The Best TV Shows of 2017
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It's been another odd (and ever so deflating) year in the real world, but in the realms of television, 2017 has been a cracker for those of us who love to binge-watch. Although we might not be tuning in to an actual television set much these days, our love for original and returning series certainly hasn't waned, with channels and streaming services alike vying to grab our attention with plenty of high quality content. As we enter a new year, our writers have determined their picks for the top 10 shows of 2017. So without further adieu, let's begin the countdown. 10. American Gods (Starz/Amazon Prime) Based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, this slick fantasy drama series impressed with its sumptuous storytelling. Developed by Hannibal's Bryan Fuller, the series focuses on Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) - an ex-convict who encounters a strange man named Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) and soon becomes embroiled in a large-scale conflict between the old gods and the new. A second season has already been ordered, much to our satisfaction. Speaking of why she chose this as her pick of 2017, Bethan Ackerley from City, University of London said: "The rich mythology that underlies American Gods makes it unlike any other show currently on television. Strong visual effects and powerful symbolism make the show stunning to watch. With a few deft additions to Neil Gaiman's source material, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have forged an instant classic."
9. The Punisher (Netflix) After stunning us all with his ultra-violent, if empathetic brand of vengeance in the second season of Daredevil, Jon Bernthal's Punisher returned for his own series. Much to our delight, Steve Lightfoot's first season did well to explore Frank Castle's complex character and tragic past as he continued his quest for revenge. Gritty and brutal, The Punisher held its own in the ever-expanding Marvel-Netflix universe. A second season has been ordered as a testament to the character's unique appeal. Speaking of why he chose this as his pick of 2017, Daniel Sharp from the University of Edinburgh said: "Before The Punisher, Marvel's Netflix range had hit a low point. Now, however, the range has been resuscitated, first with The Defenders and now with the excellent first season of The Punisher. A tragic, brutal tale of revenge and betrayal, this show featured many standout performances. Chief among those were Jon Bernthal and Amber Rose Revah as Frank Castle and Dinah Madani. With more Marvel Netflix productions coming soon, the future looks bright."
8. Broadchurch (ITV) The final series of Chris Chibnall's acclaimed crime drama enthralled us to the very end - even in the midst of a very sobering mystery. Moving away from the tragic case of Danny Latimer, the third series took a different direction, leading DI Hardy and DS Miller into a harrowing investigation of sexual assault. Speaking of why he chose this as his pick of 2017, Bruno Russell from the University of Southampton said: "Broadchurch’s final season was a scriptwriting masterclass. It dealt with its sensitive storyline with great nuance to ensure the story was believable and heartfelt. Combine this with the extreme acting talents of David Tennant and Olivia Colman and the show was a recipe for success. It’s just a shame this was the final story in an extremely successful series!"
7. Orange is the New Black (Netflix) With House of Cards now steeped in disgrace thanks to Kevin Spacey, Orange is the New Black has stepped up as the champion of must-watch TV on Netflix. Season 5 of Jenji Kohan's female prison drama took a daring change of pace, charting the dramatic events of Litchfield's three-day prison riot. Speaking of why she chose this as her pick of 2017, Jo Bullen from Brunel University said: "OITNB seemed as though it couldn't top the shocking aftermath of Poussey's death in Season 4, but it came back with an ambitious concept and a stand out performance from Danielle Brooks lifted the show to new levels. The concept afforded the chance for relationships to be developed further between Nicky and Lorna and Flaca and Maritza, whilst Red faced one of her darkest hours. The end of the series, far from bringing peace to the chaos, has only ensured we'll keep watching to find out if the inmates of Litchfield will ever be together again."
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5. The Great British Bake Off (Channel 4) Gritty high-stakes drama is good and all, but sometimes, we need a cathartic release from all the horror in the world. Enter: The Great British Bake Off. Though initially dubious at the absence of Mel, Sue and Mary Berry, the nation still tuned in to Channel 4's revamp week after week - eventually warming to new presenters, Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig. The recipe may have been tweaked, but our love for bakes is still as warm and toasty as ever. Speaking of why he chose this as his top pick of 2017, Robert Pratley from the University of Southampton said: "GBBO might have struggled initially to match the charm and charisma of the BBC version, but Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig showed immense improvement as the series progressed. Prue Leith is no Mary Berry, but the quality of the bakes, not to mention the variety of challenges and innovations for the the revamp was impressive. The Christmas Specials were also good, if not slightly silly fun."
4. The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu/Channel 4) Perhaps the most thought-provoking series of the year, The Handmaid's Tale enraptured us with its morose depiction of an all too possible dystopia. Set in a society where 'disgraced' women are stripped of their freedoms and enslaved as human broodmares, this stylised adaptation of Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel proved to be a tough, but important, watch. Speaking of why she chose this as her top pick of 2017, Becca Barnes from the University of Southampton said: "The Handmaid’s Tale was so skilfully shot and acted that it immediately stood out as a show I had to watch. It was the only show that really spoke to me this year. It refreshed me, concerned me, terrified me and, most importantly, reminded me of the importance of always staying vigilant. The world we live in never stays the same. It is always changing, and it is foolish to assume those changes will never significantly impact your life. The Handmaid’s Tale faces this uncomfortable truth without flinching, and the effect is a truly astounding piece of work."
3. The Crown (Netflix) After a stellar first season, the second instalment of Peter Morgan's epic drama series certainly didn't disappoint. Charting another complex era in the longstanding reign of Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family, the series continued to boast an innate sense of style, fantastic performances and outstanding storytelling. Speaking of why she chose this as her top pick of 2017, TV Editor Anneka Honeyball said: "After a stunning first season, The Crown returned with gumption, satiating our fascination with the monarchy with a great deal of style and precision. Claire Foy, Matt Smith and Vanessa Kirby have originated the roles of Elizabeth, Philip and Margaret so perfectly that it seems a tragic shame to be losing them as the series continues. However, if the second season has proven anything, it's that our interest in the royal family history certainly won't wane."
2. Stranger Things (Netflix) The first season of Stranger Things was our number one pick in 2016, so it hardly comes as a surprise that the Duffer brothers' sophomore season is just as high on this year's list. Continuing the story (and our love affair with 80's nostalgia), Stranger Things 2 'rocked us like a hurricane' as the Upside Down created new, darker threats. Speaking of why she chose this as her top pick of 2017, Polly Vodenicharova from the University of Birmingham said: "Stranger Things' second season was a brilliant continuation of the four boys' tale. We got to have a deeper look into their personalities and even into their family lives. Interesting new characters were introduced and we saw the boys entering their teenage phase - starting to care about girls, hair and even their rivalries with each other."
1. Game of Thrones (HBO/Sky)Winter has come. After six seasons of painstaking development and emotional investment into the politics of Westeros, Game of Thrones: Season 7 offered a sense of relief as all the cogs started to finally come together. The battle for the Iron Throne became dwarfed by an altogether bigger threat, forcing our favourite characters to align as one. To call it satisfying would be an understatement. Speaking of why she chose this as her top pick of 2017, TV Assistant Borislava Todorova said: "Gracing our TV screens this August, Season 7 of Game of Thrones still hasn't run out of political intrigue, dramatic, climactic scenes and epic fantasy moments. Wonderful performances from Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams in particular gave us the best Stark sisters' reunion we could have asked for, and the budding romance between Jon Snow and Daenerys had the internet talking for weeks. Season 8 can't come fast enough."
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