Here’s my list of the 10 best new shows that premiered in 2017. It was easy to come up with a very wide-ranging selection, from a gaudy look at pro wrestling to a traditional network sitcom. If it seems as though there are a lot of Netflix entries, well, Netflix is really churning out the product, and some of it is very good.
American Vandal (Netflix) At first it seemed like a one-joke show: Someone vandalized a number of cars in a high school parking lot; whodunnit? Early on, we think we know — a nitwit who likes to draw an obscenity that’s sorta his calling card. But what starts out as a spoof of true-crime TV shows and podcasts quickly becomes a funny but also sharp and finely detailed look at high school life.
Big Mouth (Netflix) A very funny cartoon about seventh-grade wise guys Nick (Nick Kroll) and Andrew (John Mulaney), Big Mouth is brash and vulgar, but it has good jokes, a good heart, and gratifyingly vivid female characters — Jessi Klein’s Jessi and Jenny Slate’s Missy foremost among them.
The Deuce (HBO) David Simon and George Pelecanos’s deep dive into the Times Square porn industry in the 1970s was a tough challenge for a lot of viewers, some of whom found the subject matter too icky and inherently sexist. But as the season went on, it seemed that more and more people were giving the show a chance and were able to appreciate the fine performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal (who earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role) and James Franco, as well as the excellent writing and direction.
GLOW (Netflix) I rolled my eyes when I heard Community’s Alison Brie was setting herself up as a pro wrestler from the 1980s. Shame on me: Brie and her collaborators — co-creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch; co-star Betty Gilpin — managed to make the campy spectacle of TV’s “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” the site of a complex sisterhood.
Godless (Netflix) This Western from writer-director Scott Frank has a premise that sounds like a gimmick — an Old West mining town run by women — but that just skims the surface of what goes on here. Featuring a hard-bitten star turn by Merritt Wever as a deadly shot, with Jeff Daniels as a delightfully sadistic villain, Godless is no revisionist Western: it’s just the real thing.
The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) As 2017 wore on, this adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel about oppressed women finding ways to take back their power came to seem less and less like a mere allegory. More uneven than any of the other shows on this list, Handmaid’s Tale started out very strong, wobbled with a few loosely focused episodes, and then cranked up the tension again, leaving me eager for the second season.
Mike Judge’s Tales from the Tour Bus (Cinemax) You don’t have to be a country music fan to enjoy these raucous profiles of country hellions such as George Jones and Johnny Paycheck. In fact, Mike Judge (Office Space, King of the Hill) kinda assumes you’re not: He lays out all the biographical details with clarity and hilarity.
Mindhunter (Netflix) The early days of serial-killer profiling were made vividly unpleasant in this moody production from creator-writer Joe Penhall and director David Fincher. It stars Jonathan Groff as a blank-slate FBI rookie, and it was robbed of the Golden Globe nomination that should have gone to Cameron Britton as the languidly eloquent killer Edmund Kemper.
Mr. Mercedes (Audience) The best Stephen King TV adaptation of 2017 was actually a tie: Yes, Netflix’s Gerald’s Game, starring Carla Gugino, was terrific, but so was this 10-episode rendering of King’s thriller about a psychotic mama’s boy. Brendan Gleeson was excellently ornery as retired cop Bill Hodges, and the series has two more books in King’s Hodges trilogy to turn into more good TV.
Young Sheldon (CBS) The only broadcast network show on this list is a conventional sitcom, a spin-off from The Big Bang Theory. But it’s an uncommonly well-acted and cleverly conceived network sitcom, with the casting coup of the year: Iain Armitage’s performance as a nine-year-old Sheldon Cooper is exceptional. You believe that this fastidious child grew up to be Jim Parsons (who narrates the show), and — even better — you believe this kid is superintelligent and hyperarticulate. Let’s hear it for a show that prizes book reading and good grades.
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