There’s been endless stories about how this is the new Golden Age of TV. Between networks, cable and streaming, viewers not only have any number of ways in how they watch their favorite shows, they now have more choices than ever in high quality TV. That means it’s become increasingly harder to narrow down our best of the year list. However, 10 TV series did stand out for being the cream of the crop.
Honorable Mention: Late night extravaganza
This has been a banner year for late night TV. From Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update to John Oliver to James Corden. Nearly every late night show brought its A game in 2017. Trevor Noah found his own style after taking over for Jon Stewart. Jimmy Kimmel turned his son’s medical emergency into a plea to save healthcare. Desus & Mero burst on the scene and became hilarious can’t miss TV. We even finally got women taking over with Samantha Bee and Robin Thede. It was such a fantastic year, there was no way to pick just one for best host.
10. Doctor Who
When Peter Capaldi announced that the tenth season of Doctor Who would be his last, fans began wondering how his farewell would play out. As it turns out, the show returned to what has made it so popular for so long. The Doctor and his companions going on fun yet emotional adventures in the TARDIS. The addition of Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts brought back an energy that hadn’t been felt since Catherine Tate as Donna. The trio of Capaldi, Mackie and Matt Lucas’ Nardole never failed to take viewers from laugh out loud comedy to tears in moments. It was the series’ best year in awhile and reminded everyone why it’s lasted 54 years.
As The CW’s flagship superhero series Arrow has higher expectations than its counterparts. Season four’s Damien Darhk storyline and murder of Laurel left fans disappointed. However, season five signaled the arrival of a new team and villain that would shake Oliver’s world to the core. Prometheus had Oliver’s number right from the start and stayed ahead of him the whole time. Adrian was the best big bad Team Arrow had faced since Deathstroke. New team members Rene, Dinah, Rory and Curtis added a fresh energy to the bunker. The show hasn’t quite kept up the same pace for season six, but there’s still time to see what comes from the bad guy team up.
8. Master of None
With season one of Master of None, Aziz Ansari introduced viewers to the funny world of an aspiring actor in New York. As Dev, Ansari made his comedic style into a show everyone could relate to on some level. For season two, he switched things up and put Dev in a new career, even more adult situations, kept all the comedy and it worked even better. This was particularly evident in the standout episode Thanksgiving.
7. The Handmaid’s Tale
Sometimes TV provides an escape from the craziness of the world, and then sometimes it highlights the worst part of ourselves. The Handmaid’s Tale is definitely the latter. Based on the novel, the series depicts an awful world where women are only there to bear children and being gay is outlawed. It’s a truly horrible glimpse into a scary future. Let’s be clear, it’s an emotional fight to get through. There’s no question that the current political climate has helped with the show’s success. Led by Elisabeth Moss, the series features an amazing cast of actresses who portray the various classes of women learning to live in and sometimes fight against the system.
There isn’t a better family comedy on TV than Blackish. Yes, the Johnsons are black and many of their issues involve dealing with race. However, what the series excels at is finding the balance between social commentary and hilarity. The musical episode about Columbus Day and Juneteenth, the reaction to the election at Dre’s office and Bow trying to find Diane a black doll. Every episode is not only funny, but also relevant and just so good. Honestly it’s a shame that it keeps losing awards to shows that aren’t really comedies.
5. American Gods
Anytime you hear a cable show is going to be based on a Neil Gaiman story, you know it’s going to be crazy and fascinating. That’s exactly what American Gods is. It follows Mr. Wednesday, one of the old gods, as he travels the country trying to find other gods willing to join him in the fight against the new gods. His bodyguard Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is the regular guy who is the audience’s entry into the madness. The gods are all played by familiar faces like Kristin Chenoweth, Orlando Jones and standout Gillian Anderson. It’s one of the most unique new shows on TV this season, but be warned you must see every episode or else you will be lost.
4. The Good Place
Speaking of unique TV shows, there is no other series more out there or creative than The Good Place. Kristen Bell went to Heaven by mistake, but it turns out she and her friends were in The Bad Place all along. In season two, knowing that they’re in Hell made everything even more hilariously ridiculous. The six main cast members are such a solid ensemble that they’ve established this incredible way of balancing all the jokes so everyone gets a chance to shine. That being said, the unsung hero is definitely Manny Jackson as the sweet but dumb Jason. It’s one of those shows that can’t really be described, but has to be seen. Warning, one episode will absolutely have you hooked.
3. Marvel’s The Punisher
Other than Iron Fist (which we’ll get to later) Netflix has had a good run with its Marvel shows. With The Punisher the franchise went in a different direction with the extremely violent tale of former Marine sniper Frank Castle who became a vigilante after his family was killed. It takes the slow burn of other Marvel series and blends it with no holds barred action to create a completely new style of comic book show. There’s no doubt that the captivating presence of Jon Bernthal keeps audiences interesting at every turn. However, it’s also the way the story keeps changing while never losing sight of its ultimate goal. Despite knowing the eventual outcome, The Punisher never for one second feels predictable.
2. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
It’s very rare that a popular show is able to reinvent and rediscover itself in its fifth season, but that’s exactly what Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. did this year. Its new storytelling format of short, contained pods allowed the series to juggle multiple plots over the course of the season, but still let an overarching thread connect them all. Starting with the introduction of Robbie Reyes’ Ghost Rider, the show featured several new characters who were able to instantly grab viewers’ interest while also igniting a new enthusiasm in old favorites. The Framework arc presented the audience with a completely rewritten MCU and challenged the agents in a way the show never had before. It was as if the show was shaking off all expectations and just doing it for the fans. Only one show could have possibly topped it.
1. Game of Thrones
It may be predictable to call Game of Thrones the best show of 2017, but if we’re being honest, the competition wasn’t even close. There were only seven episodes for the series’ penultimate season, but every single one was a game changer. Cersei takes over Westeros, Jon rules the North, Jon and Dany finally meet, Dany flies in on her dragons to attack Jaime, Arya returns home, Dany loses a dragon in to the Night King, Bran is back as the Three-Eyed Raven and of course Jon and Dany hook up, not knowing they’re related. That was only half of the jaw-dropping moments and that was exhausting to write. Nearly everything fans have been waiting years for happened in season seven, so it’s anyone’s guess what we’ll see in season eight. Viewers have invested so much into Game of Thrones that they need it to end on a high note and so far, so good.
Best Performance: Jon Bernthal – The Punisher
Every show on the list had an actor who gave the performance of the year, however, only Jon Bernthal gave such a fully immersed performance, audiences couldn’t look away for a minute. Whether you planned to binge The Punisher or not, one scene with Frank Castle convinced viewers to abandon their plans and see where Bernthal was taking them for 13 episodes. Fans got a glimpse of Frank in season two of Daredevil, but didn’t really get the full effect of his anger, loneliness and guilt until Bernthal carefully unleashed it all in a perfectly balanced portrayal.
Most Disappointing show: (tie) Inhumans and Iron Fist
Comic book fans are loyal to a fault. We will watch our heroes in movies and TV no matter how nervous we are about the finished product. For both Inhumans and Iron Fist all the signs were pointing to disappointing outcomes, but we still held out hope and watched with fingers crossed.
Unfortunately, Finn Jones’ grating Danny Rand made him impossible to relate to or root for in any way. Once fans can’t believe in the hero, you’ve lost them and no number of cool fight scenes or cameos can bring them back.
In the case of Inhumans it was clear from the start that this show would not be good. Early reviews were blistering. IMAX debut numbers were very soft and the lack of promotion from Marvel were all loud signals that viewers should keep expectations very low. Fans were looking for a chance to meet the Royal family, discover more about terrigenesis and possibly get an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. crossover. What they got was eight episodes, each one more boring and irrelevant than the next. Frankly, we should all just pretend Inhumans never happened.
Best Event: Crisis on Earth-X
As The CW has expanded its Arrowverse lineup of superhero shows, its annual crossover has become bigger each year. This year’s Crisis on Earth-X was hyped up as a two night extravaganza that would feature the heroes fighting Nazi doppelgangers of Oliver and Kara. It started with everyone fighting together when Barry and Iris’ wedding was crashed and never gave a viewers a chance to breathe for a moment. We also got a new heroic Leonard Snart, who is in a relationship with The Ray and wedding hook up betweeen Alex and Sara. In the end, the good guys one, the fans got a lot of fun Easter eggs and a double wedding. There was a lot of talk about how this would top last year’s alien invasion and it lived up to the hype. The pressure is really on for next year.
Best new show: Marvel’s Runaways
The Runaways is one of Marvel’s most popular comic book teams, so fans were expectedly excited to get a TV adaptation. The teenagers decide to team up and run away from their parents when they discover they are part of an evil group called The Pride. What makes the show work so well is the easy chemistry among the perfectly cast teenagers. Rhenzy Feliz, Lyrica Okano, Virginia Gardner, Gregg Sulkin, Allegra Acosta and Ariela Barer feel like old friends who’ve drifted apart and are finding their way back into each other’s lives. Among the parents, James Marsters as Chase’s genius psychopath father Victor, Brittany Ishibashi as the cold and scary mother of Nico, Tina and Kevin Weisman as Gert and Molly’s hippie dad Dale give memorable performances. The way the series takes time to build the story from every character’s viewpoint keeps viewers, including non-comic book fans obsessed with what happens next.
2018 Show We’re Most Excited For: Black Lightning
The CW is adding to its superhero world and we cannot wait for Black Lightning. A black superhero protecting his neighborhood and his family from gangs is the show we need right now. It’s not just about representation, it’s also about different aspects of representation. Black people are not a monolith of one minded people. We come from all backgrounds and walks of life and it’s beyond time that entertainment reflects that. We not only need more black superheroes in movies and television, we need more positive portrayals of black families and neighborhoods. Hopefully, Black Lightning lives up to expectations. We’re also wondering how long it will take The CW to somehow fold it into the Arrowverse.