May 20, 2019 / 7:38 AM

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The Best TV Shows Of 2017: 'The Leftovers,' 'Mr. Robot,' 'The Handmaid’s Tale,' And More



It is truly the golden age of television.

Which other time in history has there ever been an abundance of shows that are groundbreaking, compelling, provocative, and boundary-pushing than now, with today's current crop of shows?

In recent years, the television landscape has become diverse, multi-faceted, and inclusive of stories that probably could not have been told in any other medium. The shows listed below prove that television is a unique format that, when touched by the right creative hands, yields phenomenal storytelling maneuvers, chief of which is running time.

In television, there's much more freedom to tell little short stories and arrange or present them in a way that makes the whole season cohesive, with the gaps in between giving audiences time to think about what they just watched, and to contemplate on what's going to happen next. The future of television looks bright.

Below are the best series that audience got to see in 2017, and each contributed greatly to yet another great year for the old idiot box.

10. The Good Place

In the season 1 finale of The Good Place, everything viewers knew about how things in "The Good Place" worked was upended and turned on its head completely, giving the second season a fresh, novel perspective. This comedy is engaging, clever, and smart.

Has any sitcom ever talked about Immanuel Kant as much as The Good Place has? We don't think so.

9. American Gods

Every producer in the world should just clamor to get the rights for every Neil Gaiman material ever written, because it'll be golden, no matter what. American Gods, adapted from Gaiman's Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel in 2001, takes apart the flimsy fabric of the American psyche to show how much the society depends and obsesses on their heroes, manufactured, fraudulent, and phony as they may be. It is thought-provoking, visually striking, and compelling.

Thank God, there's going to be a second season.

8. BoJack Horseman

The most brutally honest and ugliest depiction of depression was executed this year by BoJack Horseman, a cartoon. In its fourth season, BoJack attempts, fails, then attempts again, then perhaps maybe succeeds a little bit, in trying to get his life on track despite "track" on this show is a rather loose term.

By the end of the show, we're still left with a directionless, confused ragtag pack of characters left damaged by stunted personal development, poor life decisions, and various relapses. But that's just the way life is, and no other show than this animated gem can tell it quite exquisitely.

7. Big Little Lies

This show had every reason to end up being tone-deaf, schlocky, guilty-pleasure television. But what had initially seemed as fictionalized animosity between women became, almost suddenly, an intelligent yet subtle discussion about the roles females play in entertainment, domestic life, and an evidently patriarchal society.

Big Little Lies, on paper, seems like another murder-mystery tale with a female angle that could have easily been generated by an algorithm. However, this richly-layered adaptation of Liane Moriarty's novel, with all episodes directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, not to mention a knockout ensemble of actors became an exhilarating, if almost appalling, no-stopping-for-breath ride. It's fresh, fun, and surged with a feminist angle that's never in-your-face.

6. Insecure

Insecure is an important, urgent show. However, the greatest thing about it is it doesn't think it's that important, or that urgent. It just is. In fact, though it's prominently about two black women, Molly and Issa, who are best friends, creator/writer/director Issa Rae doesn't call it a "black show."

It's simply a show that happens to forefront two black female friends and talks about their issues in nuanced, intricate, and honest ways.

5. Mr. Robot

Is there another show more challenging, more intellectual, more envelope-pushing than Sam Esmail's Mr. Robot? There simply is not. In its third season, Mr. Robot looks less and less like a show and more and more like a grand vision spread and parsed out in seasons, each episode more clever and mind-bending than the last. 

Mr. Robot is one of the best shows of the decade, for it defies conventional structure, storytelling, character-building, and a shopworn visual language. It reinvents itself every season, and it never seems to run out of ideas and stories to tell.

4. Better Things

Better Things is about Sam Fox, an actress, a mother, a person. It is also about her kids, Frankie, Duke, and Max, who are either the best or worst kids in the history of television. It is also about Sam's mother, Phyllis, who always seems to be on the verge of something.

It is about these women navigating the terrific, appalling, exhausting, and thrilling vagaries of their workaday lives. It is founded on blindingly simple storytelling but is nonetheless emotionally potent at all times.

3. Girls

Hats off to one of the best TV shows of the decade, which ended its six-season run earlier this year. Many things have been said about Girls, and more specifically, about its creator, Lena Dunham. They've called her fat, unattractive, dull, and uninteresting. However, one thing that people cannot insult is her show — a masterpiece about the anxieties of adulthood, women forming and stepping into their jerry-rigged girlhoods, and the men who orbit them.

In its whole run, Girls  gave it all: sex, nudity, hostility, awkwardness, unflinching stories, and so much more. It is the bravest, most genre-defying show in this list.

2. The Handmaid's Tale

In the first season of Hulu's phenomenal The Handmaid's Tale, viewers followed Offred, a Handmaid. She's the lens through which they saw a brand-new America: a country that treats women as vessels of childbirth, and just that. At some point in the future, women are demoralized, their roles relegated to either childbearing or household upkeep. They are raped regularly in a ritual the new society calls as a "ceremony" to impregnate the thinning number of fertile women in the world.

The Handmaid's Tale is a nail-biting masterpiece of tension, despair, and oppression. The scariest thing about it, however, is how close to reality it could become.

1. The Leftovers

The final season of Damon Lindelof's The Leftovers is the best show of 2017, period. It is an emotionally groundbreaking piece of storytelling that raises more questions than it answer and it's perfectly confident in its mysteries.

In the first season, 3 percent of the population disappeared off the face of the earth for no reason, causing enormous grief among those who have been left. In the second season, the show tried to answer why they disappeared. In this season, the final one, it tried again. No answer was given.

However, that's exactly why this show is the best — because there's never an answer when someone disappears. Life doesn't give you one, and you just have to move along, just like the rest attempt to do.

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