The best TV shows of 2017 4 years ago

The best TV shows of 2017

2017 has been a pretty solid year for television.

From streaming services reinventing the medium, to reality shows where attractive people bicker around a villa in their swimwear, there’s been a lot to distract us from the terrible state of the world. And the Christmas break is perfect time to catch up on all those shows you missed over the last 12 months. So here is the JOE office’s pick of the last year of TV, some highbrow, some definitely not, featuring everything from depressed cartoon horses, to serial killer hunters, to stoned soap stars.

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BoJack Horseman – Season 4

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Now that we’ve had four years of BoJack, we knew what to expect. No longer would we be caught off-guard by the talking horse show actually one of the most frank examinations of depression in television history. Yet still the series managed to be an emotional rollercoaster, particularly when it delved into the previously-unrevealed Horseman family history. Not only that, it also managed to add a new string to its bow – in the introduction of Hollyhock, BoJack’s illegitimate daughter, it actually offered a glimmer of hope and growth for even its most irredeemable characters. - Wil Jones

Love Island - Season 3

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Love Island had no right to be as exceptional as it was this year. Roughly a week into production, something clicked with the viewers and it turned into a televisual masterpiece that we’re unlikely to see the likes of replicated on our screens again. Between popularising linguistic trends such as ‘on paper’, ‘crack on’ and ‘I was in the Blazin Squad’, the nation was gripped by a group of people that are somehow still kind of relevant. We made celebrities out of nobodies and rather than feeling deeply ashamed by that knowledge, we’ve embraced it. Chris off Love Island’s calendar is currently retailing at £11.99. We did that and we should be proud. - Ciara Knight

 

Louis Theroux: Dark States

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It seems almost needless to tell you that this year’s new Louis Theroux documentaries were really, really good. They’re always really good. But his trio of 2017 films covering gun crime, heroin addiction and sex trafficking in America’s Central States were fascinating, heartbreaking, and most of all, incredibly humane. - Wil Jones

 

Narcos - Series 3

Bladdy ‘ell….what more is there to say about the gritty drugs ‘n’ guns ‘n’ money drama that hasn’t already been said? Well, a fair bit to be honest. Series 3 was released on Netflix in September this year and there were two very central characters missing. This could have detracted from the experience, and no doubt for some it did. While the central antagonist had changed and was nowhere near as strong as in series one and two (with the exception of Pacho!) The tension is ramped up through the narrative itself, not just how amazing the characters are. With one in particular you want to dive into your TV to help….or at least I did. Bring on Season 4 with Michael Pena! - Richie Driss

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The Apprentice - Season 13

The Apprentice served us another delightful crop of lunatic candidates in 2017, along with Lord Sugar’s Snitches In Chief Claude and Karren’s familiar disapproving facial expressions. It was only natural to feel let down when the series finale ended with both finalists being given £250k, but we mustn’t let it sour our overall opinion on a series that gave us such heavyweights of humanity as Jeff Wan, Michaela Wain and Elizabeth McKenna. Regardless of the official outcome, we all know and accept that Michaela Wain was the real winner. - Ciara Knight

Blue Planet II

David Attenborough is into his 90th decade of existence and still on top of his game. Blue Planet II is yet another landmark achievement from the BBC’s Natural History Unit, featuring some of the most incredible footage ever broadcast, both in terms of sheer technical might and the life captured in the frame.

The show introduced us to a host of fascinating creatures, some that we knew and some that we’d never laid eyes on before. New depths were plumbed, new technologies forged, but ultimately Blue Planet II came as a stark warning: that unless we change our ways, these incredible oceans will be irreparably damaged and the life that call our waters home could be lost forever. - Rich Cooper

Twin Peaks: The Return

25 years later David Lynch did it again, breaking even more new ground with his long awaited return to the small logging town of Twin Peaks. Is it a movie? A TV show? Who cares, all we know is it’s as captivating, dreamy and bonkers as it was in 1990 (A posthumous David Bowie returns as a giant tea kettle FFS). The returning cast were irresistible (Kyle MacLachlan plays three versions of his character like it’s nothing), and the list of newcomers is quite staggering (Naomi Watts, Laura Dern, Michael Cera, Tim Roth to name a few). If you haven’t already, grab some coffee, a slice of cherry pie and enjoy this DAMN fine return. - Lee Warner

 

Gone To Pot: American Road Trip

The gift we truly didn’t deserve to see on British television this year. Pat Butcher ripped into a spliff, then subsequently a bong, then some edibles and literally any other form of narcotics that were sent her way throughout the course of the series. Her fellow celebrities also tentatively dabbled in some weed, but she was the standout star. Regardless of anything else that happened on our screens in 2017, I’m extremely glad that we got to see Pat Butcher getting stoned. - Ciara Knight

 

The Trip to Spain

It’s hard to describe this show without making it sound dull, but it’s some of the most entertaining and fascinating television from 2017. It’s mostly two middle-aged men speaking over an expensive lunch, worrying about death. It’s not a sit-com, it’s not a documentary, it’s sort of mockumentary with the main actors playing exaggerated versions of themselves. It treads the line between light and serious with beautiful balance. Exploring masculinity, parenthood, divorce and one’s sense of self is not easy, but what better way to do so than through a series of impressions of Michael Caine and Ronnie Corbett? When Sky Atlantic took the third instalment of the series after the first two series were shown on the BBC, set in the UK and then Italy, you would’ve been forgiven for worrying that they might change it for the worse. Thankfully, it remained as the best easy-watch show on TV. - Reuben Pinder

 

The Punisher - Season 1

Without doubt the most violent instalment of the Netflix and Marvel partnership, The Punisher is a wet dream for action junkies. Buying into Jon Bernthal’s Punisher was easy. He not only looked the part, the way he channeled Frank Castle’s compassion for the common man was spot on. He was aggressive when he needed to be and his stone faced comedic delivery made you like him even more. Like Batman, he’s a superhero who at the core of it all is just a human. The difference here though is that he’s not a billionaire. Instead he relies on his will to succeed at all costs regardless of how many bullets travel in his direction. Beautifully shot with a dark undertone present throughout, this is Marvel’s greatest television achievement. - ill Will

Mindhunter - Season 1

Netflix’s Mindhunter is a show about serial killers that features very little killing. The show takes place in the late ‘70s, before the concept of a serial killer existed. Two FBI agents travel around the US, speaking to real-life serial killers trying to get inside their head, understand their motivations and hope that they can use the information to solve ongoing crimes. It’s a bit of a thinker, Mindhunter. The show isn’t about cliffhanger endings and ‘holy shit!’ moments, it’s more interested in spending time with interesting, though incredibly dangerous, people and trying to reveal the mechanics of their minds. A slow burner, but one that’s worth your time. - Rich Cooper

 

Inside No. 9 – Season 3

Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton (masterminds behind The League of Gentlemen and Psychoville) returned this year with the third series of their horror infused dark comedy Inside Number 9, potentially their most satisfying creation to date. The premise is simple, each episode is focused on a different room/house/building serves as the ‘number 9’. From a restaurant, to a karaoke pod, to the private chambers of a Cambridge professor, Pemberton and Shearsmith never cease to amaze you with how intricately they can weave a standalone story, neatly tying every plot up in a blood-stained bow in under 30 mins. Pure genius, if you missed it, find it. - Lee Warner

Godless - Season 1

What is the opposite of ‘Godless’? Some quick research led me to words like ‘holy’, ‘celestial’, ‘divine’, ‘sublime’ and ‘other worldly’. Funny that, because I’d describe Godless as all of these things. OK, maybe not ‘holy’. I’m not religious, but that’s another story. Back to the subject and the point I am trying to make. Writer/Director Scott Frank and Super Steven Soderbergh thoroughly nailed it with this 7-part Western mini-series. From the ruthless and poetic (in equal measures) opening scene, to the “my fists and arse cheeks have been clenched for one hour now” gripping final episode, it drew me in like no other TV series this year, and that’s saying something. 2017 has been an exceptional year for TV, imho. This is a slow-starter, but it absolutely works and makes for incredibly captivating viewing. I could spend all day watching Jeff Daniels and Jack O’Connell (Long live Roy ‘Robin’ Goode) in a tense scene together, but for me the unsettlingly real beauty of this grainy, gritty, gruesome and ultimately hopeful tale, are the mighty performances of the female cast in its entirety, and the palpable presence of strength and solidarity their characters bring to a world of the past that sometimes – sadly – feels all too familiar in 2017. - Rebecca Fennelly

The Defiant Ones

Taking a closer look at the careers of both Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine and how they came to be billionaire partners with Apple, the only way to describe The Defiant Ones is exceptional. Raising the standards of how a docu-series should be researched, written, filmed and executed, the four part HBO series grabs your attention from the off. While many loosely know the story of Dr. Dre and his come up as part of rap group NWA, The Defiant Ones shines a light on Jimmy Iovine’s story and his work with John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, 2Pac, Marilyn Manson and more. Laying everything on the line, it’s not just the pair’s highs that are celebrated. Looking at Dre’s run ins with the law and his much publicised but rarely ever discussed physical attack on Dee Barnes, as well as the break up of Jimmy’s marriage and the various controversies he’s been involved in, this is the docu-series everyone has to see, regardless of whether you’re a music fan or not. - ill Will

Stranger Things 2

Perhaps the most hyped entertainment event of the year that isn’t set in a galaxy far, far away. Instead, we’re in the formerly-sleepy town of Hawkins and a creepy alternate universe that sits just beneath it.

Stranger Things 2 had a lot to live up to; the first series was a gargantuan hit, ticking the respective boxes of ‘80s nostalgia, a gang of cute and funny kids, and supernatural horror. It didn’t disappoint. The second season took the themes from the first and developed them into a story that felt fresh yet familiar, hit some extraordinary emotional high points (if you didn’t well up at the school dance scene then you need your heart looking at) and took us on a thrilling adventure. The only false note was the entirely pointless and diversionary episode seven that took us away from the action to set up characters and backstory that are almost immediately abandoned and of no interest to the core story anyway. - Rich Cooper

The Great British Bake Off - Season 8

Britain fell into a state of apoplectic panic at the news that The Great British Bake Off would be moving from the BBC to Channel 4. The terror increased when it transpired that judge Mary Berry and hosts Mel & Sue would not be moving channels with the show. Fear was overtaken by bemusement when it was announced that happy-go-lucky goth Noel Fielding would present the show, along with Sandi Toksvig and new judge Prue Leith. “What have they done to the show? It’ll never be the same!” the nation panicked. Needlessly, as it turned out: Channel 4’s Bake Off was almost exactly the same as it was before, but with adverts. Aside from the slightest touch of surrealism from Noel Fielding, the atmosphere of the show was the same as ever, like a warm Victoria sponge. Lovely stuff. - Rich Cooper

 

Master of None - Season 2

If you need proof of how Netflix is revolutionising television, just look at how Aziz Ansari’s NYC-set singledom sitcom stepped up it’s game between seasons one and two. The season opened with a black-and-white tribute to Italian neo-realist cinema. Others followed the untold stories of New York cabbies and doorman, innovatively bent time to jump between every awkward Tinder date you’ve ever had, and in the most critically acclaimed episode, chronicled Denise’s coming out to her family across a decade of Thanksgivings. We’ve come a long way from the 22-minute laugh-tracked sitcom.  - Wil Jones

 

GLOW – Season 1

Alison Brie has been a stand-out in shows like Community and Mad Men, but this year she finally got a vehicle to show great she is. Yet it’s unlikely anyone would have guessed it would be a loose adaptation of a real life campy women’s wrestling league from the 1980s. Backed up by an eclectic support cast (Marc Maron! Kate Nash! A ton of former WWE midcarders!), it managed to balance the period cheese with genuine pathos – and a respect for pro-wrestling as well. - Wil Jones

Rick & Morty – Season 3

Somehow in 2017, a crude Back To The Future rift managed to go from cult Adult Swim show to possibly the new Simpsons (or at least the new South Park). The real achievement of Rick & Morty’s third season was that it addressed one of R&M detractor’s strongest points: isn’t Rick actually just a horrible jerk that we shouldn’t be celebrating? To which the show replied: Yes, that’s the point. Over ten episodes, we saw Rick confronted by his terrible nature – and discovered that he’s far stubborn to change. - Wil Jones 

 

Game of Thrones - Season 7

*Mild spoilers* Having waited an age for the seventh season, it finally arrived, as did winter. And boy it, it was worth the wait. At times it felt slightly rushed, and sometimes seemed to ignore the concepts of space and time  - but that only packed more excitement into every episode. We got a healthy dose of sex and dragons (although thankfully not at the same time). Dany finally met Jon, and every other important leader from across Westeros. So much of what we’d been waiting years for finally happened, and it was even more satisfying than we imagined it would be. We’ve grown used to expecting the unexpected when watching Game of Thrones, but it still manages to make you squeal with excitement and jump off your sofa in shock. You know which part I’m talking about. Season 8 won’t come out until 2019, but in the meantime, we might as well relive season 7. - Reuben Pinder

Black-ish - Season 4

Continuing to prove great television, Black-ish has far exceeded the reach that its comparable predecessor The Cosby Show ever did. Celebrating black culture while also being a poignant reminder that equality is still not the first thing on everyone’s agenda, Kenya Barris’ evolution of a family man (played by Anthony Anderson) struggling with his cultural identity is educational, enlightening and incredibly entertaining. A show that continues to stay current by looking at the social and economic changes in the world through the eyes of a family who offer hilarious opinions, stand out characters include Pops (Laurence Fishburne) and Charlie (Deon Cole). It’s so successful that even daughter Zoey (Yara Shahidi) has now earned herself a spin off show titled Grown-ish. - ill Will