As this year winds down we’ve recapped its highlights to bring you the best of 2017 in fashion, sneakers, music, movies, and more.
Let’s face it: all lists are inherently flawed for numerous reasons. But the most systematic problem I see from where I sit, is that people often feel external pressure to include items that they don’t necessarily have a legitimate opinion about. Thus, something like a “best of TV” category becomes an amalgamation of personal taste mixed in with the regurgitated thoughts of other reviewers whose tastes don’t have any glaring omissions.
In order to differentiate our lists from others, I can personally guarantee that each selection this season was watched in its entirety. In turn, we can assure that you won’t end up watching shows with exceptional pilot episodes that eventually fall off the cliff and end up in a “hate watching” scenario where the finale is more like a reprieve than a revelation.
A mixture of returning shows and newer entries into an already crowded field of contenders, here are our 20 favorite shows of 2017 (presented alphabetically).
True crime stories have certainly had an upswing in interest in recent years thanks to breakout hits on multiple mediums like Making a Murderer, The Jynx, The Keepers, and Serial.
While content creators were surely on the lookout for the next bizarre true story that would capture the attention of the masses, American Vandal creators Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda instead decided to mine the format for one of the most unique experiences of 2017.
Eschewing the macabre for something more millennial-focused—choosing to ask the question, “who drew the dicks?”—we go on an inventive ride as high school student investigators rip apart a vandalism case that exposes all the milieu of adolescence like drinking, crushes, bullies, pranks, and spiteful teachers.
Better Call Saul
Better Call Saul is the rare television drama where we know exactly where we’re going to end up: that fateful strip mall law office in Albuquerque where Walter White and Jesse Pinkman explore money laundering ventures for their growing meth empire.
Despite the absence of a mystery box at the end of the tunnel, AMC’s Bob Odenkirk-led series consistently zigs and zags along the way. Through the strained relationships with his brother, Chuck, and love interest, Kim—who both become collateral damage in season 3—we got an even greater understanding of how Jimmy McGill became Saul Goodman.
Big Little Lies
Thanks to the overwhelming response from both watchers and critics—resulting in a format-leading six nominations at the Golden Globes—Big Little Lies will see a second season even though they had only planned for a limited, one-season run.
Relying heavily on a “who done it” format, the show was particularly exhilarating because each individual character felt like they had motive and ample opportunity to pull off a murder. But since we were unaware of who was both the victim and perpetrator until the very end, the finale was one of the most satisfying in all of 2017.
Puberty can hit as unexpected as a meteorite, transforming once sweet and docile children into hormonal beasts whose behavior can seem just as destructive as a large mass striking the Earth.
In Nick Kroll’s Big Mouth, he uses the freedom of animation to explore the trying experience from both a male and female perspective. With so-called puberty “monsters” speaking directly to characters as if imaginary friends with raging libidos, the comedy is not only raunchy, but also completely relatable for those who know puberty is less about blossoming, and more about finding a quiet place to jerk off.
While Hank Azaria’s work on The Simpsons as Apu has come under criticism as of late, his involvement in Brockmire—as both a foul-mouthed and poetic baseball announcer seeking redemption—proved that his acting chops are equally memorable in live-action fare.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The six-year-long Curb Your Enthusiasm hiatus reminded us all that a Larry David-less world is a place where the minutia of real life doesn’t get put under a proper microscope.
Whether that be drinking tap water, sending accidental texts on purpose, or thanking our soldiers for their service, David continued to expunge on everyday issues with a curmudgeonly charm that only he could get away with.
When most people think of New York City’s Times Square, they think of a Disneyland-esque experience full of tourist shops, fast food restaurants and various characters in polyester costumes.
However, the seedlings were planted on a particularly harrowing parcel of land in the 1970s which was home to pimps, prostitutes, drug addicts, smut booths and an overworked police force.
In David Simon’s (The Wire) The Deuce, he digs into the pivotal moments when a mixture of cronyism and commerce begin to emerge; tracking would-be entrepreneurs who began to understand that the skin trade was heading in-doors to more low-budget operations like massage parlors, or to grander stages like the burgeoning pornographic industry.
Noah Hawley’s Fargo is perhaps the only show on television right now that has consistently nailed a rebooted format full of new characters each season.
In season 3, he pulls the most out of Ewan McGregor as twin brothers, Emmit and Ray Stussy, who have seen life go in completely different directions since one brother opted for the security of owning a rare stamp, and the other jumped at the allure of having a cherry red Corvette.
As has been the case in past seasons, the lines are often blurred between hero and villain; except in the case of V.M. Varga (played by David Thewlis), who delivered what I believe to be the best sinister turn on television in 2017.
Game of Thrones
When a show gets as big as Game of Thrones has, it’s almost impossible to deliver on the hype (ahem, take note Stranger Things).
For as much as people picked apart season 8—going full-on fan boy to question logistics like how long it would take someone to run from point A to point B—there was no denying that the show delivered all the “oh shit” moments that should rightfully take precedent in a show built around the fantastical.
Based around the true story of the all-female professional wrestling league, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, which began in the mid ’80s, Glow is a neon and spandex romp that feels equal parts sports underdog story as it does a critique on how we continue to define gender roles.
Alison Brie is particularly good in the lead as Ruth, an aspiring actress, who used her background as a thespian to add soap opera-style twists and turns to the physicality.
When it comes to the Western genre, a person can either be transported to a time and place where lawlessness reigned supreme, or, in most cases, simply become aware of the famous actors who have all gathered to grow ridiculous facial hair and play dress-up.
Godless feels like the real McCoy; authentic, rich, historically accurate, and above all else, damn entertaining thanks to a revenge tale which ropes in a community—made up almost completely of women—who become caught in the middle of a feud between Jeff Daniels and Jack O’Connell.
The Handmaid’s Tale
On a persona level, The Handmaid’s Tale was probably in my top three shows of 2017. However, it wasn’t as bingable and easy to digest as more accessible fare like American Vandal, Big Mouth, etc. due to the subject matter — which was particularly timely due to the political atmosphere in the country as it relates to women’s rights.
Focusing on a time in America in the not-too-distant future where most women have become barren, a handful of “handmaids” who can still have children are then subsequently forced to become slaves/breeders for the powerful elite.
Mixing old world costuming with contemporary music – all matched beautifully with cinematography from director, Reed Moreno, which had oil painting traits – the entire experience is something that will shake you to your core.
As this year’s version of Making a Murderer, The Keepers sought to answer the question: who killed Sister Cathy, a young and beloved nun, who was killed in 1969, and whose death deeply impacted her students.
Some 50 years later, two of her students, Gemma and Abbie—one a bulldog and the other more of a bloodhound—uncovered various leads as to who could have been responsible.
But whereas a documentary like Making a Murderer revealed police corruption in a small Wisconsin town, The Keepers ripped open a huge chasm in the entire Catholic church.
Master of None
Aziz Ansari’s viewpoint on modern romance has the ability to make a person feel both hopeful and despondent thanks to his everyman charm. In Master of None season 2, we got a buffet of emotions; pulling from everything like homages to Italian cinema to more personal stories like Lena Waithe’s experience coming out to her family during Thanksgiving.
As a total package, there are few shows that seem to be so aware of where they are going and what they are hoping to achieve.
There are only a handful of TV projects that could get A-list director David Fincher to take time away from his busy film career. The first, House of Cards, has been a monumental hit and shifted the paradigm as it relates to the political drama (Kevin Spacey aside) as well as how we consume content.
His next, Mindhunter, is seemingly doing the same thing for the police procedural; asking not necessarily who, but why people carry out such horrendous acts of violence?
Drawing from the real life work of FBI agent John Douglas, who interviewed Charles Manson and the Son of Sam—which served to also inspire Silence of the Lambs—Fincher is masterful at making scenes where three men are talking feel as dramatic and tension-filled as a World War II battlefield.
Without the massive presence of Pablo Escobar heading into season 3, many were unsure if Narcos could continue to deliver a rich and vibrant story.
Any fears or doubts were instantly withdrawn after we were introduced to the four-headed monster that was the Cali Cartel; an organization that moved more in the shadows like apparitions than Pablo Escobar’s in-your-face boogeyman.
The series continued to effectively operate as a game of cat and mouse between the drug traffickers and the DEA. But whereas pretty much everyone knew what was in store for Escobar, the Cali Cartel’s fate is a much less broached topic — thus making the conclusion that much more exhilarating.
What happens when a family of four—all aware of the misdeeds of the parents—arrive in a small town flanked by the Osage River with instructions from a drug cartel that they must launder $8 million USD or they will be killed?
That’s exactly what we find out in Ozark; a Breaking Bad-esque story that trades the arid New Mexico locale for terrain where the illicit can even happen on the lake during church services.
If Fargo’s V.M Varga took the crown as best villain of the year, Ozark’s Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner)—a minuscule, golden haired teen with nothing to lose—was a close second and perhaps the most unexpected and ballsy character in 2017.
As we discussed in a deeper analysis of the USA show The Sinner, it was one of the unexpected surprises of 2017. Although the network has earned water cooler chatter in the past thanks to Mr. Robot, they had up until this point failed to deliver a second critical darling.
The show focuses on a gruesome murder at the hands of a seemingly typical, suburban mother, Cora (played by Jessica Biel). And make no mistake, there’s no case of mistaken identity or a sinister conspiracy theory at play. She did it, and everyone knows it.
But much like with Mindhunter, without a motive or insight into her state of mind, some are left to question how just a first-degree murder charge really is.
Using a narrative that explores various milestones and traumas from Cora’s life, we begin to understand that her actions weren’t so random after all.
The big question on everyone’s mind was, would season 2 of Stranger Things live up to the hype? After all, the debut season was an unexpected hit that Netflix didn’t anticipate would become such a cultural talking point.
The short answer: yes. The even longer answer: the Duffer brothers did such a wonderful job crafting their characters that anything would have probably sufficed.
What we got was more intermingling between key players. The relationship forged between Steve and Dustin was the perfect mix of plotting and less integral pieces like how to talk to girls. Additionally, we finally got that perfect moment between Mike and Eleven that should keep our hearts fluttering until season 3 rolls around in 2019.
The Young Pope
Truth be told, I’m about as religious leaning as someone who says “oh God,” when something terrible happens. But with that being said, The Young Pope left me completely mesmerized despite an interest in anything relating to how the Papal figure is chosen by the College of Cardinals.
Perhaps that’s because Jude Law gave us a religious deity who was unlike anything you could have expected. He smoked, he had romantic leanings, and he himself seemed to be unsure if God really existed. As a total package, it was something like a fever dream with some of the most exquisite costumes you will ever see.
Next up; here are the 25 best albums of 2017.
- Featured/Main Image: Netflix