Television is incredible. There is so much content that is inclusive and diverse. So much good writing is in all corners. The acting and directing are also powerful. As a medium, it’s beautiful, strong, funny and crazy. TV has been a source of great entertainment. That’s why this year I have such a long list on my personal blog of thirty-plus shows that were pretty terrific. It was tough to whittle them down to only ten, but here is what I consider the crème de la crème.
10. THE ORVILLE – It seems to be better at being Star Trek than the current series Star Trek: Discovery. Seth MacFarlane created this series as a homage, not a parody. Yes, there’s humor injected in almost every scene but it’s on point as a vision Gene Roddenberry could have had.
9. SHADES OF BLUE: SEASON 2 – Jennifer Lopez is giving an exhausted performance. She is constantly running from scene to scene, constantly moving. Her character of Harlee Santos, NYPD detective, never stops. She hardly ever gets a moment to breathe. Her anxiety becomes the anxiety of the show, which has not only her but the audience on edge. It makes this show a perpetual thrill ride. As I believed during its first season, this show is a perfect substitute for FX’s The Shield. It’s an addictive cop show for me.
8. UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT: SEASON 3 – Tina Fey’s Netflix series has the best joke ratio of any show on TV right now. The background jokes, the layered jokes and the call backs are even more concentrated than Arrested Development. The second episode in particular is by far the funniest half-hour created all year that mocks both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, while also spoofing Beyoncé and gentrification with legend Carol Kane and Broadway star, Tituss Burgess.
7. ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK: SEASON 5 – After a take on Black Lives Matter in its fourth season, it was curious to see where this show would go for its fifth. Instead of days, it focused on the hours after last season’s tragedy to expose the pain of the prisoners and the problems in the prison system. For those on Delmarva, thoughts of what happened at the Vaughn Correctional Institute in Smyrna in February 2017 might come to mind. This show puts us in the perspective of the prisoners, which some might write off, but the beauty of this show is that it shows us a perspective we don’t often see.
6. AMERICAN CRIME: SEASON 3 – John Ridley’s series was unfortunately cancelled, but its final year looked at what could be considered a form of modern-day slavery, or probably more accurately indentured servitude. That servitude and slavery were sex trafficking or basically prostitution of young people, sometimes teenagers, but it’s told through the lens of a North Carolina farm that employs undocumented, Mexican immigrants, as it exploits its workers. It’s brilliant storytelling and some of the most hard-hitting I’ve ever seen.
5. BATES MOTEL: SEASON 5 – What started as a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) but set in present-day has become a phenomenon unto itself. It could be argued to be a kind of alternate history to that movie but spiritually in line. Doing something similar to FX’s Fargo but before that series and utilizing the known characters. It ultimately becomes more thrilling and even more interesting than the original with which it was in line.
4. HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER: SEASON 4 – There aren’t many shows on broadcast TV that star a black woman who is an Oscar-winner, an Emmy-winner and Tony-winner. Viola Davis is that talented, and she leads this Shondaland series that ups the ante with its twists and turns, testing the show’s title in new and crazy ways. Davis, therefore, ups the ante in the power of her in-habitation of this role. Davis stars as Annalise Keating, lawyer and professor who is dealing with a lot of loss, abuse and alcoholism. She’s not the nicest but she has many sides that makes her interesting. Davis is supported by a sexy and extremely talented cast.
3. THE GOOD FIGHT – This is CBS All Access’ first original series. It’s a spin-off of The Good Wife, one of the best series on broadcast TV in the past decade. It’s a legal drama that centers on a woman of some age who has to start over after she loses her livelihood. In The Good Wife, the woman starts over as a result of a political, sex scandal, inspired by the Eliot Spitzer case. In this series, the woman starts over as a result of a ponzi scheme, inspired by the Bernie Madoff case, possibly. Christine Baranski (Cybill and The Big Bang Theory) stars as Diane Lockhart who is on the verge of retirement but loses her savings and has to get back into the work field. Married couple, Robert and Michelle King created the show and tackle politics, race and sexism, head-on and so brilliantly.
2. DEAR WHITE PEOPLE – Justin Simien’s adaptation of his own independent film into ten, half-hour episodes was also nothing short of brilliant. It was at its heart a powerful and interesting range of character stories set at college, but, despite its title, it ended up being probably the best satire of black culture since The Boondocks and In Living Color before that. Not only did it spoof the TV series Scandal but also Jean-Luc Godard. It’s at times Rashomon and at other times Bowling for Columbine. It’s also very funny with a Thane Lockwood running gag that had me cracking up.
1. BIG LITTLE LIES – The story focuses on the relationships between five women who are all mothers of various types and ages who live in the affluent community of Monterey, California, which is along the state’s central coast. It brilliantly explores the violence both physical and sexual against women and how that violence, even though unseen can have an effect or possibly be passed on to their children. Last year, this show was nominated for 16 Emmy Awards. It won 8, including Outstanding Limited Series, which made it the second-best winner of the year. This year, it won four Golden Globes, including Best Television Limited Series. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, written by David E. Kelley, starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Alexander Skarsgård, it truly is an amazing piece of work and the best of the year.