Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Best TV Shows of 2017 - Top 70

2017 is coming to a close. So now, it's time to look back on the year that was and honor all of the greatness that happened in television. I've already covered the best performances and episodes. Now, I'm counting down the best overall shows. The list now continues with the shows I've ranked 70-61. Enjoy!

As I've been saying with all of my year-end coverage so far for 2017, lists are completely subjective. I could like something that you absolutely hated. It's possible your favorite show just wasn't my thing. Or maybe I just didn't watch a show that you think deserved a placement somewhere on this list. The list this year of the best shows once again includes 100 series. I'm ranking that many because the industry is producing more and more content. It means that there are more shows worth recognizing. Some of them are big, tentpole shows that everyone knows about. Some are smaller shows that no one outside of critics is even aware of. Ranking things this way allows a great plethora of content to be recognized simply for being produced in 2017. Of course, it's impossible to watch everything. With over 500 scripted shows produced this year, I've only done my best to watch as much as possible of the shows on my radar. There are plenty of shows that just completely passed me by even though I'm a critic who needs to cover this industry professionally.

My metrics for ranking a show on this list are quite simple. I need to have watched the entirety of the show's episodes that aired this year. A complete opinion can only be held with such. And so, that's quite a time commitment. There are plenty of shows that I started in 2017 that I just haven't or couldn't be able to finish - like AMC's Preacher, Hulu's The Path or Syfy's 12 Monkeys. As such, you shouldn't expect to see them anywhere on this list. Similarly, there's a handful of shows that I just haven't seen at all despite the critical buzz being high on them. Netflix's The Crown and ABC's Speechless are prime examples of that. I've heard great things but used my time to catch up on other shows before making this list. So again, this entire list is tied to my personal taste. I watch a lot of television. It's all judged through my individual gaze of the world. So, it's all just my personal opinion. It will surely link up with yours on a number of occasions. But I'm certain I'll also rank a show too high or too low for you. That's perfectly fine as well. Disagreements are healthy. This really should just be a conversation starter. I'm listing the shows that I personally enjoyed the most from 2017.

So with all that being said, here's the shows I've ranked 70-61 for 2017!

70. Amazon's Sneaky Pete

There is so much familiarity at the center of the narrative of this drama. It embraces many of the cable anti-hero tropes that have been very prevalent in the industry over the last decade or so. And yet, it still miraculously works here. The show is allowed to have a sense of fun about them as well. It's not super dark and serious all of the time. Yes, there are moments that are particularly grim and intense. The lead character is a middle-aged white man trying to keep a major secret from so many people while dealing with other problems as well. But it's also easy to tell that the cast is having such a blast playing in this world. It helps immensely that Justified's Graham Yost is the one leading the creative side of things. But Giovanni Ribisi, Margo Martindale, Peter Gerety and Bryan Cranston make it a strong acting showcase as well. Such a delightful surprise early in the year.

69. NBC's Great News

In the early going, it felt like this comedy was simply NBC trying to recreate the success of 30 Rock by bringing together that creative team once more for a show set in the showbiz industry. And yes, the jokes and humor are very specific and play well to critics who cover much of this particular world. And yet, it quickly outgrew those comparisons as well and started to prop up its own strengths. This show just features a terrific performance from Andrea Martin. She is just this little ball of energy that keeps going and going and going. It's a quality that really could get annoying after awhile. Carol and Katie's dynamic and conflict is basically the same thing repeated over and over again. Carol is overbearing and nosy which makes Katie's job more difficult. But it's also just a lot of fun. Plus, who could have guessed that Nicole Richie had this kind of surprising comedic performance in her. It's so wonderful to hear the various lines she says in passing when interacting with these other characters.

68. TNT's Animal Kingdom

The second season of this drama was a significant step up in quality from the first. And the first wasn't even that bad. It was just a show that was still struggling to find itself. This year the drama knew exactly what it wanted to be. It was a show about this family of criminals trying to break apart from the status quo they've always known. It was a season that isolated Ellen Barkin's Smurf for a lot of it as her kids pushed her out and then sent her to jail. It was a season that could expand the world of each of the individual characters just enough to make it clear what their motivations were. Even though one of them is a killer, it was easy to have sympathy for him as he fell in love but based all of that on a lie. Plus, the season had two incredible cliffhangers near the end. First with the arrest at the end of the eleventh episode and the shooting at the end of the finale.

67. FXX's You're the Worst

The first three seasons of this comedy were genuinely great television. One of the best shows out there. At the start of the fourth season, I would say the exact same thing. The first five episodes this year were the show at the top of its game. And then, it lost its way with some creative decisions that didn't make a whole lot of sense and really pushed the boundaries of unlikable qualities with the characters. The show has always been at its best when Jimmy, Gretchen, Edgar and Lindsay are interacting with one another and being terrible together. The season proved in the early going that it could separate the cast and still be a terrific comedy. And then, when they came back together, it was so vicious and poignant to watch because of the audience's understanding of the history they share. And then, they largely went their separate ways for contrived reasons. It was weird. Still a fascinating and amusing show. Just not as strong as it once was.

66. History's Vikings

This year for the drama was defined by trying to find direction following the death of Ragnar Lothbrok. That pivotal death of the show's lead character for four seasons actually happened in the final episode of 2016. And so, that vicious moment can't be attributed to this year for the show. And yes, the drama did struggle for a little bit in the passing of the baton to the younger generation of vikings. But those episodes also continued to showcase just how intricate and well-crafted the various action set pieces of this world are. Those were very strong and invigorating. And now, the drama is forging ahead in several new directions for its fifth season. It's a show that once again has confidence in what it's doing. Ivar has replaced Ragnar's role on the show in many ways. But there's no longer just one visible lead. Ivar has his own story but Lagertha and Bjorn have theirs as well which are just as complicated and interesting to watch.

65. NBC's Superstore

This comedy continues to be a solid hit for NBC. It understands the working class of 2017 better than almost any other show out there at the moment. It's truly special. It's not afraid to tackle some truly topical subject matter - like undocumented workers or abortion or employee-based health care. It's a really smart and insightful show. But it's also just an amusing workplace comedy about a group of characters who don't really like or understand each other a lot of the time but have to find a way to work with one another. It's still only ventured outside of the central store a couple of times. But the lives lived outside those walls are still very consistent and important. Their lives are affected and defined by this job. That's interesting. Sure, the Jonah-Amy romance stuff is a little too conventional and forced a lot of the time. It's stuck in the will-they/won't-they place. But it's not gotten to the point of just annoying teasing yet either.

64. Netflix's 13 Reasons Why

This limited series was a true surprise at the end of March from Netflix. It's a drama that tackles such a dark story of a high school student committing suicide. It has a solid episodic structure with each hour laying out one reason why Hannah killed herself. It had such a cumulative effect to it. Each episode built the evidence for why all of this happened while still allowing there to be sympathy and anger at the heart of the story. The production values weren't always the best and there was some puzzling stuff during the middle of the run. Plus, a large portion of it was told from the perspective of Clay being a little too clueless about the world around him. But it was an incredibly personal story that had such a visceral ending. Sure, it was graphic to see Hannah kill herself. But it was also important to see such a moment to understand the role she played in this tragedy as well despite the many failings of the entire world around her.

63. The CW's iZombie

In its three seasons so far, this drama always has a little too much plot going on. At times, it is difficult to keep track of everything that is happening at the same time. And yet, it all manages to still land in a personal place that comes together nicely by the end of each season. Plus, it has a solid episodic hook with the brain of the week. Major on teenage girl brain is easily the best thing the show has ever done and revealed the comedic potential of Robert Buckley. But it was still a story about the zombies of the world preparing for discovery day and the show being confident enough not to create some explanation for why that doesn't happen in the end. It's a show that became more genuine this year because everyone knew the truth. And that trajectory will only continue in 2018. And on a character level, it had such a personal cliffhanger built around a sweet and genuine moment between Liv and Ravi.

62. TBS' People of Earth

This comedy is so sweet and sincere. Yes, it's a show about aliens and the people they abduct. But it's also just a lot of fun. It imagines the aliens as just a part of a workplace comedy where they all hate their new boss. It imagines the humans as a support group trying to make sense of the new information they have without a way to confirm any of it. It built on the strengths of the first season in many ways. It brought in Nasim Pedrad as an FBI agent who was very amusing to watch even though she was constantly behind the audience in information. But it was also a season that was trying to do a little too much. It felt a little more serialized than the first because certain elements were introduced in specific episodes with the payoffs happening later in the season. Those payoffs weren't necessarily rewarding even though the finale was terrific in a number of ways. Plus, there was a truly shocking moment halfway through the year that did have some genuine consequences for the remainder of the episodes.

61. SundanceTV's Top of the Lake: China Girl

This drama is a part of an overall trend in the industry to bring back limited series for second seasons because they were successful in the first. It's an annoying trend because there is so much power in simply letting stories end. Now, it seems like executives want things to continue for as long as possible because they worked even when the shows can't match the quality of that first season. The first season of this show was absolutely mesmerizing and beautiful. That didn't mean China Girl couldn't match that quality. It was still a powerful six episodes of story that boasted a number of incredible performances. The first season was an exploration of Robin's identity as a woman. The second season was an exploration of a woman's identity as a mother. That was a powerful thematic thread throughout this entire season that brought everything together. It got such nuanced work from Elisabeth Moss, Nicole Kidman, Gwendoline Christie and Alice Englert even though the actual story was a little all over the place.