Monday, December 18, 2017

The Best TV Shows of 2017 - Top 90

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 90-81. 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 90-81 for 2017!

90. Netflix's The Punisher

Like with all of the Marvel shows on Netflix, this drama suffered from pacing problems that extended from trying to fit a six-hour story into 13 episodes. And yet, that core story was incredibly strong and thematic. Sure, the messaging about guns and violence could be very annoying, one-note and lackluster most of the time. But it was also a thoughtful meditation on PTSD and the lengths people will go to in order to obtain what they desire in this world - with the conclusion showing how all the violence affected the characters. It was all boosted by strong performances from Jon Bernthal and Ebon Moss-Bachrach.

89. The CW's Riverdale

In terms of letter grades, no series in 2017 fluctuated between an A and a C with more regularity than this drama. One week the show would be firing on all cylinders with the camp escalated to the most absolute but poignant levels. And then, the next week it would be shooting itself in its own foot with creative decisions that would seem to come out of no where. It was frustrating because the greatness was so great. Betty Cooper is one of the most original characters to have debuted in 2017. Plus, it's so much fun watching Cheryl, Veronica and Jughead even though their decision-making skills can frequently be questioned.

88. NBC's This Is Us

This drama was the breakout success story of the Fall 2016 season. In the back-half of its first season, it soared to new heights - with spotlight episodes for Randall and William road-tripping to Memphis and a trip to the 1980s to spend more time with Dr. K. The annoying qualities of the show are perhaps a little bit more profound in the second season. Kate and Kevin stories rarely work despite an increased focus on them. But whenever Sterling K. Brown, Mandy Moore or Milo Ventimiglia show up on the screen, it's just easy to go along with all the emotional manipulation because they sell it so well.

87. Showtime's Shameless

It's rare for a show in its eighth season to be one of the most successful shows on its respective network. And yet, this comedic drama still manages to perform better than most Showtime dramas in the ratings. This season has been defined by the Gallaghers actually getting along for once. It's been startling to watch. The season opened with them working together to solve their common problems. It's still a season in the middle of its run though. It's yet to hit the true emotional peak of the narrative. Plus, there have been some growing frustrations with the Fiona-Ian story. But it's also inspiring to see this show continuing to do well eight years into its run.

86. The CW's Supergirl

This drama becomes more and more assured of itself as it ages. In its second season, it learned how to make a more powerful feminist statement. It also just had a lot of fun when it came time for a musical crossover with The Flash. But it was also empowering to see a scene between Melissa Benoist, Chyler Leigh, Calista Flockhart, Teri Hatcher and Lynda Carter. And then, the third season is telling a completely different story in a new way. It's depicting the creation of a new supervillain. It's been a meticulous story. Sometimes, it's pretty blunt. But Odette Annable has been so terrific at the center of it all. Plus, it's just fun to see how ambitious this show is now comfortable being.

85. CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery

The first Star Trek series in over a decade suffered from production delays, casting issues and an immense lockdown on spoilers. It all had the signals of being a massive catastrophe. And then, it miraculously wasn't. It's a show that is more ambitious than any previous TV series in this franchise. The look is quite distinctive and beautiful. But the story at the heart of the narrative is compelling because of the immense focus on Sonequa Martin-Green's Michael Burnham. She's gone on quite the journey in just nine episodes. The rest of the ensemble is largely a work in progress. But these episodes have proven the star power that Martin-Green has.

84. TNT's Claws

TNT is still in the midst of redefining its brand for original scripted content. This comedic drama pushed them into a complete new space. It was a unique blend of story that was inherently silly and ridiculous while still building to some genuine beats of female empowerment as well. Niecy Nash has been honing her comedic and dramatic talents for a long time now. This is a perfect starring vehicle for her and she is surrounded by so many wonderful performers - like Carrie Preston and Judy Reyes. It's such a surprising show. Not everything in the first season worked. The male characters only have a few fleeting moments where they work. But when the focus is on the five ladies at the center of the story, it's magical and colorful.

83. Amazon's The Tick

2017 featured plenty of superhero stories. I watched a lot of them. As you can already tell, a lot of them have found a place on this list. Many of them are just middle-of-the-pack shows that have some serious flaws. But this comedic take on the genre is just so much fun to watch. It's silly and needs the proper balance in order to work. But it's still a superhero story that has fun with its main concepts. It is aware of the pitfalls of the genre and makes fun of them. It calls out a villain when they are about to deliver a cliche line. It has a sense of humor about the heroics the protagonists do. Plus, the camaraderie between Arthur and The Tick is quite special and builds to some genuinely moving places. I'm eagerly awaiting the conclusion of the first season next year.

82. Hulu's Runaways

The drama has had a lot of daunting tasks in its first season. This creative team is adapting one of the most beloved comic book stories at Marvel. Plus, the early episodes needed to introduce 16 characters and the roles that they play in this complicated world. It's a lot to handle. And yet, they have seemed to pull it off. Sure, it's been a lot of rising action so far with the main teenagers not exactly running away just yet. But it's a very effective build of the story and the characters as well. It's fascinating to spend time with these teenagers as they explore their new abilities. Casting of kids can always be difficult. And yet, the casting on this show is impeccable. Every role found the right actor which just makes it so great and infectious to watch as the various twists and turns occur.

81. NBC's Trial & Error

This comedy was so absurd and silly. It definitely walked the line of what was effective parody and what was just giving in to Southern stereotypes. But it presented a compelling mystery that kept growing more and more strange and ridiculous. John Lithgow's goofy character was put on trial for murder. He kept compromising the investigation and making it more difficult for his team. That was so enjoyable to watch from start to finish. Sure, it made it seem unlikely that he actually committed the crime. But the resolution to that whole story is perfectly unique to this show while being such a strong reveal too. Plus, Sherri Shepherd is phenomenal as a woman who suffers from some incredibly strange disorders.