in Top Ten

TOO. MANY. SHOWS! I had to marathon multiple shows just today to finish this list. It’s getting to the point where I feel bad for skipping out on shows like The Good Place or falling behind on Better Call Saul, both shows I know I would and do like. But the TV landscape has turned into some kind of entertainment-based shark. Which means if you don’t stop swimming you’ll get left in its bloody wake. Let’s do this!

Honorable Mention
Rick and Morty

10. The Toys that Made Us 

Ever feel like a show was made exactly for you? As a former “collector” meaning I have a bunch of broken Star Wars toys in my basement and former subscriber to Toyfare Magazine from 2003 – 2007 I love this show. Action figures were one of my first passions. To have a show about the origins of my favorite toy lines is a dream come true. Or at least a waking coma. The format is simple, each 40-50 minute episode covers a different toy that changed the realm of toys and pop culture forever.

Only four episodes have been released thus far on Netflix; Star Wars, Barbie, He-Man, and G.I. Joe but even that’s enough nostalgia to land the series on my list. I’m not sure how interested most people will be regarding the origin of Skeletor, but there will be a few who are very pleased.

There’s nothing groundbreaking about the format or presentation of this show, though it is solid. And if you want some good drama, watch the power struggle for Barbie. It’s a story worth knowing and knowing is half the battle.

9. Riverdale 

If you haven’t seen this, it’s exactly what you expect. Or at least it was exactly what I expected. Riverdale is a sexy melodrama set in small town America. It’s also laughably cheesy, over-the-top, and has featured multiple Imagine Dragons songs. Yet I find it to be a real hoot. Riverdale is the guiltiest of guilty pleasures.

The show is about sexy teens with hot problems but also includes more mystery and intrigue than you remember in those paperbacks at the Safeway check out line. The first season was based on solving the murder of a popular student and the second season (both premiered in 2017) is about the pursuit of a Zodiac-esque masked killer.

The show is by-the-numbers young adult fiction but is nonetheless enjoyable. The characters are a big part of my enjoyment. Standouts include Cole Spouse as Jughead, now a moody loner and Madelaine Putsch as Riverdale High’s resident mean girl Cheryl Blossom. The show has a flair for neo-noir with its recurring use of neon against a rain-soaked small town and the overall presentation is surprisingly cinematic for a show based on some red-haired dork from the 1940s.

8. Game of Thrones 

Game of Thrones appears to be struggling with “we-don’t-know-how-to end-the-show-itus”. Which isn’t surprising considering the show has been off book for two seasons now. Plot lines are getting wrapped up posthaste which has led to big moments but also the most ridiculous sequences in the show yet. Every time Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) ends up in what appears to be an unwinable scenario, a deus ex machina comes along to save the day.

That being said, this is still the greatest fantasy television show of all time. The battles are amazing, the special effects are amazing. Tell me you didn’t get the chills when Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) attempted to fight a dragon. Or the feels/vomiting in your mouth when Sam (John Bradley West) performed painful surgery to save Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) from becoming a stone man. No other show has the ability to wow audiences with the sheer spectacle like Game of Thrones. It’s one of my favorites and always will be. Even if turns out it was all a wizard’s dream.

7. Mindhunter 

Don’t let the dumb name fool you, this is a smart, understated show that deserves far more attention than it has received. Set in the late 1970s, Mindhunter details the early days of criminal psychology and criminal profiling in the FBI. The characters are Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) an intelligent if not naive special agent in the Behavioral Science Unit, his no nonsense partner Bill Tench (Holt McCallny) and a closeted psychology professor, Wendy Carr (Anna Torv). Together, these three investigate the minds of killers

The show is a breath of fresh air in comparison to big network crime procedurals. This isn’t about catching bad guys, moving from case to case. More so it’s a show about psychology and human nature. The first three or four episodes are little more than Holden and Bill driving across the country educating police forces about killers and speaking to killers. It’s quiet yet riveting. Also, it has that David Fincher sheen (Fincher is the Executive Producer and directed four episodes) and we need to enjoy that guy as much as we can before he wastes the next few years of his life making World War Z 2.

6. Santa Clarita Diet 

If Mindhunter is under the radar Santa Clarita Diet is submerged so deep below the Earth it’s not even being watched by mole men. Which is too bad because this has to be one of the most bingeable shows of 2017. Created by Victor Fresco (Better Off Ted), Santa Clarita Diet is about an upbeat realty couple, Sheila and Joel, played by Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant. But after  Sheila turns into a man-eating, zombie-like monster, the two most work together to maintain their relationship and their cover.

Santa Clarita Diet is like a mix between Weeds and Dexter. It has all the suburban charm and laughs of Weeds but the high stakes murder plot of Dexter. This is why I couldn’t help but watch the entire ten-episode season in less than 48 hours. Sheila is always doing unspeakable acts that she and Joel have to then cover up, leading to suspenseful and often hilarious situations. Who knew Timothy Olyphant was a comedic mastermind? Not anyone who saw Hitman.

5. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel 

I just heard today that Amazon’s two most viewed shows of 2017 were The Grand Tour and Sneaky Pete which is a shame when The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is the best show the fledging streaming service has carried yet.

Set in glamorous late ‘50s New York, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is about Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) a witty Jewish housewife who finds her identity as a comedienne after being left by her husband. Joining forces with a butch comedy club booker, Susie (Alex Borstein), Midge paves her way as a burgeoning comedic force while struggling with being a single woman in a not particularly female-friendly era.

It’s the comedy scenes that make this show a must watch. Rachel Brosnahan plays the part with such charm and confidence and watching Midge hone and develop her skills is a pleasure. I only wonder what Amazon can do with this show. Can it attract a bigger audience? Let’s hope for that Golden Globes bump.

4. Nathan for You 

What started as a quasi-docu-reality comedy show has grown into a full on engaging documentary series about contemporary America. Yeah, it’s still funny. “Did somebody say chili suit?” But it’s also touching and beautiful. “Finding Frances” is one of the best TV documentary specials ever and has set the bar high for docudrama television. Nathan for You can be good for a quick laugh and it can make you think. It also teaches us that if you grab the wrong suit at the airport you’ll have a story to tell.

3. Master of None 

It’s hard to think of another comedy that’s so artistic and insightful. From its homages to Italian cinema to its depiction of what it’s like to come of age as a lesbian, Master of None covers a wide range of topics and styles and never falters. One of my favorite episodes was the New York anthology episode about different groups of diverse people living out their daily lives. Which culminates in all of the different groups going to see the new Nicolas Cage movie Death Castle.

Aziz Ansari is a treasure. He’s charming and sweet, but very much an artist. The show can be quick and punchy or slow and deliberate all while looking beautiful and feeling natural. It was also a good show to watch while eating dinner. Bon Appetit.

2. Black Mirror 

While the tone of Black Mirror might be getting lighter, this is still engaging science fiction television. Targets this year included helicopter parenting, online dating and an entertaining episode about a guy who’s a little too obsessed with and old Star Trek style TV show. Though concepts may not be as high as before, there is a lot to like. Did you know every single episode of Black Mirror season 4 had a female protagonist? That’s a big deal. Whatever the future may hold for Black Mirror—if they don’t predict it for you first—you better believe it has made its mark.

1. Nirvanna the Band the Show 

Watching NTBTS feels like being part of a secret club. Few understand it, even fewer know about it, but it’s the most inventive comedy show on television. A docu-reality comedy show that blends interactions with unsuspecting people, elaborate stunts and ridiculous schemes, there’s an intangible quality to what the show is that keeps it constantly fresh.

With a plot summary as simple as “two ‘musicians’ try to get a show at the Rivoli in Toronto” NTBTS has the freedom to be pretty much anything it wants to be any given episode. Whether Matt and Jay are doing a parody of Home Alone, Dog Day Afternoon, Daredevil, or My Dinner with Andre you know they’re going to handle the concept with love and care and more than enough laughs.

As a comedy fan, I adore the ridiculous situations Matt and Jay find themselves in. Even more so, I admire the show as a fan of pop culture. Just looking at the back wall of Matt and Jay’s apartment plastered with Criterion covers you know these guys are passionate about everything film, TV, and video games. They do elaborate credit sequences that pay tribute to their favorite movies and TV shows, they use famous themes as part of their own soundtrack. They play Mario Kart and Goldeneye on camera. It’s such a lively show, brimming with inspiration and passion. It inspires me and with that attitude, maybe I can play the Rivoli someday.