I went into 2017 hoping that The Defenders would live up to Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and it really didn’t. Harmonquest‘s second season was a disappointment, but at least it survived the Seeso-geddon which has denied the world an already completed second season of Take My Wife. And then there was the longest, most inexplicable hiatus in Steven Universe history, right when we needed it least. Yes, there were many disappointments in the last year of TV, but there was even more to enjoy. Here, let me list 15 great shows to prove my point.
Game of Thrones
The bizarre morality play that was Review came to an end this year with an abbreviated third season. Forrest MacNeil, having toppled over the edge of sanity at the close of the previous season returned for one more dose of life criticism which pushed him somehow even further. Kind of how 2017 felt after 2016. This is some truly dark, over-the-top comedy that I absolutely adore, and would have put this show even higher on my list had it had more episodes to explore its lead selling his soul and getting nothing in return.
I was aware of Catastrophe inasmuch as I knew that the Twitter guy had a TV show, and then Carrie Fisher died. That’s when I found out she was a regular on this show, and that she was great on it. So I had to check it out, and the rumors were true. But I was also impressed with this mature take on Knocked Up, the story of an American (Rob Delaney) and a Irishwoman (Sharon Horgan) trying to make it work in London after an accidental pregnancy. It’s a funny, but also dark and realistic look at relationships and the many ways people can destroy themselves.
After years of movie rumors, Samurai Jack came back as a stylish, violent Adult Swim show. The biggest surprise for me was how little of the original show I had actually watched, and how I didn’t really like it that much now. But this new incarnation of the show is what I thought it was all along: stoic, minimalist storytelling that takes place somewhere between anime and cartoon. The finale didn’t live up to the season’s strong premier, but it was always beautiful.
The Americans deliberately switched back into slow burn mode in season five, but this time, I was ready for it. It also really helped knowing that season six would be the last one, because that meant that things like Phillip hitting his breaking point could actually mean something instead of being only a simple deviation from the norm. Not that I actually expect less from a show that has consistently been one of my favorites for a few seasons now. I fully expect it to finish strong in a few months and make this list again next year.
In our era of discontent, even perennial favorites like Rick and Morty and Game of Thrones were exposed as not immune to unfair criticism from diehard fans. What was more surprising was how disappointingly passionate the “real fans” were to compensate for this. But unfortunate realities are exactly the sort of thing Rick and Morty was obsessed with dissecting in its third season, and why I preferred its animated emotional gut-punches over the devastating haymakers Bojack Horseman was throwing. Because there’s a sincere hope that, despite a clear demonstration that everything is meaningless, hope still exists for Rick and Morty, and its eager to show us how that’s possible, with as many elaborate gags along the way as they can fit in.
The Good Place turned itself on its head in the season one finale, elevating a show I was lukewarm on into something truly amazing. I haven’t been this excited about a network comedy since the first few episodes of The Last Man on Earth, and this has been better than that for longer than that. Now that I know and love each member of The Good Place‘s ensemble, everything has clicked into place and the show has become, as NBC wants everything to be “must see TV.” Watch this on Netflix or do whatever it takes to catch up, I’m so scared this will be cancelled.
Nathan Fielder is undoubtedly a genius. That wasn’t obvious to me, it took me a while to make my mind up about how much of what he does on Nathan for You is an act. But this season’s feature-length finale (series finale?) gave enough room to really show us how this show works. And it’s scary, touching, and hilarious all at the same time. The way that Nathan is able to sell elaborate, ridiculous solutions to regular problems is simply extraordinary to me, even after all these episodes. Plus, what am I gonna do, disagree with Errol Morris?
Master of None‘s second season was somehow even more confident and stylish than its first. Not only did it commit to a compelling arching narrative for Dev, but it dared to deviate from it completely with episodes about New York City and Denise’s relationship with her family. It’s unusual how much this show feels like it is exactly what it wants to be, while still delivering on every aspect of filmmaking – each episode feels like its own short film. I think I heard it’s going to be a while until season three, but if that means it will be this good, then by all means, take your time.
Nirvana the Band the Show is an inexplicable comedy. For one, how do they use so much copyrighted material? Is it really that much easier in Toronto? Another thing: how does a tightly scripted show shot very clearly in public come out so good? Oh, and this is a big one: how does a show with this name not actually feature a band or any scenes of its main characters performing on stage? The truth is that asking those questions will get you nowhere, and stop you from getting into yet another great comedy as soon as possible.
The recurring thing about Better Call Saul has been that it’s a show that’s willing to take its time. And now that things are starting to actually pay off, I’m so glad it did. The interrogation scene from “Chicanery” is just one of many highlights which show how great it is that this show isn’t the comedy it was originally intended to be. Is it better than Breaking Bad now? Probably not, but maybe. It’s not a ridiculous question to ask.