We’re in an undeniable golden age of television and 2017 brought us some of the most intriguing and bingeable television shows — whether or not we could binge it all at once. While the networks certainly had their handful of great new releases, the majority of our praise goes to subscription services whose original programming brought us compelling new series to watch all year long.
Without further ado, in no special order, here are our best new television shows of 2017.
I know, we’re already on season 2 and yet this show did premiere January of 2017. Undeniably addicting, if not a little over-the-top, this CW series features the stories of retro comic book character Archie Andrews and his friends. This noir Fincher-inspired look at Archie and the gang breathes modern life into a tale spun with twists and turns, chock full of suspense, teenage angst, and legitimate danger. Staff writer Shakeal Kitchings praised the show in his season one DVD review, saying, “A show is only as great as the sum of its parts and each of these parts has been buffed to produce a lustrous finish.”
Indeed, a large number of us here love the show. When first premiered, staff writer Elise Kulik shone a spotlight on the perfect tone and aesthetic of the series, “The show’s visuals feel dark and mysterious, but pair well with the light wardrobe and the vocabulary of the 1950’s.” The cast and showrunner Robert Aguirre-Sacasa do a good job walking the line between artistic license and totally extra when it comes to the story. With a confirmed Sabrina the Teenage Witch spin-off in works and the promise of more to come later this month, we’re waiting for more with baited breath.
The Handmaid’s Tale
It should go without saying that this show should be on everyone’s list. A brilliant but bleak imagining of Margaret Atwood’s terrifying dystopian novel of the same name. Our staff writer Beatrice Longshore said, “The series took a book that is impactful and perfect and somehow improved upon that, showing how political restrictions affect everyone within a society, not just those who are immediately impacted. We stand together and fall together.”
After a season of watching the majority of the characters of Gilead suffer, Hulu’s standout drama was not merely a superbly acted and directed show, but one that rang poignant in our own real world. While season one left us unsure of what laid next for June/Offred, we know from our conversation with showrunner Bruce Miller that there will be a further expansion of the world and definitely some more shocking moments.
Excited for the show since its inception, for us, STARZ’s big-budget series did not disappoint. Absolutely breathtaking — as with most Bryan Fuller productions — the series brought Neil Gaiman’s much-beloved novel to life in a fantastic spectacle. After years of rejecting filmmakers and producers on their vision of his novel, Gaiman collaborated with Fuller and co-creator Michael Green on the story of Shadow Moon. We talked with the very people who created and took part in the show earlier this year and there was endless praise for a show defined as progressive, experimental, innovative, and breathtaking.
Our weekly recaps lived through the dramatic first season, which saw guest stars like Gillian Anderson, a room full of different Jesus Christs, an overload of beautiful special effects, and fantastic storytelling. It’s an uncertain path ahead for the show, as the showrunners have left the show (with rumors citing budget reasons) but at least we’ll always have season one.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
As Elise said in her review, second time’s a charm. Netflix’s version of the critically-acclaimed children’s book series by Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler hit just the right notes compared to the far less impressive 2004 film rendition by Brad Silberling. With help from Handler on the script, Elise wrote that this version of ASOUE “translates into a visually quirky, Pushing Daisies vibe of steampunk, too-bright technicolor, which contrasts with the bleakness and dramatic irony of the Baudelaire’s storyline.” With the series receiving love from critics and fans, Netflix has already announced March 30th as the release date for season two, with a season three already in the books.
While admittedly heavy-handed and gratuitous in violence — especially during a time when the world is already so violent — The Punisher is a worthy installment within the Netflix Marvel universe. As someone who couldn’t slough through Iron Fist or start The Defenders, I was chomping at the bit for The Punisher. Was it because I love seeing Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle interact with Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page? Sure. But the series pushed away from the mysticism and comic book timbre that can be exhausting at times, instead focusing on Frank. Something of an origin story, we saw the birth of characters like Micro, Dinah Madani, and Billy Russo, along with a conclusion that gave Frank some closure from the trauma of losing his family.
Noah Hawley was already beloved for his work on Fargo. So, when that was postponed to allow him time to work on Legion, our managing editor Kylee Sills was initially bummed — only to find her new favorite superhero show when it debuted. Legion raised the bar for superhero shows both in terms of storytelling and casting with its manic, disorienting, and intriguing elements.
With eight episodes in the first season, every single one had an impact and pushed the story forward in creative ways. David Haller’s unreliable narrator and how the show seemed to bounce between 1960’s chic and a modern aesthetic kept audiences on their toes. His best friend, played by Aubrey Plaza, was masterfully cast and portrayed and she was only one part of an amazing supporting cast.
Based on the origins of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit and the work of legendary FBI agent John Douglas, Joe Penhall’s Mindhunter takes our obsession with true crime and condenses it into a ten-episode freshman season. Jonathan Groff does a brilliant job of playing FBI agent Holden Ford, who begins to merge the 1970’s academic psychology with the bureau’s profiling technique.
As he and his team begin to create profiles and a vocabulary around serial killers, we take a deep dive into interviews with serial killers like Edmund Kemper and Richard Speck. It’s a fascinating story, produced by the likes of David Fincher and Charlize Theron. Our staff writer Cody Eastlick gave praise to Netflix, who “continues to deliver quality shows in well-trodden genres but ups the ante, turning them into a must-see.”
With only four episodes, each spanning less than half an hour, Castlevania still managed to captivate audiences with its flawless animation and cast of voices, giving hope to those who look forward to video game adaptations. In my review of the series, I detailed my love for Richard Armitage’s voice acting along with the exciting action sequences that were animated to perfection. There’s a lot of hope for Castlevania as we’re going to see more episodes for season two, having just scratched the surface, I can’t wait for more.
Another entry into the true crime category for this year is Netflix’s American Vandal. Deceivingly marketed, audiences were pleasantly surprised when the series was revealed to be a mockumentary, a satirical impression of the true crime genre. In her review of the show, staff writer Melissa Slaughter said, “While the show is about a seemingly light (and hilarious) crime, it’s grounded in its characters and its world, thus giving its audience more than they bargained for when they only came for the dick jokes.”
Star Trek: Discovery
The first new Star Trek ‘television’ series in over ten years, Star Trek: Discovery admittedly has had a bit of a rocky start. The series launched on the CBS All Access app as an online exclusive much to the chagrin of Star Trek fans. Once you get past that disappointment, though, the series has proven a worthy successor to the shows that have come before. Discovery is a darker take on Star Trek and in that way they’ve had the opportunity to tell stories and introduce characters we haven’t necessarily seen before. There’s a moral ambiguity in a lot of our characters and the stories are often painted in shades of gray.
The series imagines a galaxy at war and characters forced into impossible situations. Executive editor Sam Wildman observed standout cast members like Sonequa Martin and Jason Isaacs within the series. She called Martin’s Michael Burnham a fantastic point-of-view character with a unique perspective on the war and Starfleet which have helped to shape the story’s progression, while Isaacs’s Gabriel Lorca offered us a darker, different type of captain, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. We can’t wait to see what the second half of the series has in store especially after one heck of a cliffhanger at the end of the last episode!
Another Margaret Atwood creation, Alias Grace weaved an intricate tale about a woman in 1840’s Canada convicted of murdering her employer and his housekeeper. In prison, we learn about the men in her life trying to prove her innocence. The story spans six episodes, with hints of mysticism and superstition. The ending, while frustrating, is undoubtedly meant to keep the audience asking questions. In Elise’s spoilery review of the series, she applauded Sarah Gadon for her performance as the titular Grace Marks, whose presence is described as magnetic and mystical. A dark murder mystery, the series is sure to keep you on your toes up until the very end.
Okay, so we’re a little obsessed with true crime. We’re not even going to be sorry about it. This Netflix documentary series about the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik in 1969 Baltimore is addictive to watch. Starting with a story about a murder, former students of Sister Cathy — Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Fitzgerald Schaub — investigate the details surrounding the murder of a beloved teacher at their Catholic high school. What unfolds is an exposé of the systematic sexual abuse enacted by Father Joe Maskell and the hierarchy of religious order that served to protect him from detection.
Documentary producer Ryan White offers a well-crafted story, one that allows the audience to travel through the labyrinth of cover-ups and mass of victims in search of justice, not only for Sister Cathy but for the crime committed on them. While it’s no walk in the park, the unflinching look The Keepers takes is enough to earn it the praise it deserves.
Surprisingly one of the best new shows on television this season, The Orville is a fantastic alternative to folks who aren’t that into the new, grittier Star Trek: Discovery. It doesn’t matter if you’re usually a Seth MacFarlane fan or not. If you like fun science fiction and you enjoyed the original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation then you’re going to enjoy this show. He’s effectively writing a love letter to Gene Roddenberry and it shows. MacFarlane’s general brand of humor is obviously there but it’s toned down quite a bit, paying homage to Roddenberry’s work instead of relying on a slapstick parody of the genre.
The series follows a dysfunctional crew in an idyllic future as they explore both the known and unknown universe around them. MacFarlane serves as the series’ captain himself in what is probably one of his best roles. The ensemble cast is fantastic — from the Data-inspired android to the green blob engineer and everyone in between. Every episode is a new adventure in this series that doesn’t take itself too seriously but takes itself seriously enough. It’s actually one of the series Sam recommends the most this year, you won’t regret watching this one!
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
2017 saw a whole new generation of female leads, who were each great in their own right, all receiving the praise they deserved. However, a somewhat unsung hero comes in the form of Rachel Brosnahan’s Midge Maisel. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino of Gilmore Girls fame, the fast-talking, detail-oriented, loving housewife Midge finds herself facing divorce when her husband has his fragile male ego damaged and starts having an affair. Faced with a total upheaval in her life, Midge finds a talent and catharsis in stand-up comedy.
Launching herself into the comedy scene of 1958 New York, we watch Midge face life after marriage, honing her talents as a comedienne, rubbing elbows with the likes of Lenny Bruce, all while being charming, funny, and smart. Embodied by the charming Brosnahan, the series is infectiously entertaining and with the same Sherman-Palladino humor that is so enjoyable when done right.
That’s our list of new shows this year! Did we miss one of your favorites? Tell us below or on Twitter! Keep an eye out for our favorite returning shows from 2017 as we continue to look at what we enjoyed the most in the last year.