Adam Rose/Netflix

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

5

The Deuce

David Simon’s The Deuce focuses on the tapestry of life in a city in flux, echoing The Wire, Simon’s masterpiece, as a resounding song of praise for an overlooked labor force—in this case the sex workers of 1970s Times Square. A revealing and daring performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal as Candy, a prostitute and early pornographer, has rightly captured a majority of praise, alongside James Franco’s dual role as a pair of Brooklyn brothers. But The Deuce, like the best of Simon’s work, is supported by a robust and fully realized cast of supporting characters. A murder in the first season’s finale season is made more shocking given the victim’s seeming distance from the show’s central storyline—until we consider that, as they did in The Wire, all the pieces matter. Haigis

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

4

Better Things

It’s fine if you feel every episode of Better Things is rigged to prove that Pamela Adlon’s Sam Fox is nothing short of a superwoman. That’s more or less the point of this artful, uproarious, and heartfelt ode to the miracle of women staying sane in a world that demands so much of them, and often with little reward. There’s a feeling throughout the series that the universe would be disrupted if Sam lost her sense of humor even in a moment when she’s being dented by life’s hard knocks. And it almost is in season two’s finest episode, “Eulogy,” which sees her asking her daughters—three wonderfully complicated little women—to celebrate all that she’s done for them. Sam asks less than she should, which is why the moment disarms her daughters—and much in the same way that the show’s humor and pathos sneaks up on audiences. More than cannily scrutinizing the courage with which Sam balances her domestic and professional arenas, the episode, like so much of Better Things, understands that to be a mother is to have the most difficult and complicated job in the world. Gonzalez

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

3

Twin Peaks: The Return

In 1990, Twin Peaks tossed a Molotov cocktail into TV land, inventing modern prestige programming in the process. Twenty-seven years later, Twin Peaks: The Return detonated the now numbing consistency of such television. The Return is pure poetry conceived by David Lynch and Mark Frost on an epic scale, about how America has betrayed an image of community that was reflected by the lurid daydreams of the original Twin Peaks. The Return’s incomprehensible murder mystery houses hundreds of anecdotes, set in multiple dimensions and timelines, pertaining to the dashed dreams of lost souls who’re finding it difficult to live in the conservative small-town fantasy of Twin Peaks, as the reality of diminished opportunity and isolation encroaches. Story is less important than aching, supple tonality, which Lynch, who directed every episode, orchestrates with the finesse of a macabre, humanist maestro. Iconic Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is split into multiple incarnations, searching for personal and social unity. In one of the most haunting finales in television, Cooper finds a way to go home again, inadvertently unearthing the disenfranchised America that retreats to reboots as a means of remembering a vision of a past that never existed. Bowen

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

2

Dear White People

The knowingly didactic title of Dear White People is a little misleading. While the show does occasionally address its incisive racial critiques directly to the viewer, the intoxicating quality of Justin Simien’s series comes from a sense of overarching relatability. As with the film that inspired it, Dear White People follows a sprawling cast of college students, united by skin color but individually shaped by distinct experiences. While the series is about the myriad ways they respond to their overwhelmingly white surroundings, its characterizations are complicated by matters that sometimes don’t have to do with race. Rapid-fire humor and energetic direction draw us close to the characters, who begin the series raging against oppression in distinctly academic, hypothetical fashion. By the time student agitations and complaints are proven justified, by the overeager armed campus police who storm into a party late in the season, the show’s easy rhythm has lulled us enough so that we’re sufficiently shattered by the fallout of the moment. Dear White People shows us passionate individuals crafting their own identities, without ever letting us forget that to do so they are wresting that power from the people who’ve historically done it for them. Haigis

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017

1

The Leftovers

The third and final season of The Leftovers takes place seven years after the mass departure that disappeared 2% of the world’s population—and after families separated, cults formed, and irrepressible grief became the new normal. The season follows Nora (Carrie Coon) to Australia, where she seeks out a device that can allegedly reconnect her with her departed children. Others follow in pursuit of Kevin (Justin Theroux), who’s either mentally ill or a messiah, maybe both. Perhaps more than its previous seasons, the show’s third installment is even more interested in the nature of faith. Originally consumed with the “why” of it all, the series became increasingly interested in the “what now?” As a result, season three is boldly ambiguous and irresolute. Not because it refuses to answer questions, but because it understands that acceptance, not anger or guilt, is key to overcoming grief. Nora provides an explanation as to what happened to the departed, and Kevin believes her, no questions asked. Ambiguity or not, it’s the show’s most distilled moment of pure faith: one person choosing to believe another, and finally finding comfort in the process. Selinger

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