The 17 best new TV shows of 2017
There are a lot of phenomenal television shows out there. Here's a list of the best new shows that debuted on our screens this year
Great television ages well. With a few notable exceptions, fine shows only get better, which is why end of the year lists tend to congregate around the same (deserving) names: BoJack Horseman, Fargo, The Good Place, Better Call Saul, Twin Peaks: The Return. These are all stupendous shows, but I decided to cull my list this year the sprawl of last year’s Top 16and stick only to brand new shows, the shows that debuted this year and immediately made an impact on our binging habits.
The most convenient thing about a list like this, dear reader, is the fact that you can dive right into a show that sounds interesting to you without several seasons of baggage to catch up with.
Here, then, is the class of 2017:
17. The Punisher
The Marvel superheroes showing up regularly on Netflix miss more targets than they hit in terms of quality these days, but there’s no such fear with this series with John Bernthal as the crackshot mercenary from the title. The mood is melancholy, Bernthal and the supporting cast are solid, the storytelling is tight and the opening credits are ace. (Netflix)
16. She’s Gotta Have It
Spike Lee has still got it, and that “it" includes everything from a fondness for pushing the envelope, to shaping dialogue out of barbed wire. The legendary filmmaker’s 10-episode update of his own 1986 classic—about a girl called Nola Darling and her beautifully brazen juggle of three suitors—feels a bit too long and sometimes squanders its vitality, but when it’s firing on all cylinders, this is dynamite. (Netflix)
15. Big Little Lies
David E Kelley’s drama about a murder investigation unfolding backwards was built to keep us guessing not just who the murderer was, but who would get to be the victim. The whodunnit/who-died machinations were admittedly gimmicky and a lot of the writing was purely expository, but this show came alive with sensational performances, particularly from Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgård and the phenomenal Laura Dern. (Hotstar)
14. The Same Sky
A striking German miniseries, The Same Sky is set in the ‘70s and tells the story of two families on either side of the Berlin Wall. There are spies, there is distrust, there are conspiracies and there are relationships, and above them all is the same sky— threatening, at any given time, to fall on their heads tomorrow. It’s like The Americans, only less contrived. (Netflix)
The year is 1814, and a top hat-wearing Tom Hardy is just making his way into England with 14 stolen diamonds. If that one-line synopsis doesn’t grab you, I don’t think we can be friends. This is thrilling drama, pinned into place by one of the best leading men alive. (Out now on DVD)
12. The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood’s harrowing novel of the same name—about a dystopian world where women have no power, are not allowed to read and, if fertile, are subject to ritualised rape—was brought to the screen with tremendous and timely power this year. Far from being an easy watch, this is one of the year’s most relevant and well-performed shows. (Out now on DVD)
Hank Azaria, the multitalented actor best known for voicing Apu, Chief Wiggum and Moe Szyslak on The Simpsons, finally finds a role worthy of his acting chops—and of his unbelievable voice. As a baseball announcer drinking his career away, Azaria brings a wonderful vulnerability to this artfully crude and profane comedy, and is well matched by a very game Amanda Peet. Game on. (Out now on DVD)
10. Sneaky Pete
This show about a conman on the run starts off feeling like a guilty pleasure, but this guilt is soon alleviated by great actors. The conman in question is played by Giovanni Ribisi, character actress Margo Martindale lands a properly meaty role, and, as an over the top villain, the show’s creator Bryan Cranston gets to ham it up. The plot is suitably twisty, but it is the show’s longwinded telling that lets us feel for the characters more than we may have if we’d have met them inside a movie. (Amazon Prime)
9. American Gods
Believe in the past. Bryan Fuller (who made the great Hannibal series) and Michael Green (who wrote Logan and Blade Runner 2049 this year) had the right credentials to adapt Neil Gaiman’s crackerjack allegorical novel, a stirring satire about old gods like Odin forced to defend their turf against new gods like Media. The show they made, with lecherous leprechauns and many a digression into history, made for 10 fascinating episodes, easy to devour and intoxicating as can be. Ian McShane is amazing, the soundtrack is great and oh, Gillian Anderson plays David Bowie. (Amazon Prime)
Why would an actress want to be cast as a wrestler? That sounds like a joke without a punchline, but this show takes us inside the squared circle to see how much of a soap opera wrestling really is, and how a little bit of creativity—as well as a little bit of shiny spandex—can go a long way. Based on real-life troupe Glamorous Ladies Of Wrestling, this show is as ‘80s as can be. Alison Brie is superb as the earnest Katharine Hepburn fan who now finds herself playing the in-ring villain, while Marc Maron shines as the reluctant promoter who would rather be left alone to make his own trashy sci-fi movies. (Netflix)
7. Feud: Bette & Joan
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were two of the most iconic actresses to ever grace the silver screen, and it was critical for Ryan Murphy’s take on their excessive and incredible catfight to get the casting right. Voila. The infallible Susan Sarandon makes for an uncanny Davis, while Jessica Lange is devastatingly good as Crawford, delivering what has to be the performance of the year. Sexism, ageism, Hollywood hypocrisy and manipulation are all on display as this show gives us all a tour of Sunset Boulevard. (Hotstar)
6. American Vandal
The year’s brightest surprise, this series spoofing self-serious investigative shows like Making A Murderer and Serial one-upped them by taking its ludicrous subject matter seriously. The high school crime here is that of penises being spray-painted across several faculty cars. There is much hilarity in terms of interrogation, suspects and motive, but this is alsoa genuinely compelling mysterythat offers a surprising amount of insight about young life and the way kids are shaped by labelling and unfair expectations. (Netflix)
5. The Deuce
It’s New York City in the 1970s, and either we are seeing double because of all the drugs or there are two James Francos. It’s (probably) the latter, as Franco plays twins who work with the mafia while Maggie Gyllenhaal is cast as a woman sucked into the world of porn, an industry primed to erupt. This is not the rollicking world of Boogie Nights but something seamier and more dramatic. Created by David Simon of The Wire, The Deuce is television at its most compelling. (Hotstar)
What if Stanley Kubrick ever made a show about mutants? We’ll never know just how the master who terrorised us with a glass of milk would have dealt with the Marvel universe, but there is many a trace of Kubrick in this gloriously trippy and bonkers show. Noah Hawley, creator of the marvellous Fargo, this visually sensational showabout a young man in a sanitarium—or is it about a sanitarium inside a young man? Whatever it is, the girl he loves is called Syd Barrett, and the soundtrack has appropriate amounts of Pink Floyd. (Out now on DVD)
3. Dear White People
If there is one show we must all watch this year, it is Justin Simien’s brilliant and incisive take on racial politics, a welcome expansion on the ideas he’d explored in his fantastic film of the same name. The show starts with a fraternity shindig where white students decided to blackface as a party theme, and things spin intriguingly and unpredictably out of control from there. The characters are even more explosive than the situation, and this smart, sexy, strong show pulls absolutely zero punches. (Netflix)
What makes a serial killer kill? What makes a serial killer do it serially? These are loaded questions, and master director David Fincher takes us deep into the frightening minds of mass-murderers and foot-fetishising psychopaths as he shows us how a few pioneering FBI agents started delving into the dark so they could find the right questions to ask. The dialogue is remarkable, the subject gripping beyond compare, and Fincher’s grip on his audience is unrelenting. (Netflix)
1. The Marvelous Mrs Maisel
Joy is a dashed hard thing to bottle.
Amy Sherman-Palladino, best known for Gilmore Girls, has, however, created the fizziest and most bracing of television beverages, a sparkling and dizzyingly great series about a true original.
This is a show about a Jewish woman in the late ‘50s finding her feet in the very male world of stand-up comedy, and it happens to be an absolute jewel. She is a character who literally glows, and Mrs Maisel is my new hero. This is a show that should immediately be heralded as an all-time-great, a show about comedy that actually understands where comedy comes from, and a show not afraid to be messy—or to be musical. Drink up. (Amazon Prime)
FIRST PUBLISHED28.12.2017 | 05:49 PM IST
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