Apart from a few of the usual slumps, TV was great in 2017 in a year when almost everything else was not. We found solace in comedy, joy in romance, and catharsis in dark dramas. With over 400 original shows out there in the universe, we had to make two best of TV lists – one for shows that debuted in 2017 and another for the ones that kept us coming back. Below, in no particular order, are 10 returning shows we thought were exceptional in 2017.
1. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Rebecca’s mania escalated in the later part of Season 2, culminating in a chilling finale that made anything and everything possible for Season 3. The show came back grimmer and tougher than ever; in a matter of episodes, Rebecca’s entire past was exposed, her friends betrayed, and her volatile emotional state unimaginably triggered. We move into 2018 with a new diagnosis, renewed friendships, and the knowledge that Josh Chan is irrelevant. Rebecca Bunch, on the other hand, is more important than ever.
2. Better Call Saul
In its third season, Better Call Saul brought us closer than ever to Saul Goodman, even having Jimmy use the name professionally for the very first time. And it felt so much worse than we ever could have imagined. Better Call Saul may have started out looking like another gritty antihero drama in the vein of Breaking Bad, but it’s developed into its predecessor’s fascinating inverse – it lures you with the promise of illicit thrills, and then shows you how these bad deeds weigh painfully on the soul, and drag down everything else in its orbit. – Angie Han
3. The Good Place
NBC took what could have been your average comedy about death and supercharged it with ethics, diversity, and a demonic Ted Danson. Who could have known one of our favorite TV arcs of the year would be about a humanoid robot on the astral plane creating a fake boyfriend? These characters may be facing an eternity of confusion, but this is one place we love going back to week after week.
4. Master of None
Master of None may never get a third season, but few shows in history can go out on as impressive a note as Season 2. Every episode was a concept, an experiment – from Thanksgiving with Denise’s family to a black-and-white romp in Italy to the drudgery of modern dating with all its sporadic promise. Ansari has another acting nomination at the 2018 Golden Globes, but this was never an acting show; it’s the whole package, from story to cinematography, and it’s a privilege to behold.
5. This Is Us
Ever since that pilot reveal in 2016, we’ve been in love with the Pearsons and in the multigenerational story of their family just…existing. We can’t get enough of Rebecca and Jack, of the Big Three as kids, or of the terrible tragedy that changed their family forever, even as we piece it together over time. Plus, it’s cathartic to have a guaranteed weekly cry.
6. Jane the Virgin
The effervescent CW soap about artificially inseminated Jane Villanueva broke our hearts by killing her one true love Michael, but moved forward with immense compassion for the characters and the grieving process. In real life, losing a loved one isn’t a plot point; it’s a shock to the system and something that never fully goes away. Even as the show jumped forward in time, we never forget or lose Michael (“He was my best friend,” Rogelio reminds us when he gives his daughter the middle name Michaelina), but we find hope for Jane.
7. Man Seeking Woman
The show’s final season started with Josh Greenberg finding what he always sought and then navigating a serious relationship with Lucy (Katie Findlay). From meeting the parents to impressing the friends to wondering if this will last or making sure there are vegan options at the wedding (attended by God, natch), the show embarked seamlessly on Josh and Lucy’s journey together while never abandoning its commitment to the absurd.
So long as Millennials are out here figuring it out, we will delight in shows about us figuring it out. Insecure is unapologetically empowering, female, black, and L.A. – it’s a hyperspecific experience that speaks broadly to femininity and a redefined adulthood, and it won the freaking lottery with Issa Rae as its anchor. Rae’s vulnerability and spirit are the show’s backbone and why we can’t wait for the next chapter.
9. The Leftovers
The twisted swan song of HBO’s grandiose work of ambition culminated in an open-ended finale the caught up with characters years after they’ve already sustained significant loss. We watched Nora and Kevin’s relationship crumble, watched Matt chase his faith around the world, and not for the first time The Leftovers felt like a different show episode-to-episode than it was when it started. But one thing it always was and will remain is a masterpiece.
A great many shows try to lay claim to the title “the darkest show on television.” For my money, few of them deserved it more than Comedy Central’s Review, and its laugh-out-loud hilarity only made it feel all the bleaker. After the first two seasons gradually stripped Forrest MacNeil of everything he held dear – his family, his freedom, his imaginary friend (don’t ask) – the last one cruelly robbed him of the reason he did it all in the first place. Oh, Forrest. There was never any other way this was going to end for you, was there? – Angie Han
HBO drops new ‘Westworld’ Season 2 photos for you to analyze and obsess over
Evan Rachel Wood is not your Season 1 Dolores anymore
We are so very close to returning to Westworld, which premieres on April 22. HBO just released the very first new images and they are as tantalizing as they are gorgeous.
Some include interesting new developments that hint at where Season 2’s plot will go:
Here we see Maeve with her human capture, as we’ve seen bits of in the trailer.
But something we haven’t seen much of yet is evidence that Maeve goes back to Westworld. Presuming this isn’t a flashback, we’ll see her in the new host-ruled park again.
Talulah Riley had a pretty minimal role in Season 1 as the cheerful host who greeted guests during the flashback scenes. But Deadline reported that she would be taking on a bigger, lead role in Season 2: “She will prove to be one of the last faces many guests will ever see.”
Bernard and corporate shill Charlotte teaming up together? Say it ain’t so, Bernard!
The relationship between Dolores and Teddy is definitely about to take an interesting turn.
And here’s a look at the rest, which include new and returning cast members (who are confirmed not dead):
Welp, now we know why ‘Good Girls Revolt’ was canceled
Jeff Bezos’ Hollywood dreams aren’t just coming true they’re paying off.
Reuters has acquired Amazon financial information that for the first time provides insight into just how profitable and widely watched Amazon’s Prime Originals and streaming service are. Significantly, the documents shed light on the financial strategy of Prime Originals — specifically, how Amazon’s entertainment venture contributes to the growth of its Prime subscriber base, and overall subscription business profitability.
Amazon has never released statistics on its total Prime subscriber numbers. But according to the documents, Amazon Prime has a total U.S. audience of about 26 million viewers, which includes its originals as well as shows it licenses from other companies.
Prime Originals’ top television shows drove 5 million new Prime subscriptions by early 2017, according to the leaked documents. Reuters notes that using entertainment programming to draw customers to a Prime subscription is a key proponent of Amazon’s business strategy, a strategy that Jeff Bezos spoke to at a 2016 technology conference. Bezos said at the same conference that users who come to Prime through entertainment are more likely to convert to full-fledged subscriptions through free trials, renew subscriptions annually at higher rates, and even buy more products. So a Prime subscriber drawn in through Originals programming is a valuable one.
And Amazon knows it.
The documents show that Amazon calculates a direct return on investment for each show, based on what it costs to produce versus how many Prime subscriptions it drives. For example, The Man in the High Castle cost $72 million to produce and market, but drove 1.15 million new Prime subscribers. That comes out to a cost of $63 per new Prime subscriber — which is far less than the annual Prime fee of $99. Cha-ching!
The show Good Girls Revolt didn’t achieve similar success in converting viewers to subscribers. It cost $81 million to produce, but only drove 52,000 “first streams” (i.e. new viewers) on Amazon. That made its cost per new customer $1,560 — more than ten times the cost of a one year prime subscription.
Guess which show is still on the air.
(It’s ‘High Castle‘ — Good Girls Revolt was canceled after its first season despite a massive outcry from fans. Now, we know a bit more about why).
Reuters provides a handy graph to illustrate the direct comparison between a show’s overall cost, and its cost per new subscriber.
Critics have questioned Amazon’s programming decisions, saying at times that they were driven by sexism, at times that it was the experiment of a Hollywood outsider. But these financials show that there is indeed a method to Amazon’s madness.
However, is there a downside to evaluating shows based on the new viewers they bring in, as opposed to how well they’re satisfying existing customers? The documents don’t reveal whether this is part of the cancel vs. renew equation. But for loyal Amazon subscribers and viewers, it’s not a good look.
Whether you approve of Amazon’s apparent new viewer-to-subscriber business strategy, one thing’s for sure: Amazon’s entertainment venture is paying off, big time.
We’re already invested in the ‘Rise’ companion web series
NBC’s Rise — a new show about a group of high school students putting on a musical and their trials and tribulations — is about the kids who are stars. The companion web series, however, focuses on an entirely different part of high school theater: The understudies.
The Understudies‘ digital videos will follow students not at the forefront of Stanton High School’s production of Spring Awakening. Though we find out about the group through Michael (Ellie Desautels), we’ve already got a core cast of stage-starved misfits ready to charm.
The first installment of Understudies isn’t super subtle, focusing mainly on one girl who thinks she deserves a lead in the musical because she put in time with the teacher and did tech for a whole year (tech ≠ acting, so not sure where that experience was going). Instead of plotting any ill will against the main leads, the understudies hang out, bond, and play a game of Never Have I Ever.
The Understudies will total nine episodes throughout Rise‘s first season. Who knows, if the show gets renewed, some of them may get a shot at a lead.
Rise airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.