Samuel Brace on the battle for 2017’s best TV show…
2017’s television landscape has been set ablaze.
It’s been a truly joyous start to the year and already the contenders are piling up for the best show of 2017. Obviously it’s far too early to call, some prospects have only just started, and there are plenty yet to come this calendar year. But there are a few that have begun to separate themselves from the pack; one or two announcing themselves as the guys to beat.
So let’s take a look at what’s going down, at those involved in the battle for 2017’s best TV show.
We must begin with a show that has already completed its run – and in fact did so outside the US late last year – and that show is of course the surprisingly stupendous The Young Pope. And it was truly a surprise. With a title like that, and just the central premise of a young good looking American becoming Pope, one would not be blamed for giving this a miss based on the assumption that it would suck. But as those that did tune in will be well aware, this HBO show decided to go in the other direction and deliver a truly compelling piece of drama that stands tall above its competitors. Starring Jude Law (who is frankly astonishing here) as the aforementioned ‘young Pope’, a heartbreaking tale is told, providing shocks and laughs for all those along for the ride. God’s weight was never more apparent than in this 10 episode series (with hopefully more to come) and it laid down the gauntlet for all other shows to come.
With such greatness already in the books, 2017 was indeed off to a flyer. The next big thing to really grab our attention was Noah Hawley’s X-Men themed Legion. This FX show, much like The Young Pope, was a revelation. The tale of a young mutant, thought to be insane but actually mentally gifted, was a surreal and visually dynamic trek into a man’s literal poisoned mind. The disappointing season finale may have taken it out of contention for the grand prize, but it’s certainly a show of note, and worthy of mention here.
The next big hitter to grace our TV screens was the returning Better Call Saul. This Breaking Bad spin-off has consistently been one of the very best shows each year it’s been on air – this being its third – and it looks like 2017 will be no different. With two episodes under its belt it’s already reminding the world that this truly is the best looking show around, with an unprecedented amount of artistry and craft going into each and every episode. It really is quite the site to behold, and luckily it has the substance to back it up. The tale of Jimmy’s eventually downfall and Saul Goodman transformation is proving to be more tragic than any could have predicted. And this season’s wonderful opening episodes have set the stall for what promises to be a quite remarkable third season. There is no doubt that Better Call Saul will fight for 2017’s top spot to the very death, and you know, it might just a have a chance.
Next up, with so far just one episode under to its name in 2017 – though what an episode it was – is HBO’ The Leftovers. This criminally under-watched series, that fights it out with Bloodline for the best show all of you aren’t watching – is a special product indeed. Yes, it might be crushingly morose but there is such stunning beauty to be found in its cracks and crevices that help make it essential viewing for any fan of serialised drama. Season one was a brilliant start, season two took it to a new level, and season three (its final outing) is looking to continue that progression, turning The Leftovers in to one of the finest shows of the last decade and more. Easily the most bizarre drama on television, enhanced by the fact that the series doesn’t care if you don’t understand, and couldn’t care less about unravelling its mysteries, Kevin’s tragic tale to hell (purgatory?) and back is an obscenely good one. And if season three is any bit as marvellous as number two, The Leftovers will surely be a contender for 2017’s best. This is damn good TV, gang, and if you’ve ignored it until now, this is the perfect time to treat yourself.
Another series that has just got underway, returning for its own third season (this truly is the year of three), is the FX anthology show, and second mention for Noah Hawley, Fargo. The writer of this piece was in the minority in believing that season one was the superior to the much adored second showing, but regardless, Fargo can’t be denied as one of TV’s premium products. Telling a different story each and every time out, though always connected, a trip to Fargo is always a darkly funny one, filled with top notch writing and quirky performances that can’t fail to delight. Episode one of season three was a solid start for the show; this time seeing Ewan McGregor in dual roles that promises to be one of 2017’s TV highlights. Will Fargo make it to the top this year? That seems a mighty difficult target in all honesty, but this is a show not to be underestimated, and will no doubt be hanging around with 2017’s heavy hitters.
And of course there is plenty yet to come in the weeks and months ahead. With Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal follow up American Gods debuting at the end of April, and with a month of May that includes Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the revived Twin Peaks, the hopeful glorious end for Bloodline, and the always compelling House of Cards; 2017 has myriad contenders on the horizon.
There will be no bigger contender of course than Game of Thrones, the always favourite and perpetual winner of the prize since Breaking Bad ended its immaculate run. Thrones comes our way a little later this year, given a July 16th premier date by HBO, and will surely be another example of the finest things that TV can achieve. With the series’ end so very nearly in sight, proceedings can only become more exhilarating as we finally reach this most epic of show’s conclusion. There is no series on TV that has higher expectations placed on it, so this itself is something to contend with, but if past seasons have taught us anything, Game of Thrones can handle it, and will very likely be the biggest challenge to the marker laid down by divinely blessed The Young Pope.
This really has the makings of one of televisions all time great years, and with the plethora of new shows – shout-outs have to go to 13 Reasons Why and Big Little Lies – this is an incredibly exciting time for TV. Movies really have some work to do. It’s not even close right now.
Consider yourself illuminated.