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OPINION | Best TV of 2017

OpinionSteve Molk

Defining a list of the ten best TV shows for 2017 was super tough - for reals - as more and more content came down an increasing number of channel paths to us for us to watch/record/binge.

So I slid in a couple more.

From killer comedy to deeply affecting drama and everything in between... here's my take on the best TV of 2017.

 

1. The Handmaid's Tale S01 (SBS/Hulu)
10 episodes of transfixing, deeply-affecting drama reflecting the first half of Margaret Atwood's novel of the same name in the best and worst manner. Set in a dystopian near future where part of America has become a prostituted theocracy after a civil war that saw many women become barren it speaks of the dehumanisation of women as they are forced into submission of powerful men who proclaim to speak and keep "the truth". Elisabeth Moss stars as Offred, the handmaiden given to Commander Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), who yearns to see her partner and daughter again amidst the hell of subjugation and institutionalised rape. The cast of amazing women includes Ann Dowd, Madeline Brewer, Alexis Bledel & Samira Wiley. It won eight Primetime Emmy Awards from thirteen nominations, every one of them thoroughly deserved. Difficult to watch at time and completely worth the pain - make this series your must binge this summer.

 

2. You Can't Ask That S02 (ABC)
Kirk Docker, Aaron Smith and Nick McDougall turned the simplest, most politically incorrect precis into the most compelling real life television again in 2017. Inviting people within such varied groups within Australian society as blind people, ice users, centenarians, the homeless and suicide attempt survivors to answer submitted pre-written questions that would otherwise be seen as gauche or inappropriate and allowing them to candidly answer ensures we get heart-breakingly honest and devilishly funny takes on what makes them all tick. It's just great television.

 

3. The Good Fight S01 (SBS/CBS)
Christine Baranski reprises her role from The Good Wife as Diane Lockhart, and right from episode one is thrust into the middle of one of the best American legal and political dramas of this decade. A number of other Good Wife cast join her to further embed the series into the universe while developing the story in an entirely punchy and crisp direction. Rose Leslie joins Baranksi in a co-lead role as the privileged young lawyer who is thrust into the limelight when her father is exposed in the middle of a ponzi scheme scandal, affecting many well-to-do socialites and Diane herself.

 

4. Sunshine (SBS)
Drama that tells authentically Australian stories, reflecting our multicultural identity, challenges and triumphs - this is SBS at their very best. Set within the Sudanese community in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine the story reminds us that sport is a passion no matter colour or creed, and that it teaches each of us about our limits as much as what we can achieve together. Anthony LaPaglia is Eddie, the grumpy owner of a local sporting goods store who crosses paths with Jacob (Wally Elnour) and his mates and decides he can help them better than the local priest (Kym Gyngell). Four hours of incredible Aussie drama.

 

5. Friday on my Mind (ABC)
This is what happens when you seek to cast people who can act over marquee names for a biopic mini-series. A uniquely Australian tale of immigrants with musical talent who became the musical force behind many of our most famous domestic and international acts. Deftly written and performed this story of Harry Vanda and George Young (and their band The Easybeats) showed the commercial networks there's life left in old Aunty yet.

 

6. Better Call Saul S03 (Stan/AMC)
Right when you think Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) is somehow permanently going to stay subjugated to his brother Chuck (Michael McKean) it all perfectly unravels and reveals to us another glimmer of insight as to when we will see Jimmy transform into Breaking Bad's smarmy criminal lawyer Saul Goodman. More twists and turns and solid minute-long beats than any other drama and it's as engrossing as all get out. McKean robbed at not being nominated for an Emmy for his performance in this most recent season.

 

7. Master of None S02 (Netflix)
Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang took one of Netflix's hits of last year and doubled down to deliver an even better series two. After leaving New York to follow his passion for cooking in Italy and to get him out of the funk he felt he was in Ansari's Dev continues to learn about himself, life and love in some of the most devastatingly funny and brutally direct TV this year. Shot on location in Italy and New York it redefined how beautiful a comedy can look.

 

8. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver S04 (Comedy/HBO)
Smart, self-deprecating (& referential) and razor-sharp John Oliver has so heavily imprinted himself in news satire/comedy his bosses renewed him this year for 3 more seasons. Always willing to go there, never willing to back down, desperate to prove President Trump should be impeached Oliver and his crack crew of researchers and writers continue to push and punish those in power by punching up and revealing (at times) horrors seemingly nobody knew about. Also, he has the right amount disdain for even our politicians.

 

9. GLOW S01 (Netflix)
The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling slid into our streams and delivered a surprise binge-hit. Leaning heavily on warm nostalgic thoughts for the 1980's the series reminded us just how great the hairstyles were, how good all that bad lycra is, and how fabulous Alison Brie is. Comedy, drama, shoulder charges - this series had it all. It reminds us of a time when women had to look in the weirdest/worst places to get a job in Hollywood, just how obnoxious the men were at the time, and the independence landing that role could offer (while maintaining broken relationships and difficult families). Marc Maron was a pleasant surprise as the always-hustling director Sam Sylvia, responsible for making GLOW a thing.

 

10. Gogglebox Australia S05/S06 (Lifestyle/Ten)
There's too much to love about this fly-on-the-wall reality-docu-series made for Foxtel and Ten. The casting, with some small tweaks this year, has delivered us a bunch of new friends who sit down and watch the same TV as us and do not hesitate to let rip with their views. From Di's cackle to the appalling Dad jokes of Matt Dalton; from Adam & Symon's bromance that continues to blossom (despite girlfriends moving in and out of the scene) to Angie & Yvie's love of dogs; they regularly deliver sage truth in the midst of reviewers opinions to the contrary. This most recent season's moment watching partners Wayne & Tom view the Marriage Equality survey announcement was beautifully poignant.

 

11. screenPLAY S01 (7mate)
There was much consternation within the gaming community when it was announced Nich 'Nichboy' Richardson and Stephanie 'Hexsteph' Bendixsen had left ABC's Good Game for an unnamed project, likely on Seven. There need not have been any worry as screenPLAY has found its home and an audience and expanded to offer wider coverage of eSports (and pre-requisite plugs for sponsors). The pair benefit from their time working together previously, and the inclusion of Miles Ross has seen the inclusion of the best kind of third wheel.

 

12. Fargo S03 (SBS/FX)
Noah Hawley somehow managed it again, don'cha know. Delivering a new story in the incredibly bleak universe originally created by the Coen brothers that was engaging and enveloping. Full props to Ewan McGregor for his dual role silliness, Carrie Coon for her no nonsense police officer, and thank you to David Thewlis for one of the most incredible bad guys of the year.

 

13. Get Krack!n S01 (ABC)
The Kates (McCartney & McClennan) targeted and did not miss every trope, every misstep and every moment of Australian Breakfast television. Ably assisted with some excellent comedy writers (the ticker on the bottom of the screen is worth the rewatch of the entire series alone) the series offered a broader stretch for our favourite twosome and got them into a different setting which mined the deeper, darker recesses of modern fame and ego.

 

 

Other contenders:

Atlanta S01 (SBS VICELAND)
Classic Countdown (ABC)
Glitch S02 (ABC)
Growing Up Gracefully (ABC)
Gruen S09 (ABC)
Hard Quiz S02 (ABC)
One Night Stan (Stan)
Rosehaven S02 (ABC)
Seven Types of Ambiguity (ABC)
Shaun Micallef's Mad As Hell S07 (ABC) 
Star Trek Discovery S01 (Netflix)
Stranger Things S02 (Netflix)
Struggle Street S02 (SBS)
The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth S02 (Stan)
The Deuce S01 (showcase)
The Feed (SBS VICELAND)
The Good Place S01/S02 (Netflix)
The Letdown (ABC)
The Weekly With Charlie Pickering S03 (ABC)
This Is Us (Ten)
Tonightly with Tom Ballard (ABC Comedy)
Utopia S03 (ABC)

 

Did I miss anything? Get it all wrong? Let me know your favourites and my mistakes in the comments below...

 


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