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.
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 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: iZombie, Hap and Leonard, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The 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!