The Top 5
5. Fargo (FX)
Yes, Season 3 of Noah Hawley’s incredible anthology was nowhere near as good as Seasons 1 or 2. That doesn’t change the fact that it featured some of the most incredible work by any group of actors throughout 2017. From Ewan MacGregor’s outstanding double act (which was criminally ignored by the Emmys) to Carrie Coon’s remarkable performance as Gloria Burgle, the one person determined to find the truth, even if no one else cared, this was one of the most memorable struggles of good and evil all year long. And unlike the previous two incarnations, this was ended with the slightest possibility of a follow-up. Whenever Noah Hawley gets around to Season 4, I hope somehow we hear more of David Thewlis as Varga.
4. Stranger Things (Netflix)
Having to decide which of Netflix series should be represented on this list is a painful ordeal, as the streaming service has so many great options, a top ten list could be formed just from then. But ever since I got involved with this sci-fi/ teenager adventure/ Easter egg to the 1980s, there’s really been no question which show deserved it. This is one of the most endearing and personal journeys Netflix has sent me on, even though I never got lost in the Upside Down or played D & D. But watching this incredible cast dealing with the invasion of the netherworld into Hawkins, Indiana has been incredibly enjoyable, entertaining and fun. And so far, the second season has been just as enthralling. Throw in arguably the most incredible group of child actors ever ( Millie Bobby Brown rules!) and you have a series that truly is the kind of thing that you can watch with your kids. Just explain to them what Dragon’s Lair was.
3. Big Little Lies (HBO)
Yes, I think trying to do a Season 2 is a mistake. But that’s only because the incarnation we got was so extraordinary. The Great TV revival finally struck David E. Kelley as he and the great assemblage of female actress on TV this year took Lianne Moriarty best seller, and turned it into an incredible drama/satire of housewives in Monterrey, California. It’s impossible to imagine this novel ever being adapted anywhere else as all of the performers seemed to have cemented its place in America. And the entire cast from Reese Witherspoon to Laura Dern created a battleground that seems even more quintessentially Californian than anything else. I don’t know if it’ll work for an encore. But part of me still wants to see them try.
2. American Crime (ABC)
I’m still incredibly pissed at ABC for canceling what was arguably the greatest accomplishment of network TV this decade. But that doesn’t change the fact that the last season of this incredible anthology series — set in North Carolina, and dealing with the horrors of human trafficking and immigration — was arguably its best. Showing an America that shows no justice for any of its citizens, and a world that has turned against every element of it, John Ridley and his extraordinary company of actors put together one of the most haunting stories that was ever put together anywhere. The entire cast, highlighted by the astounding Regina King as an exhausted social worker, down to Lili Taylor and Timothy Hutton as two couples with vastly different visions of the perfect life, was one of the best ever assembled. Anyone who tells you that network television can’t put something together as brilliant as The Wire — well, show them one season of this, and they will owe you a whopping apology.
1. This is Us (NBC)
I know that at some point this season we will find out how Jack died. But really, I don’t care that much. This is by far the most moving and funny — yes, I said funny, if there were no laughs, this series would be unbearable — family series I have seen since Parenthood went off the air. It features some of the most heartbreaking and stirring material that I’ve seen on any television series in a long, long time. Some may have had issues with the final three episodes before the mid-season break; I thought that it showed all of The Big Three in some of their most moving work in any show so far. Kate (Chrissy Metz) Kevin (Justin Hartley) and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) are not always easy to like, but watching them strive through all of the obstacles facing them has always been the heart of this show. And that’s before you consider all of the bits that we get for their past (the ‘Memphis’ episode, where Randall went on a road trip with his dying birth father, was one of the highpoints of the year.) This is one of the most moving family series on years, the kind that broadcast networks — and almost all other servers — almost never make any more. Watch it.