Everything I wrote last year about not having enough time to watch everything – the rapid expansion of “Peak TV” – got even worse in 2017. I have a tie on this list AND I’m capping my honorable mentions at 10, and that doesn’t even cover everything I did manage to watch. Literally dozens of shows started this year that I wish I could have watched, but could only have done if I spent every waking hour watching that and nothing else. So here are my 10 best series that I actually saw through to the end and blew me away. While my tie for first place, as well as my second-place show are secure, any show in 3-10 could have moved its way up or down.
10. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
Still the best “traditional” network comedy, with an impeccable ensemble that can be split apart as necessary. And as half-hour programs continue to shift to a more melancholy and challenging place (to quote a classic, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”), no show on TV provides more laughs and bigger laughs than the squad of the 99th Precinct.
Standout episodes: “Hostage Situation,” “Bureau,” “Coral Palms, Part 2”
9. Fleabag (Amazon)
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s astonishing adaptation of her one-woman show could have been vulgar for vulgarity’s sake, but Fleabag is far too warm and conflicted to let the darkness and crudeness overshadow the big-hearted, guilt-stricken mess at its core.
Standout episodes: “Episode 1,” “Episode 4,” “Episode 5”
8. The Good Place (NBC)
An extremely high-concept comedy from MVP Michael Schur (Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) that tackles the afterlife, but in a way no one in pop culture has pictured it yet. Side-stepping most religious issues, The Good Place is much more about philosophy and whether we are fated to be good or bad people, or if we can actually change. And does being one or the other limit how interesting a person can be? These are heady questions for a network show, but The Good Place keeps you thinking while you’re doubled over in laughter.
Standout episodes: “Everything Is Fine/Flying,” “Jason Mendoza,” “Most Improved Player”
7. Atlanta (FX)
Having Atlanta this low should not be taken as a knock on one of the most inventive shows of 2016. It’s just that its fluidity – its greatest asset – also meant it wasn’t as consistent week-to-week as some of the shows higher on this list. In fact, only a handful of Atlanta‘s 10 episodes move the narrative forward in a way most of us would come to expect. But when the show was on its A-game (especially when it decided to just go for it), it hit the highest highs.
Standout episodes: “Value,” “B.A.N.,” “Juneteenth”
6. The Night Of (HBO)
I know the show mistreated some of its characters, including having them make some supremely stupid decisions. But I don’t often think about those errors. I think about those dead-on moments: Bill Camp’s stoic repartee with suspects and colleagues, John Turturro’s endless quest for a proper eczema treatment, Fisher Stevens’ sarcastic pharmacist, Jeannie Berlin putting her tennis shoes on the table after losing her case, any time Riz Ahmed and Michael K. Williams shared the screen, the runner of a suspect named Duane Reade, and the devastating image of Peyman Moaadi turning up as a delivery guy. The mystery was the least important part of a story that touched on prejudice, religion, prosecutorial misconduct and the hellscape of Rikers Island. And we got all of that in only eight episodes.
Standout episodes: “The Beach,” “Season of the Witch,” “The Call of the Wild”