Screen Scholars’ Top TV of 2017: #20-11

Ok, for most of us, 2017 was kind of a hellhole (and you know how we feel about hellholes), but Peak TV gonna peak, and as such, in the style of a reverse Peter Gibbons, every year is obviously TV’s best year yet, so ALL HAIL 2017! (Hooray! Good television?) Of course 2017 is gonna be awful if you focus on the Trumps and the CHUDs. Our scholarly team of editors studied screens across this great land and here’s our 20 faves — shows which took our mind off the prelude-to-Mad-Max landscape this world has become.

20 American Vandal 20



A documentarian is attracted to the story of a controversial figure who, against prevailing evidence, professes innocence of a shocking crime. The twist in American Vandal is that the “criminal” is a high school class clown, his “crime” is drawing 27 dicks on cars, and the director is a 15-year-old Errol Morris wannabe. American Vandal succeeds by seducing us to invest in all the players in this cavalcade of silliness, from the awkward witness whose integrity comes into question thanks to dubious claims of a camp handjob to the Jerky Boys-reject YouTube stars who form the defendant’s inner circle.  -Jason Thurston

19 Mr. Robot 19


Sam Esmail continues to surprise us in season 3 of the tech thriller. Just when you think you are on to him and all his twist and turns, he breaks your brain once again. This season we learned about Bitcoin and Ecoin and the pitfalls of cryptocurrency, along with the fact that the 1%, in fact, own it. Whiterose wants it, along with his/her plant in the Congo — and will stop at nothing to get it–including blowing up innocent people to make a point. The rich DO control everything, now what? Robot and Elliott continue their inner turmoil until they can come to an understanding that they are the really the same person, working for the same things. Angela fell for the okiedoke from Whiterose in thinking she would be able to turn back time and ended up in the Sunken Place. We could see her and her new found father teaming up against Whiterose next season. If only we could undo things we did in the past proves to be the overarching theme this past season. However, you can’t. So people will get demoted, while others like agent Dom get promoted. And Elliott will have a few surprises to deal with with the return of the Brave Traveler on his doorstep. -Navani Otero

18 Big Mouth 18



Picture Oh, Hello‘s Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland as cartoon pre-teens with all the extra unearned neuroses that entail, and you have a preliminary idea of Big Mouth, but as with any lazy intro like that, there’s much more to it. The middle school world of Nick Burch and Andrew Glouberman (voiced by Faizon & Geegland themselves, Nick Kroll and John Mulaney) is populated by hormone monsters, ghosts of arcane historical figures from Duke Ellington to Freddie Mercury, and a talking pillow that eventually becomes pregnant. Despite all the absurdities, Big Mouth remains grounded in the most familiar and basic joys and fears of childhood. -Jason Thurston

17 Bob’s Burgers 17



The animated comedy had never been as inventive and refreshing as it was in 2017, and no episode was more apparent than season eight’s opener, “Brunchsquath,” wherein each scene featured a different animator while Linda faced the consequences of offering bottomless mimosas without forcing patrons to order food. -Katherine M. Hill

16 Broad City 16


[Comedy Central]

In the fourth season of Broad City, we see a deeper more contemplative side of our favorite besties. In this season the duo tackled winter for the first time, alongside Trump anxiety and the responsibilities of a real relationship (YAY, Lincoln!). But the shenanigans persist in the form of amazing guest cameos from the likes of RuPaul, Wanda Sykes, Sandra Bernhard, Steve Buscemi, and more. If anyone can shine a light on how to navigate the hard times of getting gray hair and dealing with cheap landlords, who better than our fave millennial odd-couple? -Navani Otero

15 Crashing 15



Not only is comedian Pete Holmes funny, he’s honest. And that’s the heart of comedy, isn’t it? Honesty? Crashing begins with Holmes finding his wife in bed with another man. In response, he gets a divorce and dives head first into pursuing his dream of being a stand-up. Through it all he questions his Christian faith, makes some new friends (like Artie Lange and Sarah Silverman), and even becomes a warm-up comic for Rachel Ray (and insults her mother in the process). Anybody who listens to Holmes’ podcast, “You Made It Weird,” knows that Pete likes dig deep and really likes to figure out what makes the human mind tick. Perhaps he, and by extension, the audience, learns the most when he really examines himself. -Brad Filicky

14 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 14



(Improbably) one of two series in our 2018 survey to center an episode around philosophy’s Trolley ProblemUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt continued, in its third season, to delight as it unveils new corners of its absurd alt-NYC universe. While this season lacked some center, and seemed to criminally forget about new Kimmy love interest Daveed Diggs, the main cast continued to grow. However, this year arguably belonged to Titus(s) Andronicus/Burgess’ as he wrestled with both possible music legend cannibalism and the loss of steady boyfriend Mike. -Jason Thurston

13 American Gods 13



Neil Gaiman’s novel has been a fan favorite since its publication and this series was in planning stages for years so to say there was hype surrounding this series is an understatement. Was the hype justified? Yes. Starz turned out to be the ideal place for this series. Basic cable or, God forbid, network TV would not do this story justice — a few scenes involving the sex godess Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) come to mind. Simply put, this show pulls very few punches in stating its obvious allegories and metaphors. In a battle between the old gods (Odin and the like) and the new gods (Media, Technical Boy) we find a stark but deep statement on where we are as a species and a society. Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), a normal human pulled into a seeming war between the gods, is all of us as we try to navigate the modern world and find our place in all of it.  -Brad Filicky

12 Marvel’s The Punisher 12



Longtime Big Pun fans and Marvel aficionados rejoiced with the latest installment of the Marvel Comic Universe, The Punisher. The first time we saw Frank Castle was in the Defenders series as he fought alongside the whole gang. Now we find out the real deal behind his origin story and see immediately there is more to Pun than meets the eye.  What’s most impressive about his story and watching him kick a$$ for 13 episodes is the fact that he is the rare hero without actual superhero powers. At the end of the day he is simply a mortal man, with a superhero-sized chip on his shoulder, conjuring up his inner Braveheart to get revenge for the loved ones that were taken from him. Add in a little military conspiracy theory and you have a grade-A, non-stop thrill ride on your hands. – Navani Otero

11 Brooklyn Nine-Nine 11



By its fourth season, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has settled into a formula (despite starting off with the gang’s complete deconstruction as Hoyt & Peralta were hanging with plastic flamingos in witness protection), and while with many shows that spells disaster, with this fruit off the Parks and Rec writing tree (one of two on our countdown) it’s delightful. Take for example the requisite Halloween heist–this year taken to dizzying heights as Terry (Crews) flitted back and forth between investment and apathy while Chelsea Peretti’s Gina made her blase-ly flamboyant return. And, of course, Craig Robinson’s charismatic fugitive thief Doug Judy returned in a two-part arc with twists and double-crosses coming at us with an impossible pace. That it works is partly on its remarkably deft writing, but mostly due to its fearlessness in leaning into its absurd plots. – Jason Thurston

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