The 15 Best TV Shows of 2017!

People have been saying it for a long time now, but we're truly in the Golden Age of television. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture given by The New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum (at my alma-mater Concordia University in Montreal), where she complained that there was too much good TV to keep up with. Boy was she ever right!

There's so much good stuff out there that it took three of us, myself, Paul Shirey and Alex Maidy to make this "best of" list, but I’m sure we still missed stuff. There’s just no time to watch it all (although I hope to finally catch up with "Game of Thrones" over the X-Mas break). Check out our list, let us know what you thought and please, let us know what's worth watching that we’ve missed. We'll try to catch-up! - Chris Bumbray

#1 The Deuce

David Simon's triumphant return to TV drama is as immediately compelling as "The Wire" ever was. A daring glimpse into the seventies sex biz, it succeeds where the similar "Vinyl" didn't because it dares to get seedy when need be. With James Franco's Frankie and Vincent as our guides through this industry in flux, "The Deuce" was quite the journey. While the show's anchor, Franco's not quite the star, with the even focus on Maggie Gyllenhaal's streetwalker Candy becoming more prominent as the season goes on. The same can be said for the eclectic supporting cast of characters, including Chris Coy's gay bartender, Paul, Gary Carr's vicious pimp C.C and more. It's a masterpiece and if it's given appropriate room to grow, it might become a classic. - Chris Bumbray

#2 Mindhunter

One of the best new shows on television (and renewed for a second season) from David Fincher and Joe Penhall, Mindhunter loosely (and closely) adapts the real-life story of the first-ever FBI profilers, led by John Douglas (who they based the Scott Glenn character off of in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS), whose book, "Mindhunter" serves as the main inspiration. The series delves deep into the minds and actions of real-world serial killers, while using faux protagonists in Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany and and Hannah Gross. The team dynamic is excellent as we dive not only into the lives of the killers, but those attempting to uncover their motives in an attempt to better understand and catch future ones. The performances are top notch (Cameron Britton is excellent as real-life killer Edmund Kemper) and the style is very Fincher (who directed 4 episodes) and the subject simply fascinating. It's an enthralling watch, expertly crafted from top to bottom and manages to be absolutely frightening without showing a single murder happen onscreen. - Paul Shirey

#3 Game of Thrones

The pace picked up dramatically this season and it felt all-too brisk, but the stakes are as high as ever and the quality hasn't diminished at all. Without being able to draw from author George R.R. Martin's unwritten novels in the Song of Fire & Ice saga, the showrunners have opted to follow their own path (although with Martin's input) to race toward the finale in this satisfyingly bold and vindicating penultimate season. Daenerys is now in Westeros, Sansa and Arya back in Winterfell, Cersei now the Queen ruler and everyone else (that's alive, anyway) shuffling to choose a side in the coming war to end all wars. Especially with The Wall being shattered in the finale, ushering in a (short) final season that's sure to be a brawl of epic proportions. Even with shorter episodes and an amped-up pace, this season managed to keep the same edge-of-your-seat anxiety as all the others and fueled GOT fans with peak anticipation for the finale. To me, it's still the best show on television and I'll be sad to see it end (but anxious as hell to see who survives). - Paul Shirey

#4 Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies began its HBO run as a limited series. How else would A-listers Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley ever make the move to the small screen? Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, it was another cinematic leap for HBO in the vein of the first season of "True Detective" and the reviews were glowing, so much so that what was once a mini-series is now coming back for a second season, with "American Honey" director Andrea Arnold signing on to direct. It'll be interesting to see how she does, with Vallee bringing a mix of black humour to his suburban gothic tale that distinguished it from the pack. - Chris Bumbray

#5 The Handmaid's Tale

Singlehandedly putting Hulu on the map, "The Handmaid's Take" made for provocative, thrilling sci-fi, with an incredible star turn by Elizabeth Moss as Offred, with the world created by Margaret Atwood and adapted to the small screen a dark depiction of misogyny gone unchecked. Special attention is also due Ann Dowd, as the single most hiss-worthy villain of the year, big screen or small. - Chris Bumbray

#6 Master of None

Aziz Ansari proved in his second season of Netflix's Master of None that he is no one-trick pony. In fact, he's a hell of a voice and the follow-up to his masterful first season is a really terrific, funny, moving and provoking entry to the series. Ansari and co-creator Alan Yang have put a great spin on the standard "rom-com" series that follows Ansari's Dev as he navigates his career, dating, religion, friendships and more. There's an episode in black and white that's mostly in Italian with subtitles, a "silent" episode with deaf couples and an outstanding online dating episode that really shines a light on the good and bad of that whole mess. Ansari, basically playing himself, is thoroughly engaging and lovable, while the supporting cast (especially his parents) all shine as well. Bitingly funny and wholesomely original, Master of None is one of the best comedy shows on TV and deserves an audience fitting of its brilliance. Great stuff. - Paul Shirey

#7 Samurai Jack

Thirteen years after the end of the 4th season, which left Samurai Jack still in limbo in an Aku-controlled future, creator Genndy Tartakovsky returned to complete the saga in the fifth and final season, upping the series to a mature-rated level and finishing with a bang. Every bit as inventive, clever, epic, violent and badass as the previous seasons, Tartakovsky pulled-off a miracle in closing out the final chapter of Samurai Jack with poetic perfection. The animation is crisp and amazing, the voice performances on point (although sadly without the late Mako as Aku) and the final journey full of all the things you'd hope to see in a closing chapter. This is one of the best animated shows ever to be put on television and this final season seemed to skate under the radar (although it took home four creative Emmy's for the final season), which is a shame, as it is endlessly rewatchable and a true staple for modern animated shows. As much as I'd love to see more, this finale is the perfect bow on top for this amazing show. - Paul Shirey

#8 Twin Peaks: The Return

Not everyone got David Lynch's return to "Twin Peaks" and that's fine. It was a thrilling, epic piece of twisted genre and Lynch at his best. One thing worth noting is that the naysayers who hated it likely never watched the original series, or didn't get it as this was very much in line with it and the film spin-off TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME. Kyle MacLachlan had his best role in years in his return to the role that made him famous, Agent Cooper, although first we were treated to the inimitable Dougie, who wasn't quite right (but that's just fine). Some of it was tedious, but this was deliberate. Overall, it was an utterly unique experience, and hopefully Lynch will return to his universe sooner rather than later. - Chris Bumbray

#9 Fargo

Some say "Fargo's" third season wasn't quite on-par with the first two, and I agree to an extent. If those were 10/10, S3 was still a strong 9 and better than 99% of everything else out there, with sterling work by the cast, including Ewan McGregor in a dual role, Carrie Coon and Michael Stuhlbarg. For me, the real highlight was Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Nikki Swango, the most badass heroine of the year, and David Thewlis as V.M Varga, proprietor of the year's scariest dental work (A CURE FOR WELLNESS is the runner up). Showrunner Noah Hawley was as ambitious as ever, weaving in animated sequences with the saddest robot ever - Minski- and standalone episodes. It was wonderful. - Chris Bumbray

#10 GLOW

Who knew that a women's wrestling drama set in the 1980's would be such an engaging, funny and moving show? G.L.O.W. (Glamorous Ladies Of Wrestling) stars Alison Brie as a struggling actress who takes a gig as a female wrestler with the hopes of finding an audience (and, most importantly, rent money), along with a group of other female hopefuls from all walks of life. Marc Maron brilliantly plays their director who is a conflicted mess himself and looking for redemption. It's very much A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN only with wrestling and set in the '80's, but that doesn't mean it isn't a fabulous watch. Brie is outstanding and it's ironically the first time she's really been able to shine a light on her acting talents as she's often cast as the hot wife or girlfriend in her film roles. And the supporting cast is just as great, each of them bringing a new perspective and character insight that we haven't seen before. Watching them all develop and find their wrestling "character" is a blast to watch and the finale, like much of modern-day wrestling, leaves you wanting more. Thankfully, a second season is on order. - Paul Shirey

#11 Stranger Things 2

Let me preface this by saying that the second season of “Stranger Things” was fine. The fact is the first season caught the zeitgeist so fiercely it would have been impossible for season two to do the same. In fact, the second season came in with a certain degree of backlash already built in, which pretty much happens anytime a show becomes as popular as “Stranger Things” has, with the kids on the cover of magazines, popping up in late-night sketches, and dominating social media.

The season itself was good, if uneven. The biggest problem is that, by necessity, Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven and Finn Wolfhard’s Mike were separated for most of the season, when their chemistry gave the first season certain sweetness they couldn’t replicate here by splitting them up. Also, the big mystery wasn’t so compelling, and a great baddie in the mold of Matthew Modine’s Brenner was sorely missed. A lot of people also had a big problem with episode seven, although I personally didn’t mind it. The undeniable highlight of the season was for sure Joe Keery’s Steve Harrington coming into his own as a hero, channeling (in my opinion) Kurt Russell as Jack Burton in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. His rivalry with Dacre Montgomery’s Billy could go to interesting places next season – because – well, is it just me or did Billy seem to have a bit of a thing for Steve? - Chris Bumbray

#12 Room 104

HBO's anthology series differentiated itself from shows like Fargo and American Horror Story by telling a completely different story every episode. New cast, new themes and new genres appeared in every story. The only unifying characteristic was that every episode takes place in the exact same motel room. Standout episodes include a dialogue free story about a woman confronting her dream of being a dancer, a story about a pair of Mormons confronting their own sexuality, a hilarious 90s set episode about technology, the James Van Der Beek and Clarke Duke episode about sexual roleplaying, and a stunningly emotional tale featuring Philip Baker Hall as a man facing his wife's death. Each half hour episode is jam-packed with great acting and even better writing. Creators Mark and Jay Duplass bring their mumblecore aesthetics to this series that can be any genre and doesn't have to fit into the neat format of any particular one. - Alex Maidy

#13 Better Call Saul

If Better Call Saul wasn't burdened with being a spinoff to one of the most universally beloved shows of the era, it would be considered a masterpiece. When Vince Gilligan announced that Saul Goodman would be getting a spinoff, I assumed it would be a one-season-wonder, but just like its predecessor did, the show laments the tragedy of a good man gone bad. While Jimmy McGill's unlikely to resort to murder, his moral compass is just as skewed in its own way as Walter White's ever was. Like WW, he infects all of those he comes into contact with, specifically Kim (the always incredible Rhea Seehorn) and his brother Chuck, in a career-best performance by Michael McKean, who becomes the biggest collateral damage in Jimmy's decline - so far. My hope is that they start to show more of his post Albuquerque life at the mini-mall Cinnabon, with us still only getting tantalizing glimpses of what life on the run is like for the once and future Jimmy. - Chris Bumbray

#14 The Leftovers

Over three brief seasons, Damon Lindelof's contemplative drama about a mysterious event that causes a percentage of the world's population to instantly vanish managed to become one of the most stunning programs on television. After an uneven first season, the second run of The Leftovers elevated the show to be one of the best of the year. The concluding chapter in the story manages to wrap up everything while still not answering every single existential question the show posed to audiences. The third and final season spent time in both Texas as well as Australia and tackled everything from religion and faith to potential alternate dimensions and nightmarish dreamscapes. The underrated performances from stars Justin Theroux and the great Carrie Coon should be recognized for their nuance in handling everything from desperation to reconciliation and true love. The Leftovers is viewing for a dedicated audience but you will not be disappointed in turning yourself over to binge the whole series. - Alex Maidy

#15 The Punisher

Wow, what a mixed bag of a show, but still an amazing entry for both Marvel and Netflix. After a hugely disappointing season of The Defenders, there was thankfully something more engaging on the horizon with The Punisher. It's absolutely a slow burn and one that left me conflicted and often frustrated at the lack of "Punisher action" but by the end it rounds itself out and serves as a good entry to the character, albeit with some reservations. Bernthal is a great Frank Castle, even if he talks way too much, and the supporting cast, particularly the villains of Rawlins (Paul Schulze) and Russo (Ben Barnes), are top notch. The dynamic between Frank and Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is great and even elevates the relationship beyond the comics. While the show has issues, including a crappy side plot with a disgruntled Vet and a burn slower than molasses, the performances and in-your-face violence (when it finally arrives) are great stuff. Renewed for a second season, my only hope is that we see Frank rocking that skull as much as possible and the action quotient picked up in a big way. I mean, this IS The Punisher we're talking about here. - Paul Shirey

Honorable Mention: The Orville

While many assumed creator-star Seth MacFarlane's "Star Trek" homage, "The Orville" would be an overloaded vanity project heavy on dumb gags, the show has grown to be an exceptionally good space opera in its own right. After a shaky pilot which overemphasized dumb humor, the tone began to even out, with it shifting from 70% comedy/30% drama to 70% drama/30% comedy. Some of the episodes were exceptional, such as one that tackled gender prejudice when a crewman's baby is forced to undergo a gender swap procedure, or another with Charlize Theron as a shifty but alluring time traveler. The best guest role of all had to be Rob Lowe as the blue-alien who MacFarlane's Mercer found sleeping with his wife/first officer, Grayson (Adrianne Palicki). It's great stuff - and it keeps getting better. - Chris Bumbray

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