Adam Rose/Netflix

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

10

Mindhunter

Netflix’s Mindhunter offers a fictionalized portrait of the birth of criminal psychology and profiling. The year is 1977, the term “serial killer” hasn’t been coined yet, and the word “stressor” must be explained to a district attorney. The cast informs executive producer David Fincher and creator Joe Penhall’s sociological schematic with a human element that’s unusual for a crime procedural. Old-school F.B.I. agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) grows to be the show’s conscience, which allows Mindhunter to critique the racism and classism of the F.B.I. without glibly ridiculing the organization, as McCallany elegantly dramatizes the pain of sensing that one’s understanding of a way of life is on its way out. Meanwhile, Tench’s new partner, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), revolutionizes our understanding of mass murderers at the potential expense of his own capacity for intimacy. The series merges Fincher’s visuals with theatrically literate dialogue, illustrating language’s terrifying control over our fragile grasp of reality. Bowen

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

9

American Gods

With American Gods, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green apply the decadent, ultraviolent aesthetic that Fuller honed on Hannibal to a series of riffs on religion, racism, sexism, and all the other –isms that are on America’s mind with newfound urgency after the political ascent of Donald Trump. Fuller and Green haven’t shaken the tediousness of Neil Gaiman’s expositional source novel, though they inform the narrative with an erotic-comic texture that suggests the televisual equivalent of porn vaudeville. Ricky Whittle is a gorgeous bore as Shadow Moon, an ex-con who discovers that gods do exist and are manifested out of our worship, prompting one to wonder which entity is really the god in this transaction. Emily Browning is frequently stunning as Shadow’s wife, Laura, who has a peculiar inability to stay dead, and whose qualified devotion to Shadow blossoms into a startlingly convincing account of troubled love. The gods frequently steal the show, of course, allowing character actors to chew the sets into mincemeat while delivering volcanic riffs on American hypocrisy. Of particular note are Orlando Jones as Anansi, who has a galvanizing monologue aboard a slave ship, and Corbin Bernsen as Vulcan, a god who realizes that the true path to contemporary American worship runs through the NRA. Bowen

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

8

The Girlfriend Experience

Season two of The Girlfriend Experience doubles down on the alternating structure of the first season, in which co-creators Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan took turns writing and directing episodes that pertained to a single story of prostitution and corporate espionage. Seimetz and Kerrigan each create their own narrative here, allowing them to address the self-exploitation of our “gig” culture in vastly differing fashions. Seimetz offers a warm, sensual, and comic story of an urban escort, Bria (Carmen Ejogo), who’s rendered a fish out of water when she’s relocated to New Mexico via Witness Protection. Seimetz’s suggestive sex scenes emphasize the absurdist sensuality of the imagination, with Paul (Harmony Korine) arising as an unforgettable parody of how men are learning to exploit women via pretensions of feminism. Meanwhile, Kerrigan more traditionally continues the aesthetic of the first season, physicalizing political gamesmanship via curt and hard-edged sex scenes that push the line as to what’s permitted on television, with fellatio offered up as an especially memorable conduit of gender resentment. Cumulatively, a sad, experimental, fragmented series grew even more adventurous, blurring an increasingly eroding line between cable television and independent filmmaking. Bowen

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

7

GLOW

In Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch’s exhilaratingly bawdy and empathetic GLOW, frustrated actresses are liberated by reveling in male fantasies of whores and housewives, as the series concerns the unresolvable irony of finding freedom by assuming control of one’s own means of social reduction. Set in the 1980s, GLOW follows the formation of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, which embraces wrestling’s propensity for racial and sexual stereotypes. Ruth “Zoya the Destroya” Wilder (Alison Brie) anchors the series, with her moving desperation to confirm her talent as an actor, but the breakout characters are Debbie “Liberty Belle” Eagan (Betty Gilpin), a former soap opera star who realizes that wrestling is just a soap for men, and Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), a has-been B-movie director who coaches the ladies through their transformations, merging his fantasies with their own. GLOW’s poignancy stems from how Sylvia casually comes to see that he, an alcoholic womanizer on the fringes of the entertainment industry, shares something vital with his objectified performers: a yearning for scrappy grace, and a hustler’s understanding of sensationalism as the manna of American life. Bowen

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

6

BoJack Horseman

The most structurally ambitious and emotionally devastating comedy on television also happens to star a depressed talking horse. What began as a showbiz farce has developed into an examination on emotional crises—inherited trauma, not-quite-metaphorical sinkholes, and feelings of powerlessness—and how we handle them. Bojack Horseman is still rooted in sardonic humor and animal puns, but season four delves deeper into its characters’ psychologies than ever before. The season is primarily interested in the multigenerational tribulations of the Horseman clan, introducing Hollyhock (Aparna Nancherla), a teenager who claims to be BoJack’s (Will Arnett) daughter, while providing insight into the troubled past and dementia-addled present of his mother, Beatrice (Wendie Malick). The series delivers a few truly gut-punching episodes, featuring structurally inventive flashbacks, dark internal monologues (“You’re a stupid piece of shit,” repeats BoJack’s conscience in episode six), and, for Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), fictionalized futures. More than just adding nonlinear razzle-dazzle, the show’s treatment of time and storytelling adeptly tackles complexities of memory and self-perception, and how the two are inextricably linked. Bojack Horseman ultimately reinforces its series-long thesis: that everyone, even the most broken among us, deserves happiness. Selinger

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