Take a look at our list of the five best new shows that debuted during 2017…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
There’s a lot to watch on television these days.
Between network, cable, streaming services and strictly online series, the options can almost seem overwhelming and it’s nearly impossible to catch everything that’s released during any calendar year.
Still there were some outstanding shows that debuted during 2017 — from teen murder mystery dramas to a story about women’s professional wrestling in the 1980’s to an accountant laundering money for the Mexican cartel to save his life, there were a wide range of shows to choose from over this past year.
So we’ve compiled the top five new shows of 2017 along with a few honorable mentions that might be worth checking out over the holidays if you get some time to binge watch any of these series.
5) American Gods
Based on the book by Neil Gaiman, ‘American Gods’ theorizes a war that’s about to erupt between the old gods — those deities that have been around for centuries — going up against the new gods — like technology and media.
This is not a series to watch one episode at a time, although that’s how the show aired on the Starz network. Instead, it’s highly suggested to ingest ‘American Gods’ over one great binge weekend because the weird and wild stuff on this series is better taken in one gigantic dose rather than peppered out over a few months.
The cast is phenomenal — from newcomer Ricky Whittle as lead character Shadow Moon to Emily Browning as his unfaithful, back from the dead wife Laura to Ian McShane making his first significant return to television since his award worthy role on HBO’s ‘Deadwood’.
Much like ‘Twin Peaks: The Revival’ — that you’ll eventually see in our top 10 TV shows of 2017 — ‘American Gods’ doesn’t exactly follow a straight line so if you’re looking for a series that starts at point ‘A’, continues to point ‘B’ and then finishes at point ‘C’, this is not the show for you. That being said, ‘American Gods’ was a wonderfully twisted show about love, morality and ultimately our faith, both in each other and the spiritual world.
Where to Watch: Starz
Highlight: ‘Git Gone’ — Flashbacks are a staple of ‘American Gods’ but this tale about Laura Moon’s transformation from loving wife to cheating spouse to born again corpse is definitely one of the highlights of the season. Laura’s journey is maddening at points, heartbreaking at others, but ultimately a top notch episode from start to finish.
No one knew quite what to expect from this series starting Tom Hardy that was originally only supposed to last for 10 episodes. Sure at times it was nearly impossible to understand what Hardy’s character James Delaney was saying thanks to his thick British accent but a story that started out tied to the occult ended up as a battle for the very soul of the United States of America as the nation was very much in its infancy at the time in this story set in 1814.
Hardy was obviously the focal point and he was brooding yet brilliant in the role but co-stars such as Jessie Buckley and David Hayman also made significant contributions to almost every episode. Familiar faces also popped up with Michael Kelly (House of Cards) and Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones) playing pivotal parts in the plot.
In a time on television where period pieces seem to be all the rage — here’s looking at you ‘The Crown’ and previously ‘Downton Abbey’ — ‘Taboo’ is a rare mix of history blended with fiction with a dash of alpha male enthusiasm combined with cutting dialogue and more than a few surprises during the season. ‘Taboo’ was so good through the first season that the show was renewed for a second installment with Hardy set to return, presumably after he finishes filming his latest role in the Sony ‘Spider-Man’ spinoff titled ‘Venom’.
Where to Watch: FX or stream on Hulu
Highlight: ‘Episode 8’ — In the season finale, James Delaney finally sets in motion his plan to destroy the East India Trading Company with several twists and turns unraveling a ton of secrets that were kept close to the vest through the first seven episodes.
Loosely based on the real life 1980’s all women’s ‘Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling’ promotion, GLOW follows Allison Brie’s character Ruth Wilder as a struggling actress trying to make it in Hollywood but with nobody knocking down her door to become a star, she decides to try her hand at professional wrestling. At the same time, Ruth is feuding with her former best friend, who also gets involved in the wrestling business.
‘GLOW’ is a fast watch — it’s only 10 episodes at 30 minutes each — but they packed a lot into this inaugural season. Brie absolutely steals the show as the lead but the supporting cast — including a stellar performance from Marc Maron — really props up every aspect of this series. ‘GLOW’ is definitely a comedy at heart but there are also some serious issues dealt with on this show including one very poignant episode where a character is faced with having an abortion.
‘GLOW’ is great from beginning to end and by the final episode of the season all you’re asking is when can we get more. The answer of course is ‘GLOW’ season two is currently in production on Netflix.
Where to Watch: Netflix
Highlight: Episode 5, ‘Debbie Does Something’ — In this episode, Ruth finally figures out a character that will make her a draw while her former best friend Debbie watches a professional wrestling show and gets drawn into the drama for the first time.
Who knew that a series based on the cotton candy ‘Archie’ comics would turn out to be one of the most watchable shows in 2017 but that’s exactly what happened with ‘Riverdale’ on the CW. Very loosely based on the classic ‘Archie’ characters, ‘Riverdale’ is a cross between ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘Twin Peaks’ — a teen drama infused with sexuality, a bit of over acting and stories that keep you enthralled from one episode to the next.
Sure ‘Riverdale’ gets a little cheesy at times — but that’s one of the charms of this series in the first place. The kids on the show are all a little too pretty but that’s a staple of teen dramas across television history.
From start to finish, ‘Riverdale’ season one was a perfect blend of teen angst, murder mystery and strangely enough, a coming of age tale about kids growing up in a once idyllic town that’s suddenly the site of a brutal killing.
Of course it must be stated that ‘Riverdale’ season two is still airing right now and based on early returns, it’s not as strong as the first season that started in January. Part of that problem is likely attributed to the extra episode order from the CW that jumped ‘Riverdale’ from 13 episodes in the first season to 22 in the sophomore year. Still, ‘Riverdale’ is perfect popcorn television watching week to week and here’s hoping the show closes strong when it returns in 2018.
Where to Watch: The CW for new episodes, Netflix for streaming the first season
Highlight: ‘Chapter Twelve: Anatomy of a Murder’ — In the penultimate episode of the first season, Archie and his friends discover who actually killed Jason Blossom and the town is rocked by the revelation.
It’s been said a million times but here’s one more — ‘Ozark’ really does feel like ‘Breaking Bad’ meets ‘Justified’ but that doesn’t even do justice to this outstanding series that debued earlier this year on Netflix.
Marty Byrde — in an award worthy performance from Jason Bateman — is a money launderer for the Mexican Cartel, who ends up nearly murdered when he finds out that his partner has been looting cash from the outfit. In a mad scramble to safe his own life, Marty convinces the cartel to give him a second chance by setting up in the Ozarks in Missouri where he promises he can clean their cash at an even faster rate than before.
Even under the bright Missouri sun by the beach, ‘Ozark’ is a series shown in bleak visuals with just about everybody facing some sort of downtrodden drama from the first episode to the last. While Bateman really does stand out as the star of this series, Laura Linney is excellent as his estranged yet forced to stay by his side wife while Julia Garner bursts onto the scene as teenage crook Ruth Langmore.
If you’re looking for a tension filled crime drama that will leave you on the edge of your seat with each episode, ‘Ozark’ is the one for you.
Where to Watch: Netflix
Highlight: Episode 4, ‘Tonight We Improvise’ — This episode focuses on Marty pulling off a heist that will allow him to get into business with a local strip club where he can launder more of his Mexican drug cartel money. Of course, getting the goods is harder than it might seem and Marty soon draws a new confidant into his web.
Honorable Mentions for Best New Shows in 2017:
Where to Watch: Netflix
Where to Watch: FOX
Where to Watch: Netflix
‘Star Trek: Discovery’
Where to Watch: CBS All-Access
Where to Watch: FX