Seven criminally underrated shows you probably missed in 2017
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Ah, television: we’re inundated with it, though hardly anyone watches it on an actual TV any more.
More often than not, shows fall into three categories: either they’re massively overrated (Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale), hyped massively for good reason (Peaky Blinders, Atlanta), or they're so underrated that they deserve far more recognition than they get.
Here are seven shows that you probably missed this year, but should definitely catch up on. These hidden gems from 2017 are from a huge range of genres - I promise there’s something here for everyone.
1. Black Sails (Season 4)
The final season of Starz’s unbelievably ambitious pirate drama got about as much attention as the rest of the show: which is to say not nearly enough. Like Van Gogh and many of the true greats, this is a show whose genius just wasn’t appreciated enough during its time.
For those of you unfamiliar with the premise, the show acts as a prequel to Treasure Island, providing an incredibly nuanced backstory for familiar characters like Long John Silver, Billy Bones, and Captain Flint, as well as masterfully weaving in real historical pirates like Edward Teach, Calico Jack Rackham, and Anne Bonny.
The fourth and final season aired early this year, and was without a doubt the most satisfying ending to a television series ever. Queer love, women of colour, and disabled characters are treated with such rare reverence by the narrative, and the result is a brilliantly powerful piece of storytelling. The political machinations and deep emotional bonds that drive the characters come together in a perfectly orchestrated crescendo, ending this show on a perfect and fitting high. Toby Stephens has been robbed of his Emmy every year this show has been on, but particularly this year.
2. The Get Down (Season 1, Part 2)
The real crime here is that Netflix cancelled what was so evidently their best show - Stranger Things who? Those kids have got nothing on the Get Down Brothers. This show is the brainchild of Baz Luhrmann (of Romeo and Juliet fame - you know, the Leo one) and Nas (yeah, the rapper), and it’s exactly as cool as that makes it sound.
Luhrmann’s iconic colourful visuals bring to life the gripping story of a group of 1970s teenage MCs in the Bronx. Tackling issues of family, friendship, love, drugs, and violence through music, 2017’s second part added in quirky animation segments to this already so artistically dense masterpiece. My fingers are still crossed for Netflix to change their mind about this one!
3. The Leftovers (Season 3)
The Leftovers is based on a book of the same name by Tom Perotta, who also co-created the show. The basic premise (which isn’t a spoiler since it happens right at the start) is that on October 14th 2011, 2% of the world’s population inexplicably disappears. This mystery haunts the striking ensemble of characters, as they attempt to navigate everything from daily life to absurd surrealism.
One of the most unique and brilliant aspects of the show is how it follows so many characters on such different sides, with such different perspectives, and manages to make the audience sympathise with each and every one of them. The acting is consistently flooring, and there’s not a single weak link in the whole show. The third and final season is brilliantly bold in its conclusion, with Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, Christopher Eccleston and Ann Dowd delivering powerhouse performances.
4. Dear White People (Season 1)
Whilst the 2014 film of the same name enjoyed a fair amount of attention, the series which arrived on Netflix this year didn’t dominate headlines the way it should have. A brash and unflinching snapshot of the campus life of black students in the US, this show is as entertaining as it is hard-hitting.
An important resource in changing perceptions and prejudices in society through representation in media and entertainment. The characters are each vibrant and unique, smashing the misconception that racism is a homogenous issue, and giving voice to many sides of this multifaceted problem. No punches are pulled, and the effect is wildly affirming for those who face racial prejudice, and eye opening for those who don’t. A must-watch for a year which has seen so many ugly racist organisations rear their heads once more.
5. The Bold Type (Season 1)
A lighter show that does a lot for representation too, The Bold Type follows three plucky young women working at a magazine. One a journalist, one a social media manager, and the other working her way up the fashion department. They have their own Miranda Priestly with a twinkle in her eye, and enough romantic entanglements to keep the drama exciting.
What makes this show stand out is the perspectives it centres: entirely female dominated, and racially diverse, The Bold Type never talks down to millennials. We are the subject and the intended audience, so the material celebrates us, with all our flaws and successes.
6. The Exorcist (Season 2)
FOX has done a brilliant job at reinventing this classic horror franchise, and this year’s second season is, if possible, even better than the first. Moving away from the traditional narrative and into new territory, we follow our rogue priests (Ben Daniels and Alfonso Herrera) to a creepy island near Seattle, inhabited by child psychologist foster dad John Cho and his gaggle of misfit kids.
Queer, Latino, Asian, Black and disabled stories give a solid and refreshing base to the spine chilling horror. The emotional weight is carried effortlessly by a talented cast, and perfectly crafted by skilled writers, such that the horror is amplified by the audience’s emotional investment in the characters. It’s a great show … just maybe don’t watch it in the dark.
7. Killjoys (Season 3)
Irreverent Canadian sci-fi fun that packs a surprisingly powerful political punch, Killjoys follows the life and work of Dutch, Johnny, and D’av: inter-planetary bounty hunters who struggle with remaining impartial towards their increasingly politically motivated warrants. Hannah John-Kamen’s character Dutch is the perfect combination of badass and vulnerable, and it never gets old seeing the two white dudes follow her lead.
The third season ratchets the stakes up to a whole new level (higher than VI even! Lms if you get my reference…). The show never shies away from its class politics premise, and even as the story gets darker, it’s always hope and justice that drives the characters. A refreshing humanistic take on sci-fi that is thankfully as far as possible from Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams brand of dystopia.