Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Best TV Shows of 2017 - Top 80

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 80-71. 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 80-71 for 2017!

80. Freeform's The Bold Type

When ABC Family became Freeform, it came with the mission statement to tell more stories geared to people in their teens and twenties as they explore their professional and personal lives. That was a solid goal but it took awhile for the network to find a new success story. It finally did with this drama about three female friends trying to make it in the magazine industry. This was just such an uplifting and empowering series. It was all about the professional bonds that form in a workplace where it's perfectly fine and acceptable for people to push for excellence without being demeaning. That was so revelatory. But the core trio and the bond that they shared was so special. It was so easy and effortless. They made those three characters easy to care about. They each had desires both personally and professionally that made it rewarding when they either achieved them or failed by the end of the season.

79. The CW's Legends of Tomorrow

In 2016, this drama was completely unnecessary. It was just a hodgepodge series full of some familiar faces from Arrow and The Flash. It took itself too seriously and couldn't figure out its own set of rules pertaining to time travel. But then, the second season cut bait with the elements and characters that weren't working. Plus, the writers just went full in on their silliness. The first 2017 episode took the main team to the 1970s to protect George Lucas and ensure that he creates Star Wars. Since then, it's just been such a delightful show to watch. It's easily become the best of the Arrowverse shows on The CW. That would have seemed crazy when the show first debuted. But now, it's easy for the audience to get excited about episodes that riff on E.T., vampires in Victorian England and a giant telepathic gorilla in the Vietnam War. It's just the right amount of crazy now.

78. TBS' Angie Tribeca

This spoof of police procedurals continues to be turning out such specific and amusing episodes. It's a concept that could grow stale over time. And yet, the creative team and cast still commit fully to these really absurd and simple visual gags. It's really remarkable. It always goes for the stupidest joke but that's a tone and approach that really works for this show. It may seem like things are easy but they are actually working on many different levels. This season even brought in Chris Pine for a recurring role as a Hannibal Lector-type. But in this case, it was a story about big game hunters being hunted. It was all so ridiculous and had a resolution that didn't make any logistical sense at all. But that's also a part of the joke. Plus, the show hit the road this season and brought its unique worldview to cities like New York, Miami and New Orleans.

77. Hulu's Difficult People

The third season of this comedy wasn't remarkably different from the first two. It's still just about Billy and Julie making fun of pop culture and not being aware of their roles in their failure to be successful. But it was also a season of growth for both of them - as well as the supporting characters in their world. No, it didn't seem like it was written for it to be the final season of the show. But the finale especially had a nice full-circle quality to it as well. Julie has always been afraid of becoming her mother. And now, she finds success through writing Marilyn's book for her. Billy has never been able to find consistent love. Now, he is able to have a solid romance with John Cho's Todd. Those moments were sweet while never taking away the ridicule or outrageousness of the episodic plots. It was still just as crazy as ever.

76. CBS All Access' The Good Fight

The spinoff of The Good Wife needed to adjust its story slightly right away due to the results of the 2016 presidential election. Of course, these writers have proven themselves to be able to adjust to changing circumstances in the past. They aren't afraid to be very political with their stories. At times, it did go a little too broad without really digging deeper to the core root of the conflicts. It just wanted to revel in the chaos that came out of the disagreements. But it was still compelling drama to watch because the audience got to spend more time with Christine Baranski's Diane Lockhart and Cush Jumbo's Lucca Quinn. Those two - along with newcomer Delroy Lindo - really propped this show up in some interesting ways. Plus, it was fun to welcome back Matthew Perry and Carrie Preston to this world.

75. CBS' Mom

This comedy has proven to be one of the few shows still worth watching on CBS. The rest of the lineup has become very formulaic and lackluster without really changing the core audience. This comedy has always done that. It has pushed the boundaries of the multi-camera format. It's not afraid to take the story to some dark places and allow the characters the opportunity to deal with those complicated emotions. This was a year largely defined through the relationship between Bonnie and Adam. That was more hopeful than some of the past overarching storylines this show has done. As such, it does seem like the storytelling is becoming a bit more broad - which is common for sitcoms as they age. But it's still a reliable show that is worth tuning in for.

74. Discovery's Manhunt: Unabomber

Discovery has long been a successful cable channel with unscripted programming. It's the network of Shark Week and car shows. It's been flirting with scripted content for the past five years or so. It's never really made much of a commitment when it does order something in this particular genre. It's always been a limited engagement. And yet, this limited series was very well executed and should perhaps indicate a greater push into the genre for Discovery. Paul Bettany was mesmerizing to watch as Ted Kaczynski. That was the central performance that was layered and nuanced. It drew the audience in even though the viewer likely knew what happened in this story. Everything was told in a very procedural way that didn't allow for many twists to be truly shocking. But the performances and the execution made it a gripping story to watch regardless.

73. The CW's The 100

The drama's third season was a step in the wrong direction of increasingly larger world building, darker twists and shocking plot developments. It was a story that went too fast with too many unlikable characters being prioritized over fan favorites. The fourth season needed to scale things back a little bit even though it was literally about the end of the world descending on these characters. It still had the genuine stakes of that massive threat to the entire planet. But it was so rewarding to watch it as a personal tale of survival for these characters. Sure, there were moments that were dark for the sake of being dark. Some character deaths weren't that meaningful. Some motivations were only thinly drawn. But the main story was compulsive and very engaging to watch. The world was at war with one another after too many bouts of destruction. The apocalypse could only do so much for unity. And that's what made the endgame so intense to watch.

72. Netflix's Sense8

In its second season, the drama definitely favored more group scenes of the eight main sensates coming together to utilize all of their talents. It was a beautiful season to watch because it continued the themes of connection and understanding of other perspectives. The stories that worked in the first season continued to work here - especially Lito's struggle to find work as a gay actor and Sun's quest to find revenge. Plus, there was even more of the conspiracy element. That story was always one twist away from completely flying off the rails. In the end, I still probably couldn't explain it to someone. But it gave Will and Riley a more important story this time around that brought all of the cluster together in some meaningful ways. It was a story of survival through the most complicated and difficult of circumstances. And yes, it ends on a cliffhanger that would have been a lousy way to go out. So, the fans should be very fortunate that we are getting that two-hour wrap-up movie next year.

71. CBS' The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

When Stephen Colbert first took over for David Letterman, there were a lot of questions about how his CBS show would differ from his Comedy Central one. And it has definitely taken him awhile to find his new groove. Sometimes, the best commentary on the world would come from him being able to put on that old persona once more. But this was the year that I found myself continually watching his political coverage and opening monologues once more. The interviews are only varying degrees of interest. But he is a very skilled and personal interviewer as well. Of course, some bits don't land and I wouldn't call him the most necessary voice in the current political times. But he does have a strong and relevant voice once more. That's important to note now. Colbert is back and the biting commentary is as strong as it has ever been.