Top Ten TV Shows of 2017

It’s been a long year but we finally made it; we’re in arbitrary year-end list season! My favourite.

Here’s a list of my favourite TV shows of the year. There was a lot of great stuff to watch in 2017, more than I was able to make time for (I’ll get to you in the new year, Mindhunter) but these were my favourites.

10. The Keepers

The grim, uncomfortable nature of The Keepers makes it hard to class as ‘enjoyable,’ and difficult to rank on a list with a bunch of mostly irreverent hyuck-fests, but nonetheless it was a very affecting show. Detailing the murder of a nun, and how it ties in to systemic abuse and coverups in the Catholin church, The Keepers is a gripping documentary series, in the vein of Netflix’ true crime heavy hitter; Making A Murderer. 


Netflix’ sorta-true-to-life adaptation of the story behind GLOW was a fun watch for wrestling fans and non-fans alike. The diverse cast (big names like Alison Brie and Marc Maron, juxtaposed with wrestling mainstays like The Amazing Kong) all brought the goods, and I enjoyed the characters slowly learning that wrestling is goofy as hell; and that’s what’s great about it.

8. Broad City

Another solid season of laughs from the fantastic lead actor/producer/sometimes director duo of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. When it’s at its best, Broad City is funniest show on TV. Season four saw a few more misses than usual, but still entertained consistently. Bonus points for some fantastic cameos this year, including Ru Paul and Peri Gilpin.

7. The Confession Tapes

As with The Keepers, this is a perfect follow up for any true crime junkies with a Netflix subscription, who weren’t quite satiated with Making A Murderer. Focusing on coerced confessions, this anthology series covers a number of different cases, speaking to witnesses, prosecutors, and the accused themselves, to piece together what happened, and why the confessions in question may not have been genuine.

6. Preacher

When season one of Preacher aired; I liked it. It was good. But it wasn’t really good enough. Season two was where the show really found its groove, and I couldn’t be more excited about where it goes next. True to the spirit of the comics, not holding back on the outrageously dark humour, but still going in its own direction and avoiding feeling dirivative – season two was hilarious, surprising, and still had a great foundation of three excellent central characters, and three or four absolute gems in its subplots.

5. The Punisher

Bucking my sense of Marvel fatigue was this surprisingly thoughtful deepdive on the character of Frank Castle. Yeah, that Frank Castle. Castle was a highlight of the supremely lame second season of Daredevil, largely due to the sheer level of violence he brought. Jon Bernthal scowled, said some noire-y dialogue, and bodied some crooks in spectacular fashion. For the standalone series, the bodying was reigned in, in favour of actually examining what makes Punisher who he is – more than just anger over his dead family. A rare example of a Marvel/Netflix collaboration that didn’t outstay its welcome, I would strongly recommend this to any comic book TV show cynics, or jaded former fans.

4. Rick and Morty

Look; the conversation around Rick and Morty became insufferable this year. The arrogant fans suck. The ‘I don’t watch it, aren’t I cool?’ people suck. Some of the people involved in the show suck. BUT. It’s still one of the sharpest shows on TV today. As much as the fanbase ran it into the ground, to the point it’s now a dog whistle for the worst people on this planet, Pickle Rick was an enjoyable instance of the show lampooning itself. Likewise, the szechuan sauce that spawned a million thinkpieces, was actually a clever conclusion to the season’s debut. In summary; this is a show best enjoyed when watched alone and never discussed with any other person, ever. Just as Rick would want, baby! WUBBALUBBLADINGDONGDOODLE!

3. Big Mouth

It’s understandable to worry an animated Netflix show about puberty would be nothing but dick and cum jokes — and hey — we got some dick and cum jokes here, for sure. But Big Mouth is an honest and relatable show about the most awkward time in a young man’s life – with just enough heart to balance out all the other stuff. The belly laughs came faster than I anticpated with this one, and it ended up being one of the best surprises of the year for me.

2. American Vandal

This perfectly timed satire of Making A Murder, The Jynx, and others, doesn’t just poke fun at the frequently occuring tropes of these documentaries – it also crafts a bizarrely compelling mystery of its own. This is easily the most bingeable show of the year – with its hilarious, deadpan delivery and whodunit plot that will genuinely keep you guessing. 

1. Nathan For You

After a slightly weaker season three, Nathan Fielder returned to form this year, and retook his place as one of the funniest and weirdest comedic minds on TV. This season of Nathan For You was everything that makes the show great, amped up to the next level and culminating in a two hour finale that defies explanation. The cringiest, funniest, most bizarre thing I can recall seeing. If you haven’t gotten on the bandwagon yet, start with season one and get caught up right away. While I would hate to see it ended, season four would be the perfect culmination for what is one of my all time favourite shows.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (2017, PS4)

Whether it’s high budget action, or twee indie melodrama – games can and have done it all. But I still feel there’s too few games that tell stories that need to be told. I want more stories that feel important – stories that you insist your friends make time for; because they say something worth listening to.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is one such game.

Playing as Senua, a skilled but troubled warrior, the goal of the game is to venture into Helheim, the Norse mythology’s underworld, to rescue the soul of her deceased lover Dillion. To read such a summary of the plot, you’d think it’s all very God of War. Venture into Evil Land, snarl, mash the square button, execute enemies in over the top fashion, snarl some more, grunt about how tortured a soul you are, fight a boss, end. In execution, Hellblade is a much slower, less bombastic yarn. The intro sets the tone perfectly for the ensuing ten-ish hours. Travelling on her own, Senua slowly sails through a misty, ominous swamp. The credits slowly roll by. Prominent among them, top billing in fact, are the game’s historical and mental health advisors. The folks at Ninja Theory want to make things clear from the jump; we’re doing this, and we’re taking it seriously.

As the credits drift past, Senua is bombarded by a number of voices that are never introduced to the player, but it quickly becomes evident they are representative of some kind of psychosis in the titular heroine. They aren’t overly-acted caricatures, at least not at first. They’re disembodied voices, peppering your ears with short, monosyllabic taunts or ridicule. If you’re using headphones as the game recommends, the audio design is immediately impressive and harsh.

Hellblade is a story about mental illness. Emphasis on about. Senua’s struggles with the “darkness” represent an interesting wrinkle on her more literal adventure to Hel, but this is unreservedly a nuanced, sincere, unrelenting story about a person struggling with psychosis and the social alienation that comes with it. From the previously mentioned internalised voices, which often can get muddied up with the narration of the story, causing a deliberately overwhelming feeling, to the game’s liberal use of the ‘unreliable narrator’ trope, Hellblade is enigmatic in a way that made me feel very closely tied to its protagonist. It’s gruelling, confusing, upsetting and tiring; but in such a way that I was totally engrossed.

The revelations surrounding Senua’s past are largely reserved for the game’s second half, and I won’t spoil them here, but I was constantly impressed with how Ninja Theory utilised her story to make broader points about mental health, and our reaction to it as a society. It isn’t a quirky character trait, nor is a straightforward objective to be beaten. Hellblade wants players to understand the difficulties people in these situations face, and not simply think of them as problems to solve.

With so much to say about the story and how it’s told, and I really could go on and on, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was some kind of adventure or ‘walking simulator’ game. In reality, it has the heart and soul of one, but it’s wrapped in the body of a quasi-character action game. As she ventures towards Hel, Senua will fight enemies, battle bosses, solve puzzles, and tackle some unique set pieces that, again, I won’t spoil here. The combat can best be described as functional. You have a heavy attack, light attack, a block, and a dodge. The movement is weightier and less flashy than, say, Devil May Cry, and feels more grounded and visceral. The enemy designs are repetitive and it quickly begins to feel like most of the fights are used as padding or a scenery change from the exploring and story chatter. I’d describe it as ‘not bad’ but stretching ‘not bad’ out to ten-ish hours simply doesn’t work.

Likewise, the puzzle solving is functional and, at times, satisfying in its mix of cleverness and simplicity – but it has a template that is repeated far too often. The majority of puzzles see you trying to find a spot in the environment that will cause elements of the world to line up, creating an image that matches one that is painted on a locked door. Some twists on the formula, including an early section with portals that experiment with ‘impossible space’ and illusionary walls, are fun. But like the combat, it outstays its welcome.

The second half of the game offers some very imaginative set pieces and boss battles, which finally offer a highlight for the game that isn’t tied to watching a cutscene, but it feels like too little too late. Around the six or seven hour mark, I was getting frustrated. The story had amped up but the combat and puzzle solving felt stagnant, blips of creativity aside. I wouldn’t go as far as to say these mechanics should have been fully discarded, but the balance is certainly more than a little off. When Hellblade finally starts to show its hand, the last thing you want is a laborious square-mashing brawl between you and the next revelation.

These grievances didn’t detract from my desire to keep going though, and when I reached Hellblade’s conclusion, it was more than worth the bumps along the way. The ending of Hellblade is one of the most poignant, powerful and bittersweet things I’ve seen in a video game. It’s stuck with me for over a week, and I’ve watched it back a dozen times. The writing and performance capture, which impress throughout the game, really stick the landing. Likewise, the game’s unlikely but very cool use of FMV (yes, full motion video with real actors) is used to perfection here.

Hellblade’s minor failings can’t tarnish this absolutely staggering achievement for Ninja Theory. The game’s handling of mental health isn’t just good; it manages to not feel tokenistic or self-congratulatory. It has a harsh, uncompromising story, and doesn’t offer simple solutions – yet still feels uplifting when it’s all said and done. It won’t win any awards as a character action game, but Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice will undoubtedly be remembered as a classic for year to come.