It Was A Very Good Year
Well, 2017 wasn’t as bad as last year. but it was still pretty terrible. Particularly in the entertainment industry. Unless you were living under a rock, the revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s disgraceful and horrendous sexual abuses have led to a ripple effect that has been felt throughout the country. And the damage that it has done to the entertainment industry may yet take decades to for the full ramifications to be known. They have certainly done moral damage to great actors and have probably ruined the enjoyment of a lot of TV series.
But if you could get through some of the horrors, there were still a great many gems in the TV world. Some of them were realistic series that brought new visions of the world of today. Others showed visions into worlds of escapism. And some were just plain fun. As always, I haven’t remotely caught up to all of the brilliant series that aired this year, so the codicil is: these are just my picks for the best series that I’ve seen. And even then, I intend to deliver a jury prize to honor some of the ones I’ve left out.
So here we go:
10. The Deuce (HBO)
David Simon’s return to TV was a look back at 1971 Times Square. But as with just about every series he made, it couldn’t be more relevant. For the first time, Simon and his colleagues took a look at sex and commerce — in what seemed like every permutation imaginable. He managed to utilize one of his best casts since The Wire, and managed to make what should’ve been a pure gimmick — James Franco playing two brothers — work by creating two very different versions of men trying to earn a living. Throw in some truly brilliant supporting players — particularly Maggie Gyllenhaal playing one of the most brilliant prostitutes since Deadwood — and you have the makings of another Simon gem. It’s going to be hard for the Emmys to ignore him this year.
9. The Good Place (NBC)
Forget anything you see on Westworld. The series with the biggest twist of the year came in the Season 1 finale when it was revealed that the title characters were actually in the Bad Place. And the number of reimaginings that have taken place ever since then are on the most entertaining comedy on network TV. Ted Danson has completely reinvented himself for the fourth time since turning 70, and the rest of the cast is just as funny in their own twisted way. It was one of the joys of last few months that this low-rated work will be back for a season 3. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Who knows? Maybe the twist for the fast approaching Season 2 Finale is there is no Good Place.
8. CW Friday Night: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend/Jane the Virgin
I’m probably breaking one of my own rules by having two series share one spot on my list. But these two criminally under-recognized series have been linked for such a long time that it seems unfair not to recognize both. Both are among the most original pieces of television in any medium. Both are focused around exceptional women who are endearing despite their flaws. Both featured twists this season that were so incredibly moving (Michael dying of complications, Rebecca’s last ditch suicide attempt) that you wouldn’t expect either series to be capable. Both feature lead actresses that have been recognized by everyone except the Emmys. And both are so low rating even on a low rated network that its a miracle either have survived this long. I think both series have one season to go before they reach their natural end. Start watching them, so they get it. Oh, and you’ll have a good time too.
7. Mr. Robot (USA)
Some people thought that the second season of this series was meandering and flawed. (I didn’t.) But if you view as a recovery or just maintaining its level of brilliant, the fact remains that the third season was one of the more remarkably done ones. As Eliot and Mr. Robot spent almost the entire season warring against each other, as allegiances shifted even among the less solid ones, as the game was changed repeatedly (particularly in the finale), Sam Esmail was again demonstrated that this is the most stirring imagery of our time. And he can still do creative wonders — witness the episode which appeared to be shot in a single, unbroken take as Ecorps home office was destroyed, and Eliot learned of two of his hugest betrayals. There are going to be award nominations in this series future again. Academy, please tell me you’re seeing this too.
6. The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
I figured that this spinoff of the extraordinary Good Wife would just be an excuse to do more of the same, albeit with more sex and curses than they could do on CBS. I’ve never been so grateful to be proven wrong. Watching as a brilliant new group of player (hello Delroy Lindo) joined an already brilliant set of actors playing with a new set of tribulations in a post-Trump world led to some of the most brilliant writing ever. Add to this the most incredible guest cast arguably in history, and you have a series that, when joined with Good Wife, may be one of the most incredible TV universes since Joss Whedon started merging Buffy and Angel. Oh, and for Season 2, could we please have Michael J. Fox return?
To Be Continued