(I asked my friend Major to do a write up about his most anticipated TV shows of 2017. Major is currently studying Improv and Acting at The Second City in Chicago and much like Fred Armisen he watches literally everything on TV.- Dane)
You know how movies are getting smaller and less accessible? Well, TV is getting bigger and more accessible with nearly endless viewing options: Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, HBONow or GO, FXNow, etc, etc.
Personally, I am still a fan of traditional, rolling-it-out-week-by-week TV. I love getting a week to ponder, discuss, and absorb the culture surrounding a show. Though, there is also some pleasure to be found in binge-watching. Here is my list of shows to watch weekly, binge or catch up on, and be excited for in 2017.
The Leftovers - Damon Lindelof is known for being the guy who ended Lost in a way that pissed a lot of people off and he felt bad about it. I view him as one of the best at mystery and emotional connection to character there is. I don’t care a great deal about plot and closure (Example: I love the ending of The Sopranos.) I was completely fine with how Lost ended. Which is why I LOVED that he took on a project that centers around a mystery that he said will never be solved. This show is about questions, coping, relationships, and personal sacrifice, with no real answers given beyond plot development.
The Leftovers starts out in a fascinating place. An event known as The Departure takes 140 million people on October 14th, 2011. No one knows how or why. This show is about that, only three years later. It focuses on a family called the Garveys (Justin Theroux, Margaret Qualley, Amy Brenneman, Chris Zylka), a woman named Nora Dunn (Carrie Coon), the local pastor (Christopher Eccleston) & his disabled wife (Janel Moloney), and a group of intellectual Westboro’s who only wear white, don’t talk, and smoke for a cause called The Guilty Remnant (Ann Dowd). That first season is a constant emotional gut punch that will stick with you the entire series. The opening scene of the show lets you know what kind of show this is. Season 2 opens up new doors for the Garveys, new characters are introduced (Regina King), new settings, and it’s one of the best seasons of television I’ve ever seen (including my favorite theme song of last year for a TV show.) This is my favorite show on TV right now, and it is coming back for a 3rd and final season in April.
Fargo - Season two of Fargo, much like season two of The Leftovers, was one of the best seasons of TV I’ve ever seen. It was hard to improve on a season one of an anthology series based on in tone and regional location the Joel and Ethan Coen masterpiece of 1996, but creator Noah Hawley did just that. Season one boasts a cast of Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Alison Tolman, and Colin Hanks. It was a beautiful show that has a lot in common with the movie. A selfish and tragic main character who puts people in danger, and a female lead policewoman who seems to be ahead of everyone else by only using common sense. It adds the No Country For Old Men villain character type of having Billy Bob Thornton be what you can’t stop from coming for an entire season.
Then season two brought about some new story ideas, a bigger and better cast, all while staying in the exact tone of the first and keeping it in the same universe. Noah Hawley is a fantastic creator of tension, tone, and endlessly watchable characters. Season three is shaping up to be no different. A cast including Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ewan McGregor, Carrie Coon (of The Leftovers), Scoot McNairy, Jim Gaffigan, Michael Stuhlbarg, Shea Whigham, Fred Malamed, David Thewlis, and Thomas Mann. This is one of the most masterfully made shows, and you should watch it. Catch up before the spring or summer when it will be released on FX.
Game of Thrones - Not a whole lot needs to be said about the most covered show on TV. It has an incredible budget, actors, directors, and sense of how to build everything up to mean something later. Benioff & Weiss have taken what George R.R. Martin created and, to some, improved on the source material. It’s an event each year. Will there be more forced humor to lighten up the mood since people can’t handle all the brooding and sadness? Will Lena Headey drink an entire winery dry? Will Jon Snow finally know something, anything, just not nothing? But, seriously, this show has defied genre clichés and turned others on their heads. Last season started to show how things might end up, and with Reddit figuring out everything before it happens it isn’t the most mysterious watch, but if you just watch it as it comes out you won’t be disappointed. Season 7 starts on HBO June 25th.
Better Call Saul - Bob Odenkirk has said himself how surprised he is to be in the situation he is in. On the network that brought you Mad Men and Breaking Bad, getting to lead its most prestigious, while not most watched show, I think we are all surprised the show works as well as it does. I’m not surprised a talent as good as Odenkirk would crush it, but that a spin off of an immensely popular series’ 7th billed character would be captivating and emotionally worth it so far.
You do need to watch Breaking Bad to get it, at least I think, and it’s a slow burn. Its most exciting moments usually come down to litigational jargon, character development, and wordplay. But Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould know how to get you to feel. That was the most important part of Breaking Bad, no matter how much you enjoyed the directing, style, and story, you always kind of wanted the best for people. They are empathetic creators and in a medium that sometimes bypasses that for the easy check down’s of action, sex, or deaths, they show the process of quiet humiliations. I think this is a CRIMINALLY HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA overlooked show, and seek out the first two seasons before it premieres season 3 in the spring.
The Americans - FX making it’s second, but not last, appearance on this preview with an even more overlooked show than what Mr. Odenkirk is working with up there. The Americans is the story of two Russian spies, infiltrating the FBI and other American operations in the 1980’s height of the cold war. This show has EXTREME relevance now for obvious reasons, but it also is one of the most rewarding experiences in storytelling I’ve ever encountered. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play married “travel agents” Elizabeth and Philip Jennings with such stoic professionalism and vulnerability that it inspires me as a wannabe artist. Their relationship has the ups and downs of the cliche roller coaster analogy, but with the subtlety of a teacup ride so you don’t really feel or see what’s happening until they let you peak over the edge then it sinks in and you can’t shake it easily.
This show is so dedicated to the emotional truth of characters it can feel like nothing matters but that, and in a sense, that’s true. The world might be crumbling around us, but why are you being so distant. I love what four seasons of character development have brought us with Philip, Elizabeth, FBI Agent Stan Beeman, their children, and many other side characters including the tour de force of Alison Wright who I will always know as Martha. Season 5 premieres on March 7th, and will be the penultimate season.
Master of None - Aziz Ansari is hilarious. He is a good stand up, sketch player, improv guy, and can be the most likable guy in the room. He’s also very intelligent and insightful when he doesn’t have to be. He lets you in on his worldview with ease. In his first attempt at showrunning, he stars as an Indian-American actor looking for work in New York. It is the first half-hour episode series I’ve mentioned here, and for a good reason. It was my most pleasant surprise of 2015. Showing up in November, I watched all of them in one night and was so pleased with how smart, well crafted, and really engaging it was. Noël Wells, Lena Waithe, Eric Wareheim (who directed multiple episodes), and his own parents co-star in this series about race in America, the nuance of relationships, and other rarely talked about topics. It’s new season is mostly a secret, but should premiere on Netflix sometime this year, and you should be excited.
Mr. Robot - Sam Esmail has a pretty great life. He is engaged to the talented Emmy Rossum, essentially rebranded an entire network by making his movie script into a weekly show for USA, and got to direct the entire second season himself. Some might argue it wasn’t as good, partly because he might have just too much to do with writing, directing, editing and planning every aspect himself. But he says that’s how he likes it, and with the amount of prep and world character building he’s done he should be.
Rami Malek stars as Elliot, a hacker who gets involved, or possibly creates a plan in which he wants to bring down the biggest company in the world he sees as evil, he is apart of FSociety, a hacker group. I won’t go into much else, because the plot can be overwhelming, and honestly, not all that important sometimes. It’s a loneliness in characters show. Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin, Martin Wallstrom, and Stephanie Corneliussen co star in this wild and weird ride. It’s a show playing with twists, expectations, and the limitations of storytelling and character building. The first season is intoxicating, and season two took a step down in my opinion, but I have full faith in Mr. Esmail. Season 3 should premiere later this year on USA.
Top of the Lake: China Girl - This show premiered in 2013 on BBC, and then came over to the U.S. on Sundance Channel, from creator Jane Campion, director of things like The Piano, Holy Smoke, and In The Cut. She brought a 7 episode season one starring Elisabeth Moss, as a detective looking for answers about a 12 year old girl when things start happening in the small town, and she gets embroiled in the town’s secrets. It has Girl with the Dragon Tattoo vibe, with less aggressive style, more room to breathe and take in the beauty of the landscapes and hauntingly engrossing storytelling. Season two, titled like a sequel, has Nicole Kidman and Gwendoline Christie joining the cast to tell another Jane Campion story. I’m all in on whatever this show comes up with in this new season. Keep an eye out for this one.
Preacher - Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are most known for the dick jokes and bromances they create in their movies. So when I heard they were adapting a television show of my favorite comic series, the beloved creation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, I was PUMPED. But, I was unsure of how they would bring the extreme violence, language and humor of the page to life on the screen live action. From the first frame of the show, I knew they had it. It may be toned down in material, but it sure has the manic energy and characters of the original writing. Dominic Cooper stars as the title character, Preacher Jesse Custer who gets special powers, joined by Ruth Negga as Tulip O’Hare, his ex and feisty badass, and Joseph Gilgun as Cassidy the Irish best friend with some secrets. These three are the main reason for the shows success. They bring these characters to life with such vigor and conviction. If you love surreal, fun, and intense stuff with a strong sense of humor please seek it out. It has great side characters, like Arseface, the ass faced boy with one of the saddest character arcs ever. AMC took a chance, and I think it paid off, and if season one is like a prequel to the comic, I’m enthralled just thinking about what they will do in the upcoming season’s.
Legion - Noah Hawley, previously mentioned creator of the Fargo anthology series, now has his second FX series ready to start this year. It tells the story of Professor X’s son, David Haller AKA Legion. It actually does connect to future X-Men films, and there is a possibility of Patrick Stewart or James McAvoy showing up at some point. Some who have seen it, said it’s like Breaking Bad for superpowers. I know very little about it, but it has a dynamite cast of Dan Stevens as the title character, Katie Aselton, Rachel Keller & Jean Smart hot off their Fargo Season 2 jam, and bigger names like Aubrey Plaza and Jemaine Clement. One of my favorite pop culture writers Andy Greenwald is working on the show behind the scenes, and it looks like it’ll be a lot of fun, and please comic book lovers and casual viewers alike. I trust in Noah Hawley. The show premieres February 8th on FX.
OTHER SHOWS TO BE EXCITED ABOUT:
Young Pope - YOUNG POPE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
HBO January 15th
Big Little Lies - The cast, the cast! Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, Alexander Skarsgard, Adam Scott, Sarah Baker, mini-series from director Jean-Marc Vallee. He had success with Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, and now has a great cast for a 7 hour movie rolled out each week.
HBO February 19th
Twin Peaks- What’s up David Lynch? He’s directing every episode, which, last I read, was over 15 episodes, it could be more now. He got everyone out for this, and it should be must watch. The first two seasons are on Netflix if you want to catch up.
Showtime May 21st
Silicon Valley - One of the best comedies on TV returns for season four, and will no doubt be just as steady as Mike Judge and Alec Berg have made it for the last 3 years. Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Kumail Nunjani, Martin Starr and Zach Woods really crush it every episode. Catch up if you haven’t.
Lady Dynamite - Maria Bamford’s beautiful & funny exploration of mental illness and the situations in show business as a strange female comedian for season one is one Netflix now.
Vice Principals - HBO’s hilarious mini-series from the Eastbound & Down creators Danny McBride & Jody Hill returns for the season two finish later this year.
Taboo - Tom Hardy, his father Chips Hardy, and writer/director Steven Knight create this 19th century old english story of violence and stylistic brooding. It’s on FX now every Tuesday.
American Gods - Author Neil Gaiman gets to write the show and see his novel come to life with showrunner Bryan Fuller who got Hannibal to be a beautiful idiosyncratic nightmare for a few seasons.
Other Other Shows to Keep an Eye Out For:
Better Things on FX Animals on HBO Broad City on Comedy Central
Baskets on FX January 19th Stranger Things on Netflix Girls on HBO
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on FXX Wednesdays
You can follow Major on Twitter and you should because he would love to hear about your personal theories on the latest episode of Tiny House Hunters or Timeless. He has watched it all.