The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

In the age of peak television – with so much quality content on network, cable and streaming – narrowing down a traditional Top 10 list wouldn’t quite do the year justice. Heck, even a Top 20 invokes decision paralysis – which is why we’ve expanded our inaugural 2017 edition into 25!

Despite the fattened field, there still wasn’t room for several notable pop-culture phenomenons (like Game of Thrones or Stranger Things 2), prestige dramas (like The Crown or The Americans), acclaimed comedies (like Veep or Curb Your Enthusiasm), animation standouts (like Big Mouth or Samurai Jack) or genre delights (like The Expanse or iZombie) and everything in between (like The Defiant Ones or Ozark).

Nevertheless, we break the down the best of the best after lengthy deliberation.

Honourable mentions: 30) Baskets, 29) The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, 28) Brockmire, 27) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, 26) Better Things

25) The Sinner

Created by: Derek Simonds

Watch on: Netflix

Unlike most murder mysteries, the first season of The Sinner focuses on the why instead of the who. Gripping and often disturbing, the show’s investigation offers an unglamorous portrayal of shame and grief. Jessica Biel’s remarkable performance is a tour-de-force.

24) Rick & Morty

Created by: Dan Harmon & Justin Roiland

Watch on: Netflix

This third season may not be it’s be strongest, but Rick & Morty is still one the smartest shows on television. Dan Harmon’s nihilistic spin on science fiction conventions and scientific principles continues to be hilarious, ridiculous and surprisingly thought-provoking.

23) Fargo

Created by: Noah Hawley

Watch on: Hulu

An offbeat and endless intriguing crime drama, Noah Hawley’s Fargo has long ago surpassed the Coen Brothers film in terms of style and ambition. This year’s installment doesn’t quite reach the genius of its first two seasons, but Fargo’s tonal elasticity always astonishes.

22) My Hero Academia

Created by: Kenji Nagasaki & Yōsuke Kuroda

Watch on: Hulu

If there’s one anime you need to watch, make it this one. Two seasons in, and its cast of a memorably relatable characters and gorgeous animation still delights. Their subversion of Western superhero tropes is great, but the real resonance lies in its heartfelt story.

21) Halt and Catch Fire 

Created by: Christopher Cantwell & Christopher C. Rogers

Watch on: Netflix

A Mad Men approach to the PC revolution, this character-driven period drama isn’t so much about computers as it is about the flawed people behind them. It’s an acquired taste, but in it’s fourth season, this show has grown into one of the most triumphant and tragic on television.

20) American Gods

Created by: Bryan Fuller & Michael Green

Watch on: Amazon Prime

Bryan Fuller’s distinct visual style, filled with lush violence and striking whimsy, honed on shows like Hannibal and Pushing Daisies, reaches its spellbinding apex here. American Gods isn’t just faithful to Neil Gaiman’s deified novel, it expands and improves in many respects.

19) Broad City

Created by: Abbi Jacobson & Ilana Glazer

Watch on: Comedy Central or Hulu

Broad City’s fourth season feels like it’s most confident ever. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer seem intent on putting their fictional counterparts in more peculiar situations this year, testing their unbreakable friendship through hilarious hardship and haphazard mischief.

18) The Keepers 

Created by: Ryan White

Watch on: Netflix

While investigating the murder of Sister Cathy, this true-crime series uncovers a horrifying Archdiocese conspiracy to cover-up rapes and assaults committed by their pedophile priests. While upsetting and psychologically haunting, The Keepers is a crucial documentary.

17) Insecure 

Created by: Issa Rae

Watch on: HBO Asia

Authentic, relatable and razor-sharp, this Issa Rae vehicle really finds in its footing in its second season. Whether addressing the contemporary African-American experience, or more universal themes like love and friendship – Insecure can be funny, poignant and oh-so fearless.

16) Alias Grace 

Created by: Sarah Polley & Mary Harron

Watch on: Netflix

A mesmerizing historical mystery, Alias Grace is an elegant and deceptive tale from the perspective of the female gaze. Sarah Polley does an exquisite job visualizing Margaret Atwood’s novel, while star Sarah Gadon turns in an enigmatic performance for the ages.

15) American Vandal

Created by: Dan Perrault & Tony Yacenda

Watch on: Netflix

Beginning as silly mockumentary about penis graffiti, American Vandal hilariously skewers our obsession with true-crime documentaries like Making A Murderer. But after the parody is played out, the series concludes with surprising emotional complexity and well-eared pathos.

14) FEUD: Bette and Joan

Created by: Ryan Murphy, Jaffe Cohen, and Michael Zam

Watch on: Amazon prime or iTunes

A dramatization the decades-long rivalry between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis had the potential to be campy. Instead, Ryan Murphy painted a sobering portrait of two complicated and immensely talented women, driven to bitterness by Hollywood’s fickleness and misogyny.

13) GLOW 

Created by: Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch

Watch on: Netflix

Part underdog sports story, part “the show must go on” theater tale, and part behind-the-scenes expose on the ridiculousness of the 80s’ pro wrestling industry – GLOW is a fun and funny soap opera about making a soap opera. The easiest and most satisfying binge Netflix has to offer.

12) Mindhunter 

Created by: Joe Penhall & David Fincher

Watch on: Netflix

David Fincher reinvents the serial killer / profiler procedural by taking us to the idea’s infancy. Less like Zodiac or Seven and more like Masters of Sex – Mindhunter is a robust and riveting exploration of the pioneers who dared to cross-pollinate psychology with law enforcement.

11) VICE 

Created by: Shane Smith

Watch on: HBO Asia

In the age of fake news, comedy news and quick-bite clickbait – it’s great to see VICE on HBO still committed to serious, long-form reporting in its fifth season. From active warzones to cutting-edge laboratories, VICE’s intrepid journalists continue to cover the vital issues.

10) The Good Place 

Created by: Michael Schur

Watch on: Netflix

Sharing similar traits and wits with his past shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Parks & Recreation – Michael Schur’s newest comedy The Good Place combines goofball optimism and unwavering decency with a slightly more cynical exploration of what it means to be good or evil in the afterlife. From the second half of season one (aired in January) which radically upended the show’s very premise, to the innovative and uproarious first half of season two – The Good Place is easily one of the most humorous and morally astute shows on this mortal plane.

9) Blue Planet II

Created by: James Honeyborne

Watch on: BBC Earth

The second installment of Blue Planet is a spectacular achievement in nature documentary filmmaking. Spanning our deepest oceans, seagrass “prairies” and tropical mangrove swamps – David Attenborough guides you through the vast and untrammeled waters of our planet. Involving 125 expeditions across 39 countries and over than 6,000 hours of dive footage – this was a painstaking and laborious production. But it’s glorious results doesn’t just fill the viewer with breathtaking wonder, it inspires us to consider man’s effect on the environment.

8) BoJack Horseman 

Created by: Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Watch on: Netflix

As a show and as a character, BoJack Horseman has evolved a lot. It’s still ridiculously funny (you catch more background visual jokes and absurd animal puns upon every rewatch) and unflinchingly honest in its portrayal of grief, resentment and insecurity – but this year was focused on finding hope within the darkness. Season four was also an ensemble showcase more so than ever, with Mr. Peanutbutter, Diane, Todd and Princess Carolyn each getting meaty season-long arcs, while BoJack’s (kind-of) daughter eases his despair.

7) Search Party 

Created by: Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, & Michael Showalter

Watch on:

What started as a Nancy Drew missing person mystery about entitled millennials in season one has taken a shockingly dark turn in season two. The no-longer-carefree gang are burdened by the cover-up of their murder last year, and their guilt manifests in many harrowing ways for many harrowing reasons. Nevertheless the show has not lost its wry sense of humour, choosing to amplify the callous posturing our main characters, even as our sympathy grows for them. The search has turned inwards as dread forces the party to confront who they really are.

6) The Handmaid’s Tale 

Created by: Bruce Miller

Watch on: Hulu

This has been quite a year for Margaret Atwood adaptations, and The Handmaid’s Tale is obviously the crown jewel. Following the trials of handmaid Offred in the totalitarian society of Gilead, where women’s rights have been revoked by a fundamentalist government, can be uncomfortable and depressing – but that’s exactly the point. This gripping dystopian drama is a timely cautionary tale, elevated by extraordinary performances (Elisabeth Moss in particular) and Bruce Miller’s visceral storytelling eye. Foreboding and absolutely riveting television.

5) Master of None

Created by: Aziz Ansari & Alan Yang

Watch on: Netflix

Aziz Ansari has grown by leaps and bounds as a storyteller and an actor since season one, and season two truly exudes an auteur’s poise. Nearly every episode takes risks on radical new narrative structures and themes, adding vigour to the show’s already assured approached to character, culture and relationships. Hilarious, honest and filled with unpredictable poignance – Master of None isn’t just stylistic imaginative though, it’s also immensely moving on multiple emotional levels. Sophisticated and beautifully executed, this show is a vibrant treasure.

4) The Leftovers 

Created by: Damon Lindelof & Tom Perrotta

Watch on: HBO Asia

Few shows are as awe-inspiring or confusing as The Leftovers, but rest assured, it’s exceptional third season features some of the finest acting, direction and atmosphere on television (or cinema). Damon Lindelof has taken a lot of guff for how he chose to conclude Lost, but damn does he stick the landing here. Consistently brilliant, this final season elevates it’s already high concept through the roof, and deals with themes that are both profound and complex. A show like this is difficult to explain, but trust that the experience will be thrilling and devastating.

3) Better Call Saul

Created by: Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould

Watch on: Netflix

At this point, a reasonable argument can be made that Better Call Saul has surpassed Breaking Bad in terms of quality. It may not actually be there yet, but just the fact that we’re ready to have that debate shows how great this spin-off has become. This third season (much like its first two) has been phenomenal. It doesn’t have the scope or the stakes of its parent show, but Saul’s mundane little tragedies keep piling up, and by now, it all feels like a crushing mountain of despair. Jimmy McGill’s heartbreaking transformation into Saul Goodman is almost complete.

2) The Deuce 

Created by: David Simon & George Pelacanos

Watch on: HBO on Demand

Treme, Generation Kill and Show Me A Hero have all been brilliantly immersive studies about the human condition and the institutions that shape fringe social ecosystems. But The Deuce really does feel like David Simon richest canvas since Baltimore. The pimps, sex workers, bar owners, mobsters, cops and porn actors of seedy 1971 New York City are depicted just like any other alienated workforce – and while their environment might teem with danger and decay – Simon never forgets the resilient humanity underneath such dehumanizing circumstances.

1) Legion

Created by: Noah Hawley

Watch on: Hulu

Audaciously artful with an abundance of ambition, Legion is the best television series of 2017, and it’s not even close. Its pilot alone showcases bravura filmmaking that’s far more visually and narratively arresting than most cinematic efforts. Toying with the nature of perception, memory and reality is problematic to write, but Legion creatively turns its confusing handicaps into surreal storytelling flourishes. Noah Hawley is known to get arthouse on his other show Fargo (also on this list), but this a superhero genre-bender unlike anything we’ve ever seen.