As the year comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on the best shows of 2017. With numerous platforms and genres represented, here is a thorough selection of the varied and vast television landscape.
A crime drama set in a small town where we’re asked to root for the antihero is nothing new. In fact, we have been inundated with such set-ups of late. Only this time, it stars comedy A-lister Jason Bateman, who also stands himself behind the camera for four of the episodes. The show is addictive, with its suspenseful and clever descent into ruin. Bateman’s bored turn as an accountant-cum-mafia money launderer is both resourceful and sneaky. It’s exciting to watch him escape one mess after another.
Laura Linney revels in the role of the tenacious and disillusioned wife, sinking her teeth into the meatiest role she’s had in years. Ozark isn’t art, but what it does best, it does to a very high level: entertain.
It could well be a testament to the Golden Age of Television that a show Mr David Fincher executive produced, as well as partly directed, could appear on our TV screens with little fanfare. That is especially the case when you consider that it revolves around a profiler for the F.B.I. who served as the inspiration behind a certain character for Silence of the Lambs. But not unlike Stranger Things, the joy of watching a show like Mindhunter is in the shared discovery.
Beyond that discovery, however, is apple-cheeked agent Holden Ford (played by Jonathan Groff), who, sufficiently becomes more and more ingrained into the midst and the world of those who inspire him to come up with the term “serial killer”. Mindhunter blends fact and fiction; a character-based show that also acts as a procedural.
Taking a leaf out of its bigger-screen counterpart, superheroes have begun to dominate the world of television. However, 2017 saw a number of flops from the world of comic books, with The Punisher, The Defenders, Iron Fist, The Gifted, and Inhumans, all making only brief appearances before finding themselves throw on to the TV scrapheap. There is one redeeming exception, however, and that is Legion; a show that takes a stylised approach to a mutant tale from Noah Hawley (showrunner of Fargo).
In a world that is a spin-off from X-Men, we focus on David Haller (played by Dan Stevens). Witnessing a potentially superpowered and potentially schizophrenic young man, we see reality come close to breaking point. Haller’s father is also one of the most famous mutants in the world (Professor X). Legion knows the boundaries of coherent storytelling and yet pushes them with all his might.
Netflix may have gloated that this Western mini-series is female-centric, but then there appears to be a lot of men taking centre stage. Jack O’Connell, who is finally showcasing his talents to US audiences, is an outlaw on the run from a gang led by Jeff Daniels. The show also features Scott McNair who plays an ex-sheriff with failing eyesight, and his deputy, Thomas Brodie-Sangster. Pretty much everyone else is a lady, however, including homesteader Michelle Dockery, and Merritt Weaver, who plays a lesbian who is also the ex-wife of her town’s mayor.
Godless is about a bunch of bad guys who invite a community that is by and large populated by women after a mining accident killed all fathers, husbands, and sons. The Scott Frank-created show, which is also produced by Steven Soderbergh, shouldn’t give itself too much credit for its feminist message as it’s ultimately the story of a lone cowboy. What works in the show, however, works to a tee: A beautifully shot, well-acted take on a well-worn genre that graciously pays homage to numerous classic tropes.
It’s all about genre
While uniquely-told stories, many of these shows fit into the genres we’ve all become accustomed to: westerns, superheroes, dystopia, crime etc. They’ve all made their mark in our conscience, as well as in television, film, novels, and numerous other mediums.
We even play their games, imagining that we’re a part of their world. Many of us have become addicted to the numerous superhero video games available, including Lego Marvel Super Heros and Batman: Arkham Asylum. These genres have even found a home in online slot games, with such western games as Dead or Alive, Bonanza and Gunsmoke, to name a few. Sites likes Oddschecker list numerous online casinos with free spins no deposit western slot games to keep fans of the genre happy. But no matter where these genres appear, they’ll always have a home in television; especially if they continue to be made to the quality of this next show.
The Hand Maid’s Tale
Hulu’s adaption of the classic dystopian novel changed, not only television, but the cultural landscape as we know it. Showrunner Bruce Miller couldn’t have predicted that when he began producing his take on the Margaret Atwood story in 2016, that the novel would mirror the frayed relationship between the current US administration and American women.
And Crabtree, the show’s costume designer, couldn’t have predicted that her take on one of the white bonnets and red robes for the hand maid’s would evolve into being iconic-like. The show also gave faces to relatively unknown profiles, with director Reed Morano particularly sought after within the Hollywood community.
Big Little Lies
The A-list, star-studded, seven-episode series had viewers engrossed in the first-world issues of the cash-happy moms of Monterey, California. It was hardly a surprise that Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Zoe Kravitz, Shailene Woodley, and Laura Dern, each put in such impressive performances, however. After all, the female leads boast two Oscar wins and six nominations between them.
The show exceeded all expectations as a small drama about women’s internal conflicts revolving around unfulfilment and expectations of being a mother and a wife, surrounded by sexual assault, domestic abuse and, of course, murder.
A mockumentary, which stars a YouTube celebrity, is about a juvenile prank involving penis drawings. It would be completely understandable for anyone who was immediately turned off from watching the show based on that premise. Tony Yacenda and Dan Perrault’s show, however, oddly both accurately and lovingly, skewers the rhythms and tones of such true-crime shows as Serial.
The cast, which includes famed YouTube star Jimmy Tatro and Tyler Alvarez is a stunning ensembles of actors who embody their beautifully-written characters. The kids are screw-ups and needs and goofs, but are each given a sense of decency and multiple layers that take them past the stereotypical high-school characters we have seen in the past. This serves to make the show a strangely heartening and pleasant one to watch.
We have more of these shows to look forward to in 2018, as well as many new ones to watch out for, including those that have already made their debuts, including Alone Together and Black Lightning. Let’s hope we’ll have equal praise to give these shows 12 months from now.