With the temperatures outside threatening to turn us into a low-budget Capri Sun commercial, there’s never been a better time to be a blob on the couch, filling our eyeballs with all the amazing TV that’s come out this year. Though the year is but half over, there’s a metric ton of excellent shows out there already. To celebrate this cavalcade of small-screen sweetness, we’re going to separate the sick zebras from the wheat with a rundown of the best TV shows of 2017 so far on today’s episode of The Dan Cave.
Image: The CW
Ever since John L. Goldwater, Bob Montana, and Vic Bloom first created Archie Andrews back in 1941, the American people have demanded one thing and one thing alone: a hot Archie who bangs. Thankfully, the CW heard our cries and delivered Riverdale, a sexy, pulpy, weird, and unreasonably addictive series that feels more like Teen Peaks than teenage melodrama. Here’s hoping that next season will go full Afterlife with Archie and give The Walking Dead a run for its money.
Image: Comedy Central
Is there a sadder, more heartbreaking character on television than Andy Daly’s Forrest MacNeil? The self-styled “life critic” at the center of Comedy Central’s Review is about as unfortunate of a soul as I’ve ever seen, and the brutally dark comedy managed to compact an entire season’s worth of cringe-worthy goodness into a three-episode final season that had me alternately squirming with delight and deep-seated existential discomfort. Sleep tight, Forrest–you were too good for this terrible world.
Noah Hawley deserves all the accolades imaginable for what he’s done with Fargo, but no one expected him to deliver the cerebral delight that is Legion. The show, which is based on a character from the X-Men/New Mutants comics, is ideal because you don’t need to be a superhero superfan to love its psychedelic exploration of mental illness, memory, and the nature of reality. As more and more comic books make the leap to the small screen, they should look to Legion for the right way to do genre storytelling, and the single best way to dress up Jemaine Clement.
For anyone still feeling burned by Damon Lindelof after Lost, look no further than the supremely satisfying finale of The Leftovers. Many of you likely bailed on this series after its sluggish first season, and it was at times confusing with its sprawling world of particle physics, theology, and seafaring lion-worshiping sex cults, but they stuck the landing like so many Kerri Struggs at so many 1996 Olympic games.
Turning a movie into a TV show is a difficult task to say the least. Some shows, like Netflix’s Dear White People, pull it off with incredible aplomb and manage to enrich the source material. Others, like the ill-fated 1990 Ferris Bueller series, deserve to be launched out of a cannon into the sun. Thankfully, Syfy’s 12 Monkeys is decidedly the former, creating some of the most brilliant, beautiful, and bonkers sci-fi we’ve seen in ages. If you haven’t seen it yet, time travel back to that afternoon you wasted fruitlessly trying to claw your way out of Platinum in Overwatch and binge this instead.
Image: Cartoon Network
If there was any doubt as to whether Genddy Tartakovsky is a national treasure, the new season of Samurai Jack should lay that debate to rest. Exquisitely animated and stunningly told, this final 10-episode run gave fans some desperately needed closure while embracing a more mature, blood-soaked style of storytelling that just felt so right. Now if we could just get Dexter’s Laboratory: 15 Years Later, we can die happy.
The mad genius behind Hannibal, the co-writer of Logan, and the sprawling world-building of Neil Gaiman combined to make one of the weirdest, wildest, and most thought-provoking shows of the year. American Gods pulled off the rare feat of not only remaining faithful to the source material, but expanding on it and evolving it in ways that may make it better than the original. It is a transgressive, thoughtful story of immigrants in America and the power of belief, and a deconstruction of American culture. It also gave us a weekly dose of Ian McShane, which four out of five doctors agree is the key to a health life. That fifth doctor is a huge piece of shit. Don’t listen to him.
The Handmaid’s Tale
In an era of binge-worthy TV, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is the most singularly unbingeable TV show I’ve seen in years. That isn’t because it’s bad; quite the opposite, really. It’s because each episode is so intense, so brutal, so affecting that my heart can only take one at a time. It’s a sad fact that the world of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel feels weirdly prescient in 2017, but this story of fertile women being forced into what is essentially baby slavery by an ultra-patriarchal fundamentalist government demands to be seen, and not just because it brought Elisabeth Moss back to our TV screens.
Netflix understands that 1980s nostalgia is like heroin to the modern viewing public, so they gave us that darkly comedic, day-glo extravaganza that is GLOW. Based on the real story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling TV series from the late ’80s, GLOW is like watching a car crash from its very first moments — but that’s half the fun. It’s like every weirdo you met while waiting to see if you’d be selected for jury duty was suddenly tasked with putting on a low-budget ladies wrestling TV show. The results are strange, silly, and as satisfying as finally smelling exactly what The Rock was cooking.
Twin Peaks: The Return
If you told me that 25 years later, we’d be revisiting the weirdest town ever to grace TV screens, pondering the mysteries of the Black Lodge, and cackling at the pettiest recasting in the history of recastings, then I would call you a damn liar and possibly a witch. But here we are, and the Twin Peaks revival is as damn fine as the coffee Agent Dale Cooper first enjoyed so many moons ago. I don’t know how this came to pass and I don’t always know what’s happening on the show, but I do know that David Lynch is giving us 18 beautiful horcruxes, distilling his essence into one of the strangest and most satisfying sequels in a long, long time. At least until we get Eraserhead II: Baby’s Day Out.
And those are our picks for the best TV shows of 2017 so far. What is your favorite? What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured image: Netflix
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Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter (@Osteoferocious).