Honorable Mentions: Although a little too uneven for the Top Ten, the final seasons of “Longmire” and “Halt and Catch Fire” were definitely things to seek out. As was the final season of “Samurai Jack,” which returned to give fans a proper send-off for this beloved character. And I’m downright excited to see what the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling get up to in the second season of “GLOW.”
Runner-Up: “The Handmaid’s Tale”…I really can see why this won Best Drama at the Emmys, but I personally think it would’ve been better as a limited-run series of eight episodes rather than a continuing series with multiple seasons. After all, what works best is the first half of the season that sticks closely to Margaret Atwood’s stellar source novel, and things begin to deviate in quality the further the show gets away from that (like the Luke-themed episode especially or the season finale). Since the second season will largely take place after the book’s finish, we’ll just have to see the series’s male creator can develop his own take on this material.
10. “Man Seeking Woman”/”Difficult People”…The two most gut-busting, laugh-out-loud comedies on television both ended after getting cancelled at the end of their third seasons. That’s really too bad, but, luckily, both had (unknowing) series ender-episodes that make for fitting finales. I really will miss these gems, even if the creator of “Difficult People” would likely wince at even being mentioned here, and I’d be afraid to get on Julie Klausner’s bad side after seeing this season’s scathing parodies of Woody Allen, late night talk shows, and the entire city of Los Angeles. Meanwhile, “Man Seeking Woman” was getting even more hopeful in its last season, as its underdog hero finally, finally, finally found the woman he was meant to be with. I would never have thought “MSW” could wind up being the most romantic show of the year.
9. “Feud”…If I told you there was a show about the rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, a lot of people might say “no thanks,” but what you might view as either something snoozy or ridiculously over-the-top manages to be neither, containing real, humanistic truths about what society does to older women and featuring a haunting performance from Jessica Lange.
8. “Vice Principals”…This two-season series ended on a high-note, focusing on the frenemiship between Neal Gamby and Lee Russell. By the wild, unexpectedly moving finale you might wish these were two people you could spend more time with. And that near-wordless closing scene at the mall made me tear up without any of the usual manipulation required to do so.
7. “Veep”…I’m not sure how a comedy show filled with horrible people can manage to be so consistently watchable, but it probably has something to do with one of TV’s most hilarious casts, and a biting wit that has only grown funnier under new management. Not many shows can lose their original creator and actually get better, but maybe that’s why “Veep” keeps winning (deserved) “Best Comedy” Emmys.
6. “Homeland”…It’s an ironic, cruel fate for this series that the better it gets, the fewer people notice. After terrific seasons in Afghanistan (where people started to quit watching) and Berlin, “Homeland” came to NYC during the transition between presidents and uncorked a “Parallex View” for the 21st century as different forces conspired to stage a wholly-believable coup. That you might have even been hoping they’ll pull it off tells you something about our Trump-addled times.
5. “American Crime: Season 3”…John Ridley finally lived up to his promise, taking a break from interracial bashing like in “Guerilla” or even “American Crime”‘s first season to deliver a series’s best exploration of modern-day slavery. The tales are deeply emotional, but docudrama realistic, and it shows how even abusers (like Richard Cabral’s scary farm manager) think they’re just doing what they’re supposed to be doing to increase “productivity.” As an exploration of the ways our country is becoming deeply dehumanized, this is sensational television worthy of seeking out.
4. “Nathan for You”…I’ve loved all seasons of Nathan Fielder’s wholly original hidden gem (the number of people I meet who’ve never heard of this show is truly depressing), but this season may have just hit new heights as Nathan started a sleeper cell inside Uber (to help struggling cabbies), tries to smuggle a chili-selling operation into a stadium, and staged an elaborate restaurant tip. But the series’s highlight to date is the season finale “Finding Francis” that has little to do with the show’s usual format but contains real truths about aging, lost love, remorse, what is real and what isn’t in an age where human connection can feel fake, and, finally, a hope for renewal. I’m hoping against hope this show doesn’t get cancelled.
3. “Ozark”…With the possible exception of “American Crime,” Jason Bateman’s superior crime drama wound up being the most moral series of 2017, unrolling near-Biblical stories of lost individuals trying to get away with crimes that keep spiraling out of control. Bateman’s money launderer thinks he can create a firewall between the dry financial side of the business and the violence it’s financing, and the series keeps punishing him for it. Since “Justified” and “Breaking Bad” went off the air, there’s a real need for a quality flyover state crime series, and “Ozark” is the one most likely to fill it. I also love how it works backwards from most anti-hero dramas, as Bateman’s character starts off the season emotionally numb and walking dead, but gradually begins to experience life as his character fights for survival. The last scene of the season is an unexpectedly moving, pro-family message.
2. “Mr. Robot”…Alternately frustrating and fantastic, “Mr. Robot” continues to leave me feeling intrigued, confused, frustrated and floored in equal measure. More than any other series on TV right now, this is the thing speaking most to our moment (right up to a villainous foreign government installing Trump as a puppet), and certain stand-out episodes like the fifth one of this season (which is staged to flow from a technically-flawless single take) are better than almost anything at a movie theater. If it wasn’t for my number one pick hitting a series-high final season, I could easily see “Mr. Robot” being singled out as the Best Show of 2017. [And also if it didn’t waste so much time on extraneous characters.]
1. “The Leftovers”…Simply sensational, with only eight episodes that each feel like a mini-movie, this final season was downright impossible to ignore. Whether you loved an episode set on a sex-ferry party (complete with wild, caged lion) or one in which the protagonist has to complete a mission in his alternate world or simply the quiet series finale that answered what it all meant, this show had a little something for everyone.