It’s that time of year again, when we sit back and think: how much bloody television did I watch? (Loads, obviously.)
It’s been an insanely good year for TV, and so of course the PEDESTRIAN.TV staff have rounded out their favourites that need to be added ASAP to your list of things to watch, if you haven’t got there already.
There’s a few notable exceptions, of course: shows that were mind-blowing but also suffered from sometimes sloppy writing (Game of Thrones), endearing shows that we literally never stop talking about but is still ultimately trash (The Bachelor) and, by all accounts, incredibly good shows that we just didn’t quite have the time for (The Good Place, Insecure, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, etc). THEY’RE ON THE LIST I SWEAR.
But we did couch potato hard this year, and here’s the fruit of our spoils.
BIG LITTLE LIES
The so-called limited series – which is now getting a second season, because of course it is – once and for all brought women to the centre of their own damn stories. Based off of Liane Moriarty‘s best-selling novel, Big Little Lies was gripping, intense, tragic and uplifting all at the same time, giving us the best performances of Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård‘s careers and reminding us why we all love Reese Witherspoon. It’s hard to think of another series where a domestic violence storyline is given the same care and nuance as it is here (and if there is, please sound off in the comments).
Side note: the Big Little Lies soundtrack is one of the best in years, and you should listen to it all (again) immediately.
Neil Gaiman‘s American Gods is a bit of a weird book to read. On one hand, it’s a very soulful, beautifully paced road trip through the weird emptiness of middle America. On the other, it’s a series of insufferable and very obvious winks and nods at every reader who was a huge nerd about mythology in high school. The TV show dispenses with nearly all of that. Gone is the quiet emptiness, gone is the ‘Do you get it???’ tone of the book. Instead, it is beautiful nonsense that heavily favours style over substance in a way that is just incredibly satisfying to watch.
The plot moves very slowly and will happily take a back seat to self-contained vignettes that really only serve to set the tone of the world – but those vignettes all look cool as shit. The show has a phenomenal cast, has an insanely ballsy sense of humour, and definitely features the most Jesuses of anything released this year.
Without meaning to, Handmaid’s Tale accidentally became the most timely show of 2017. At a time when the U.S. government sought to strip women of their reproductive freedom, an adaptation of Margaret Atwood‘s dystopian novel where women have lost their bodily autonomy in a state-sanctioned push to repopulate the world never seemed so frighteningly real. This series admittedly had some issues with how it handled race – which far smarter people have written on extensively – but the rich, terrifying world brought to life by Bruce Miller was a stark, unflinching look at a world where the ‘what ifs’ of patriarchy were realised to their ultimate conclusion. Offred‘s (Elisabeth Moss) quiet rebellion, without falling into the age-old tale of the hero smashing the system, is one for the ages.
Dark is Netflix’s first German production, and it’s shockingly good – not least because Germany (for whatever reason) rarely produces stellar prestige TV which gets international airplay.
It’s been compared to Stranger Things because it shares some passing plot and aesthetic similarities – scenes set in the 80s, kids, science fiction themes – but it’s really an entirely different beast. Set in a German town called Winden across multiple time periods, it’s a gripping time travel story which isn’t afraid to dive into the nitty gritty of paradoxes in a way that’s fresh and interesting. It’s definitely not a casual watch – you 100% need to be paying attention, and despite the fact it *feels* like it’s languidly-paced, the plot actually moves very quickly.
One last thing: Netflix defaults to English dubs. Turn that shit off and switch to German with English subtitles. The dubbing – like all dubbing – is extremely bad.
Jesus Christ, what a bloody rollercoaster. This series will grab you by the face and won’t let you go until you finish it.
During what was intended to be a nice family trip to the beach, Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) inexplicably stabs a young man to death in a fit of rage. Why? No one seems to be able to figure it out, not even Cora.
Detective Harry Ambros (Bill Pullman) doesn’t buy the explanations thrown at him by his peers and begins to investigate the mysterious motive that the killer herself doesn’t understand.
The performances in this Netflix exclusive are fantastic, particularly from Pullman, who plays one of most genuinely interesting characters I’ve ever seen.
Don’t be surprised if you lose an entire day bingeing this in one sitting.
STRANGER THINGS 2
I was genuinely worried that nothing could ever match the perfection of the first season of Stranger Things, but the second season squashed that. It took these characters we loved and pushed them to new places –Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Hopper (David Harbour) exploring this tumultuous, much-longed for family relationship; Steve (Joe Keery) becoming the best damn babysitter Hawkins had ever seen; andWill Byers (Noah Schnapp) dealing with the aftereffects of time spent in the Upside Down.
It also proved that the Duffer Brothers made an exceptional decision in casting Schnapp; after he had not a lot to do in season one except, you know, disappear, Stranger Things 2 showed he had serious acting chops.
Let’s just all forget that the Eleven-led, bizarro Punk pastiche episode never happened and call it a day, okay?
DEAR WHITE PEOPLE
This show was insanely hyped in the States, but felt like it was overlooked in Australia. It could absolutely be because race relations here are quite different to America, but that absolutely does not mean the show’s themes and social commentary won’t hit home – hard. It’s incredibly smart and well-written, and while yes it absolutely covers serious issues like cultural appropriation and discrimination, it’s also got plenty of juicy plot lines, a hefty dose of romance and friendship drama, and some damn enjoyable characters. Worth a watch, IMO.
TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN
A highly-anticipated return to the weird/haunted/possessed township of Twin Peaks after 25 years away, and David Lynch did extremely well to not disappoint those who have enjoyed his work between 1991 and now.
The show itself was a move away from the cherry pie-loving, damn fine coffee-drinking kitch that the original series held. It’s dark and obscure, challenges our knowledge of the Twin Peaks world, and flips nearly everything on its head through concepts of time travel, teleportation, and rifts between worlds.
Kyle McLachlan is stunning; playing several characters at once throughout the entire season and taking each of these characters – manufactured, evil, hollow, complex – to the very limits.
There’s one scene of someone sweeping the floor of the Bang Bang Bar (formerly The Roadhouse) for two minutes, uninterrupted. It serves absolutely no purpose, but for a moment the [ethereal whooshing] and time itself stops, just enough for you to catch your breath before being hurtled down the rabbit hole once again.
I’m hardly the only one to wax lyrical about BoJack Horseman‘s fourth season, but I’m going to do it anyway: this show is the absolute tits. If you can get past the first couple episodes of season one – where it seems like yet another cartoon about a dude given too many chances, even if in this case the dude’s a horse – then it’s one of the most profoundly moving, tragic and funny shows in history.
The fourth season gave us some incredibly commentary on gun control, women’s rights and as always, mental health, but the most memorable moments concerned BoJack’s (Will Arnett) deeply troubled and abusive mother, Beatrice Horseman (voiced spectacularly by Wendie Malick). It was an examination of generational trauma, and for Beatrice to witness her own mother forced to undergo a lobotomy (a very real medical procedure inflicted on women up until the 1960s) as a young child, and later descending into the suffocating clasps of dementia as an old woman, is to have a life bookended by trauma.
The season’s penultimate episode – where we were taken inside Beatrice’s dementia-addled mind – will stick with me for a long, long time.
No show has ever expressed the banal horror of Australian breakfast TV quite like Get Krack!n. Kate McCartney and Kate McClennan have offered us a cry for help, muffled by the saccharine violence of a morning show jingle – and Anne Edmonds’ turn as haunted home shopping host Helen Bidou will turn even the most comfort-minded audience off jeggings forever.
I went into this show not knowing anything about it. I expected it to be some kind of serious drama, but instead found a scathing satire of our obsession with true crime, and binged it all in a long weekend.
The way it presents all of the evidence, sticking with typical tropes of evidence-based crime dramas while talking so incredibly seriously about high-school-grade graffiti is fantastic and having so many characters say “dicks” over and over in the most serious of tones left me in tears with laughter every time.
This series is perfect for binge-watching because there’s no way you can rest before finding out who indeed drew the dicks.
RICK AND MORTY
Despite a lot of its fanbase becoming a heaping pile of garbage, Rick & Morty is still a great show three seasons in.
It wasn’t the best season Justin Roiland and Dan Harman have done, but it sure as hell provided some crowning moments. ‘Pickle Rick’, for example, is an action packed masterpiece, while ‘Morty’s Mind Blowers’ was a fresh take on the interdimensional cable gag.
The cartoon also tackled the subject of police brutality in a way that didn’t feel preachy or foreign in the context of the show. It’s not the first time the creators tackled real-world subject matter and if they continue to do it well, it won’t be the last.
Forget the bad apples in the fanbase and enjoy the show for it is – hilarious.
MASTER OF NONE
Aziz Ansari‘s insightful comedy that managed to somehow break new ground on the ‘young people living in New York City‘ trope was a smash-hit in its first season – and its second transcended that. While the entire thing was a delightful meditation on love, family, race and pasta, two episodes stood out: ‘Thanksgiving‘, where Lena Waithe‘s character repeatedly comes out to her family, and ‘New York, I Love You‘, which broke away from our familiar main characters to tell the untold stories of NYC’s other residents. It solidified Ansari’s credentials as a master storyteller, and leaves us waiting impatiently for season three.
Slightly controversial amid the prestige television here, but I’m claiming Brooklyn Nine-Nine as one of the best shows of 2017. This ensemble drama is only getting funnier and showing greater depth with each season, and 2017 gave us two undeniably poignant episodes: ‘Moo Moo‘ and ‘99‘.
In ‘Moo Moo’ (technically part of season four, but aired this year), the show about a bunch of overall ‘good’ cops tackled the very real and insidious problem of racism within the police force. Sergeant Jeffords (Terry Crews) coming up against racism within the police force, and Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) reexamining his own methods of dealing with it is a deeply moving plotline, and the final scene – in which both quietly acknowledge the small gains and greater losses that come with tackling racism head-on – is perfection.
And in ’99’, the show’s celebratory 99th episode, Detective Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) comes out as bisexual to Detective Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio). Her coming out storyline (which continued in the series’ 100th episode) is expectedly handled, and was inspired by Beatriz herself. It did a huge service to bi-visibility, and will go down as one the greatest episodes in the series.
THE OTHER GUY
If you grew up watching Matt Okine waltz around in a daggy rashie in iconic ’00s tween hit H2O: Just Add Water, seeing him front his very own show is a revelation. The Other Guy is art imitating reality; it follows a successful radio host’s foray back into the dating game after discovering his girlfriend has been cheating on him with his best mate (a shitty thing that did actually happen to Okine). Despite the grim storyline, the dialogue and action is a right laugh and no doubt relatable to any 20something going through a rough patch. Sadly, it doesn’t feature one of Okine’s most infamous self-professed skills: sucking his own dick.
RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE
Where most reality shows slow down by season nine, RuPaul’s Drag Race remains miles ahead of any other series. With this year’s move to VH1, the new big-league budget pushed the high-drama drag queen competition further and further, starting off with a guest appearance by Lady Gaga herself and ending with a lip-sync tournament that transformed the usually anti-climactic finales into a true gagarini. Add to that a crop of queens more memeable than ever (thank you, Valentina, Aja and Nina Bonina ‘Should Have Been Blac Chyna’ Brown), and the first neck-and-neck competition in years, and you’ve got one of the most sickening seasons yet.
Well I was just goddamn hooked on this shit because I’m a true crime fiend. I probably would have enjoyed it even it was a cheesy AF offshoot of CSI, but the fact that it was produced by David Fincher (whose films I love) and so brilliantly written and acted really sets this show apart from all the other crime shows on telly. What I thought was so unique about it was its lack of conventional narrative, it felt even truer to life because it was a little stop-start at times. And it was such a fascinating insight into how behavioural analysis was developed, with the duo of Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and their complicated relationship anchoring the show. Special shoutout to Cameron Britton, whose portrayal of serial killer Ed Kemper was disturbingly flawless. Cannot wait for season two to drop.
The 80s were back with a vengeance in the fashion world for 2017, so it’s insane to us that GLOW didn’t explode when it dropped. The show – which centres on an all-female glam wrestling team – is visually a nostalgic 80s dream much like Netflix darling Stranger Things (think old 80’s gyms and plenty of acid wash jeans). It’s a great ‘Yeah The Girls’ show, but it’s more than just women learning to faux-wrestle. There’s tons of personal drama, from accidental pregnancies to mysterious pasts and fractured relationships. The visuals make it a fun watch, and the drama keeps you hooked.