Screen Scholars’ Top TV of 2018: #10-1

We dive on in to the second part of our (delayed) year end countdown of 2017’s best television, and streaming is the tune of the day as all but two of our top ten are on non-traditional formats. We’ve got stories of love and depression, pioneering wrestlers and mole women, prison riots and an octo-hyphenate teenage horse looking for her mom. It’s a wild list, we’re proud of it, and very happy we can finally put it out to greener pastures–your eyes.

10 The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel 10

2017bestmaisel

[Amazon Prime]

When I first started watching this show I feared the happy-go-lucky “Midge” would get on my nerves. I mean she had the perfect life–great husband, amazing apt on the Upper West Side AND always has a full set of make up on. Who wants to see that? But quickly things changed and after enduring something that would’ve broken most people I know she instantly became my potty-mouthed, independent, comedic heroine. With its amazing dialogue, picturesque late 1950s NYC backdrop and colorful fashion styling this show proves to have something for everyone. -Navani Otero

9 GLOW 9

2017bestglow

[Netflix]

Netflix’s Glow was the highlight of this frenzied summer; I found its light, hilarious, nuanced take on the ’80s and female friendship so riveting that I spent every moment I wasn’t working glued to my iTouch streaming downloading pre-loaded episodes. Not since The Good Wife have we seen a take on women working (and quietly seething, feuding) together. Network soaps pit women against each other, but even Betty is able to work with her archnemesis. We hope Glow gives way to more female-fronted and -driven dramedies. -Katherine M. Hill

8 Orange is the New Black 8

2017bestorange

[Netflix]

There was a riot going on, and it was all season long. It was a gutsy gambit by the long-running prison show (coming right on the heel of its most crushing season closer as the population struggled with the murder and loss of Poussey), but it mostly worked for the prismatic OITNB as it thrust the characters into their darkest timelines, where some, like Black Cindy thrived as a heroic leader, while others, like Crazy Eyes, just had no idea what to make of it (and of course the methhead duo of Pennsatucky and Leanne just go on wild misadventures). -Jason Thurston

7 Stranger Things 7

2017beststranger

[Netflix]

The second season of Stranger Things proved the Duffer Brothers were more than just a fluke. Despite Eleven’s punk rock detour, the season was solid and did a good job of building the show’s mythology. The danger of the Upside Down grew, as did the bonds between the characters. And there is where the magic really lies. What makes Stranger Things more than empty nostalgia is that it gets why we loved 80’s movies and Stephen King novels in the first place. It is all about the characters. Who didn’t love Dustin or newcomers Max and Bob (RIP Bob–you will be missed). And yes Sean Astin, your portrayal of Bob makes him one of pop culture’s ultimate nice guys. We all know Winona Ryder hasn’t been this good in years. These characters become family and that is what continues to make Stranger Things such a phenomenon. –Brad Filicky

6 You’re The Worst 6

2017bestworst

[FX]

Season 4 of You’re the Worst found Jimmy and Gretchen living two separate lives, and managed to thrive despite having been founded on the premise that the worst people in America (until late 2017) were dating. It was a bummer to have less time with Lindsay and Edgar, who have finally begun to put their lives together and thrive as semi-decent individuals. (In some ways, this is a blessing, because one more moment with Max sends us straight to the “Bad Place“). Only a show this brilliant could sink to despicable levels of depravity and leave us on the edge of our seat at the finale. The worst people in Los Angeles (…until late 2017) are finally betrothed and no one deserves each other more than they do. – Katherine M. Hill

5 The Handmaid’s Tale 5

2017besthandmaid

[Hulu]

If you ever wondered what our society would look like if fundamentalist extremists got their way [Ed.’s Note: more so], look no more. Based on the novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale will take you on a dystopian journey to Gilead, where women are state property and those who don’t fall in line with the government’s religious beliefs face unspeakable atrocities. It follows Offred, [Elizabeth Moss] a woman forced into sexual servitude, but is determined to survive this system and escape to find the daughter and husband she was separated from. What makes this dramatic series so scary is these laws and atrocities are not far-fetched and if we don’t “jump out of the boiling bath water” soon enough Gilead could exist right here and now. -Navani Otero

4 Black Mirror 4

2017bestmirror

[Netflix]

If the Radiohead album OK Computer were a TV show it would be Black Mirror. Luckily, the show hasn’t gone to its Kid A phase yet. Some folks bemoaned the Americanization of the show when Netflix took it over, but it’s just as sharp as ever. Always throwing curve balls and keeping one on their toes, but sticking to what makes the show Black Mirror. Technology and how it alienates us from each other and the world around us is not a new theme, but each episode length vignette still has something to say in fresh ways. “USS Callister” is one of the best episodes of Star Trek in years and we’ve had both The Orville and Star Trek: Discovery debut in 2017. Jodie Foster’s directing on “Arkangel” was totally on point and “Metalhead” will make you never look at robot dogs the same way ever again. Oh, Black Mirror, you enchanting box of dark wonders. –Brad Filicky

3 Bojack Horseman 3

2017bestbojack

[Netflix]

Bojack Horseman‘s previous three seasons dealt with our titular former ’80s sitcom star at the center of a gratifying life event–from season 1’s biography to season 2’s Secretariat movie to season 3’s Oscar campaign. That his fourth season milestone focused on another person and the fact that it was possibly its best installment is no coincidence. Bojack has thrived on its Simpsons-esque extended universe with the twist that all of Bojack‘s absurdist moments are etched in permanent marker–i.e. “Hollywoo.” When Bojack is forced to focus on another, his possible teenage daughter Hollyhock (voiced with a balance of goofiness and gravitas by one of our current favorites, Aparna Nancherla–she’s all over this countdown), the show sheds a layer of self-involvement and reminds us further of its genuine (if maybe faintly beating) heart that makes us care about all its inhabitants, especially Todd (hooray! recognition.) As fellow Scholar Katherine put it to me, “animation is capable of telling human stories in complex ways that human actors can’t portray.” When, in the scene pictured above, Bojack comes home after a day of his inner voice calling him a “stupid piece of shit,” to a dejected Hollyhock asking him if her similar inner monologue will ever go away, and he lyingly reassures her that it will not endure in adulthood, it is as beautiful as it is devastating. There’s even a potential for a once-unfathomable happy ending from a show that constantly surprises us. -Jason Thurston

2 The Good Place 2

2017bestgood

[NBC]

The Good Place was the best forking show on TV this year [Ed.’s Note: our tally raised one show higher, but at least one other editor ranked it the same], and it was hiding in plain sight (much like season 1’s brilliant twice) the whole time. An incredibly dark premise (“Welcome to hell, losers”) was surprisingly bright and refreshing–and not because, but in spite of, these terrible times. Many shows spend their first season finding their feet, but under the direction of Mike Schur (Parks & Rec), the comedy started out with a (margarita mix-soaked) bang. Now in its second season, the show has taken on more twists than premium cable shows would dream.

And at least two founding editors found themselves hopelessly rooting for the Jaguars during the playoffs this year. -Katherine M. Hill

1 Master of None 1

2017bestmaster

[Netflix]

While Dev’s trip to Italy was somewhat of a feign (he returned to NYC by episode three), the journey planted the seed for the season’s beautiful unraveling as inevitably the soon-to-be-married Francesca (met abroad) became more than a friend. That’s the sweet spot for Aziz Ansari’s masterful MoN — an exploration of love in the time of indecision. While there is a central arc, few shows have ever been as deft at crafting slow-burning episodes that are allowed to unfold naturally (and not for the sake of any unearned joke, let alone a laugh track), allowing its freshly drawn characters take the lead. And MoN especially shines in its standalone, more experimental episodes–its short films on a provocative topic like internet dating or being gay at family holidays. If there was any flaw with its second season, it was the all-too-quick resolution of the Chef Jeff harassment story, which kind of made sense in the story for the lovestruck Dev, but any plot choice is unfortunately accentuated a bit by the #Metoo revelations against Ansari. Its most deft episode “First Date” captured the crapshoot of chaos that is modern computerized mating as Dev goes on a flurry of swipe-right dates (and Aparna Nancherla pops up in this survey yet again as an eclectically literal ramen blogger). It’s brilliant commentary and offers more dystopian twists and turns than Black Mirror‘s take on the subject, but considering much of it takes place in the back of a cab and one of the dates is consummated under dubious conditions, it’s hard for it all not to feel a bit tainted. However, while we have reservations, we decided to let the record stand–if with a tiny asterisk. -Jason Thurston

Katherine has some thoughtful words about why Ansari’s actions are particularly problematic, or at least discouraging. Click here.

For Top Shows 20-11, Click Here

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