. It is not. If I was to agree with it being the golden age of television, I would be ignoring how much crap series there are. Luckily for us there are some good gems. In a time when we need it most, there are television shows that have stepped up to the plate to put us at ease, to comfort us, to distract us, to move us forward and to inspire us.
Here is our list of 15 greatest TV series of 2017 and some runner ups.
Better Things, FX
Especially in a time with an overabundance of “great” television series it is rare that one stands out far above the rest. Better Things is that show. In each gem of an episode Pamela Adlon, who writes, stars and directs each episode, takes you on an emotional journey that is filled with self-reflection, understanding, confidence and clarity. It’s that perfect show that makes you you laugh in those moments of awkwardness and anger and that makes you tear up in those moments of compassion and happiness. I cannot say better things about the multilayered and brilliant Better Things or the consistently sharp and compelling Pamela Adlon. It was an absolute honor and joy to watch Season 2.
I hope that Louis C.K who served as a co-creator and executive producer (for seasons 1 and 2), who very much seemed absent in Season 2, does not do any damage to what is an empowering show for women. Better Things season 3 deserves a place on TV without Louis C.K. Pamela Adlon should be at the helm, where she rightfully and deservingly belongs.
The Leftovers, HBO
You still feel a bit lost while watching season 3, the final, of HBO’s post apocolyptic, The Leftovers. However, by the final episode you realize you have been watching one of the greatest television series of all time. Season 3 has much more resolve than season 1 and 2 combined. However, it doesn’t lose its headache nor its humor in the process. What has always been difficult about The Leftovers is realizing that the mystifying madness that takes place among the Garveys and Murphys and every character is much more relatable than any viewer, including myself, wants to admit. The final season of The Leftovers was monumental. It was mesmerizing. It was filled with love and faith and at the end of the day a deeper more accepting understanding of one another.
When Catastrophe first aired the plot went: Rob (Rob Delaney) and Sharon (Sharon Horgan) face down an unexpected pregnancy and abrupt parenthood while they deal with their new relationship (one being an American the other a Brit) where they have to weather unemployment, mortgages, insane families etc. However, season 3 brings new meaning to the title of the show. Like Rob Delaney who in real-life moonlights trolling Donald Trump on Twitter, Catastrophe addresses perhaps the most catastrophic events currently happening in the lives of Rob and Sharon: Brexit and then Trump. Season 3 of Catastrophe is just as outrageous and hilarious as seasons 1 and 2. At the end of the day, there is something truly heart-warming about watching two deeply flawed people who are just like us committed to moving forward despite all the catastrophe happening in their personal lives and in the world around them.
Season 2 of Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore’sInsecure is ironically stronger and more secure with itself than it was in season 1. Like in season one, Issa Rae’s Issa Dee is genuine and likable. Where season one focused primarily on Issa, season 2 brings along the excellent ensemble cast who not only deliver dynamic performances but prop up Issa, the star, to new heights of brilliances and of comedy. With it’s cast the show grows and becomes that much more relatable and much more realistic as it shows the viewer what it is actually like to be a 30-year old millennial.
Master of None, Netflix
Earlier this year I asked: Has Aziz Ansari Cemented His Role As The Voice of Millennials? Ansari and Alan Yang’sMaster of None Season 2, I argued, is the most relatable show on Television for the older millennial generation who seems to be stuck in a world they did not envision being stuck in. There were so many brilliant moments in Season 2. The episode on Religion and on New York were two of my favorites. Dev’s trip to Italy was also a high point. However, it was the end of “The Dinner Party” episode where Dev takes a long, silent Uber ride home that, for me, cemented Master of None’s placement on this list.
The Americans, FX
Every now and then there is a show that comes along that is so perfectly timed. The Americans is a period piece set during 1980s Cold War. Two Soviet KGB officers, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys) pose as an American married couple who live across the street from an FBI agent working in counterintelligence. Sound at all familiar? The Americans have impeccable timing on their side. They also have two unreal performances by Russell and Rhys who have you sympathizing with KGB spies while never hating on the U.S. The Americans now in its 5 season seems to get better every season, which is rare and so, so special.
Better Call Saul, AMC
Season 3 of Better Call Saul was Better Call Saul at it’s best. Although it will always be compared to Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul can now stand out on it’s own as one of the greatest TV dramas of our time. It was this season where this series hit its stride. It’s terrific television. The characters, all flawed in their own ways makes for one of the most compelling and engaging shows on TV this year. At the center is Saul (Bob Odenkirk) who no matter how low he sinks you continue to feel for him and to pull for him. Michael McKean as Chuck, Rhea Seehorn as Kim and Jonathan Banks as Mike makes Better Call Saul one of the best ensemble casts since, well, Breaking Bad.
Who would have thought that after 6 seasons of HBO’s Veep that we would all prefer Selina Meyer as President of United States over what we got stuck with? There have been many shows that look at D.C. Politics and the West Wing but none as brilliantly and tragically accurately as Veep. What makes Veep work so well after all these seasons besides the writing that oddly has predicted a lot in real life is Julia Louis-Dreyfus and yes her scenes with Buster aka Gary aka Tony Hale are AMAZING.
Dear White People, Netflix.
Finally comes along an authentic, pop culture-savvy, albeit at times over-the-top, take on college life. As perfectly entertaining as Dear White People is, real issues get addressed and not ignored or sugar-coated like some other high school and college dramedies. Dear White People should be on everyone’s must watch list. It is smart and engaging. It is an important show to watch. You’ll leave each episode more understanding or at least willing to engage in a conversation or debate about it. Dear White People goes quickly and you will be left wanting to consume more.
Fargo Season 3 is not better than season 2 and that’s why it’s 10 and not higher. However, even in it’s not greatest story line, Fargo is still one of the best series on TV. Like season 1 and 2, Season 3 takes some time to tell the story and to get invested in it. But once you get over that hump you realize just how well crafted it is and know why the set up took so long. Season 3 feels just as cold as season 1 but brings along some of the whimsy of season 2. Ewen McGregor who plays two characters is so insanely good in these roles I am not sure I will ever be able to see him as anything but his Fargo characters.
TheGood Place, NBC
I was late to The Good Place. I don’t know why I was hesitant to watch it. I’ve got nothing but love for Kristen Bell and I love Ted Danson is pretty much everything he does. I am glad I waited because I was able to binge the first season before tuning in to season 2. There is something about this show that on first appearance looks like another nothing network television show but once you delve into it you realize how multilayered it is. Plus there is one major, brilliant, unexpected and perfectly timed twist at the end of season 1 that changes the whole course of the show in season 2.
The Deuce, HBO
I love period series that take place in New York City. I especially love them when they work. HBO’s The Deuce works. It takes a few episodes to get into the series. The story and the writing tend to lag. What picks up this series and props it up is the cast who excels on every imaginable level. Sure James Franco plays two characters, Twins, very well (though not at amazing as Ewen McGregor) but the star is Maggie Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal’s fearless performance as Eileen “Candy” Merrell will sure lead to many award nominations.
Mr. Robot, USA Networks
I have been a fan of Mr. Robot since it started. Season 1 blew me away. Season 2, although good, wasn’t as great. It was because of this that I didn’t immediately rush to watch season 3 until weeks after it aired. Season 3 of Mr. Robot is well-thought out and super tight while remaining just the might amount of bizarre to keep you watching at the edge of your seat.
Twin Peaks, Showtime
With all the weirdness happening in the world, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks The Return has perfect timing for those of us in need of an escape with a dash of nostalgia and a whole lot of weird. The visuals alone ensure that Twin Peaks The Return deserves a place on this list and in our hearts.
 Game of Thrones, HBO
Part of the reason Game of Thrones is further down this list than some may think it should be is because, Game of Thrones Season 7 wasn’t it’s strongest. Sure it is probably a necessary set up to the final season – which may end up at the top of this list next year. Season 7 was still good and the visuals and fight scenes were fun. Who doesn’t love Dragons? But I for one am getting a little sick of all this incest and the writers uncomfortable relationship with sex.