The Best TV Shows of 2017 (So Far)

The return of Twin Peaks is cause for celebration

I’ve always considered myself a cinephile, once joking with my therapist that I’d never kill myself because I'm too curious about what my favorite filmmakers are going to do next. I recently started tracking on Twitter all the films I watch and discovered that I don’t watch as many features as I used to. The reason? There is so much damn good stuff on TV!

So with half of 2017 almost in the books, I thought now would be a great time to do a roundup of my favorite shows of the year (so far) – the qualifying factor being that they released new episodes in 2017. It's worth noting all the quality shows that dropped on premium (HBO, Showtime) and streaming sites (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu) as opposed to network TV. It’s a bold new world of streaming, and the viewer is reaping the benefits.

1) Twin Peaks (Showtime) Season 3

The TV event of the year. Whenever an artist of David Lynch’s caliber releases anything new, it’s newsworthy. But when it’s 18 hours of the beloved Twin Peaks series with Lynch directing and co-writing (with Mark Frost) the whole shebang, it’s cause to celebrate. If you weren’t around for the series debut in 1990, it might be hard to understand how groundbreaking it was for a show this arty, bizarre, and dark to be aired on broadcast TV (ABC). Nine years before HBO’s The Sopranos – widely regarded as the show that started the “golden age of TV” era we are in today – Twin Peaks took television to a place it had never been and introduced a top-notch cast and cinematography, excellent writing, and overall artistry to TV in a way that had not been done before. Picking up 25 years after the season 2 finale, season 3, for me, does not disappoint in any way. Without the boundaries of network TV, Lynch goes deep – drawing out scenes as slow as molasses in the winter – into the world of Twin Peaks, opening it up to different locations (New York, Las Vegas, South Dakota) and bringing back old favorites (Kyle MacLachlan, Grace Zabriskie, Lynch himself) while sprinkling in new ones (Robert Forster, Naomi Watts, Laura Dern!). As beautiful, disturbing, and rewarding as anything Lynch has done, Twin Peaks lives up to both the hype and Lynch's pedigree.

2) Fargo (FX) Season 3

If it wasn’t hard enough to create a show based on Joel and Ethan Coen’s highly acclaimed 1996 feature film Fargo, the bar has been raised even higher following the near perfection of season 2 (one of the most impressive seasons of any show to ever air on television). Further upping the ante, Fargo is an anthology-style series, with each season boasting a different cast and story, set in a different era. While I was initially doubtful that season 2 could be matched, season 3 – judged on its own merits – has served the franchise well. Riding on the back of incredible performances from the entire cast (notably Carrie Coon, David Thewlis, Ewan McGregor, and Michael Stuhlbarg), season 3 has done the near impossible of living up to my extremely high expectations for this excellent series.

You can read our interview with Fargo creator Noah Hawley here.

3) The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) Season 1

Hulu’s first original series breakthrough hit is truly one for the times – despite being based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name. I’ve had several friends tell me that they can’t watch this dystopian drama set in the near future because it hits a little too close to home considering our current political climate. For me, this just makes the show’s themes even more pressing. It is at its strongest when focusing on the lead – Elisabeth Moss in a tour de force performance.

4) Catastrophe (Amazon) Season 3

Buoyed by stand-out performances from its co-creators, American comedian and Twitter star Rob Delaney and British actor Sharon Horgan, season 3 continues the same brilliant, frank comedy about parenting, relationships, and fucking up. The compact six-episode seasons are over too soon. I'm looking forward to seeing more from Delaney and Horgan in the future.

5) Master of None (Netflix) Season 2

Season 1 garnered creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series and a Peabody Award – all for a seemingly simple rom-com in which Ansari's character, Dev, just wants to find love in the age of Tinder, and a truly great meal. That season followed Dev's love life in New York while the debut of season 2 finds Dev in Modena, Italy, learning the pasta trade and taking in the country – shot effectively in black and white as part of a grand homage to Vittorio De Sica's 1949 classic Bicycle Thieves. Food and love and humor abound.

6) The Leftovers (HBO) Season 3

After a lackluster debut season, season 2 won me back. The third (and final) season built off that momentum and did something showrunner Damon Lindelof's Lost failed to do – nail the landing. If Carrie Coon doesn't win an Emmy for this performance or her turn in Fargo, then our Screens Editor Josh Kupecki will eat his shoe.

7) Better Call Saul (AMC) Season 3

While lawyer-ing is definitely not as sexy as the meth trade portrayed in Breaking Bad, viewers who have stuck around to follow the feud between brothers Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Chuck (Michael McKean) have been rewarded with the same excellent storytelling, cinematography, and acting featured in the parent series.

8) Silicon Valley (HBO) Season 4

Can Mike Judge do no wrong? Aside from 2009's uneven Extract, it seems so. Consistently the funniest show on TV and not afraid to push the story along in rapid fashion, Silicon Valley's all-star cast (including soon-to-be-departed T.J. Miller) never fails to bring the lulz.

9) Baskets (FX) Season 2

This vehicle for Zach Galifianakis (co-created by Galifianakis, Louis C.K., and Jonathan Krisel) does feature him in not one but two notable performances, playing dueling brothers Chip and Dale, as well as a great breakout role for local comedian Martha Kelly. But it's Louis Anderson's Emmy Award-winning performance as the brothers' mom, Christine Baskets, that steals the show and probably sealed the deal for a second and third season of this black comedy.

10) Crashing (HBO) Season 1

What's not to love about this Judd Apatow-produced comedy focusing on the travails of down-and-out stand-up comedian Pete Holmes? It's worth it alone to see Artie Lange, T.J. Miller, and Sarah Silverman playing themselves alongside Holmes' semi-autobiographical portrayal of his divorce, subsequent homelessness, and not so successful effort to break in to the competitive New York stand-up scene. Renewed for season 2!

Follow @olsparky on Twitter for Mark's overly complicated rating system film reviews.

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Television, Twin Peaks, Showtime, Fargo, FX, The Handmaid's Tale, Hulu, Catastrophe, Amazon, Master of None, Netflix, The Leftovers, HBO, Better Call Saul, AMC, Silicon Valley, Baskets, Crashing, Best TV shows 2017, Best TV

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