Next up on my 2017 Favorites: TV Shows. This is meant to be TV shows I watched in 2017, but they’re actually all shows that aired/became available on streaming this year, too, because my backlist watching is scattered over a lot of different shows right now (though I am enjoying Mad Men and Battlestar Galactica and Parks and Recreation…)
So here is my list, in approximate order of when I watched them.
A Series of Unfortunate Events (season 1)
I feel like I’ve been waiting for this since sixth grade when I binged the book series (yes, I know, later than some…I refused to read popular books for a while), and it did NOT disappoint. I actually kind of like the movie, but the series of course is not designed for that format, and it tried to wrap it all up with a definite ending that just doesn’t fit.
From what I can remember, the Netflix show stays faithful to the book, taking its time with 2 episodes for each book/story, and so the first season comprises books 1-4. The old-timey style of the strange setting is rendered beautifully. Patrick Warburton (aka Puddy from Seinfeld) is great as Lemony Snicket, narrating and freeze-framing to point out his characteristic observations. Neil Patrick Harris’s Olaf is, yes, ridiculous–but that’s the point. He seems to be the only adults in on the joke, constantly breaking the fourth wall to comment on streaming TV. I also appreciated and caught the various literary references more, as well as the overall “adults are incompetent” theme. I knew the twist it was trying to pull because it was spoiled for me online (although not really a spoiler because, again, it follows the books), but I enjoyed how more overt references to the over-arching plot of series were weaved in compared to the books (as I remember!). And the kids, of course, I care about as they struggle through the absurd world.
Legion (season 1)
I watched this show quite a long time now, but it had me sold on “very strange experimental TV about an obscure X-Men character who is possibly struggling with mental illness or a superpower or both.” Okay, I actually hadn’t really been into the X-Men before this, but I’d been intrigued by how it can be seen as metaphorical for marginalized youth. Add that to the mental health themes, and I was hoping for something like Fringe (one of my favorite shows of all time), where sci-fi/supernatural elements help communicate the fear of what’s happening in your own head. And it didn’t disappoint on that front, while also being very entertaining with a mix of horror, mystery, action, romance, and surrealism. It even turned into a silent black-and-white horror movie once. Can’t wait to continue exploring the world in the second season!
Naturally, I have to close out with this clip. Aubrey Plaza deserves all the awards for being really creepy the whole season.
Doctor Who (series 10 + Christmas special)
Doctor Who was my first proper TV love (like 6 and a half years ago now!) and I still continue to enjoy exploring whatever it throws at me each week it’s on. This year, I loved the unpredictable, funny, and groundbreaking Bill as the new companion, there were quite a few episodes with great ideas I enjoyed, and Peter Capaldi’s Doctor continued to delight. The most recent episode, the Christmas special, explored death and change in a very moving way. And I’m excited for the Thirteenth Doctor, too! (Though I’ll have to get used to her being a very different character than she played on Broadchurch…see below.)
The Good Place (season 1.5-2.5)
I’m so glad this show has gotten popular! I began watching it when there were only a few episodes out, but it’s certainly become more well-known and well-loved since arriving on Netflix in August. This year, there was the end of season 1 with THAT twist that I did not see coming, and the continuously unpredictable beginning (well, like 2/3) of season 2. I find myself laughing at all of the creative absurdity (and PUNS) it comes up with and I’m so happy there will be more!
Twin Peaks (season 2.5-3)
I debated whether to put this on the list or not. I finally went back to the second (and then final) season of Twin Peaks after several years…I think I was around episode 16 or 17? I’d already known the murderer and everything. Refreshingly, it seemed like I was through the slow patch of the season and I really enjoyed the last part of season 2, especially the introduction of Annie and that famous final episode.
Then I continued on to the new Showtime revival. I intended to binge it and avoid paying more than a month of the streaming service (through Hulu), but the season wasn’t all out like I thought it was at the time, and it turned out to be so. slow. There were a lot of intriguing parts, but I honestly missed the old characters together and, especially, Cooper. Who is there, but not really there, as you’ll know if you’ve seen it, which was disappointing as I remembered how much I loved his quirky character after returning to the show. When I did binge the last few episodes to avoid paying for another month, I didn’t really connect with it and was mostly just glad I was over. But it still had those surreal moments I still love, so…
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (season 2-3.5)
I honestly wasn’t a big fan of the second season…it seemed to lack something (Greg, honestly, and the realism he brought). But I did watch it this year, so it might as well be on this list, and there were some great moments and songs.
More significantly, season 3 so far has been FANTASTIC. I wasn’t sure where it was going to go and not terribly excited for it, but it has really impressed me by delving deeply into the mental health issues we all know Rebecca has had. The song “Diagnosis” was sadly rather relatable, and I’m so glad it’s gone in this direction. Plus, we’ve been graced with the song parodies “Let’s Generalize About Men” and “The First Penis I Saw.”
Star Trek: Discovery (“Chapter 1”)
I know this might be controversial in the Star Trek fandom (for various reasons, some valid and some just plain racist and homophobic), but I LOVE Discovery! I’m finally glad I get to watch a Star Trek series as it airs (I grew up on reruns of The Next Generation), and it hasn’t disappointed. I love Michael and watching her and the other characters grow. It managed to preserve an episodic structure especially in later episodes that showed fun time on the ship as well as the problem-of-the-week, along with the over-arching plot. Anthony Rapp, who I already loved from musicals, plays one-half Star Trek‘s first gay characters and couple alongside Wilson Cruz, which makes me so happy and is so important. (I know some people are worried something will happen to them, but I’m hopeful, because they’re main Star Trek characters? I know that’s naive, but I think there’s plenty of story they want to tell there.) The finale was especially great–there were twists I didn’t see coming and I thought it explored PTSD well and from an angle you don’t usually see. I can’t wait for the rest in January!
Stranger Things (season 2)
Stranger Things was something I jumped early on the bandwagon last summer and I found it a lot of fun. The second season, which I watched with a couple friends over 3 days (3 episodes over 3 days over a week, basically), didn’t disappoint. Clearly, this was never a show I thought too much about, but I enjoyed this season quite a bit. I wish there was more for Nancy to do, but man can the kid playing Will ACT after we barely saw him last season, and I really liked Eleven looking into her past and coming into her own. And yes, I enjoyed episode 7 for that reason, but that seems to be more common amongst female viewers, too.
Broadchurch (season 3)
I loved the first two seasons (especially the first) of Broadchurch when I watched them back in 2015. But I hadn’t followed the lead-up to the third and final season (first airing in the UK and on BBC America), so it was a pleasant surprise when it arrived on Netflix and I couldn’t stop watching, just like when I first saw the first season.
While references are still made to the initial murder and its fallout that kicked off the whole show, season 3 is about an entirely new case of the rape of a woman. (In fact, I found Mark’s storyline a little tedious…though I suppose that’s the point. He irrationally cannot get over his son’s murder.) It is handled VERY WELL and never explicitly shown on-screen, and much of the season scrutinizes various everyday examples of misogyny in addition to the serious ones. Naturally, it wouldn’t be there’s paranoia running rampant and improper uses of the press. Ellie Miller (who I still LOVE) is caring to the victim, calling out sexism and stressing how important it is to believe the victim and preserve confidentiality. In other words, a great antidote to 2017’s sexual harassment (and worse) allegations. Alec gets some character development as well with his daughter, though I wish Ellie called him out a couple of times he was being rude. Basically, FANTASTIC. Sad there won’t be more, but at least Chibnall and Whittaker are moving to Doctor Who (even though I haven’t been a big fan most of Chibnall’s past Who episodes, I love how he handles this show). Watch the whole series if you haven’t.
- Class, the (sadly now-canceled) Doctor Who spinoff helmed by YA author Patrick Ness, because I still have only seen a couple of episodes. But what I saw I loved, so I’m sure it’ll make the 2018 list!
- Big Mouth…I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did? But it also covered female puberty and consent and healthy relationships! And there were some great visual gags! And parodies of R.E.M. and Seinfeld! At the very least, it’s research for teaching middle school, right?
- American Gods…I binged this in a week and so it wasn’t as memorable as the others, but I did enjoy it and it rendered quite a few wacky moments from the book well.
- I didn’t love Atlanta as much as I expected, mostly because it wasn’t as surreal as I had been lead to believe, but I loved the very satiric episodes “B.A.N.” and “Juneteenth.”
- I’m currently watching Mindhunter and may be close to finishing before the year’s up. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it, but I’m enjoying the commentary on psychology, the 70s style, and everything Anna Torv.
- I still haven’t watched the last of this year’s Sherlock batch, but I remember enjoying the second one of the bunch (“The Lying Detective”).