For many reasons, this year has been a complete shitstorm. The continued, rampant decline of humanity has left little to be desired out of living, at least for me. However, I had a bright spot of light at the end of this bleak tunnel. Television was on fire this year, and how could I possibly not craft a post to commemorate the one thing I had to look forward to every day; the reason I woke up in the mornings? Ten seems to be the most fashionable number, so I’ll go with that. Not before I mention some Honourable shows that couldn’t make my list, of course. Obviously consider the fact that this is my very biased list so your favourite show will probably not be mentioned (rabid Game of Thrones fans, I still hate your show), and that I have only seen about 30 shows in full this year? I may not be the most qualified person to make a list, but, damn it, I’m gonna make one anyway!
TRIAL & ERROR (NBC, 2017-)
This silly little comedy came out of nowhere and completely took me by surprise. I just so happened to binge the entire thing in one day when I was in Israel. Its easy binge-ability, tight, serialized storytelling, quirky humour and dialogue, and impeccable acting made for one of the best experiences I had all year. Most of the news about Season 2 leads me to believe it won’t be quite as good as its first outing was. But perhaps I will be proved wrong. I doubt it, though. Regardless, the first season of this show is a must-watch.
THE TICK (Amazon, 2017-)
Yet another complete and utter surprise to me, The Tick was a thrill ride from beginning to end. Easily one of the most slept on shows of the year, this superhero oddball was a blast from the first moment. Open conversations about mental illness, exciting action scenes, adorable characters, and unexpected superhero story beats, this show certainly would have made my main list if Amazon released more than just six episodes. Maybe next year. Probably.
DANGER & EGGS (Amazon, 2017-)
I finally managed to find a link to watch this (because my poor, Amazon-less existence is so unhelpful when shows this good are trapped away from streaming links for the common folk) and I had an absolute blast. Danger & Eggs is everything you’d want a show for kids to be, but oh, so much more. So much more that adults can and should be watching along too. Fast-paced, adorable dialogue with relatable characters and some of the finest actors of our time doing the voice acting? Yep. Some of the greatest representation for LGBTQ+ characters, even going so far as to have a transgender Mayor, an agender character using they/them pronouns, and hosting a literal pride parade as the season finale? YEP, YEP, YEP. Please, treat yourself to this wonderful, wacky world.
HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER (ABC, 2014-)
Oh, HTGAWM. My relationship with this show has been such a roller coaster ride. I will give credit where credit is due: Season 4A was an instant improvement over 3A. There were several strong episodes immediately out of the gate that I almost put it on my main list after seeing gifs of certain scenes on Tumblr. Even if there are many stories I am enjoying, there are still so many things this show does that annoy me to no end. If Frank Delfino ever dies I guarantee the show will make my list, though. This is a promise.
BLACK SAILS (Starz, 2014-2017)
This one is gonna be short and sweet: the only episode of this show I have seen in full is the pilot. If I watched this show in its entirety I already know it would be one of my favourites. I’m giving this an honourable mention, though, because of its series finale. They brought Thomas Hamilton back from the dead. They unburied a gay. They also introduced a new gay to be with Anne, and Max lived to the end and thrived. This show introduced and subverted many tropes. For this alone, it deserves to be here. One day I’ll watch it. It’ll be a great day.
MADAM SECRETARY (CBS, 2014-)
See what I said about Black Sails, add a few episodes that I’ve seen, a perfectly crafted coming out story, excellent characters, biting and topical political stories, and the biggest surprise of the year – me enjoying a CBS property, and you’ve got a winner. Blake coming out as bisexual was one of the greatest moments of the year, pretty much singlehandedly earning a spot here, and also being the impetus for me to start the show. If more shows could be like this one then maybe we wouldn’t be living in the hellish landscape otherwise known as the current American administration.
BLACK-ISH (ABC, 2014-)
And yet another show I am behind on, black-ish continues to be the bright spot in a landscape filled with otherwise really *white* family comedies on TV. After “Lemons” aired, I knew this show was a must-watch for me, and I knew I had to see the brilliance of Anthony Anderson for myself. Tracee Ellis Ross is also a tour-de-force, and I love everything this couple goes through. They feel like such a real deal and their kids are simply irresistible. Seek this one out if you have somehow missed it, because I find it hard to believe that you have.
THE TOP 10
So, let us begin. This is obviously a biased list since I had a rotten year and I didn’t get a chance to watch much & couldn’t possibly see all the shows I wanted to see this year. But this is my list. So just deal with it. Okay? Okay. Anyway…
#10 – CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND (The CW, 2015-)
This show, man. If this was a list of the most Consistent shows of 2017, this wouldn’t even crack the top 20. I’m okay with serialized shows trying new things throughout their outings. I tried to convince myself that I was okay with Daredevil‘s three arcs in their 13-episode second season. But I really wasn’t. That entire thing felt so disjointed as 2A was fantastic, 2B was abhorrent, and 2C had its moments but couldn’t really fix was was already broken. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s second season, oddly enough, followed this exact same formula. I have to assume it’s a coincidence, but perhaps it was foul play. Regardless, I was elated when season three started and it was putting some of the qualms I had early on in the year to bed. Some awful things are still around (Nathaniel’s existence, the constant barrage of heteronormativity and lack of sapphics, not to mention the GOD AWFUL plot ruining Darryl and White Josh’s dynamic), but there is enough to love about the show still hanging around that warrants a spot on the list.
Rebecca’s inner turmoil has always been portrayed so fascinatingly to me. I’ve always adored the more subtle feminism beats that a show like this likes to present, but sometimes they go a bit overboard and end up coming off the wrong way. Regardless, watching Rebecca Bunch vow to get revenge on everyone she believed has wronged her wouldn’t seem as out of place to people if she were a man on a cable network prestige drama. Besides that, the show still rules in the music department, and the cast of supporting characters are mostly wonderful. It has its issues, but there is no other network dramedy out there addressing mental illness in such refreshing ways as this one. For that alone, it will always be welcome on my list. Go research what they’ve done for fans with borderline personality disorder. It could melt your heart.
#9 – IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA (FX & FXX, 2005-)
I’d like to take a quick moment to point out how utterly remarkable it is to have this show be on my list. This is a comedy in its TWELFTH season! TWELVE seasons in, and it can still churn out biting satire better than most others. I could sit here all day fawning over the fantastic premiere episode, a musical about police brutality in a post-Trump world where the gang experiences actual hardships under the guise of being other people. I could talk about how fantastic it was to see a Making a Murderer-style parody of Dennis’s serial killer urges that we’ve seen teased constantly throughout the series. Heck, this entire review could be about “Hero or Hate Crime?”, the third best episode of any show that aired this year, which featured Mac finally coming out to himself, the gang, and the world. It all felt so right, and in a world where no line is too dangerous to cross, they all had time to let Mac actually be himself for once, and it was beautiful to watch.
Yeah, there’s also the issue of what happens in the finale, “A Cricket’s Tale” was risky and boring, “Wolf Cola” had some issues, and “PTSDee” didn’t really capture everything we wanted it to. All of that wasn’t enough to take away what this season did, and how much of an improvement it was over the previous season. Just because they butchered Dennis later on, made a mockery of everyone shipping Mac/Dennis, and drenched every last ounce of Charlie/The Waitress well that they possibly could doesn’t mean that this wasn’t a great year for the Sunny team. The fact that we have to wait such a long time for Season 13 is terrible, and who knows what the future holds in store for Dennis. That’s by far the worst part about this season by far.
Damn you, RCG. Damn you.
#8 – DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (Netflix, 2017-)
Dang, this show is really addictive and penetrative. I have only watched through its season once, but there are so many aspects of the show that have stuck with me throughout the months. So much of its narrative style was completely subversive and groundbreaking, and this show is chalk full of stories and characters that feel fresh and important, especially in the year of our lord 2017. By far the best developments came from Lionel, who came out (a popular theme among my top shows, and there’s a great reason for it) and opened himself up to some courageous paths. Sam was our main protagonist, and much of the story revolved around her being the loudest voice, and she very much was, but she wasn’t without her problematic qualities. Her cheating was obviously grating, but maybe the reason and fact that it exists makes it all the more potent, as we’re so accustomed to cheating storylines and love triangles in primarily white TV spaces. This was something new? Even if they went about it the wrong way.
Season 2 has all the potential to be even better. Joelle needs her epic episode or two, and there’s so much still waiting to be uncovered. But even as I get excited about the future, I still think about how fantastic this freshman year was. “Chapter V”, in particular, was truly a masterpiece, even though it should’ve never had to be a thing that was created. Barry Jenkins, my boy, directed this beauty and showcased some STELLAR work from Marque Richardson. Lionel’s episodes were always the winners for me, I loved every time I saw Joelle on screen, and the breakdown of the Sam/Coco dynamic was heartbreaking and compelling all the same. If there’s one thing I can hope stays behind in Season 1 aside from what I’ve mentioned, it’s the Neika/Monique…thing they did. Nobody needs to see that shit in 2018. Leave it in 2017.
Though, of course, that statement can be applied to many, many things. And this show doesn’t seem like one that will leave anything behind that is still prevalent in the world. Hmmm…
#7 – THE GOOD PLACE (NBC, 2016-)
I’ll be honest, I kept swapping this one around between #4 and #7 for literal months. That’s because The Good Place is such a polarizing show to me. For all that it does so, so well, there are things that really perplex me about the show. Most episodes feel all too bright and happy for being a show literally about the afterlife with an “architect” who lied to everyone about them being in heaven. But, on the other hand, you get Ted Danson’s evil laugh delivering this news to you, and then you remember that it’s a fictional show that doesn’t have all the answers to the questions you might personally have about the afterlife. It’s silly. It’s supposed to be silly. It’s really good at being silly. But sometimes I long for more. Forgive me.
There’s also the issue of the endless baiting of Eleanor and Tahani. Just please, please listen to us, Mike Schur. You’re great, we all know you’re great, but a lot of us would rather you didn’t show us any of these baiting scenes if you do not intend to have them go anywhere. Eleanor and Chidi is the quite obvious endgame plan here, and I’m totally fine with all of this if they are planning to change it up in the future and do something different. But if not? Then drop it now while you still have some good will. I’m not the only person who feels this way, Mike. I love your show, I really do. All three episodes of Season 1 that aired in 2017 were masterpieces, and I liked what you had going at the beginning of Season 2. But if you want me to stick around, you’ll have to get Forkin’ real. Was that too shoehorned in? Meh. Pobody’s nerfect. Go fork yourself.
#6 – THE GOOD DOCTOR (ABC, 2017-)
I am behind on this show, but if you didn’t think that David Shore’s new property wasn’t going to make my list when you first heard it was being created then you’re out of your damn mind. House is still my show of shows, and from what I’ve seen of The Good Doctor, Shore still very much has it. Whatever ‘it’ is. Freddie Highmore, as everyone and their dog by now has come to realize, is a master at work in every scene he is in. The supporting cast of characters are all great too, but many are tuning in to watch the legend, Shaun Murphy, at work. I could see the reason for controversy behind the show and his casting. He does not have autism, he probably didn’t spend time around people who have autism until he got the role. Is he playing it legitimately? That’s not for me to decide. But for my money, however much that’s worth, I think he is doing a great job.
What does that even mean, anymore, though? Doing a ‘great job’ – that seems very surface level, especially in 2017 where every single scene of every show has to be the Best Thing Your Eyes Have Ever Seen, Forever. People wrote the show off very early for being procedural and manipulative to the point of calling it a one-man band with nothing else to offer. I even addressed that in this review! But there’s a lot here to love. It’s a diverse cast with a nice spin on what Shore used to bring to the medical drama. Shaun isn’t a misanthropic drug addict. Glassman isn’t seen wearing low-cut tops in every scene, forcing himself to take lewd comments from Shaun with a smile. He’s not the one to have a eureka moment at the end of every episode solving the one-off case of the week. There are many cases in one episode. Everyone gets a chance to be the smartest in the room. Everyone can mess up. This is a real, fleshed out world, here. Trust me on this. It’s worth checking out.
#5 – SCHITT’S CREEK (CBC, 2015-)
Could it be? Could a show from my home country, that of Canada, make my list? If that show is named Schitt’s Creek, you bet your fucking ass it can! Now this show, man, this show is something else. It gets better on every rewatch. This is a show that takes everything you love about Arrested Development and brings to a smaller, more intimate level. And everything about it is phenomenal. Its third outing was by far its greatest, achieving so many highs in the season, like Johnny and Moira buying a car, Stevie realizing she is the rightful owner of the motel, Alexis graduating from high school, and of course, the best thing that came from this show, David and Patrick being the cutest fucking people on earth!!!!! I dropped two f-bombs in this review and I don’t even care!!!!! I love this pansexual icon being unable to realize that Patrick is harbouring a crush on him, and I love that it’s Alexis and Stevie who enlighten him on this fact. If the trailer for Season 4 is anything to go by, then we’re in for yet another treat of a season. I fail to see how it can get any better than Season 3 was, but stranger things […sigh] can happen.
This show deserves more paragraphs but I don’t know what else to say. I’m just so proud my country was capable of making something this incredible. I only hope one day I can work on a show that’s even half as great as this one.
Also, don’t break David and Patrick up. Just…do not.
#4 – ONE DAY AT A TIME (Netflix, 2017-)
I cannot sing the praises of this one enough. Everything about this show works on every conceivable level. They took an old sitcom from the most garbage and conservative network on TV and breathed actual life into it. It’s fresh and colourful and feels extremely timely. Not every show you watch has to be a direct commentary and antithesis on this hellscape we live in, but if you’re drawn to shows that are, this is the one for you. The biggest complaint I’ve seen from people is that it has a laugh track, and if that’s the only thing about your show that doesn’t work? I think that’s a pretty good thing. Besides, the laugh track starts to grow on you after a while, considering it’s an actual live audience they’re performing in front of and they’re eliciting the emotions you, as a viewer, are supposed to have at all the right times. None of this feels manufactured, it’s a fully realized, wholesome family sitcom.
The cast is perfect. Every plot the characters go through is genius, except for maybe Alex. who deserves better friends. I’ve talked about Elena’s story so much I am truly becoming a predictable, broken record. But I have yet to really touch on Penelope and Lydia’s beautiful and heartbreaking stories. What we learn about these two wonderful ladies will melt even the coldest hearts. Everything we learn over the season comes to a head in “Quinces”, and if you’re not crying by the end you have no soul. There’s nothing I want more for this family than to be happy and thriving. I root for them so much because they’ve taught me so much about the value of family traditions and values, especially Cuban ones. I can never give back to them as much as the show gave to me, but I wish that I could. All I can do is tell you to get over yourself, forget about the damn laugh track, and just have a great time dancing to the theme song. Let yourself be loved.
#3 – RICK AND MORTY (Adult Swim, 2014-)
Oh yeah, baby. We’re in the big leagues now – the final three. Rick and Morty was a show I never expected to love as much as I do now. It looked to me like a show that was way too smart for me. Like Futurama if it wasn’t so slice of life and was more for giant nerds and intellectuals. To be fair, you do have to have a high IQ to understand RAM, but I digress. This season was truly a mixed bag, but a mixed bag containing some of the most high quality entertainment of the century. When the excellent season premiere dropped on April Fool’s, it was merely a taste of the goodness the year had to offer. Rick and Morty and the rest of the family go through very interesting journeys. Consider Rick turning into himself a pickle to avoid discussing the mental illnesses and toxic behaviours he is passing down to his family as a deep, dark, gory piece set amidst a John Wick story with a gay ending – which wasn’t even the best the of the show this year – as one of many beats we were able to experience from this beautifully bizarre show. But it did get better. I’ll never stop talking about “Ricklantis” for the rest of my living days. But, for this little blurb, I will.
I’ll instead divert my attention to a well-rounded season with a stark improvement on animation and voice acting from previous seasons. Seriously, the animation is not to be taken lightly. The work done here was immensely creative and expressive. “Whirly Dirly” gave us the wormhole situation, “ABC’s of Beth”, while flawed, gave us Beth’s little world full of rainbows and magic. The show did a cool thing by making this its first season to have a gender-balanced writers’ room, and it certainly shows. Summer was fully nuanced this year and we are all better people for being able to live in a world where this could transpire, even if the female writers were unfortunately attacked on social media. RAM makes me long for those other universes. Ones where sexual orientation is nothing but an afterthought, no one cares about gender, and the president is one to be idolized and you can get a selfie with him at the end of the day. I can wait for Season 4 if I must, simply because I have Season 3 to rewatch endlessly.
#2 – BOJACK HORSEMAN (Netflix, 2014-)
And if we go back and revisit the most Consistent shows of 2017, this is the #1 on that specific list. What a season this show had, let me tell you. The animators got really creative, it was almost like a season-long “Downer Ending”. I think this has to be my favourite season just for how much they really got into the nitty gritty of each and every character. BoJack’s depression and anxiety were so willfully explored that it still astounds me that a show of this caliber, let alone an animated, talking animals one, exists. Hollyhock was one of the best new characters of the year. Todd’s asexuality was shown in groundbreaking, yet subtle ways. Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter’s marriage continued to crumble. Princess Carolyn had a no good, very bad day, reminding me how incredibly strong she is and how much good in the world she most desperately deserves right about now. Unfortunately, there was no need for my mother, Kelsey, to stop by, but I could look the other way.
In all seriousness, the best thing the show did this season was end on such an optimistic glimmer of hope that I had to take pause after I completed the finale and wonder, “Really? It’s going to end like that? Am I dreaming?”. It’s not that I think BoJack didn’t deserve an ending like that, even though BoJack certainly did, but I digress. Maybe it’s because I see myself in BoJack so very much that I feel that if I am inconsolable and unfixable, that it should be the same case for him. I have no idea where the show is heading in the future. I can’t predict a single thing. And this is really exciting. There wasn’t a single sequence I’ve watched more times this year than BoJack’s inner monologue from “Stupid Piece of Shit”. Everyone loves to praise “Time’s Arrow”, but don’t forget about “Ruthie” and “The Old Sugarman Place”, please! This whole season was one big, lovely, cohesive unit. And I’m elated that it exists. More shows should be like BoJack Horseman.
Only the literal God among shows can be the one to defeat BoJack Horseman for my top spot. What could it be?
#1 – BROOKLYN NINE-NINE (FOX, 2013-)
What? Were you expecting yet another internet blogger to be fawning over the most prestigious, acclaimed dramas? Who do you think I am, really? I am not that person.
But hey, for those people who actually know who I am, the choice was quite clear. In a year filled with depression, bigotry, senseless violence, and complete and utter uncertainty, we have here a show that could deliver undeniably perfect work week after week after week – so it could always be relied on. Yep, this FOX comedy with an almost cult following at this point is the one thing in this entire medium that I could count on to cater directly to me. So much so that my happiness was pretty much a by product of how good this season really was. I mean that seriously. Everything about Brooklyn this year was the sole thing the world needed, but definitely did not deserve. See what I said the world was like above, and then tell me I’m wrong. In the Brooklyn world, however, we have Captain Raymond Jacob Holt fighting every stereotype and prejudice known to humanity so that Detective Rosa Diaz can feel more comfortable coming out as bisexual to her squad than her own parents. This entire thing could turn into me praising these two characters and these two characters only, but that would be a true disservice to what the show did this year.
Jake and Amy got engaged! “HalloVeen” is now widely regarded as one of the shows’ best, and I can’t agree more. Jake went to prison and planned to make this years’ Halloween heist as a lengthy proposal, and it was everything it was supposed to be and more. Kevin Cozner, the greatest character of all time, returned to make me cry some more. Hitchcock and Scully had a ton of great things to do. Gina was absent mostly, but her return was glorious and well deserved. Terry had the most groundbreaking and powerful story of the year, aside from Rosa, in “Moo Moo”. The precinct was close to closing, Holt is up to be the next Commissioner, Jake and Amy are now wedding planning, Boyle’s son is adorable, Gina is now a parent too, and there’s oh so much more to revel in from here. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of reviewing this show for two years now, and every week it makes my job feel like an absolute delight and never, ever like work. The only reason why I steered clear of talking about “99” is because, well, how can you review that love letter in a justified way? As a consolation, I went all out for my review of “Game Night” because that might just be my favourite episode the show has ever done. And that’s a high bar to jump over. Not enough positivity can be expressed about the show, and, once again, if you know me at all you know that optimism is completely off brand for me. If any program warranted this much unabashed glee and thanks for simply existing – it would be this one, and I wouldn’t even break a sweat doing so.
The future of Brooklyn is unclear – much like the future of the world we live in. But one thing is for sure: every year we live in a world with this show being made is guaranteed to be one worth living in. I can say this with all the confidence in the world.
So, that’s that. Be sure to let me know how wrong you think my choices are on Twitter (@laura_markus) and we can have a lovely discourse there. Thank you very much for reading and have a great New Year, everyone!