My Half Year in Television

by Matthew Thompson

With my focus on E3 here on the site during June, I haven’t posted about TV in a while. Now that the year is half over, I thought I’d take a look at my 2017 in television so far. Five shows stand out from the pack for me from the first half of the year. I’m going to talk a little about each one of them here and then cover some more stuff in the bullets that follow.

Let’s start with Better Call Saul. The Breaking Bad prequel had its best season yet weaving in some of the parent series’ players both major (Gus Fring) and minor (Huell!) while Mike continued to do his particular brand of cool hijinks. But it was Jimmy McGill’s continuing slow burn turn to Saul Goodman that captivated me the most this season. His faceoff with his brother in court during “Chicanery” made for one of 2017’s finest hours of television and the fallout with Jimmy, Chuck, and Kim made for a strong back half of the season.

Black Sails and The Handmaid's Tale

Next let’s talk about Black Sails. Its fourth season delivered more of what I’d come to expect from Starz’s swashbuckling pirate series. My big worry going into this final season was how it would close things out. Would it be able to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the show or would it feel more like it was setting the stage for Treasure Island? It turns out I had nothing to fear. While the seeds were planted for the classic tale that follows, Black Sails didn’t skimp on providing satisfying closure for the characters and the stories it has been telling these past four years. Oh and the show’s final battle was jaw-dropping. It remains one of the most overlooked series of this decade.

The Handmaid’s Tale is easily my favorite new show of the year so far. Based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, this new Hulu series depicts a dystopian future where birthrates have plummeted and the remaining fertile women are kept as slaves in the totalitarian society of Gilead – formerly the United States. It is perhaps the most disturbing show on TV, but also one of the best with superb acting across the board and some surprisingly – and unfortunately – relevant subject matter in modern times. If you can stomach the misery, you will be treated to some truly excellent and gripping television. It alone is worth subbing to Hulu for a month.

Master of None and The Good Place

Master of None returned from a year off in 2016 with an even better sophomore outing. Aziz Ansari’s slice-of-life Netflix dramedy once again flitted effortlessly between delving into Dev’s love life through the show’s smart modern lens and examining important social issues like religion and sexuality. Season 2 is packed with so many stellar episodes it is hard to pick a favorite. I think I’d lean towards “First Date” if I had to choose now, though the final scene of “The Dinner Party” is definitely my favorite moment from the season. And I could easily make the argument for three or four other episodes. Just an all-around wonderful season of TV.

The final show I’d throw in this group is The Good Place. I’ve talked several times in the past about why I love NBC’s afterlife comedy so much. It has only aired four episodes in 2017 so far, but it has been as strong as any of these shows based on that sampling which includes my favorite episode of the year in the game-changing Season 1 finale “Michael’s Gambit.” While the rest of these shows are finished in 2017, The Good Place returns in the Fall for more, so it still has some work to do if it wants to stay on my best of TV list come year’s end.

More notable TV shows from 2017’s first half:

  • Other Favorite Returning Shows: iZombieHap and Leonard, Unbreakable Kimmy SchmidtThe 100, and The Missing.
  • Other New Shows Worth Watching: Big Little Lies, The Good Fight, Claws, GLOW, and American Gods.
  • Favorite Non-2017 TV Seasons I Watched This Year: Justified Season 2, Halt and Catch Fire Season 3, and Fleabag Season 1.
  • Most Disappointing Shows: The Americans and Silicon Valley.
  • Fargo wasn’t as good as years past either, but I did love the late-season combo of Nikki Swango and Mr. Wrench. And the first fifteen minutes of “Who Rules the Land of Denial” is absolutely incredible.
  • If other sites’ half-year articles are any indication, another new show I still need to get to is Legion. I didn’t initially realize it was created by Noah Hawley which ups my interest as well. I will try to get to that before year’s end.

I had planned on expanding on those bullet point sections in this post originally, but decided to leave that sort of thing until I have the full year to look back on at the end of 2017, so that will do it for this post. What have been the standout TV shows or episodes of the year for you in 2017 so far? Feel free to let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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4 comments on “My Half Year in Television

  1. Looks like you’re doing a good job of keeping up with a number of shows! I haven’t got to the latest season of Better Call Saul and Black Sail yet, I’m really looking to them based on your thoughts. The Handmaid’s Tale is great isn’t it? Brutal too. And Elizabeth Moss’ lead performance is excellent.
    I have quite a few fav eps from Master of None Season 2, First Date is definitely one of them. I’m almost finished Legion Season 1, I’m having a hard time getting through the eps and there’s only 8 of them. I’d be curious what you think of it, if you get around to it. I did love Fargo Season 1, but Legion is very different.

  2. In total agreement with all points. Master of None was sensational this year. Handmaid’s Tale was amazing but ended kind of sourly. American God’s was the same way… fantastic start, petered out by the end of season one. LEGION!!!! (from beginning to end… magnificent) Fargo was decent but lacked an outstanding performance. (Ewan is just alright with me) I really liked the main actress who also played in The Leftovers. I enjoyed her in both. I also liked how both of her characters had a similar problem with tech. That was fascinating and must have been coordinated. GLOW was awesome as well. The baby had me rolling. Also when both of the main characters go “Thank you, places.” (It’s the little things) Kimmy, iZombie and Black Sails left me cold. BS because it was ending, I think. And the other two were just not as good this year. Fleabag was surprisingly good and heart-wrenchingly gut punching. You’re right about Silicon Valley (they phoned it in… literally) but I disagree slightly about The Americans. I love that show so much. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah Saul. Better Call Saul is just quality television through and through. Like Breaking Bad I expect it to be great all the way to the end.

  3. As a show worth watching In GLOW — I started watching it far too late at night, loved what I saw, haven’t dove back in. I heard its amazing and need to make the commitment to watching it. I loved the first season of The Good Place and Im almost done with Season 4 of Black Sails. A lot of good TV, yet so little time haha

  4. Better Call Saul was unimpressive to me in season one, but it’s really become something special. Handmaid’s Tale is great and I enjoy Master of None. I really need to watch Black Sails, Starz has my undying respect after Spartacus.

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