From two wildly different adaptations of Margaret Atwood to the debut of Big Little Lies, and a second season of The Crown, 2017 was a very strong year for television (however you choose to watch it these days). Read on for all our favorite TV shows, be they dramas, comedies, or of the reality variety.
Big Little Lies
The Emmys sweep speaks for itself: Big Little Lies is a powerful portrayal of what multi-dimensional women really look like. Packed with the star power of Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Zoe Kravitz, and Shailene Woodley, the HBO series proves that female-led television, and even storylines that deal with issues like domestic violence, can not only be commercially successful
In 2017, Outlander took us from America to Scotland and back again (with a little time travel and a few brief stops in the Caribbean along the way). While the long-awaited print shop reunion scene was an obvious high-point to the TV adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's Voyager novel, stand-out performances from both Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe are what made this season worth watching week after week.
Playing House was too good for this world. Laugh-out-loud funny, the show's third and final season took a poignant turn, bringing actor and creator Jessica St. Clair's real-life breast cancer diagnosis and treatment to the small screen. Criminally under-watched, the series, which served as a fictionalized testament to St. Clair's friendship with fellow actress Lennon Parham, is worth a binge-watch over the holidays, for not only its storytelling, and humor without cruelty, but also its exceptional cast, which includes Keegan Michael-Key, Zach Woods, Jane
While it was canceled in October (The Hollywood Reporter noted the call was made as USA Network shifted its attention to "darker" original shows like Mr. Robot and Queen of the South), we can't wait to see what St. Clair and Parham do next.
The Handmaid's Tale
An all-star cast (including Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss, Gilmore Girls' Alexis Bledel, and Orange is the New Black's Samira Wiley) bring new–albeit horrifying–life to Margaret Atwood’s classic story of the ways in which fascism and female subjugation go hand in hand. Expertly told, TheHandmaid’s Tale forebodes a not-too-impossible dystopian future that's worth watching even when it hits a little too close to home.
Another Atwood classic took to the small screen this year. Alias Grace, a haunting
Patricia Altschul might be the best character on reality television. With bon mots like, “I have no interest in an inferior martini,” the Charleston doyenne dominates Southern Charm. The series has spawned spinoffs in Savannah and New Orleans, but the original, which premiered in 2014, is still the best. “I think the idea was a little Downton Abbey, a little bit of Gone With the Wind, a little bit of The Bachelor and a little bit of Animal House,” said creator, cast member, and son-of-Patricia Whitney Sudler-Smith of his concept. Sounds like catnip to us.
This Is Us
The first season of This Is Us may have decimated our heartstrings as we uncovered the Pearson family’s many complicated secrets, but this fall's second season further explored complexities of their family dynamic. It's become something of a weekly national catharsis, with nearly every episode bringing audiences to tears, but the show’s incredible cast (we're looking at you, Mandy Moore and Sterling K. Brown), and a relatable melodrama of life, love, and inter-family relationships keep us coming back for more.
If you miss the original Beverly Hills 90210, or Gossip Girl, or Nancy Drew, or Scooby Doo, or basically anything having to do with good-looking teenagers engaging in backstabbing intrigue while also navigating class tensions in between extracurriculars, do yourself a favor and start watching Riverdale.
The Good Place
Starring Ted Danson and Kristin Bell and created by the genius Michael Schur (co-creator of Parks and Rec, writer on The Office, former Harvard Lampoon prez—if you don’t follow him on Twitter at his pen name @KenTremendous, start), The Good Place is a delight. Yes it’s funny and silly and the dystopian universe in which it’s set is purposely corny and artificial looking—I had a friend tell me it looked too childish to watch—but underneath the (highly amusing) gags it’s a brilliant existential meditation.
The Defiant Ones
Watching this four-part documentary series about music legends Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre
The Menendez Murders
The infamous Menendez brothers were the subject of several TV specials this year, but Law & Order’s The Menendez Murders mini-series was easily the best. Edie Falco nailed her portrayal of criminal defense attorney Leslie Abramson, and the roles of Erik and Lyle—played by two relatively unknown actors—were equally spot on. You didn’t know whether to rescue them or convict them, which, it seems, is exactly the conflicted response that the show hoped to achieve.
While the first season of The Crown gave us a glimpse into what life is really like beyond the Buckingham Palace gates, season two follows Elizabeth II into the turbulent 1960s and delves deeper into the Queen's relationships with her children, her husband, and the country she serves. Stars Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby and the rest of the cast will be leaving the show for season three (more on that here), but their performances this year will be a hard act to follow.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.