Television 2017

Television 2017

by Joanna Orland

This year’s television continued the quality streak of the medium. While we haven’t had another season of last year’s best show American Crime Story, there has still been some excellent drama. As there is so much good television to choose from, it’s impossible to watch it all, but here’s what we deem note-worthy for 2017, in order of our enjoyment / expectations:

The Handmaid’s Tale – The Margaret Atwood book adaptation feels unfortunately timely and has taken the TV world by storm. It is the finest television of this year.

Stranger Things 2 – In some ways better, in some ways weaker than season 1 of Stranger Things. Either way, everybody’s favourite Pop Culture phenomenon is one helluva show, and it’s no wonder that the entire cast have been propelled into stardom.

The Good Place – This comedy is the one I’ve been looking for since Parks & Recreation went off the air. It’s smart, funny and has actual plot! YES YES YES!

Master of None – Season 2 of the Aziz Ansari Netflix series is much more grand than the first. Abstract, huge scope, Italian, there is so much to love about this series – notably the Thanksgiving episode featuring the absolutely perfect Angela Bassett.

GLOWGorgeous Ladies of Wrestling came out of nowhere to steal my heart. In a similar vain to the character comedy/drama of OITNB, Netflix is on to another female-fronted winner.

The Crown – Season 2 is Claire Foy’s last playing the Queen. She is glorious in this role and will be missed. Absolutely stunning drama.

Mike Birbiglia: Thank God For Jokes – A Netflix comedy special like no other. Perfectly structured storytelling, earnest, endearing and hilarious.

Godless – This Netflix miniseries boasts not only a stellar cast and creator, but it delivers. A slow-burning, gripping and wonderful western with well-developed characters, including a handful of prominent females! Fans of Westerns rejoice! Fans of quality drama rejoice!

Line of Duty – I’ve only just caught up with season 3 and started on 4, but this is the best British show on television by far.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – 12 seasons in and it’s still the funniest thing on television. My partner watched the season premiere with me, never having even seen an episode of the show before, and we were quoting it for months.

13 Reasons Why – A harrowing teen drama about sexual abuse, suicide and the affects they have on those around us. Netflix has a winner with this novel adaptation.

Feud: Bette and Joan – Ryan Murphy is the undisputed king of television at the moment. Feud is his latest anthology series, debuting with the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. It’s released late in the day in the UK on BBC2, so I’ve only just started feasting my eyes on this glorious series. So far it is a beaut.

The Good Doctor – From the creator of House, comes another medical procedural that, for some reason, I cannot stop watching. It’s not that it’s particularly good, or that actor Freddie Highmore is doing a particularly good performance as a doctor with severe autism, it’s just addictive. I have no idea what it is. Especially as I never watched House before (I know, I know…).

Mindhunter – A slow burner, I’m only two episodes in. But David Fincher knows what he’s doing.

Saturday Night Live Weekend Update: Summer Edition – A three episode run of the current best part of SNL! Can’t get enough of Colin and Michael.

This is Us – Network television at its finest (and most popular). This series finished up its very successful first season at the start of the year, with season 2 seemingly just as popular.

OJ: Made in America – This Oscar-winning documentary is certainly very thorough coming in at 7hours, 47minutes – hence me classifying it under television rather than film for 2017, when it aired on BBC.

Orphan Black – A beautiful send off to a wonderful series. After five seasons, I still forget that all of the clones are played by Tatiana Maslany – she is ridiculously talented. Goodbye to Clone Club!

The Young Pope – It’s Paolo Sorrentino, Jude Law and Diane Keaton doing papal extravaganza! I know this is good, but I tried watching it while I had a feverish flu which was a bad idea. This is top of my list to go back and rewatch while lucid.

Orange is the New Black – This year’s Riot season was intense to say the least. OITNB is the most binge-worthy show on Netflix!

American Horror Story – I’ve finally caught up with seasons 1-6… Then there’s Cult, which I will one day watch…

Saturday Night Live – Honestly the only good thing to come out of the Trump “presidency” is the resurgence of SNL quality comedy. It has taken a dip in the latter part of the year, but the 2016-2017 season was on fire. Watching Weekend Update with Colin Jost & Michael Che is how I spend my Sunday mornings.

Girls – A fine final season for this series to bow out on. I will miss these Girls.

Big Little Lies – The HBO miniseries with megastar power really made an impact… Mostly with its star power and wonderful ending.

The Good Fight – Diane Lockhart of The Good Wife gets her dues in this faithful spinoff. Brilliantly executed with wonderful cameos – and a strong older female character at the forefront! Only complaint is Maia (Rose Leslie) who can barely whisper out her words.

Search Party – Even though these are the most annoying characters I’ve ever seen on television, I love them and can’t stop watching. Season 2 was even better than 1.

Catastrophe – Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney are still charming as eff in this heartfelt funny series. It also sadly has Carrie Fisher’s final performance as Rob’s mother.

Easy – Joe Swanberg’s mumblecore televison show returned for a second, equally as likable season. Netflix is exactly where Joe Swanberg belongs!

How to Get Away With Murder – Season 3 was off to a shaky start at the end of 2016, but the start of 2017 and the unravelling of the big murder mystery saw some of the finest performances from star Viola Davis. She is by far better than the show, but lifts it so high that it becomes an addictive and emotional soapy must-watch.

Lady Dynamite – If season one was straddling a cliff’s edge of absurdity, season two jumped off head first, naked, into shark infested rocky waters. But it works. Somehow the absurdity of the ‘plot’ makes sense as its intended metaphor by the end of the series. And while not as strong or as vulnerable as the wonderful and enlightening season one, it still holds strong. But, with season one essentially a masterpiece, this was never going to be as good.

American Vandal – This ridiculous satire is actually much better and smarter than the trailer would have you believe!

A Series of Unfortunate Events – This Netflix original series just swooped right in to charm and bewilder its audience. Supposedly for children and based on the Lemony Snicket book series which has already been turned into an inferior film version, this TV series just marvels. From absurd humour to excellent guest stars – the icing on the cake in a ridiculous and perfect performance is Neil Patrick Harris. I never appreciated him, or found him funny before – a revelation.

Zoo – I only just discovered this so-bad-it’s-good show already canceled after is third season. Animals turn on humans and they’re also telepathic. WTF!? Also, the opening credits sequence that completely rips off The Walking Dead has me in stitches. Just everything about this is amazingly camp.

The President Show – I really only watch the viral clips on YouTube, but again, the Trump presidency brings us great satire, this time from master Trump impressionist Anthony Atamanuik. He’s uncanny as Trump and a wonderful improviser!

Silicon Valley – We FINALLY say goodbye to T.J. Miller and hello to Haley Joel Osment – who knew the kid who saw dead people was funny!

Grace and Frankie – Season 3 was a weak one for the otherwise delightful series. Nonetheless, there were quite a few solid laughs throughout and great performances as always.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – I was a die-hard fan of season 1, but when the inarguably best character (Greg) left only a few episodes into season 2, the show lost its splendour and derailed in quality. By the end of season 2 at the start of 2017, it somewhat recovered and I’m glad I saw it through and gave it another chance. Although, its not quite as fine as it was in its Greggy glory days. Season 3 is almost back on track with a stronger start than the bulk of season 2, but I’ll have to accept that it’s now a mediocre show with some good moments, rather than the trailblazer it was in its first season.

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later – The second episode Andy doing donuts joke had me in stitches. This series just gets more and more absurd with each iteration.

Inside No. 9 – There is something strangely fascinating about the darkly comedic anthology series from members of The Leauge of Gentlemen.

Designated Survivor – Star Kiefer Sutherland re-teams with 24 composer Sean Callery to make a spiritual sequel to the former action series. Kiefer is no longer playing Jack Bauer, but rather a more meek quiet man who assumes the role of president. As episodes go on, its gets more and more shallow, but it’s still a decent watch as a time-filler.

Fargo – It feels like in spite of getting the always likable Ewan McGregor, season 3 of Fargo is on the quality decline. Weakest season so far, but it certainly picks up a bit in the latter episodes.

Five Came Back – A fascinating 3 part Netflix documentary about 5 prominent directors filming in WWII.

Better Call Saul – It’s season 3 and Jimmy McGill has finally become Saul! Slow but somewhat satisfying (eventually). The return of Gus Fring makes it particularly worthy.

Legion – X-men, Aubrey Plaza, Jean Smart, Noah Hawley; the ingredients are there, but Legion just never took off as far as I’m concerned. It didn’t help that I spent the first two hours of the series not realizing I was watching Dan Stevens in the lead role. That guy, while not my favourite actor, is certainly a bit of a chameleon.

Judd Apatow: The Return – It feels more like “An Evening With” than a standup set with Judd Apatow’s return, but if you like the guy, you’ll like this.

Love – A middling season for the mediocre, yet comforting, television show.

Taboo – Tom Hardy grunts his way through a TV series which he co-created with his dad and longtime collaborator Steven Knight. Dark, brooding and mysterious. I love a good period piece, but found it a bit too slow to carry on with… but I get it. It’s pretty good I guess.

Ghosted – Adam Scott, Craig Robinson and Adeel Akhtar essentially do a television satire of Men in Black. It should be funnier than it is. But it’ ok. The cast is key.

Will & Grace – Everything old is new again. Except Will & Grace as this comedy feels SO dated, even in their attempt to modernize their references.

Star Trek: DiscoveryStar Trek fans seem happy enough about this. I’m not a proper Trekkie, merely liked the J.J. films, so this show is not for me. I tried.

Twin Peaks – I admittedly haven’t watched any of it. Ever. But felt that it’s such a big deal, it needed a mention.

Maria Bamford: Old Baby – The comedian’s standup isn’t as wildly entertaining as her show Lady Dynamite, but she is a unique and poignant entertainer to say the least.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – It gets less funny with each season, but Titus is still a legend and should really just have his own show without the others.

Dark – Netflix has got a new creepy German series and I’ve added it to “My List”. As soon as I watch it, I’ll let you know…

Riverdale – Who doesn’t love a good noir teen soap featuring a murder mystery, iconic comic book characters from the Archie comics AND Luke Perry? I watched one episode and that was enough – I’m clearly a heartless cynic as it’s some sort of pop culture moment of 2017.

The Mick – Kaitlin Olson of Always Sunny fame basically plays a toned down Dee in this network sitcom. I watched a few episodes, and it’s not too bad! But will draw inevitable inferior comparisons to her other, superior comedy show.

24 Legacy – It went as fast as it came. This reboot proves that there can be no 24 without Jack Bauer.

Santa Clarita Diet – This show brings Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant to Netflix. A zombie comedy that grossed me out too much and made me laugh too little to get past episode 1.

Ozark – So boring it borders on unwatchable, not even Laura Linney can save Jason Bateman’s attempt at Breaking Bad.

Bloodline – The 3rd and final season of this masterful Netflix drama starts darker than ever, and then goes completely off the rails with a terrible last few episodes. Season 1 is still the finest piece of television drama in existence and therefore I can just about forgive this downward spiral of its writing quality and plot complications. My advice to you is watch season 1 and then just stop.

Sherlock – Let’s hope season 4 was its last as the Benedict Cumberbatch / Martin Freeman Sherlock has strayed into the ridiculous. Some fine moments in its second episode, this show went off the rails by the end.

Wormwood – This Errol Morris documentary series is way too abstract and arty for my liking. Couldn’t get through the first episode.

Frontier – I love a good period piece and a barbaric Jason Momoa. Also, as a Canadian, I should have a vested interest in the Hudson’s Bay Company’s history. But, with its plot a bit like a Canadian Taboo, this TV series left me bored.

Friends from College – This is a painful series to watch as for a comedy with an amazing cast, it’s just not that funny. And everyone is an asshole. An obnoxiously annoying asshole.

The Walking Dead – I stopped watching last year, but apparently characters are still getting killed off.


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