2017 TV round-up

Film-viewing took a bit of a battering this year, losing out to some quality TV drama. The Fast Picture Show dips its toe in TV waters with a round-up of 10 quality TV shows from 2017. In brackets are where I watched them, but they are presumably available through various outlets, including (whsiper) illegal streaming sources.

The Handmaid's Tale (Channel 4)

By a country mile, the best drama of the year. A brilliantly realised and superbly acted adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel, which, scarily, is really not that futuristic or dystopian at all. Intelligent, chilling and all-too-relevant to the world around us today. So good I even let my wife watch it.

The Vietnam War (BBC4)

A brilliant documentary series, tackling a complex subject with clarity, balance, scope and integrity. Talking heads from both sides of the conflict provide individual perspective, whilst archive footage catalogs the tragic and often distressing events on the battlefield, and the politics surrounding the whole thing before, during and afterwards. Outstanding.

The Deuce (Sky Atlantic)

From the creators of The Wire and Treme comes another excellent ensemble piece, this time focused on the rise of the sex industry in 70s New York. Centred around 42nd Street (the Deuce of the title), this recreates the setting brilliantly in all its sleazy, grimy glory. As you'd expect, there's some frank sexual content, but for the most part this is presented in a non-titillating, matter-of-fact manner. With great performances and intelligent scripting, this is TV for adults, in every sense of the word. Fantastic soundtrack too, not least Curtis Mayfield's theme tune

Mindhunter (Netflix)

Producer David Fincher returns to the world of serial killers for this based-on-fact dramatization of how the FBI established their behavioural science unit. The characters and writing are strong, but the  real fascination here is in the recreation of the interviews the FBI investigators carried out with real-killers like Ed Kemper (brilliantly played by Cameron Britton), Jerry Brudos and Richard Speck in order to understand the mind of a killer. You'll end up googling them to find out more - better not eat dinner before you do that.

Ozark (Netflix)

Jason Bateman plays serious as a money launderer for a drug cartel forced to relocate with his family to the Ozarks. There he must pretend to be an upstanding member of the community whilst he continues his shady operations. Great setting and a nicely amoral anti-hero could make this the next Breaking Bad.

Twin Peaks Season 3 (Sky Atlantic)

David Lynch clearly wrote down all the things that fans of the show wanted to see in the long-awaited return.....and then delivered none of that at all. Over 18 often bewildering hours, it was admittedly too meandering for its own good, but when it was good, it was terrific. Episode 8 is one of the most baffling and brilliant hours of TV that you're ever likely to see. Mad as a box of mutant frogs, for sure, but like nothing else on telly. It won't be for everyone, but pretty much essential viewing for Twin Peaks fans.

Stranger (Netflix)

A terrific Korean murder-mystery which sees a dispassionate prosecutor and empathetic police detective team up to uncover a complex plot. Brilliant acting, good characterization, and twists and turns throughout make this one to check out if you're not scared of subtitles.

Game of Thrones Season 7

Now that the TV series has overtaken the source novels, there's less depth and breadth to the continuing saga, but the makers are too good at this now to bollix it up completely. Some dodgy moments of plot development aside, this is still terrifically entertaining stuff.

Mr Mercedes (RTE)

Adapted from Stephen King's novel this is a serviceable cat-and-mouse thriller about a retired detective taunted by the killer from a case he never solved. What elevates it to greater heights is a magnificently gruff performance from Brendan Gleeson as the flawed cop who sees his chance at redemption. Expect another series.

The Sinner (Netflix)

Gets a bit silly, and very dependent on that staple plot device of amnesia to drive things along, but still an entertaining 'whydunnit'. From the outset we know that a young mother (Jessica Biel) has violently killed an apparent stranger, but she has no idea why she did. A seasoned detective (Bill Pullman) helps her unravel her past in satisfying enough fashion.


The OA (Netflix) is shockingly bad stuff. After an initially promising hook this degenerates into a tedious, confusing supernatural-ish pish, culminating in a scene where people prevent a school massacre through the power of interpretive dance. It actually reminded me of the excellent John Irving novel A Prayer for Owen Meany. Imagine a TV adaptation of that, only really, really crap.

Okay, that's enough telly, back to some films.

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