The 16 Best TV Shows of 2017

The Leftovers

The Leftovers is about a lot of things – the end of days, grief, depression, suicide, physics, faith, family. Trying to describe the plot to someone is no easy task. But most of all it is about the end of the world, and what happens after. When 2% of the world population disappeared, the world was changed forever. Season three is set seven years later after this event when everyone is gearing up for the end of the world as predicted by scripture. With seven years gone by, things are far closer to normal than they were in season one. But we slowly see that each character is still broken inside. Each person has tried to heal and reached a point where they are not sure if they ever were.

The point of season three of The Leftovers is that no matter how much things hurt, no matter how much it feels like the world has ended and you want it all to be over for you – the earth is going to keep turning. The world is not going to end. It already did, and you’re still here. What do you do now?

Season one of this show was good. I would not call it great. It had it’s moments that broke up the unrelenting bleakness. It was good enough for me to come back for season two, which was an improvement in every single way. Season two adds new characters and reached emotional heights I could not believe while digging in deeper to it’s deeply damaged characters.

Season three, and all of this show, is hard to describe. But it is about the end of the world. Either preventing it or letting it happen. It is about resilience and holding on. It is the perfect conclusion to one of the greatest television shows ever made in my opinion. Season three is the best season, the most emotional, most fully realized. Damon Lindelof outdid himself. It is almost a shame that it ended after only three seasons but I am not sure how much longer it could have gone on. It is very hard to describe the emotional journey this season goes on without spoiling anything, but it is a hell of a journey.

Halt and Catch Fire

I wrote this show off as Mad Men clone after reading mixed reviews of season one. I finally had enough people tell me I would like it and decided to try it out in October after it had ended. It made sense – I kept hearing from people I trusted that it had gotten very good, and ended on a spectacular fashion. I could binge the whole thing.

Turns out AMC did recreate the magic of Mad Men, and that Halt and Catch Fire was a far better show than Mad Men. I have been kicking myself for not watching it while it was on for three months. Every season got exponentially better than the one before it. Season one is the weakest, and it is still great.

This show course corrected in a major in season two where the two supporting female characters kind of became the show’s two leads, and the enigmatic lead male characters took up their supporting roles. It made the show click. The working partnership and friendship between Donna and Cameron is the most beautiful, inspiring relationship I have ever seen depicted on television. Lee Pace’s Joe MacMillian is an enigma; Scott McNairy’s Gordon Clark is hard working but constantly running into a wall. When all these characters are in a room together and on the brink of creating something, this show feels absolutely magical.

By season four we have gotten to know the characters so well and so much time has passed that I was emotionally overwhelmed by every episode. It is the beginning of the 1990’s, the internet is about to blow up, and these characters we have followed have gone from having crackpot ideas about technology to watching projects they worked on change the world and themselves.

This is another show that is hard to describe. It is similar to Mad Men – lots of focus on people working together and their relationships – but this is far more focused. It is about how technology affects human relationships. Computers are described as “not the thing  – the thing that gets you to the thing.” It captures a wonder about the technology we are all so used to that we are sick of it. The later 80’s/90’s setting puts what we know now in perspective and takes you back to how magical this would have felt in the beginning of it.

This is a show where every actor, writer and director did such great work that I am going to watch whatever they work on next. It is one of the best shows I have ever seen. The series finale made me cry eyes out, and now when ever I hear ‘Solsbury Hill’ by Pater Gabriel I cry thinking about it again.

Don’t make the same mistake I made and write this show off – it is a wonderful, inspiring experience.

Mr. Robot

I did not like season two of Mr. Robot. I thought it stretched too little plot over too many episodes. It has always been extremely well written and directed. Even in the dullest episodes of season there are stunning sequences that grab your attention. I really wrote it off.

Similarly to Halt and Catch Fire, I was wrong. Friends whose taste I trust told me I was wrong and that I should give season three a try. They were right, I wrote it off too soon, and I am so glad gave it a second try.

Season three of Mr. Robot is outstanding. The plot is more streamlined and literal and that helps a lot, less muddled than season two. But at this point Sam Esmail is so good at writing and directing this show that it doesn’t really matter. This is fun to watch. It has scenes that suck you in. Rami Malek, Portia Doubleday, Christian Slater
and Carly Chaikan are all tremendous. The references to real world events and  anti-corporate stuff is timely, and probably easy to make fun of, but poignant and captivating.

The music is all outstanding, both score and soundtrack. No spoilers – Intro by M83 plays over the final scene of season three and just like the song, leads to a beautiful, climactic decision being made.

This show won me back and me regret leaving. Sam Esmail is going places.

The Young Pope

The Young Pope had been memed to death before it even premiered in America. A friend asked me if my praise for it on social media was me doing a bit; they did not believe me. They thought I was just making fun of it.

I adore this show. It subverts your expectations constantly. The young pope himself is a ridiculous, cruel, monstrous person, but the more we learn about him the more we root for him. Every character changes in huge ways by the end of the season. It is funny and devastating, and constantly weird.

There is a musical motif of Andrew Bird’s “I Want To See Pulaski At Night”. The song is used in almost every episode. In the final episode we finally hear the lyrics over the music. Diane Keaton and Jude Law are phenomenal in it. I wish more people would watch it! It was an easy target for relentless memes, and it deserved it. But the show is something special. I was also a fan of writer/director Paolo Sorentino’s film Youth. His distinctive style is all over this, and luckily a sequel series – The New Pope – is in the works. More memes!

Nathan For You

No show on television is like Nathan For You. The production process must be like lifting boulders. It makes every other comedy on television seem boring. But the real notable thing in season four was the feature film length finale “Finding Frances”, which, if you want to get technical, is for sure one of the best films of the year. It is about Nathan helping a Bill Gates impersonator find the woman he wishes he had married when they were young, and hopefully marrying her now. It’s weird, and a little creepy at parts. It’s completely absurd and overly complicated. But this episode does something no one expected with a twist that breaks your heart. There is a reason people raved about this episode and this show – it is unlike anything else on tv.


Review and Nathan For You are unique in that every episode that got of them are miracles. Andy Daly is one of the funniest people alive. This show is completely insane and tragic. The more the show within the show ruins the main character’s life, the more he puts into the show.

The Good Place

The funniest show on network tv and a brilliant mash of tones along the lines of Parks and Recreation and Lost. Everything about The Good Place works. There are great jokes every minute and philosophical questions pull at the heartstrings about trying to be a better person. It hasn’t gotten stale or stopped being a complete joy yet.

Master of None

I am a sucker for people riding bikes around Italy. A lot of gorgeous moments that are painfully relatable. The Thanksgiving episode is already a classic. Maybe the romance drags for some people – I definitely do not want to watch it again because it’s sweet but also extremely sad. But what a great season of tv with so many memorable moments.

Better Call Saul
Season three was when I started enjoying this more than Breaking Bad. A slow burn but a great one.

Vice Principals
This show is depraved, insane and excellent.

Future Man
This show surprised me in so many ways. It is essentially a big homage to 80’s action movies, full of James Cameron and Back To The Future references. Josh Hutcherson is charming as hell and gets tons of stuff to do, as does Eliza Coupe. This show goes through so many motions as an excuse to have lots of elaborate setpieces, all of which are impressively staged and entertaining. The show is one of the last performances of the great Glenne Heady.

Godless is essentially an eight-hour movie, but everything about it is solid. It is full of great music and cinematography that can stand up against any big budget Western classic. Jeff Daniels gets to chew a lot of scenery as a villainous bandit out for revenge against the young man that betrayed him. The young man hides out in a town populated almost entirely by frontier women. A huge portion of the town’s men died in a mining accident years before. The plot is simple, but the writing and structure allows for a lot of creative sequences. Plus: more Scott McNairy.

Big Little Lies
Laura Dern is my favorite working actress. Her and the entire ensemble do some career best work in this show.

Search Party
Search Party is a high wire act of anxiety and tension. Without spoiling anything it is hard to discuss any plot points, but every character has something to hide and is constantly looking over their shoulder. It is the funniest show that also makes my stomach turn and feel intense amounts of anxiety. Highly recommended for comedy and horror fans. It reminds of Zodiac or psychological horror – everything is catching up and getting worse, and the characters are trying their best to keep things as normal as possible.

American Vandal
A perfect parody of the true crime documentary genre with great performances and hilarious writing. It is fun to go down the rabbit hole with the characters while the show makes fun of the rabbit hole the entire time. It also reminded me of Zodiac. The silliness makes way for some heart by the end.

A nice show about people getting good at a thing that makes them feel good. Wrestling! Great outfits! Marc Maron! I think he makes a lock the gates joke at one point.

Author: Jacob Harrington

Originally from Dover, Delaware, Jacob Harrington is the host of the Based on Nothing podcast. He likes television, movies, podcasts and space. Follow him on Letterboxd.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *