To kiss off 2017, here were the top ten shows I enjoyed the most. I thought this year was a slight comedown in terms of quality, at least compared to recent years, but that's because some of my favorite shows produced some "down" seasons. Still, this is what came out on top:
1. THE VIETNAM WAR
A grueling, engrossing 18-hour experience that documents the war, the times, the fighters on both sides, the government, the citizens, everything you'd ever need to know about this defining era in American history. Like the best documentaries, what it masterfully provides is context for what happened then so you can read into what's still happening now. A can't miss.
2. CASUAL SEASON 3
I'm one of about three people who actually watches this show, which is too bad, because many are really missing out. Sadly, that's why the fourth season will be its last, but Hulu's family dramedy is really something special and will be missed. This last season was its best yet, as the cast keeps on shining and the show continues the reveal the depths of the sibling relationship at its center by exploring Alex and Valerie's past. Funny, real, filled with pathos and heart, but not sentimentality. I love it.
3. FARGO SEASON 3
Amazingly, Noah Hawley wrote another quality season of Fargo without repeating himself. This one gave us another female cop heroine (Carrie Coon), a dual performance by Ewan MacGregor and a deliciously repulsive villain in David Thewlis. It packed a particularly powerful punch in a finale that took aim at the heart of 2017, asking us about who "wins" versus who deserves to, or whether anything truly matters at all.
4. AMERICAN HORROR STORY: CULT
Yup. I never watched any other season of this show, but this one gave me the murderous catharsis that I was looking for this year. Evan Peters kills it as an insane alt-right cult leader (and impersonates several famous ones in history) while Sarah Paulsen gives us the vengeance we deserve. If only.
5. THE CROWN SEASON 2
A glorious second season is in lockstep with the quality of the first, enhancing our intimate knowledge of the royal family as the 1960's roll onward. With deepening looks at Philip and Margaret's shenanigans, it's Claire Foy who stays majestic as the stoic Elizabeth, doing more with subtle looks and unemotional rigidness than most actors can do when given tantrums and hysterics to work with. It's going to be hard to get used to a new Queen when the show recasts for its third season.
6. BROADCHURCH SEASON 3
I loved this show's first season and hated the second one, so it was SO nice to see it reclaim its former glory with a story centered on a serial rapist terrorizing the town, with Hardy and Miller on the case. A much better note for the show to go out on.
7. FEUD SEASON 1
For Old Hollywood junkies like me, this was like candy. Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon relish playing Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, respectively, but Joan's story gets the most poignancy in the end, as the show manages to garner some sympathy for her tragic life. Filled with trivia and great performances from Stanley Tucci and Alfred Molina, its commentary on the lasting effects of how women are treated in Hollywood resonates even more as we go through what's happening today.
8. CATASTROPHE SEASON 3
A darker, more serious tone for this show is still entertaining and packs a punch, especially since death and alcoholism are some of the themes Sharon and Rob have to deal with, now that they have two little kids and financial problems. It's still hilariously funny of course.
9. LEGION SEASON 1
Probably the most innovative new show of the year, also from Noah Hawley, and unlike any other superhero show on TV, even though it's dealing with a character who's technically part of the X-Men. It's almost pointless to explain it- you just have to be willing to submit to all eight episodes and experience it yourself. Headtrip doesn't begin to describe this.
10. GLOW SEASON 1
A lovely surprise this summer, as this delightful ensemble looks at the origins of women's wrestling on TV in the 1980's. Funny, fresh and smartly cast, especially leads Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin as frenemies Ruth and Debbie, while Marc Maron brings exactly the right amount of crabby cynicism to the proceedings. Kinda reminds of a series version of A League of Their Own.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Big Little Lies, Stranger Things 2, Orphan Black S5, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt S3, Underground S2, Planet Earth II