Best TV of 2017: Guilty pleasures, honorable mentions and some misfires

2017 was a pretty good year for TV with some great shows coming to an end and other exciting new shows.  This is the first of two posts about the shows that I can’t say were the best, but I enjoyed, plus some good ones that didn’t make my top 20. Also, a few of my let-downs from 2017’s TV year

Guilty Pleasures

Probably the most fun show for me is Legends of Tomorrow, which has transformed itself into The CWs most wacky, light-hearted show, yet also one that produced some emotional beats too. After a dull first season, the producers wisely saw what a gem they had in Caity Lotz, who is fantastic in the fight scenes yet also charismatic and sexy. This season, the Legends deal with a few time rift problems, after the Spear of Destiny storyline that closed out season 2. Sara and the gang have been hunting down anomalies and visiting old Hollywood, PT Barnum’s circus, Victorian London and more. The cast look like they are having a blast and the show really seems to have found its groove (which probably means it will get cancelled!)

Hated by critics, Seth McFarland’s The Orville just really worked for me and quite a few other Trek fans. It takes the look and feel of TNG, DS9 and Voyager and adds a few jokes, but a lot of the stories really could have been on the Trek shows. Not everything works, and it is not as ambitious as Star Trek Discovery – but is it also a lot more fun! Discovery is pretty humourless and a bit of a slog, to be honest. The Orville is frothy and plain fun.

GLOW on Netflix is a show I enjoyed a lot, and keep meaning to revisit to see if it is more than a guilty pleasure. Great characters and I loved Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin as frenemy leads in this wrestling comedy.

Others shows I liked –  Better Things was very well written by Pamela Adlon, although more painful that funny.

Feud: Bette & Joan had fantastic performances and its attention to detail in recreating Hollywood of the golden age was exquisite. Also the best opening credits of the year. However, it kind of ran out of plot after about 4 episodes for me.

Top of the Lake: China Girl was very strange and hampered by a dislikable villain. However Gwendoline Christie, Nicole Kidman, Alice Englert and Elisabeth Moss were all great and the show had some good moments.

The Leftovers was the top show for many critics, and I also liked it a lot but not as much as some people. Carrie Coon was brilliant, Justin Theroux and Amy Brenneman also impressed me a lot. However, I found this season a little rambling in the middle. I admired it more than loved it.

Stranger Things 2 was enjoyable enough with Sean Astin making an especially strong impression.

I’ve recently discovered Lucifer on Amazon Prime and the first 2 seasons were extremely enjoyable and fun. However, the third season – which would be this year I guess – is odd. Hampered by a truly wooden performance from Tom Welling (guess he hid his ‘acting’ on Smallville) its also kind of uneven in tone and characters keep appearing and disappearing. Still, it is another fun one, although Tom Ellis’ manic face is starting to weird me out!

Now for some of the less successful TV moments of the year…

Twin Peaks – WTF??!! I suppose it is pretty great that a show like this can get made. So original and not sticking to any sort of formula. Some touching moments as several cast members have died but some right load of tosh in here too!

Legion – sorry, I didn’t get the love for this at all. I soldiered through and couldn’t tell you what the hell was going on. Confusing and pretentious

American Gods – It looked amazing and the episode with Emily Browning returning from the dead and pestering Betty Gilpin had moments of genius, but for me this was another self indulgent mess.

Iron Fist/ The Defenders – Netflix’s Marvel shows have been mostly solid, but Iron Fist was the first really silly one. Maybe it was the character, maybe Finn Jones was just plain bad, but the mystical kung fu stuff left me cold, and unfortunately this extended into The Defenders. Jessica Jones is by far my favourite, and the more grounded parts of the series worked best –  Luke Cage, Claire, Detective Misty, and the various sidekicks. The Defenders was a let down as it promised so much.

This season of Fargo was a disappointment on the whole for me. However, there were bright sparks – Mary Elizabeth Winstead ended up being my favourite character. However, my Ewan McGregor bias meant twin Ewan was double the horror! The season meandered badly although the ending did pick up. Overall, disappointing.

The Last Tycoon on Amazon looked promising. Matt Bomer as a movie producer in an F Scott Fitzgerald story and no expense spared with the production design meant it looked pretty dazzling. Sadly, the story was meandering and unengaging. The one bright spark was Jennifer Beals as a secretly biracial actress based a little on Merle Oberon. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast and the storytelling was pedestrian and dull. Rightly cancelled.

 

Next time, my picks for the very best of 2017.