Top 5 New Shows of 2017
1. 'Mindhunter' (Netflix):
Sure, there were probably a few better series this year than Mindhunter, yet few were quite as entertaining. The Netflix original, helmed by director David Fincher, managed to make two people sitting across a table seem, having a conversation, feel like the most riveting thing you have ever seen. The meticulousness needed to craft scenes like this are what Fincher excels at. He's interested in the nuance of conversation, the tone of words, the way people sit, and the body language they display. Yet, even with big screen talent, Mindhunter feels like a television series; one willing to welcome the simplistic pleasures and rhythms of your typical forensic cop show. For me, the highlight of the series is the chemistry between stars Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany. Their relationship is the typical mismatched cop pair; Groff is young, overconfident, and chipper while McCallany is outspoken, weathered, and skeptical. It just goes to show that somehow the simplest of formulas can be the most rewarding when done with perfection.
2. 'The Deuce' (HBO): When you think of the greatest television dramas of all time, The Wire is easily one of the three or four shows in conversation. Part of the majesty of that series was the way it created a highly specific world and populated it with interesting characters. That same recipe for success gets brought to The Deuce, the latest series from The Wire creators David Simon and George Pelecanos. Unlike most prestige dramas these days, The Deuce isn’t interested in a large, intricate storylines. What drives the series is its characters who, despite their flaws, are largely lovable. Tuning in every week feels like a chance just to hang out with these people for an hour. However, that’s not to say the series is without its dark shades. The world of sex-work depicted in the show is raw, grim, and brutal. The series exceeds by finding a balance between these two sides; a dark journalistic look at society from Simon and the snappy, colorful characters present in much of Pelecanos' crime fiction.
3. 'One Day at a Time' (Netflix): The network multi-cam sitcom is a hallmark of American television. However, in recent years our appetites have changed, with many of these shows seeming inferior to the more auteur comedy series, such as Master of None. I too admittedly carry around a pre-conceived perception of these series as inferior. Yet, this year there were not one but two excellent shows that demonstrated how effective the multi-cam sitcom could be, when done correctly. The first was the new reboot of One Day at a Time on Netflix. The series is a reimagining of a Norman Lear sitcom from 70s about a single mom, her mother, and two kids getting by in their small apartment. Upon first glance, the series appears as any other network sitcom but the lack of ads on Netflix give off the illusion of watching a stage play. Scenes move and evolve within a single location and allow for surprisingly moving and emotional moments to creep up on you. By the end of the season, I was blown away by how much the writers had woven in moving character arcs and touched on serious timely issues while remaining incredibly funny.
4. 'Big Little Lies' (HBO): With big stars like Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman (What a year she’s had!), the pacing of good page-turner, and just the right dash of camp, few shows managed to be this…entertaining. Big Little Lies is like one of those quick summer reads you buy at the airport and plow through during two days at the beach. Sure, there’s a plot line involving a murder but the show’s real bread and butter was the secrets, lies, and backstabbing of one wealthy beachside community. One could even call it a version of The O.C. with adults. What’s maybe more impressive is how such a fun, and slightly campy piece, of entertainment also managed to showcase a gut wrenching look at domestic abuse in its final episodes.
5. 'The Young Pope' (HBO): You know the name. You saw the memes. You were probably too caught up in asking “What does it all mean?” or “Is this supposed to be serious or funny?” just to lay back and enjoy it. You want to know the secret to appreciating The Young Pope? I’ll tell you; it’s all about a pope, who’s not as old as everybody else. That’s it! The key to enjoying Paolo Sorrentino’s wondrous series is just to let it wash over you. Soak up the sights, the sounds, the weirdness, along with that career best performance from Jude Law. This was a series many viewers tried to overthink but by doing so missed out on its simple pleasures. This is auteur television at its most pure; an exceptional filmmaker allowing us to luxuriate in all the senses of his world.