My “Best of the Year” content invades TV Thursday with a look at my ten favorite shows of 2017. There are a couple shows on the list that came out prior to 2017 but this was the first year I watched them so they were new to me. And I fell off of the weekly episodic content really hard after the Spring so most of this list was bingeable.
Up first, a few quick Honorable Mentions:
The West Wing - When Quinten and Logan invited me to do a West Wing podcast with them, it was the perfect excuse to go back and brush up on this show. And then I watched the whole series in a couple weeks. It is a show that, even when it slides a bit too far into its Sorkinisms, still manages to genuinely inspire me.
The Office - Another show I hopped back into and rewatched on a whim, I think because Joey Noelle tweeted about it. I adore the characters and the show has only grown on me over the years after working in more and more office environments where I see the archetypes over and over again in real life. I didn’t include this or the West Wing on the proper list because I’ve seen them both multiple times before and it wouldn’t be a fair fight against my love of them.
Death Note - I really like the first maybe two-thirds of Death Note. Then they drastically changed up the dynamic in a way that just ripped the rug out from under me and never managed to win me back over.
Orange is the New Black is one of the first Netflix shows I watched (I think I watched it before House of Cards but I don’t quite recall at this point). Both now in their fifth season, this was the only one of the two I bothered with in 2017. I had no interest in watching Frank Underwood in the era of Trump, even before the Kevin Spacey revelations. But I was interested to see how the riot in Litchfield would play out. It was a very different season for the show, all taking place over just a couple days while the inmates were running things. I love how much the ensemble has expanded and grown over the years as well.
Castlevania was way better than I expected it to be. The only reason it’s not higher on this list is probably because it’s way more a proof of concept extended pilot, than an actual series, coming in under 2 hours for the full four-episodes. Nevertheless, the animation is beautifully grim and the story, while short, is a great beginning of something that I hope finds its full potential in the next season.
I watched a couple episodes of this show a few years back when I was borrowing my then girlfriend’s parents’ HBO account but got away from it. When I picked HBO up this year for Game of Thrones and this popped up on the home screen, I hopped back into it for the first season. It was always be weird that I saw the little-known Betas (which was one of Amazon Primes first attempts at original programming alongside Alpha House) a year before this debuted. I enjoyed Betas with its similar premise (incubating start-up tech company tries to make it big) and Silicon Valley is a fun take as well, with some great performances like Kumail Nanjiani and Martin Starr.
Man, this show really took me back to the days listening to that first season of Serial as it happened. I was really blown away by how much the story of this fictional dick-drawing vandal unlocked memories of Adnan Syed. This show really nailed the “true crime documentary” format in the same way The Office did and wound up turning an absurd little idea into a break-out show. I don’t know that they’ll be able to capture lighting in a bottle a second time (much like Serial season two was nowhere near the smash of season one) but it’ll be interesting to see them try.
6. Last Week Tonight/A Closer Look segments of Seth Meyers
I grouped these two together because they because must-see viewing for me in the era of Trump. During the era of Bush, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were the voices I listened to in order to highlight the absurdity of our political hypocrisy. In the era of Trump, it has been largely John Oliver and Seth Meyers (with a healthy dose of Colbert’s monologues too). Almost like clockwork, I would come home from work and if Seth Meyers had done an episode that night, the Closer Look segment, detailing the latest absurd tale out of the current administration, was there on my YouTube home page, waiting to be watched. The same on Sunday nights after Last Week Tonight aired, I would pretty much always watch the segment they put out on YouTube before calling it a night.
Stranger Things season two was a great way to continue building out the world of the show, introducing a handful of new characters, mixing and matching some of the pairings from the first season, and introducing a threatening new big bad. There were a handful of moments that felt like they were trying to repeat the first season (Will’s drawings of the tunnels hung around the Byers house didn’t have the same punch as the Christmas lights for example) but there was still a lot of fun to be had. And yeah, the side story with Eleven hit at a terrible point in terms of the pacing of the season but it still gave Millie Bobby Brown so great moments to play with so I can look past it in the end.
I’m not quite finished with the first season of My Hero Academia but I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve seen so far. The idea of superhero Hogwarts is awesome and the characters, storylines, and Quirks all have me excited to check-in with the show week-in and week-out. In fact, waiting between Saturdays has been one of the toughest bits because I’ll finish an episode and want to hop right into the next one.
GLOW hit at the perfect time for me as I was getting back into wrestling. Plus, I adore Alison Brie and Marc Maron’s dry sarcastic wit is always right in my wheelhouse. The supporting cast of characters was great as well and between this and Orange is the New Black, Netflix is nailing the female-driven ensemble show.
Westworld is one of those shows that I was everyone tweeting about when it was originally airing. People were amazing at just how many twists and turns they were squeezing into a single episode that other shows would have spaced out over entire seasons. I absolutely loved everything about Westworld. Fortunately, since I wasn’t paying attention to the details when the original tweets were happening, a lot of the surprises still worked for me and always kept me guessing.
I whole reason I got an HBO account this year was so I could watch this season in real time with everyone else. Since I wasn’t watching last season as it happened, there were some key moments that lost a bit of their impact since I knew they were coming. I’m a firm believer that a story is about more than just an endpoint that might be spoiled but I still wanted to watch this season so that I could also watch all of the reaction shows that accompanied this season. As for the show itself, I love that we’re reaching the show’s endgame and we’ve got characters coming together for the first time in years moreso than cases where the characters are coming apart. 2018 is going to be a long year without Westeros in our lives but I look forward to however the story ends in 2019.