2017 was stacked with TV shows you did love - Stranger Things returned, Big Little Lies had people talking and I've heard enough about Twin Peaks from our Managing Editor to last me a lifetime. Crazy that with all this great TV, no one talked about Young Sheldon, right?
Here's eight TV shows you might have missed this year (this list definitely doesn't include Young Sheldon).
Tom Hardy is James Keziah Delaney, the son of a shipping magnate who, in 1814, returns to London to inherit his father’s dynasty. Delaney is one of the most fascinating characters I can recall from TV this year and he’s dropped into a 19th century London that shows all the cracks and gruesome truths of that time.
The dialogue can get a little much – Hardy is much better when he’s silent and brooding – and the show’s pacing will see many lose interest before it really ramps up, but if you stick it out, the doom and gloom gives way to a satisfying ending. A season two was confirmed by co-creator Steven Knight so it’s a good time to jump in.
Taboo airs on BBC First.
The TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s seminal fantasy novel didn’t pick up quite the steam that I felt it would in 2017. Australians had to go through the little-known (at the time) “Amazon Prime Video” to watch the series as it aired, so that may have hindered some of its penetration or it could just be that it was way too weird to get invested in.
Hannibal-helmer Bryan Fuller and Michael Green did an exceptional job bringing the characters, darkness and concepts from the novel to life, though I will admit that the show is close to impenetrable for those who haven’t read the book. It all begins to fall into place towards the end of the season, but those first few episodes are a real slog.
You can sign up to Amazon Prime Video and watch the entire first series now.
David Simon and George Pelecanos basically spawned thousands of TV show hipsters when they created The Wire, a very good TV show that went under the radar for a very long time. We’ve now collectively come to terms with how good The Wire was, so it strikes me then that The Deuce, a TV show about the 1970’s porn industry starring James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, didn’t gather any momentum when it dropped earlier in the year.
It’s unflinching in its depictions of all things – sex, sex workers, violence, misogyny, racism, homophobia – so it’s far less a relaxing watch than it is an engrossing, honest one. It’s hard to take your eyes away from The Deuce, even though it so often leaves you feeling awkward, cold and genuinely concerned for the plight of its long list of exploited human beings.
One that took me by surprise in that I didn’t think I had much desire for a limited-run Western, but here we are. An outlaw - Frank Griffin - is chasing down an old partner across late-19th century America when the search leads him to the female haven of La Belle.
Godless takes what you know about Westerns and uses that to its advantages, layering over the top of them an entirely fresh coat of paint. Sometimes it does stick too closely to those tropes and early on it suffers from some pacing issues but it doesn't feel slow and great performances keep it moving forward at a decent clip. Knowing that there will be a resolution after the seven episodes means you'll be tempted to just binge through the whole thing.
Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams
Philip K. Dick is somewhat of a personal hero and inspiration of mine, his works capturing my attention when I first started to pull library books off the shelf in high school. I was stoked to hear that some of his short stories would be created for an anthology series and so far, it hasn’t been a disappointment, but there are definitely episodes that shine.
Personally, the first episode, ‘The Hood Maker’, and the third episode, ‘The Commuter’, are the show at its best whereas ‘Real Life’ had a great cast but felt like a misstep that didn’t really resonate with me at all. Four episodes are still to drop next year.
The comparisons to Black Mirror will be unavoidable but the way the two shows tackle sci-fi futures is markedly different. Where Black Mirror cuts because of how close it hits to home, Electric Dreams visions seem to tilt harder into science fiction territory yet still reveal some harsh truths about who we are and what makes us human. Just like Dick did.
The 80s. Female Wrestling. Alison Brie. A huge, talented, diverse cast of females. An all-round charming and uplifting series that just makes you feel good. Ruth Wilder (Brie) is an actress in LA that stumbles upon a job listing to take on the role as a female wrestler in an 80s wrestling circuit. It loosely bases itself on a real promotion from the 80s but takes a lot of creative liberties - for the better.
You don't necessarily have to be a wrestling fan to enjoy it though. Clever writing and warmth is enough to draw you in and once you're there, you get body-slammed by the constant joy that you see as the women slowly work on their skills and themselves.
How this hasn’t become a major hit, I will never know. I suspect it’s initially slow pace is a turn off for some but when you’ve got Cillian Murphy in the lead role and a supporting cast that features Helen McRory, Sam Neill and Tom Hardy, it’s a bloody wonder it never took off innit?
Yes, the show is in its fourth season this year but I had to include it here. It has continued on its merry, blood-stained path following the exploits of the Shelby gang and their foray into the 1920’s underworld. Murphy’s Tommy Shelby is the main drawcard and although it has been criticised for some of the liberties it has taken with history, it has an excellent style and flair thanks to its constant pairing of contemporary music and old-school charm.
The End Of The F***ing World
Based on the 2011 comic series by Charles Forsman, The End of The F***ing World is less a coming-of-age drama and more a deeply twisted take on growing up. James is a psychopath. Alyssa is from a broken home. She likes James. They go on a road trip. Things go downhill, quickly.
Some have described this show as what would happen if David Lynch made a rom-com in British Suburbia. I think those standards might be rather lofty, but it is an interesting and somewhat terrifying ride through the psyche of teenagers and the effects that our parents have on us as we grow up. Sure to gain more traction when it hits Netflix next year.