Mutants, a riveting female-driven Western, a dystopian tale that’s incredibly relevant, and the rebirth of the Star Trek franchise made the cut for our annual Best New TV Shows list. With the exception of half-hour comedies, 2017 was a decent year for new television shows and in fact this list had to be expanded from 10 to 15 in order to adequately recognize the year’s standouts.
The most difficult part of creating the 2017 list was trying to figure out the order of the top three shows. Godless came out of nowhere, reimagining and reinvigorating Westerns while shattering genre convictions. Big Little Lies found Oscar-winning stars Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman delivering some of their best work to date in a daring, dark and twisted tale of jealousy and murder. And, the haunting adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale was anchored by an outstanding performance by Elisabeth Moss that’s easily one of the best of the year. After much debate, Godless won the top spot because of its unconventional approach and how it pushed genre boundaries in unexpected ways.
2017’s Best New TV Shows:
- Godless (Netflix) starring Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Jeff Daniels, Jack O’Connell, Merritt Wever, and Tantoo Cardinal
The Plot: Notorious criminal Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels) and his gang of outlaws are on a mission of revenge against Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell), a son-like protégé who betrayed the brotherhood. While on the run, Roy seeks refuge with hardened widower Alice Fletcher (Michelle Dockery), an outcast herself, in a worn-down, isolated mining town of La Belle, NM — governed mainly by women. When word reaches La Belle that Griffin is headed their way, the town bands together to defend against the murderous gang in a lawless western frontier.
- Big Little Lies (HBO) starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgard, Shailene Woodley, and Laura Dern
The Plot: In the tranquil seaside town of Monterey, California, nothing is quite as it seems. Doting moms, successful husbands, adorable children, beautiful homes: What lies will be told to keep their perfect worlds from unraveling? Told through the eyes of three mothers – Madeline, Celeste and Jane – Big Little Lies paints a picture of a town fueled by rumors and divided into the haves and have-nots, exposing the conflicts, secrets and betrayals that compromise relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and friends and neighbors.
- The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) starring Elisabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, Ann Dowd, Alexis Bledel, Joseph Fiennes, and Max Minghella
The Plot: Adapted from the classic novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of life in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly the United States. Facing environmental disasters and a plunging birthrate, Gilead is ruled by a twisted fundamentalism in its militarized ‘return to traditional values’. As one of the few remaining fertile women, Offred (Moss) is a Handmaid in the Commander’s household, one of the caste of women forced into sexual servitude as a last desperate attempt to repopulate the world.
In this terrifying society, Offred must navigate between Commanders, their cruel Wives, domestic Marthas, and her fellow Handmaids – where anyone could be a spy for Gilead – all with one goal: to survive and find the daughter that was taken from her.
- American Gods (Starz) starring Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Ian McShane, and Pablo Schreiber
The Plot: American Gods posits a different kind of war brewing – one between Old Gods and New. The traditional Old Gods, with mythological roots from around the world, fear irrelevance as their believers die off or are seduced by the money, technology, and celebrity offered by the New Gods. Shadow Moon (Whittle) is an ex-con who, left adrift by the recent death of his wife, becomes bodyguard and traveling partner to conman Mr. Wednesday (McShane). But in truth, Mr. Wednesday is a powerful old deity, on a cross-country mission to build an army and reclaim his lost glory.
- Legion (FX) starring Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Amber Midthunder, and Jean Smart
The Plot: Legion is the story of David Haller (Stevens), a troubled young man who may be more than human. Diagnosed as schizophrenic as a child, David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. Now in his early 30s and institutionalized once again, David loses himself in the rhythm of the structured regimen of life in the hospital: breakfast, lunch, dinner, therapy, medications, sleep. David spends the rest of his time in companionable silence alongside his chatterbox friend Lenny (Plaza), a fellow patient whose life-long drug and alcohol addiction has done nothing to quell her boundless optimism that her luck is about to change.
The pleasant numbness of David’s routine is completely upended with the arrival of a beautiful and troubled new patient named Syd (Keller). Inexplicably drawn to one another, David and Syd share a startling encounter, after which David must confront the shocking possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees may actually be real.
- The Gifted (Fox) starring Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker, Sean Teale, Blair Redford, Jamie Chung, Natalie Alyn Lind, and Percy Hynes White
The Plot: The Gifted tells the emotional story of a suburban couple whose ordinary lives are rocked by the sudden discovery that their teenage children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family seeks help from an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive.
- The Bold Type (Freeform) starring Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee, Meghann Fahy, Sam Page, Matt Ward and Melora Hardin
The Plot: The Bold Type reveals a glimpse into the outrageous lives and loves of those responsible for the global women’s magazine, “Scarlet.” The rising generation of Scarlet women leans on one another as they find their own voices in a sea of intimidating leaders. Together they explore sexuality, identity, love and fashion.
- Alias Grace (Netflix) starring Sarah Gadon, Anna Paquin, Edward Holcroft, Zachary Levi, Kerr Logan, Stephen Joffe, and Rebecca Liddiard
The Plot: The story of Alias Grace follows Grace Marks (Gadon), a poor, young Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Upper Canada who, along with stable hand James McDermott, was convicted of the brutal murders of their employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, in 1843. James was hanged while Grace was sentenced to life imprisonment. Grace became one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of 1840s Canada for her supposed role in the sensational double murder, and was eventually exonerated after 30 years in jail. Her conviction was controversial, and sparked much debate about whether Grace was actually involved in the murder, or merely an unwitting accessory.
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon) starring Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Michael Zegen, Marin Hinkle, and Tony Shalhoub
The Plot: In 1958 New York, Midge Maisel’s life is on track- husband, kids, and elegant Yom Kippur dinners in their Upper West Side apartment. But when her life takes a surprise turn, she has to quickly decide what else she’s good at – and going from housewife to stand-up comic is a wild choice to everyone but her.
- Mindhunter (Netflix) starring Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, Hannah Gross, and Cameron Britton
The Plot: How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks? In Mindhunter, FBI agents Holden Ford (Groff) and Bill Tench (McCallany) study the damaged psyches of serial killers in an attempt to understand and catch them, and in the process pioneer the development of modern serial killer profiling.
- American Vandal (Netflix) starring Tyler Alvarez, Griffin Gluck, Jimmy Tatro, Camille Hyde, Eduardo Franco, Jessica Juarez, Lou Wilson, Camille Ramsey, Calum Worthy, and G Hannelius
The Plot: American Vandal is a half-hour true-crime satire that explores the aftermath of a costly high school prank that left twenty-seven faculty cars vandalized with phallic images. Over the course of the eight-episode season, an aspiring sophomore documentarian investigates the controversial and potentially unjust expulsion of troubled senior (and known dick-drawer) Dylan Maxwell. Not unlike its now iconic true-crime predecessors, the addictive American Vandal will leave one question on everyone’s minds until the very end: Who drew the dicks?
- Manhunt: Unabomber (Discovery) starring Sam Worthington, Jeremy Bobb, Paul Bettany, Ben Weber, Lynn Collins, and Chris Noth
The Plot: The anthology series tells the story about the hunt for Ted Kaczynski, who terrified the nation with a letter bombing campaign in the 1980s and early 1990s.
- GLOW (Netflix) starring Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Marc Maron, Britney Young, Jackie Tohn, Kate Nash, and Chris Lowell
The Plot: Inspired by the short-lived but beloved show from the 80s, GLOW tells the fictional story of Ruth Wilder (Brie), an out-of-work, struggling actress in 1980s Los Angeles who finds one last chance for stardom when she’s thrust into the glitter and spandex world of women’s wrestling. In addition to working with 12 Hollywood misfits, Ruth also has to compete with Debbie Eagan (Gilpin), a former soap actress who left the business to have a baby, only to be sucked back into work when her picture perfect life turns out not to be what it seems. At the wheel is Sam Sylvia (Maron), a washed-up, B-movie director who now must lead this group of women on the journey to wrestling super stardom.
- The Orville (Fox) starring Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Penny Johnson Jerald, Scott Grimes, Peter Macon, Halston Sage, J Lee, Mark Jackson, and Chad L. Coleman
The Plot: From Emmy Award-winning executive producer and creator Seth MacFarlane, The Orville is a live-action, one-hour space adventure series set 400 years in the future that follows The U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level exploratory spaceship. Its crew, both human and alien, face the wonders and dangers of outer space, while also dealing with the problems of everyday life.
- Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access) starring Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Jason Isaacs, Shazad Latif, Anthony Rapp, Michelle Yeoh, Mary Wiseman, Chris Obi, Mary Chieffo, James Frain, and Rainn Wilson
The Plot: Star Trek: Discovery follows the voyages of Starfleet on their missions to discover new worlds and new life forms, and one Starfleet officer who must learn that to truly understand all things alien, you must first understand yourself. The series will feature a new ship and new characters, while embracing the same ideology and hope for the future that inspired a generation of dreamers and doers.
Honorable Mentions: Knightfall, Dear White People, The Mick, 13 Reasons Why, The Brave, Dark, and Atypical