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Slatesters’ Favorite TV Shows of 2017 (So Far)

Slate staff on their must-watch TV this year.

Photo illustration by Slate. Orphan Black, Big Little Lies, GLOW, and Twin Peaks.
From Orphan Black to Big Little Lies, GLOW, and Twin Peaks.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle - © 2017 - HBO, © Orphan Black IV Productions Limited, © 2017 Showtime, and Erica Parise/Netflix.

In this so-called Golden Age of television, there seems to be a never-ending stream of great shows to consume.

So we asked Slate staff: What is the best TV series of 2017 so far, and why?

From prestige TV to sinister docs to trashy reality, these are their answers.

Leon Neyfakh, staff writer
I haven’t watched enough new TV shows to name a favorite, but I will take this opportunity to recommend HBO’s Mommy Dead and Dearest, which tells the story of a girl named Gypsy whose mother convinced her and every one of her doctors, friends, and relatives that she was disabled and gravely sick from a very young age. In fact Gypsy was none of those things and was instead the victim of insane abuse. At a certain point she decided she’d had enough and took an extreme step in pursuit of freedom that ended up landing her in prison.

June Thomas, managing producer, Slate podcasts
This has been a fantastic year for television. I’ve wrung deep, complex joy from dozens of shows. Season 5 of The Americans was twisty and emotionally satisfying. (If you’re a fan, may I recommend Slate’s behind-the-scenes podcast?) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was hilarious and subversive. The Handmaid’s Tale was the most depressing thing I’ve ever seen, and Sense8 was packed with empathy and hot as hell. As weird as it was, Season 5 of Orange Is the New Black kept me up past my bedtime, and ABC’s American Housewife was weirdly charming.

BUT the best show I’ve seen this year was the fourth season of Line of Duty, a British show set in an anti-corruption police unit, which aired on the BBC this spring and is available in the U.S. on Hulu. The story told over the course of six episodes was totally compelling—writer Jed Mercurio is a cliffhanger-creating machine—but I particularly enjoy the way the show weaves in threads from previous seasons. Brilliant world building coupled with fantastic acting (Thandie Newton was particularly good). Just don’t start watching unless you have a chunk of free time ahead of you.

Sam Adams, senior editor
It’s a bit dicey to judge on less than half a season, but for sheer audacity, nothing comes close to the eight episodes of Twin Peaks we’ve seen so far. People expecting David Lynch to serve up a nostalgic meal of damn good coffee and cherry pie have instead been greeted with one of the most challenging—and, OK, occasionally frustrating—projects in the history of either TV or film, and they’ve been rewarded with episodes like the mind-blowing “Part 8,” which linked the origins of the evil spirit Bob to the detonation of the first atomic bomb. Stretched out across so many hours, the show’s preoccupation with violence against women and especially its procession of shrill, nagging housewives has started to grate, but Lynch is taking the medium places it’s never been before, and it’s thrilling to watch.

Heather Schwedel, copy editor
I just watched it so I haven’t had time to fully digest yet, but Netflix’s GLOW has really been a breath of fresh air for me. The ’80s setting and costumes are divine and make me really nostalgic for that time period. (I’m so glad Mad Men brought on such a strong wave of period shows!) I also adored Marc Maron’s performance—here’s a fun piece in praise of it. Oh, and I just remembered that I was transfixed by the documentary series The Keepers, too. Watch it!

Torie Bosch, Future Tense editor
My brilliant Slate colleagues will cover the highbrow and critically acclaimed—your Handmaid’s Tale, your Atlanta, your Queen Sugar. But for my money, the best show of 2017 has been Teen Mom OG, that stalwart of MTV. I understand the arguments that say Teen Mom is everything wrong with America and the 21st century, but it also remains excellent television, particularly now that the show has broken down the artificial barrier between the stars and production. We see the ways the producers gently nudge cast members into saying certain things, and how some try to manipulate their own storylines. (In one cringe-worthy scene this season, Amber Portwood’s then-fiancé tried to convince her to get married in Vegas. After she declined, he told a producer, “I don’t care who you have to give oral pleasure to, keep the Amber and Matt wedding thing off. She just embarrassed me in front of 12 million people.” It aired, of course.) Teen Mom OG is showing how the sausage is made, and it isn’t pretty, but it still tastes good.

Gabriel Roth, senior editor and the editorial director of Slate Plus
I don’t even know how good it is, exactly, but HBO’s Big Little Lies is definitely the show I watched most avidly. It’s beautifully shot, full of great performances and uncomfortable moments, but also pleasantly overripe. I have a dumb theory that prestige TV went wrong when it modeled itself on The Sopranos rather than Six Feet Under, and Big Little Lies feels like a hint of that road not taken.

Dawnthea Price, copy editor
Orphan Black is the greatest TV series of 2017, but it was also the greatest of 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Now in its final season, this Canadian show continues to pull none of its thrilling sci-fi punches, and my favorite actresses will forever be lead Tatiana Maslany along with eminently talented double Kathryn Alexandre, because I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of effort that went into playing 11 distinct characters as we’ve ventured deeper and deeper down this clone rabbit hole. “The Final Trip” has been a real ride, and I’ve cried pretty much every week since it’s started, but I’m just so excited to see how Clone Club ends.