The 17 Best New TV Shows of 2017

TV Lists Best of 2017
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The 17 Best New TV Shows of 2017

Network TV may be alive, as assistant TV editor Amy Amatangelo writes of Great News (NBC) and The Mayor (ABC), but if Paste’s list of the best new TV shows of 2017 is any indication, it’s unclear if it’s still kicking. Only one other broadcast series made the cut—and it’s already been canceled. (Downward Dog 4eva!)

If there’s a trend line in the 18 titles below—yes, we cheated—it tracks the rise of streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and even CBS All Access, which are producing more (and more high quality) new series than ever before. It remains to be seen if this level of output is sustainable, but for now, as our ranking of the best new TV shows of 2017 suggests, it’s the newest kids on the block that are producing most of the debuts worth watching. (Be sure to check out our list of the 25 best TV shows of 2017, too.)

A brief note on the rules: One-off limited series aren’t eligible (we’ll believe Big Little Lies Season Two is really happening when we see it), but debut anthologies (hello, Feud!) are.

17. Great News and The Mayor

Network: NBC and ABC

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I’ve come to the point in my career where I’m the lady shaking my fist and screaming, “Network TV is still good! It’s still good!” And while I’ll be the first to admit that network TV provides us with a lot of duds, you can often find a diamond in among the lumps of coal. Great News, from executive producer Tina Fey, debuted to little fanfare this spring. But as the second season has progressed, the story of cable news producer Katie (Briga Heelan) and her ragtag news team (which includes the incomparable Andrea Martin as her mother and the hilarious John Michael Higgins as her bombastic news anchor, Chuck) has become a savvy and at times scathing comedy, covering everything from sexual harassment in the workplace to the pressures of social media. Oh, and did I mention that Nicole Richie is funny as cable news host Portia? I mean really, really funny. ABC’s The Mayor is another sneakily political show, following Courtney (breakout star Brandon Micheal Hall), a twentysomething rapper awaiting his big break. He runs for mayor of his small town of Fort Grey, California as a stunt, and much to his surprise/horror, he wins. Still in the nascent stages of its debut season, the series has walked the delicate line of being realistic about small town politics (a recent bus strike taught Courtney you can’t make everybody happy) while remaining uproariously funny (special shout out to Courtney’s best friends Jermaine and T.K., who provide a hilarious Greek chorus to all of Courtney’s shenanigans). Hall is a charming delight and Yvette Nicole Brown and Lea Michele round out the strong ensemble. The Mayor joins ABC’s deep bench of fantastic comedies. Network TV is alive! It’s alive! —Amy Amatangelo

16. Future Man

Network: Hulu

The cure for herpes creates a dystopian divide between humans and mutant beings. Yeah, that’s the setting for one of the strangest, most compelling pieces of sci-fi comedy on television in recent memory. Future Man comes from the minds of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, both of whom are masters at genre tweaking. This genre gets tweaked a bit more than most—things get wet and wild almost immediately with some botched time travel, some plot points lifted from The Last Starfighter, and a talking house owned by James Cameron. Yes, that James Cameron. The silliness wouldn’t hold together unless it was seriously acted and the show has a killer cast, unlocking Josh Hutcherson’s potential as a comedy straight man and introducing newcomer Derek Wilson as a fish-out-of-water force. The gags are R-rated, sharp and quick inside the sci-fi pastiche, which makes the absurd dedication to plotting and nuanced characters so entertaining. —Jacob Oller

15. Patriot

Network: Amazon

What if 007 dealt with his PTSD and the moral ambiguities of being a spy by revealing his deepest inner turmoil (and state secrets) at open-mic nights in Amsterdam? What if Q had trouble requisitioning his apartment with a single chair? And M sent him to work at a piping firm in the Midwest with an extra digit in his social security number? What if the American version of a Bond film replaced the car chases, femme fatales and slick gadgets with the dark humor of the Coen brothers, mixing deep ennui with side-splitting moments of levity? That’s Patriot in a nutshell. The stakes are high—keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of an Iranian extremist leader—but everything depends on our hero, John Tavner, (Michael Dormer) first navigating the mid-level corporate world of industrial piping. —Josh Jackson

14. Big Mouth

Network: Netflix

Netflix’s new animated series, from creators Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, follows four friends through the earliest stages of puberty: Andrew (John Mulaney) sports inconvenient erections; Nick (Kroll) awaits his first pubic hairs; Jessi (Jessi Klein) begins menstruating at the Statue of Liberty; Jay (Jason Mantzoukas) conceives rococo ways to get off with his pillow. It’s wickedly bawdy—one episode’s end credits roll over an extended description of Andrew’s dad’s testicles—and devilishly funny—another uses a note-perfect Seinfeld send-up to explain the blowjob “head push” and the term “mons pubis”—but as implied by its theme song, Charles Bradley’s “Changes,” the series is sweeter than it appears at first blush. Its goal is to cut through the humiliations of sex, to break through the shame shellacked atop our “gross little dirtbag” selves to reveal the perfectly normal yearning underneath: for pleasure, for touch, for emotional connection; for approval, confidence, intimacy, love. By admitting, as Andrew does in the series premiere, that “everything is so embarrassing”—and not only for teens—Big Mouth squares a space in which there’s no question that can’t be asked, and no answer that applies the same way to everyone. It’s the streaming version of your sex-ed teacher’s anonymous slips of paper, except the laughs aren’t sniggers—they’re hard-won, empathic guffaws. —Matt Brennan

13. The Good Fight

Network: CBS All Access

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Admit it. You were nervous. I was nervous. We were all worried that there was no way The Good Fight could live up to our expectations. But it has. And then some. Without the confines of network television, showrunners Michelle and Robert King have flourished. Diane’s (Christine Baranski) fall from financial grace was a great catalyst to start the series, re-team her with Lucca (Cush Jumbo) and introduce new series regulars. Plus, the world the Kings have created is so rich, fan favorites including Elsbeth Tascioni (Carrie Preston) and Colin Sweeney (Dylan Baker) easily weave in and out of this world. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: The Good Fight gives good spin-off. Amy Amatangelo

12. American Vandal

Network: Netflix

True crime TV was a network phenomenon long before it hopped to podcasts and streaming, but that made it explode even further into the current generation’s consciousness. American Vandal’s amazing satirical contribution took this obsession and deconstructed it to find out if the audience would care if the crime itself was completely goofy. A few dozen spray-painted penises later, and they had their answer. Spectacular acting from a group that forges a high school community from the bits and pieces offered by the documentary allows for the development of hilarious comedy and compelling drama, which makes the series even more impressive. When satire functions as well, or better than, the earnest thing it’s mocking, that satire will change everything. The closest example I can think of is Jon Stewart’s version of The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, because American Vandal is simply game-changing mockumentary. —Jacob Oller

11. Feud

Network: FX

American Crime Story and now Feud have proven that auteur Ryan Murphy is at his best when he has a short, concise story to tell. And so Murphy’s examination of the long-running rift between Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) was more than just an examination of their experience filming Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?: It’s also a condemnation of an industry that abused them and cast them aside and what happens when your self-worth is completely tied to your public persona. We could debate for weeks whether Lange or Sarandon gave the better performance. I say let’s call it a draw, because both women had career highs with this series. Jackie Hoffman had a breakout performance as Crawford’s maid, Mamacita (I would so watch the story re-told from her perspective). Aided by strong performances from Stanley Tucci, Judy Davis, Alfred Molina, Alison Wright and Kiernan Shipka, with just the right amount of camp and Pepsi thrown in, we wanted to be friends with Feud the whole time. —Amy Amatangelo

10. Mindhunter

Network: Netflix

The name and the description may have you assuming that this is a typical network procedural: FBI agents interview psychopaths in order to catch murderers. But Mindhunter is as much Mad Men as it is Law & Order. Produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron, the story follows two real-life agents, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff, the original King George III in Hamilton on Broadway) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), along with consulting psychologist Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) in the FBI’s nascent Behavioral Science Unit. Joe Penhall’s series is based on a similarly titled true crime book. Interviewing and cataloguing convicted serial killers (a phrase the trio invents) leads to them helping on active cases, but it also affects each of their personal lives in different ways. Cameron Britton is particularly unforgettable as notorious murderer and necrophiliac Edmund Kemper. —Josh Jackson

9. The Bold Type

Network: Freeform

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When The Bold Type first premiered, I viewed it as a terrific version of the kind of show I love and exactly the type of show Freeform should be doing. But as its first season progressed, it blossomed into the kind of show everyone should love and all networks should be doing—smartly tackling a wide range of topics, including cyber bullying, gendered double standards and genetic testing. Jane (Katie Stevens), Kat (Aisha Dee) and Sutton (Meghann Fahy), twenty-something women trying to find success at Scarlett magazine while navigating their complicated love lives and the ups and downs of friendship, speak not only to The Bold Type’s target audience, but to women of all ages. Given the current political climate and misogynistic cultural environment, we need shows that celebrate women and hear them roar more than ever. —Amy Amatangelo

8. Downward Dog

Network: ABC

That Downward Dog’s narrator, Martin (voiced by series co-creator Samm Hodges), is of the canine variety might scare one away from ABC’s deeply felt sitcom, canceled after a mere eight episodes, but this is, in fact, its secret weapon. Martin’s presence, and the series’ sweet, silly premise, is delightful cover for its heroic undercarriage, squaring space for its foremost risk: At the heart of Downward Dog, led by the quietly magnificent Alison Tolman, is its radical earnestness, the belief that to be and to feel fully is almost always to court embarrassment—and that the real shame is to relent to the pressure to hide one’s emotions, rather than staring them in the face. In other words, I’ll remember the series as one of the defining network comedies of our unsettled age, a beacon of the prosaic and the humane in a world that’s been thrown to the wolves. Matt Brennan


Network: Netflix

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Much to my husband’s chagrin, I did not grow up watching wrestling on Saturday mornings. But just as I didn’t have to understand football to love Friday Night Lights, I don’t need to know what an atomic drop is to adore GLOW. A nearly unrecognizable Alison Brie (credit the 1980s hair and eyebrows for her transformation) stars as Ruth Wilder, an aspiring actress who finds her perfect role in the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. What she lacks in skill, Ruth makes up for in pluck. Her frenemy, former soap star Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin), becomes her perfect foil. Marc Maron is hilarious as their world-weary producer and Sydelle Noel is a standout as stunt woman-turned-trainer Cherry Bang. Come for the ridiculous costumes, makeup and hair. Stay for the surprisingly poignant show about female empowerment. —Amy Amatangelo

6. Dear White People

Network: Netflix

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Based on creator Justin Simien’s 2014 indie, Netflix’s original series—narrated by Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul’s Giancarlo Esposito—replicates the pungent humor of the film without ever seeming stale, or static: Its knives are sharp, and they’re pointed in every direction. Though its primary target is white privilege, in forms both egregious (blackface parties) and mundane (calls to end “divisive” politics), Dear White People, set on the campus of a fictional Ivy League university, is even funnier when it turns to the details of the black students’ personal and ideological choices, transforming the notion of the “problematic fave,” from the McRib to The Cosby Show, into the engine of its entertaining, incisive comedy. —Matt Brennan

5. American Gods

Network: Starz

Have you written something un-adaptable? Something nobody in their right mind would ever tackle? Give it to former Hannibal head honcho Bryan Fuller and screenwriting workaholic Michael Green (he did Logan, Blade Runner 2049, Alien: Covenant and Murder on the Orient Express in 2017 alone), because they made American Gods real. Starz’s beautiful consideration of faith in America is both lyrical and foul, exploring all our violent, sex-driven, small-minded tendencies with the same forgiveness and understanding of the gods suffering from the same vices. Its structure is an easy-going road trip, but its stylistic offerings are milk and honey. Some of the year’s most spectacular televised images were from this show, and none of them were easy to process. Each asked for commitment and faith from its audience, and I’d be lying if I denied being part of the cult. —Jacob Oller

4. One Day at a Time

Network: Netflix

I can’t remember a time I loved something the way I love the new One Day at a Time. Part of my affection stems from the fact that the show was such a discovery. It arrived in January with almost no hype. I write about TV for a living and I barely knew it was premiering. Almost immediately, I dismissed the show as yet another ill-advised remake. How wrong I was. The comedy is a pure delight. A throwback to the defining comedies of the 1970s (with a modern twist), the series deftly tackles some hot-button issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, wage inequality and teenage sexuality, amid real conversations about generational differences and Cuban heritage and traditions. Justina Machado (Six Feet Under) is fantastic as the recently separated veteran raising her two adolescent children with the help of her mother Lydia (living legend Rita Moreno) and her landlord Schneider (Todd Grinnell). Moreno gives an amazing speech in the season’s penultimate episode that should have nabbed her an Emmy nomination. But above all, the show is funny and grounded. Once you start watching, you won’t be able to watch this gem one day at a time. —Amy Amatangelo

3. Legion

Network: FX

We were introduced to Noah Hawley’s dark humor with Fargo, but Legion allows the writer/creator to play in a more fantastical sandbox—and thus to truly revel in a batshit crazy world. If ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gave us the light-hearted comic-book action and Netflix’s quartet of interwoven series showcased the grittier side of superheroes, FX’s first partnership with Marvel embraces the insanity of a lesser-known X-Men character, making you forget it has any shared DNA with those blockbuster men in super-suits. The story is as much about Dan Stevens’ character’s grasp on reality as his struggle for survival. David Heller suffers from schizophrenia, but what’s real and what’s the product of malevolent forces is often unclear, with his friend, Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza), playing the imaginary devil on his shoulder. The production design, full of 1960s and 1970s psychedelia and striking color palettes; the cast, which includes Hawley’s Fargo collaborators Rachel Keller and Jean Smart; and the sharp writing all make this another win for FX. —Josh Jackson

2. The Deuce

Network: HBO

Since creating The Greatest Series of All Time, David Simon has maintained a fruitful relationship with HBO. Like The Wire, his fifth project for the premium cable channel lives at the margins of society, those scraping by to survive or taking advantage of the only opportunities they see. The Deuce is set in and around the Times Square of the 1970s, where pimps, prostitutes, beat cops, pornographers and reporters make sense of a world in which New York has just decided it doesn’t have any decency standards. The cast includes A-listers James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, as well as The Wire’s Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (this time on the other side of the law from D’Angelo Barksdale), Chris Bauer and Gbenga Akinnagbe. But the show relies as heavily on its large ensemble cast, including Dominique Fishback (Darlene), Chris Coy (Paul) and Gary Carr (C.C.), as well as musicians-turned-actors Black Thought and Method Man. A show about sex workers on HBO could easily feel exploitative, but Simon and co-creator George Pelecanos seem more interested in the stories of their characters than titillating their audience. In The Deuce, the grimy heart of New York is nonetheless full of humanity. —Josh Jackson

1. The Handmaid’s Tale

Network: Hulu

There’s no way The Handmaid’s Tale could’ve fathomed how incredibly prescient it would be. But as women’s rights were chipped away this year, the story of a dystopian near-future where women are held as slaves and forced to procreate is a harrowing and plausible fiction. The idea that June (Elisabeth Moss), her husband, Luke (O. T. Fagbenle), and her best friend, Moira (Samira Wiley), thought that, despite governmental changes, their lives would go on as normal is eerily familiar, but it’s not just the show’s impeccable timing that makes The Handmaid’s Tale one of the year’s best. The performances are magnificent: Moss’ star turn as Offred, who despite acting passive has a consistent undercurrent of rage; Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy, a woman who’s buried her moral compass in order to mask her sorrow with cruelty; and Emmy winner Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia, who rules the Handmaids with unwavering authority but still manages to make us believe she loves her charges. Visually stunning (the Handmaids’ red capes were instantly iconic), the ten episodes breathtakingly unfold via both flashbacks and current horrors. Under His eye, we were all captivated. —Amy Amatangelo