2017 proved to be another exceptional year of television for me whether it be old favourites or new series that caught my attention over the past twelve months.
With that in mind, I have compiled a Top 14 list which focuses on the best programmes that I watched this year. This lineup only includes series that have ended so unfortunately, ongoing ones like Family Guy, Brooklyn Nine Nine and The Big Bang Theory are not eligible!
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Archer (Series 8), Broadchurch (Series 3), Homeland (Series 6), Silicon Valley (Series 4), South Park (Series 21), Taboo, Top of the Lake: China Girl
14# – Red Dwarf (Series 12)
BEST EPISODE: 12.6 – Skipper
The boys from the Dwarf continued their misadventures in the twelfth series of the popular sci-fi sitcom which provided fans with a lot of laughs and nostalgia. Though episodes 2 and 3 were considered disappointments, the last three outings made up for it as the main cast excelled again particularly Danny John-Jules as Cat. However the best was saved till last as Arnold Rimmer (Chris Barrie) got the chance to travel through alternative timelines, one of which harking back to the first ever episode as Holly (Norman Lovett) made a memorable return. A smegging great series though here’s hoping it isn’t unlucky number 13 when it comes back!
13# – Peter Kay’s Car Share (Series 2)
BEST EPISODE: 2.2
Following the surprise success of its first series in 2015, Car Share made a solid comeback to our screens as Peter Kay and Sian Gibson reprised their delightful roles as will they-won’t they colleagues John and Kayleigh. There were plenty of laughs to savour from John’s bike rant becoming a remix to sharing their car with a drunk blue smurf (memorably played by Game of Thrones’s Conleth Hill) and a mischievous monkey. However the downbeat finale of a heartbroken Kayleigh walking away from John almost cost the series a mention on the list after Kay had initially confirmed the programme’s end. Thankfully Car Share WILL be returning for one more episode next Christmas which will hopefully see the lovable pair get together at last!
12# – Sneaky Pete
BEST EPISODE: 1.10 – The Longest Day
One of the most unlikely hits of the year was Amazon’s exceptional show which rightfully earned itself a second series which is due out in 2018. After a successful pilot, the series kept us captivated throughout as Giovanni Ribsi’s conman Marius deceived his way into the affections of his inmate’s family. But as the story unfolded, he would grow fond of his new ‘family’ as their stories began to intertwine and eventually lead to a seemingly positive conclusion. Though Ribsi, Margo Martindale and Marin Ireland produce solid performances, the MVP accolade goes to Bryan Cranston not only for his crisp writing but for his chilling role as Marius’s nemesis Vince. A top effort all round and here’s hoping Series 2 delivers!
11# – Veep (Series 6)
BEST EPISODE: 6.10 – Groundbreaking
After the disappointment of losing her presidency in the Series 5 finale, Selina Meyer faced an uphill struggle throughout the clinical sixth series as she was forced to deal with more problems involving her family and staff. Having already won a number of awards for her role in the past, Julia Louis-Dreyfus knocked it out the park again with her dynamic performance as the long-suffering politician with the likes of Tony Hale Anna Chlumsky, Kevin Dunn and the always-brilliant Timothy Simons shining as per usual. Sadly the next series will be its last though we can only hope that the show gives us a more satisfying conclusion with the election than was the case for those poor yanks in real life….
10# – Mr. Robot (Series 3)
BEST EPISODE: eps3.4_runtime-err0r.r00
After an underwhelming second series last year, Mr. Robot showed vast improvement with its third season as renowned hacker Elliot Alderson continued to encounter trouble from the Dark Army. Creator Sam Esmail helped resolve various issues of the previous series by making a more clearer narrative structure and giving key characters more to do. The main arc centred around the Dark Army’s terrorist attack and Elliot’s attempts to stop it which came to a head in a sensational mid-season double-bill. Additionally there were also several surprise moments ranging from the shock killing of Joanna Welleck to Angela uncovering a family revelation and the last scene of the series which saw the unexpected return of Elliot’s former nemesis Fernando Vera. A lot more to enjoy from this series with the cast and writing on top form throughout!
BEST EPISODE: 3.5 – Chicanery
This latest series once again proved why Better Call Saul deserved to be as successful as its predecessor Breaking Bad as hotshot lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) moved closer to becoming his alter-ego Saul Goodman. Jimmy’s ongoing battle with his brother Chuck (a brilliant Michael McKean) would prove decisive all season with the excellent fifth episode Chicanery showing Chuck’s world come crashing down on him. We also had the welcoming return of Breaking Bad villain Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) as his working relationship with Mike (Jonathan Banks) became official plus minor appearances from the likes of Lydia Rodart-Quayle and Jimmy’s secretary Francesca. Another exceptional installment from the gifted mind of Vince Gilligan though one thing we hope for in Series 4 is that Kim (Rhea Seeborn) gets out of this show alive!
8# – It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Series 12)
BEST EPISODE: 12.2 – The Gang Goes To a Water Park
The awkward escapades of the Paddy’s gang were at its strongest in It’s Always Sunny’s superb twelfth series with the cast and writing shining once again. Dennis, Mac, Charlie, Sweet Dee and Frank continued to create trouble for themselves in various comedic episodes including the series-high The Gang Goes To a Water Park. However there were other strong installments to rave about too like Old Lady House: A Situation Comedy, Making Dennis Reynolds a Murderer and the significant Hero or Hate Crime which saw Mac finally accept his homosexuality after all these years. The series finale did prove to be a bit of a downer with Dennis making the surprise decision to move away from Philly with his new family but we can only hope that he will return to his real ‘family’ when the thirteenth season comes back in 2019.
7# – Feud: Bette and Joan
BEST EPISODE: 1.5 – And the Winner Is….
The venomous rivalry between Hollywood legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford was focused on effectively in Ryan Murphy’s exquisite biopic series. Renowned actresses Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange were brilliantly cast as the cinematic battleaxes who made life difficult for each other whilst working on the classic horror ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’. The series did a fine job in capturing their personal struggles particularly of Crawford whose previous portrayals on screen weren’t quite as flattering (*cough* Mommie Dearest *cough*) but there was also terrific support work from the likes of Alfred Molina as long-suffering director Bob Aldrich and Judy Davis as ruthless columnist Hedda Hopper. The series’s delightful Oscar-based episode stands out most in showing how competitive the two stars could be despite their rivalry being exploited and manipulated by Hollywood’s dodgy politics.
6# – Bojack Horseman (Series 4)
BEST EPISODE: 4.11 – Time’s Arrow
The darkest animated show since The Animals of Farthing Wood produced more laughs and dark moments in its brilliant fourth series as Bojack Horseman’s misery was shared by other characters. Those it wasn’t an easy ride for the likes of Diane or Mr Peanutbutter, the main sufferer was Princess Carolyn as her relationship and career were left shattered in the grim episode ‘Ruthie’. In the meantime, Will Arnett continued to prove why he has one of the best voices in media as Bojack uncovered crucial details of his family history which came full circle in the powerful outing Time’s Arrow. Thankfully, the optimistic finale gave an indication that Bojack could finally regain control of his complicated life but that remains to be seen. While many rave about the intelligence of Rick and Morty, this show deserves way more attention and is currently worthy of being the best animated programme around!
5# – The Crown (Series 2)
BEST EPISODE: 2.8 – Dear Mrs Kennedy
Following the first series’s award-winning success, The Crown made a strong return to Netflix in December as Queen Elizabeth II endured various problems with politics and her marriage throughout ten excellent episodes. Immaculate production designs and crisp writing were at its best in the follow-up series though the acting deserved the biggest plaudits. Claire Foy excelled once again as the conflicted Queen though Matt Smith also warranted praise for making Prince Phillip more detestable (episode nine aside) and making us wonder how on earth the royal couple managed to stay together for 70 years. It’s a sad shame that we won’t see the pair reprise their roles in the future series and that also goes for the radiant Vanessa Kirby as the complicated Princess Margaret. A lot of excellent moments to look back on but we can only hope that Olivia Colman and her future co-stars get royal approval and continue to elevate the show over the next couple of years.
4# – Peaky Blinders (Series 4)
BEST EPISODE: 4.6 – The Company
The return of the hit BBC series was a welcoming one for fans as Tommy Shelby and the Peaky Blinders encountered more personal trouble in Series 4, this time from Adrien Brody’s cunning Mafia boss Luca Changretta. The unexpected killing of John Shelby (Joe Cole) in the opening episode left fans stunned as the Shelby family battled to recover quickly. Politics and sport would play a significant role in the series with Tommy meeting his matches in real-life activist Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy) and gypsy Alabama Gold (Aiden Gillan). The final couple of episodes would be all guns-blazing with Tom Hardy’s scene-chewing character Alfie Solomons making his presence felt while the final episode provided one of the best twists of the series so far with the initial death of a much-loved character who would come back with a bang at a crucial moment. Sadly, it’s a long wait for Series 5 which isn’t due out until 2019 but one thing for sure is that you just can’t beat the Peaky ‘fookin’ Blinders!
3# – Game of Thrones (Series 7)
BEST EPISODE: 7.6 – Beyond the Wall
The seventh installment of HBO’s epic fantasy series produced less episodes but more action and spectacle than ever before. While the pacing was a heck of a lot quicker than in the previous six series, the show continued to excel as various characters finally came together in epic fashion. The long-awaited union of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen delivered on all fronts (apart from THAT ikky get-togther in the last episode) while we also cheered for the Stark siblings as they were reunited after so many years apart. We also had a lot of memorable moments to rave about from Arya finishing off House Frey and Cersei’s torture of the Dornish women to Olenna Tyrell’s confession, Littlefinger’s comeuppance AND those breathtaking battle sequences in ‘Stormborn’ and ‘The Spoils of War’. We also mustn’t forget the epic ‘Beyond the Wall’ episode which saw the White Walkers finally claim an advantage over our heroes with their capture of one of Daenery’s dragons. While there is a long wait for the final series (2019 to be precise!), the show’s end is almost upon us and we can only hope AND pray that some of our favourite characters survive! Fat chance of that!
2# – Little Boy Blue
BEST EPISODE: 1.1
Just shy of the number one spot is the best television drama of the year as the shocking murder of 11-year old Everton fan Rhys Jones and the investigation that followed were powerfully depicted in the brilliant four-part mini-series Little Boy Blue. For a lot of people (especially Liverpudlians), the terrible crime caught the public’s imagination and you have to give creator Jeff Pope a lot of credit for his handling of the ITV programme’s subject matter throughout those traumatic four hours. The biggest praise though goes to the wonderful cast with Irish actress Sinead Keenan delivering the strongest performance of the year as Rhys’s devastated mum Melanie in a role that surely deserves to win her the Best Actress BAFTA next year. Stephen Graham, Brian F. O’Byrne and Faye McKeever also produced effective turns with additional praise going to newcomers Paddy Rowan and James Nelson-Joyce for capturing the vile and sadistic traits of Rhys’s killers. A tough yet important watch for many but done magnificently well by all involved and given strong approval by the Jones family.
1# – The Vietnam War
BEST EPISODE: 1.6 – Things Fall Apart (January-July 1968)
In the end, it’s a documentary series that tops the list as renowned filmmaker Ken Burns outdid himself once again with his incredible ten-part look at one of the most controversial periods in American history; The Vietnam War. Having already produced exceptional series about the Civil War and the Old West beforehand, Burns put together an eighteen-hour masterpiece that covered all the key events of that particular war as America found itself drawn into a conflict that would last nearly twenty years and claim the lives of almost 60,000 US troops and over a million Vietnamese citizens and soldiers. And that’s without mentioning the score of wounded men and women who would suffer personal and mental scars as a result of the political troubles that took place back in the US! Along with their dedicated crew, Burns and fellow director Lynn Novick worked tirelessly to make the mini-series through the number of interviews with participants and archive footage as well as backing it all up with a phenomenal soundtrack from famous artists of that period including The Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. Another key element was having E.T: The Extra Terrestrial star Peter Coyote contribute the narration with great precision and smoothness. Not only deserving of being the best television series of the year but also, one of the best documentaries of all-time!