Adam Rose/Netflix

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017
The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

20

Silicon Valley

Previous seasons of Silicon Valley, HBO’s satire of the tech industry, have benefitted from its sweeping arcs: the birth of Pied Piper, its fight to gain stability, and its post-success struggles. Throughout the gang’s tribulations, there’s a predictable yet satisfying algorithm of success followed by failure and then by so-crazy-it-might-just-work bailouts. In its fourth season, the series strayed slightly from this formula in favor of more episodic storylines. There’s the partnership between Richard (Thomas Middleditch) and Gavin (Matt Ross), Dinesh’s (Kumail Nanjiani) newfound role as the smarmy PiperChat CEO, and Big Head’s (Josh Brener) doomed professorial appointment. Silicon Valley has spent the last three seasons developing and deepening our understanding of its characters, and the payoff is a season of television in which banter or character-driven sight gags—shout-out to Gilfoyle’s (Martin Starr) cat’s-eye contact lenses—are enough to elicit belly laughs. The series derives the most comic mileage out of exploring the group dynamic, whether it’s Dinesh and Gilfoyle’s frenemy-fueled sabotage or the hero-worship that Jared (Zach Woods) feels for Richard. Selinger

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

19

One Mississippi

Tig Notaro’s traumedy is a dryly comic, deeply moving reimagining of the time in her life when she moved back home to Biloxi, Mississippi, while recovering from two profoundly challenging events: the death of her mother and her own breast cancer diagnosis. Season two maintained the inaugural season’s fine-tuned sensitivity to the characters’ feelings and relationships while upping the moral and emotional antes. Tig and her brother (Noah Harpster) grapple with the guilt and trauma they carry as a result of the sexual abuse that she suffered and he witnessed when they were children. That memory surfaces after Kate (Notaro’s real-life wife, Stephanie Allynne), the producer of Tig’s conversational/confessional radio show, is sexually assaulted by a colleague. And falling for an African-American colleague forces Tig’s socially awkward stepfather (John Rothman) to come to terms with the legacy of racism in America in general, and in the South in particular. Meanwhile Tig and Kate finally become a couple after a long, one-sided courtship during which Kate, who thinks of herself as straight, sorts out her feelings for Tig. Their love feels authentic and hard won, like everything else in this series—which is beginning to feel as much like a chronicle of present-day America as it is of Notaro’s recent past. Elise Nakhnikian

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

18

Better Call Saul

It would have been so simple for Better Call Saul to have presented shyster attorney, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk), as a lovable misfit who flatters our resentments of our more successful friends. But creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have never taken the easy way out, showing even the wealthy, glib, and evil to have their reasons. The third season of Better Call Saul remarkably resolved its primary arc—a legal dispute between Jimmy and his more successful attorney brother, Chuck (Michael McKean)—at its halfway point, as the final episodes were devoted to a succession of rich character-centric stanzas, most shockingly concerning Chuck’s surrender to mental illness. In the performance of his career, McKean brings Chuck’s self-loathing to tragic life, elucidating a war between intelligence, emotion, and sickness. Chuck, a brilliant man, was the McGill family’s true black sheep, which is to say that Better Call Saul understands a thorny issue of family life: It nurtures inferiority within most of us, no matter what our true lot in life may be. Bowen

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

17

Rick and Morty

After real-life blowback over a botched fast-food merchandising rollout, Rick and Morty gained more mainstream attention for accidentally cultivating television’s most possessive, prideful, and misguided fanbase than it ever had for its distinct sense of humor and notable commitment to nihilism. Rick, the show’s toxic genius, would consider that a shame. In season three, Rick and Morty centered more than ever on the idea that nothing inherently matters and consistently returned to the notion that supreme intelligence and conventional morality are mutually exclusive. The series gave us Pickle Rick, an instant addition to the canon of fan-favorite characters that matches the absurd hilarity of Tiny Rick, Mr. Poopybutthole, Mr. Meeseeks, and so forth. But more than anything, the Pickle Rick saga and the rest of the season amplified the escapist illogic of Rick and Morty’s adventures, before seemingly smirking at us with a season-ending reset that highlights the insignificance of the show’s information dumps and byzantine plotting. Both can be undone in an instant by the show’s mercurial (and usually drunk) genius. Haigis

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

16

The Americans

The Americans began its fifth and penultimate season instantly reminding us that it’s an edifice brilliantly constructed of contrasts. Then, it spent the better part of the season biding its time—bidding adieu to familiar faces and seemingly closing the door on the possibility of a particular father-son reunion—in the lead up to what seemed inevitable: that Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) were returning to Mother Russia. And if you felt cheated in the end, by their decision to, in fact, stay in America, then you’ve forgotten that these characters contain multitudes. In the final episode of the season, as Elizabeth surveys every appliance and advantage available to her as she stands inside her kitchen, the truth about what she wanted all along was revealed to be there from the start. It was at this point that The Americans proved that it was far from exhausting its capacity to provide emotion-rich insights into these characters’ lives, as it ended its fifth season with one of its greatest shocks to date: that even a Russian spy can come to buy into the fantasy of the American capitalist dream. Gonzalez

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