It’s time once again for CGMagazine to recount the top 10 TV shows that aired this year. In a year where TV was an all-too-necessary escape, these shows stood out because they were the ones I actually had time to watch in 2017.
#10: Big Mouth (Season 1)
I really hated Big Mouth at first. The show’s pilot goes for a series of break-neck gross-out humour before almost immediately coming into its own as a frank look at puberty in hindsight. By expanding its repertoire into legitimately inspired and surreal visual gags, Big Mouth eventually begins to sell you on its central thesis: hormones are gross, they were gross for everybody, and the whole thing was actually kind of funny in hindsight. The show uses the benefits of its loose animation style to dump everything the writers could remember about puberty onto the screen with just enough ambiguity to keep things from getting creepy. If you can make it through the initial barrage, you should enjoy Big Mouth just fine.
#9: Fresh Off the Boat (Season 4)
I have a suspicion that the best traditional sitcoms on TV can mostly be found on ABC: Black-Ish, The Goldbergs, even Modern Family and The Middle have their moments if you’re into that sort of thing. But I find myself drawn to Fresh Off the Boat more than any of its contemporaries for its surreal world and Constance Wu’s utterly sublime deadpan. For me, strong comedy comes from a game cast performing equally game characters. Every character is involved with escalation, even if they’re acting in opposition to other characters. Nobody is a buzzkill, which means every combination of characters can work in theory, which also means the writers can play with unexpected matchups and keep the show fresh.
Even in a top-notch cast, Randall Park and Constance Wu as parents Louis and Jessica Huang have emerged as the show’s most reliable players. Jessica in particular deserves to be up there with sitcom character greats like Arrested Development’s GOB & Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson. The right mix of ego and limited self-awareness can really sell a joke, and the show’s writers clearly know what they have in Wu. I wouldn’t sleep on this if you still have a taste for non-experimental sitcoms.
#8: The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 1)
What more could I say about The Handmaid’s Tale that hasn’t already been said in comparisons explicitly stoked by Hulu and the creative team? This show is prescient in a way I don’t think the showrunners expected but that author Margaret Atwood clearly anticipated. The Handmaid’s Tale is eye-opening for some, and for others a cruel reminder that things have always been like this—except now we’re actually talking about it in the open. There’s little to complain about with The Handmaid’s Tale, aside from the fact that it was little escape from a truly awful year.
The Handmaid’s Tale dropped in a year where the conversation was rightly dominated by how society had failed women, the sort of grim cosmic coincidence that could lead the show to feel too “on-the-nose.” I wish I had the stomach to enjoy its unrelenting bleakness, otherwise the show’s impeccable script and assured direction would place it much higher on this list. To be sure, this is a personal failing. The Handmaid’s Tale should be appointment viewing for anybody who was unfortunate enough to live through 2017.
#7: Mindhunter (Season 1)
Mindhunter is absolutely wild, and by that I mean it’s probably the most sedate drama on television. It’s just two FBI agents messing around with a tape recorder! Nobody talks like a real person! I love it. I couldn’t get enough of the crime procedural equivalent of Seinfeld: a drama about nothing.
This show is driven entirely through interpersonal conflict, where some of the people involved also happen to be serial killers. Mindhunter deserves credit for making everyone in the world seem just as creepy as the folks locked behind bars for committing a series of undeniably horrific acts. The FBI agents investigating these killers, especially Will Graham stand-in Holden Ford, go into meticulous and unintentionally chilling diatribes at the drop of a hat, tonally indistinct from the appalling things the serial killers talk about, forcing the audience to confront how these criminals are an appalling extreme brought about by the unspoken standards and prejudices of their own society. Mindhunter portrays a world that went mad a very long time ago and is only just now starting to catch up with its own insanity. Also that title is funny.
BoJack Horseman (Season 4)
If The Handmaid’s Tale speaks to the geopolitical reality of 2017, BoJack Horseman represents my interpersonal experience from this past year. Everybody’s sad all the time but everyone’s finally wising up to how sad they really are. In a year where the dark side of Western culture took centre stage, anecdotally I saw people everywhere perform the unpleasant task of dragging their traumas and personal failings from subtext into text. This year, we all went through some character development.
Yes, BoJack Horseman is still funny–one of the funniest shows on television! I desperately needed it to be that way. My top shows of the year are mostly comedies because the laughter helped me deal with the crushing anxiety. But few shows manage to blend melancholy with killer visual gags quite like BoJack. Four seasons in, and this show is as inventive as ever.
Don’t forget to check back tomorrow to find out which TV Shows made the cut for Mike’s top 5 TV Shows of 2017! Let us know your predictions in the comments below!