Top 5 Returning Shows of 2017

1. 'The Leftovers (HBO): Somewhere around episode four of The Leftovers’ third season, I was convinced I was watching the best television program of the entire year. Like many, I had expressed lukewarm feelings regarding the first season of Damon Lindelof’s post-rapture (if that’s even what it was) series. However, with the sophomore season, Lindelof opened up the world, allowing for more humor and spontaneous creativity to enter in. The Leftovers was still an emotionally raw series about how societies process grief and tragedy, but one that felt a little less heavy handed and a little more human. With season three, the show perfected its formula. Few series, this year, ignited my imagination and drew me into its characters the way this one did. At its core, The Leftovers is a story about people; their struggle to connects, heal, and make sense of a world where the unexplainable happens for no rhyme or reason. They’re all themes that ring true to my own life experiences but they’re also important party of the human experience. No other series made me laugh harder, hold my breath longer, or fight back the tears like this one. Cheers Damon!

2. 'Twin Peaks' (Showtime): When Twin Peaks premiered on screens in the early 90s, it sent shock-waves through the industry. David Lynch and Mark Frost’s surreal masterpiece was unlike anything that had come before and set the stage for today’s auteur driven programs. For many, the idea of a reunion was a change to slide back into those comfortable rhythms they had grown to love. The cherry pie, the coffee, Dale Cooper’s chipper grin. We come to these reunion specials seeking the familiar; to recapture that feeling we had when we first fell in love with that show. Lynch and Frost had no intention of doing this. Instead, they crafted a mind-bending (and I hate that term) sensory experience that played with our nostalgia for the Twin Peaks of old and dared to push the boundaries of what television could be even further. Like the best of Lynch’s films, Twin Peaks: The Return is less concerned with narrative than it is mood, atmosphere, and feeling. He’s more concerned with using light, visuals, and music to deliver an experience than weaving together a densely complicated plot. Yet, that’s not to say the series doesn’t leave plenty up to interpretation. There are dozens of secrets to keep you up at night but in the grand scheme of things, they are unimportant. This groundbreaking television achievement re-wrote the way we experience television, creating something beyond explanation, only feeling.

3. 'Rick and Morty' (Adult Swim) / 'Bojack Horseman' (Netflix): Animated series often get overlooked when talking about great television; however, two shows this year proved how unexpectedly clever and emotionally complex the medium can be. I’ve been championing for years the impressive quality of Bojack Horseman. A show that bases so much of its humor on animal puns should not also work as a Hollywood satire and certainly not as an emotionally raw look at depression. Yet, the series manages to be all those things. The fact such a silly show is willing to explore such heavy material, without throwing everything off balance, is a testament to its great writing. Similarly, Rick and Morty never ceases to amaze in both its creativity and moments of unexpected emotional darkness. It’s a series about a mad scientist and the wacky misadventures he has with his family. However, the show’s secret beauty comes not just in the outlandish absurdity of those adventures but the way they seem to leave scars on all the characters. It’s just as much a series about a dysfunctional family spiraling out of control as it is a fun science fiction romp.

4. 'The Carmichael Show' (NBC): The network multi-cam sitcom is a hallmark of American television. However, in recent years many of our appetites have changed, with many of these series 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; however, for this segment I'm going to specifically talk about the Carmichael Show. This year marked the series' third season, and unfortunately its last. Shamefully, NBC gutted what may have been the best comedy on Network television. Each episode allowed the always hilarious cast to dive into touchy hot-button issues in a way that was both humorous and enlightening.

5. 'Master of None' (Netflix): Speaking of Master of None, the series' second season managed to be just as lovable, while also daring to reach new creative heights. Aziz Ansari's terrific comedy series manages to be at its best when offering up standalone episodes with their own unique style and rhythm. This year it seemed this series was more willing to embrace those kinds of stories. Sure, audiences got another romantic subplot that overarched the season, but the episodes that truly left their mark were the ones that marched to the beat of their own drum. Much has been written on the Emmy winning 'Thanksgiving' episode, which shifted the focus to the character of Denise coming out to her family as a lesbian, but equally great was the season opener echoing the iconic Italian film Bicycle Thieves or cleverly crafted tinder-date episode. Sadly, Ansari has no plans for a season three, at least not at the moment. The star has stated that so much of Master of None's two seasons were based on personal experiences that he would need to go through some major life change, like marriage or kids, in order for the show to not seem repetitive.  

TelevisionJesse NussmanTop 5