Sonia Saraiya’s Favorite TV Things of 2017

In case you hadn’t noticed, I watch a lot of TV. And although I love to write about my favorite TV in my ranking of the best shows of the year, there’s always dozens—hundreds!—of other things that catch my eye: performances, shots, music cues, and more. Sometimes I will discount an entire show except for one episode; sometimes I have to call out one flawless moment in a show you already know I love. Sometimes the moments aren’t in a show, but on live TV: Sports, congressional hearings, and newscasts. Either way, it makes for a weird, shaggy list of mismatched things.

This year I’m just dumping them all on you. In no particular order, here are the moments of 2017 I’ll remember.


1. The Opening Credits of “The Young Pope”
Paolo Sorrentino’s HBO show was a hit-or-miss production, but the opening credits were absolutely sublime. Animated paintings in the Vatican! The neon! “All Along the Watchtower!” And then, in the final seconds, Jude Law turning to face the camera, winking at the audience while strutting in his papal vestments! It’s everything I wanted from a show titled “The Young Pope.”


2. “Tilted,” “Better Things”
The scene of Sam, Frankie, Duke and Phil dancing to “Tilted” by Christine and the Queens for Max’s graduation closes out the season on the high note.

Search Party
3. Dory’s Red Dress in the “Search Party” Season 2 Finale


4. The Darkroom Scene, “Beryl,” “The Crown
The spiritual sequel to the first season’s “Assassins,” “Beryl” is a fabulous hour of television. It’s also gorgeous. At the end of the episode, when Tony (Matthew Goode) enters the red-lit darkroom while the photos of Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) are developing, he’s silhouetted against the light in a breathtaking frame composition — which is only enhanced when he mars it by turning insouciantly to light a cigarette. Just, beautiful.


5. “Let’s Generalize About Men,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
Paula (Donna Lynne Champlin)’s face. Enough said.


6. The BBC Guy’s Interrupting Kids
Who was this guy? What were his (extremely adorable) kids up to? Who even cares? In a year of complete garbage news, at least there was a pretty adorable family caught on live news in the middle of an otherwise rather important discussion of North Korean and South Korean relations. Bonus points for any baby in a walker who goes wherever, whenever — and for all little girls with glasses.


7. Animated Pickles
I’m not sure how this happened, but two of the best shows of the year featured animated pickles: “Pickle Rick,” on Adult Swim’s “Rick & Morty,” where Rick turns himself into a pickle to avoid family therapy, and “Broad City’s” “Mushrooms,” where Abbi and Ilana briefly turn into pickles while they’re rolling on shrooms. This is good because pickles are good.


8. The Hypnotism, “Alias Grace”
Sarah Gadon speaking in tongues under a black veil — inhabiting several different personalities in what is either a trance or a deceptive performance of a trance — is an expression of repressed anger and defiant self-preservation that unwittingly became my personal inspiration for surviving 2017.


9. The Last Shot of “G’Day, Melbourne,” “The Leftovers
“Take On Me” playing as the hotel room burns, and Nora’s tears mix with the water raining down from the sprinklers overhead in an unexpectedly poignant end to a shattering scene. Daniel Sackheim, directing the shot of the year.


10. Natasha Rothwell, “Insecure”
Kelli has always been a reliable laugh, but in the second season, after Rothwell was promoted to series regular, she found a way to nail the funniest line in every episode. It’s hard to pick a personal favorite moment, between “Imma go to full jail” and “I haven’t been Saturday drunk on a Thursday in, like, a week” — but I’m going to go with the one I relate to most. Issa (Issa Rae) asks with irritation: “Do you listen to yourself?” And Kelli responds: “All the time. I have a podcast!”


11. Laura Dern
Playing Diane in “Twin Peaks: The Return” and Renata Klein in “Big Little Lies,” Dern made quick work of two of the most indelible roles on TV this year. As Diane, she was colorblocked, mysterious, and carrying a terrible secret; as Renata, she was furious, ball-busting, and desperate to understand her daughter’s suffering. In both, she’s a screen presence so taut and vital that you can’t stop staring at her.


12. Janet in “The Good Place”
D’Arcy Carden’s performance as Janet, the humanoid form of a multidimensional, all-knowing computer, has been the most delightful element of an already quite delightful show. Carden plays her with an upbeat, wooden stiltedness, and as she has started malfunctioning, her commitment to Janet’s physical comedy has been really satisfying. There was the time she fell in love with Jianyu (Manny Jacinto) and the time she kept producing cacti, and then of course the way she screams and screams when she’s about to be rebooted, even though she can feel no pain. Janet is the essence of “The Good Place,” and she is a real joy to hang out with every week.

13. The Red Light, “Halt and Catch Fire”
It was such a subtle element, in the episode, that at first I thought I was imagining it — a red pinpoint of light, flickering behind Gordon (Scoot McNairy) right before he collapses, as the room around him otherwise turns gauzy and bright, and he imagines that he sees his ex-wife Donna (Kerry Bishé) in front of him, cradling their then-infant daughter. It’s not until you see the red light, though, that it clicks — Gordon is going to die. That red light echoes the on-off light on a computer terminal, which is showcased in the “Halt’s” opening credits, and symbolizes (kind of) the human ingenuity behind tech. It’s a beautiful, sad gift to offer to Gordon’s final moment — a final moment that becomes even richer by what follows in the rest of the season. And though to try to unpack that moment is to tell the story of the whole season, the red light returns — behind Gordon’s best friend Joe (Lee Pace), as he sits in the driver’s seat of his car, trying to come to terms with the news that his friend has died. It’s heartbreaking, and also a testament to just how well put-together the AMC show was, right to the end.


14. Emily Browning in “American Gods”
Although it was quite beautiful, much of “American Gods” didn’t quite gel. But Browning’s Laura was one of the few elements that consistently made sense — a disaffected woman, a tangled world, and a blessing-turned-curse-turned-schtick, as she was brought back to life only to keep decomposing. She manages to make an otherwise quite slow show engaging with her combination of dark humor and vulnerability; the episodes centered on her, “Git Gone” and “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney,” are the best episodes of the season.


15. Reed Morano’s Direction in “The Handmaid’s Tale”
It’s hard to overstate how much Morano’s lens did to elevate “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which could have been a disappointing post-apocalyptic thriller with just a few different camera angles. But the direction of the pilot, which sets so much of the tone for the rest of the show, presents a creamy, almost haptic light bathing the citizens — a soft glow that is in sharp contrast with the intimate horrors of their lives. She rightfully won an Emmy for her work. Morano, who executive produced and directed the first two episodes, came off of being the cinematographer for HBO’s “Looking” — another gorgeous show — and the masterful “Lemonade,” from Beyoncé.


16. “American Bitch,” “Girls”
Like so much of “Girls,” the final season had some serious ups and downs — but “American Bitch,” a standalone episode about Hannah confronting an acclaimed author accused of sexual misconduct — was both prescient and unsettlingly frank, a short film that demonstrated Dunham’s considerable growth as an actress and “Girls” knack for finding the uncomfortable center of the problem. With an assist from a smarmy Matthew Rhys as the author in question, and a flute version of Rihanna’s “Desperado” to punctuate the final moments, the episode stayed imprinted in my brain — and might turn out to be one of the more accurate distillations of 2017 that we’ve seen.


17. James Comey Testifying to the Senate Committee on Intelligence That He Regrets Cancelling Dinner With His Wife
SENATOR ANGUS KING: Did you in any way initiate that dinner?
FORMER FBI DIRECTOR JAMES COMEY: No. He called me at my desk at lunchtime and asked me, was I free for dinner that night. Called himself. Said, can you come over for dinner tonight? I said, yes, sir. He said, will 6:00 work? I think 6:00 first. Then he said, I was going to invite your whole family but we’ll do it next time. Is that a good time? I said, sir, whatever works for you. He said, how about 6:30? I said, whatever works for you, sir. Then I hung up and had to call my wife and break a date with her. I was supposed to take her to dinner that night.
KING: One of the all-time great excuses for breaking a date.
COMEY: Yeah. In retrospect, I love spending time with my wife, and I wish I would have been there that night.


18. Carrie Page Remembers Being Laura Palmer in “Twin Peaks: The Return”
It is entirely possible that I would have been lukewarm on David Lynch and Showtime’s “Twin Peaks” revival if it had not been for that last, devastating, arresting moment. A sky-shattering, ground-shaking, still-haunting scream that brings the exploration of horror of “Twin Peaks” full circle, right back to where it started: the horror inside that house, and the cosmic fissure it created. It’s terrifying, it’s genius, and I am never going to forget it.


19. Kathryn Hahn in “I Love Dick”
Jill Soloway’s attempt to deconstruct the male gaze — and construct a female one — was brilliantly ambitious and to my mind fell short, in places. But throughout what made the whole thing tick — and what carried it to whatever success it achieved — was coup of casting Hahn as prickly, tortured, creatively blocked Chris Kraus, a woman consumed by her own desire who is trying to find a way to turn that into art. “I Love Dick” is especially interested in Hahn’s physicality, and she is sloppy, inconvenient, and disheveled in practically every scene with a commitment that transcends the superficial demands of most TV and forces the audience to reckon with the whole of her existence. I can’t get over how messily, how grossly she chews grapes in the first episode, with an apparent disregard for her appearance that must be quite difficult to achieve on-camera. Hahn has long been an underrated treasure, and seeing her in a leading role additionally makes her turn in “I Love Dick” rewarding.


20. Nuclear War — “The Leftovers and “Twin Peaks: The Return”
Perhaps it’s because the specter of all-out destruction seems too near these days, but watching two rather different television shows grapple with nuclear war felt like someone out there was finally saying the unthinkable thing. “Twin Peaks” theorizes that a grain of evil spawned nuclear destruction. “The Leftovers” goes further: In “It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World,” a fatalistic Frenchman actually sets off a nuke in the South Pacific. And in “The Most Powerful Man in the World (And His Identical Twin Brother),” Kevin (Justin Theroux) chooses nuclear destruction for the partial-dimension world that he goes to when he dies. At the end, he and the woman once known as Patti (Ann Dowd) — mortal enemies — hold hands and watch the horizon as the missiles arc into view, and start falling towards them. It’s like a dream — it is a dream, sort of. It’s kindness, even when total destruction is imminent; a painful kind of dreamlike truth.


21. The Birds in “Planet Earth II’s” “Cities”
Did you know that New York City has the world’s largest population of peregrine falcons? It’s because the skyscrapers mimic the sheer cliffs that they are accustomed to. This is a fact I have tried to insert into every conversation I’ve had for the last nine months. “Cities” also showcases Australian bowerbirds, which live in residential environments. The male of the species make elaborate nests to attract potential mates, and because they are urban birds, they collect lots of human flotsam and jetsam to decorate with — including one astonishingly on-the-nose heart-shaped charm, which is an object of much envy among the bowerbirds until one male steals it from another. Which prompts Sir David Attenborough to say, mournfully: “It’s not easy, finding sex in the city.”


22. “Black Mirror,” “U.S.S. Callister”
I wasn’t a huge fan of this season of “Black Mirror,” but “U.S.S. Callister” stood out — both as a fantastically weird premise and a satisfying, closed-ended story. A dark interpretation of a “Star Trek” nerd places the conscious avatars of several employees in a simulation of their boss’ favorite show. For the riff on “Star Trek” alone, it’s worth a watch; for the brilliant reinterpretation of the mythos of being a fan, it becomes great.


23. Michelle MacLaren’s New York City
“The Deuce” is a shaggy production, but at least one thing about it is absolutely impeccable — its unromantic, affectionate view of New York in the ‘70s. The vision comes from the pilot’s director and executive producer Michelle MacLaren, who carted in trash from other parts of the city to transform a strip of Washington Heights into the 42nd Street of yore. For a city whose reputation has been shaped by male narratives of machismo, it seems especially relevant that MacLaren’s New York — like much of “The Deuce” — arises from a female perspective.

CREDIT: Amazon
24. Midge’s Wardrobe, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
The hats. The coats. The jaunty little scarves. Rachel Brosnahan’s Miriam “Midge” Maisel is a clotheshorse, and though it’s absolutely indulgent to marry Midge’s narrative of a struggling artist with that of a wealthy daughter with coats from Chanel, the sheer swank of her makes it all worth it.


25. “Finding Frances,” “Nathan for You”
You don’t need to have seen any other episodes of “Nathan for You” to fall under the spell of its supersized finale “Finding Frances,” in which the comedian/business-degree-haver attempts to help a costar find the lost love of his life. Nathan Fielder’s show attempts to help struggling business through absolutely absurd schemes, and for four seasons now has been suggesting very bad ideas for economic development to Americans across the country. But “Finding Frances” is a different beast — part “The Jinx,” part “The Bachelor,” and partly an appeal that is entirely its own. It’s quite possible that “Finding Frances” is the best episode of the year, if only because of how thoroughly it comments on TV itself: It reframes and subverts the expectations of the audience every few minutes. Fielder’s narration throughout is the most self-aware he’s allowed himself to be in the show, and through it he expresses real self-doubt and fear about the purpose of this, or any, reality show’s mission.


26. The Guest Stars, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
“Curb” wasn’t quite what it used to be in Season 9 — either because the show’s changed, or we have — but what it remained to be was a repository for delightfully snarky and un-precious performances from game actors who don’t mind being made fun of. Probably the coup of the season is Lin-Manuel Miranda — arguably, the nicest guy in showbusiness — playing a self-absorbed, domineering jackass in the final two episodes of the season. But there’s also Elizabeth Banks’ rather too fun-loving persona, and Elizabeth Perkins as Marty Funkhouser’s new girlfriend, who doesn’t filter her tap water or her facial expressions. I don’t even know if I can tell you why, but the dinner scene where Larry David complains about her tap water is one of the best five minutes of comedy you’ll see this year.


27. Black-and-White Episodes — “Black Mirror,” “Master of None,” “Twin Peaks: The Return”
Maybe it’s a gimmick, but at least three times this season, the single episode done in grayscale made for a gorgeous, standalone production — “Black Mirror’s” “Metalhead,” the best episode of the fourth season, where Maxine Peake and a robotic “dog” square off in a hostile tundra; “Master of None’s” “The Thief,” a pitch-perfect homage to Italian cinema directed by Aziz Ansari himself; and “Twin Peaks’” Part 8, which presented the forces of cosmic good and evil in a black-and-white palette that ended, for interpretable reasons, with two highschoolers on a date in the ‘50s. In the science fiction offerings of “Twin Peaks” and “Black Mirror,” the episodes feel like homages to the eerie resonance of the “Twilight Zone”; at the same time, all three hearken back to an older era of filmmaking, and demonstrate how a dated form can still captivate and thrill. More of this, please.


28. Elizabeth Smart, “I Am Elizabeth Smart,” and Jean Wehner, “The Keepers”
How rare it is, in Hollywood, for rape victims to be centered their own narratives; how rarer still, for rape victims to get the chance to speak directly to the audience. In Lifetime’s “I Am Elizabeth Smart,” Smart frames a dramatized version of own abduction with narration and context; in Netflix’s “The Keepers,” Wehner draws the audience into her own attempt to recover her repressed memories of abuse and then her eventual confrontation of the Baltimore archdiocese. It’s difficult to imagine how much grace and courage has been required of these women in order to speak out, but seeing their determination on-screen has been one of the most moving elements of TV in 2017.


29. Rita Moreno Singing “Happy Birthday” to Stephen Tobolowsky in “One Day at a Time”
If only to hear a live audience gasping with laughter as Moreno milks them for all their worth.


30. Susan from Duluth, “Lady Dynamite”
Mo Collins plays Maria Bamford’s parasitic friend from home Susan in “Lady Dynamite’s” second season — a bitchy frenemy who ignores Maria until the comedian’s success becomes potentially useful. Collins is perfectly slimy in the role, and in framing the toxic friendship from home, Bamford is outlining something universal and often unsaid about the Hollywood experience — how success can poison even close friendships, as fame turns you into someone others want to use.


31. Michael Kiwanuka’s “Cold Little Heart,” “Big Little Lies”
Director Jean-Marc Vallée, a self-described audiophile, chose most of the music for the limited series — and the opening credits could not be more apt. Scored to the second half of the English soul musician’s single “Cold Little Heart,” the mournful tune asks “Did you ever want it? Did you want it bad?” as if he is singing the internal yearning of these wealthy moms, who despite all of their efforts don’t have what they want.


32. Betty and Jughead, “Riverdale”
Sometimes, my teenage self rears its head with a vengeance, and this year it came out in my sudden, intense affection for Betty (Lili Reinhardt) and Jughead’s (Cole Sprouse) relationship in “Riverdale,” a “Twin Peaks”-y take on the Archie comics. The show makes clownish Jughead into a moody true-crime writer (amazing). And Betty, far from being the sweet girl next door always pining over Archie, is the overachieving star of Riverdale High with so much repressed anger she digs half-moons into her palms with her nails. Together they make a flawless emo couple, and one that has been a lot of fun to watch over the course of this year.


33. Frasier the Lion, “The Leftovers”
“When midnight comes: Let no man mention his name, lest that man become him.” He is a sensuous lion. What else is there to say?


34. The Animated Segments of “Disjointed”
“Disjointed” is a strange show. For every chunk storytelling that either feels patronizingly dumbed-down or bizarrely paced, there’s a nugget of beautiful, moving character work. That’s especially evident in the animated segments, which are usually visions of the world through Carter’s (Tone Bell) eyes. Carter comes to marijuana as a veteran suffering from PTSD, and amidst the broad stoner humor of the Netflix comedy is a surprisingly poetic journey of alienation and reintegration.


35. Soso’s Memorial to Poussey, “Orange is the New Black”
The fifth season of “Orange is the New Black” took place entirely during the three-day prison riot following Poussey’s (Samira Wiley) death. Like so much of the Netflix show, it was an uneven season, both politically and narratively. But it contained moments that were sweeter than perhaps the whole of the series that preceded it, whether that was the finale’s beautiful use of “To Build a Home,” by the Cinematic Orchestra, or Taystee’s (Danielle Brooks) impassioned speech on behalf of the inmates of Litchfield. The high point was Brook Soso’s (Kimiko Glenn) memorial for Poussey — a monument to reading, constructed out of books. Books are hanging on string from the ceiling, garlanded over the hallways, and comprise the pillars in the corners. It is a beautiful tribute to Poussey.


36. “Ruthie,” “BoJack Horseman”
The animated Netflix show — once again in my top 10 of the year — produced several bizarre, beautiful, hilarious episodes this season. But the one that nearly broke me was “Ruthie,” an episode following Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) on a day where she begins to bleed during an early pregnancy. I can’t say more without spoiling it. But in a season that isn’t really about Carolyn, she still finds a way to break your heart.


37. “The Ricklantis Mixup,” “Rick and Morty
In a mind-bending, self-shifting, ego-destroying episode, the show returns to the city populated entirely by all of the Ricks and Mortys throughout the multiverse to investigate a crime. It’s a masterpiece.


38. The Last Line of “Marvel’s The Punisher”
I’ve already written at length (maybe at too much length) about the surprising appeal of “Marvel’s The Punisher,” anchored by the performance of lead Jon Bernthal. But I haven’t yet called out the elegant final scene, in which Frank Castle — now no longer in hiding — spends his Thanksgiving with his veterans’ support group, trying to be honest about how he’s feeling. “The Punisher” doesn’t just rely on violence for drama; it is curious about the origins of unwonted aggression and male disaffection, pursuing the romance of vigilante justice to its less romantic roots. For muscular, deadly, and practically invulnerable Frank Castle to confess, after 13 episodes, just two words — “I’m scared” — is a jewel-like conclusion to an unexpectedly brilliant narrative.


39. The Dance, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” “Star Trek: Discovery”
Any and all time loop episodes get extra affection, but “Discovery’s” “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” buries within it several beautiful moments of character development — including Paul’s (Anthony Rapp) repeated attempts to get everyone else to understand what’s happening, and Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green) coming to grips with her feelings for Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif). Am I sucker? Of course. This is an episode about space-time that hinges on whether or not the two cute young people can express their feelings to each other while slow-dancing to Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful.” But any kiss that is preceded by the line, “If time really is repeating, this won’t matter,” is an all-timer in my book.

Cavs Warriors
40. Game 4, the NBA Finals (Golden State Warriors 116, Cleveland Cavaliers 137)
Let me preface this by saying I barely watch sports, and I’m not an especial fan of either the Dubs or the Cavs. But the titanic clash between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors for the second year in a row was not to be missed, especially after the 2016 finals spooled out in such an unexpected and glorious victory for LeBron James and the Cavaliers. By comparison, 2017’s finals weren’t even close to a fair matchup — with the addition of Kevin Durant to the Warriors, the team was practically unstoppable. Except for one night: Game 4, June 9, when in a brawling fistfight of a game the Cavs — led by James and Kyrie Irving — nabbed their one win of the series. It was a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat game, with a soap-operatic arc of crazy referee calls, technical fouls, and record-breaking scoring — the type of game that makes casual viewers into die-hard fans.


41. Ann Dowd
Out of seemingly nowhere, Dowd became an indelible supporting presence in several best shows of the year — as Patti in “The Leftovers,” as Aunt Lydia in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” an FBI agent in “Good Behavior,” and even as a kook named Phaedra in the penultimate episode of “Girls.” in every role she’s a delight — and in September won a well-deserved Emmy for her role in “The Handmaid’s Tale.”


42. Sandra, “Superstore”
Pathological liar Sandra (Kaliko Kauahi) started off as a punchline for “Superstore” — the employee it was always easy to take advantage of — and became one of its most enjoyable characters. Her arc this year has taken her from manufacturing a torrid relationship with district manager Jeff (Michael Bunin) to clandestinely trying to avoid being offed by her archnemesis Carol (Irene White). Somehow, I have come to care more about her well-being than I do for anyone else’s on the show.


43. Alice Englert, “Top of the Lake: China Girl”
The second installment of Jane Campion’s story about Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) was not as wonderful as the first. But Englert’s performance as Robin’s birth daughter Mary was a natural, physical one quite unlike anything else on TV this year; Mary, fully without poise, is both trying to contain her body and entirely unable to. Campion’s lens filming her daughter captured some of the unruly energy of being a teenager, and Englert’s vitality leaps off the screen.

Mick
44. “The Mick”
“The Mick” is not your average family sitcom — it seems that there’s no Pemberton family gathering without a 911 call and moderate-to-severe property damage. Kaitlin Olson’s show about an aunt (Olson) stepping in to care for her niece and two nephews after her rich sister goes to prison is both funny and gross and strangely moving, if only because everyone in it is a screwup. A lot of sitcoms present their families with absurd comedic setups, but it’s rare to see a show be a honest about how the other side of a punchline is actual dysfunction — whether it’s seven-year-old Ben’s (Jack Stanton) behavioral issues at school or Sabrina’s (Sofia Black-D-Elia) attention-seeking on social media. That these things can also be part of the family experience — and be funny — makes “The Mick” an oddly precious little show.

Better Call Saul
45. Kim and Her Car, “Better Call Saul”
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is always convinced that if she pushes herself just a bit harder, she’ll get by. But in a beautiful sequence of events in “Fall,” she’s forced to come to terms with her own limits. Showrunner Peter Gould told me that he’s “fascinated” by scenes where characters are by themselves, because of how much it reveals about the characters. In “Fall,” it’s an arc that starts with Kim’s car breaking down at an oil jack and ends with her falling asleep at the wheel. The entire adventure is written with “Better Call Saul’s” typical taut clarity. And throughout, Seehorn demonstrates how she has made Kim’s character so captivating — that combination of stubborn grit and self-defeating independence that both makes her wonderful and undercuts her own success


46. “Signal to Noise,” “Halt and Catch Fire”
The second episode of this season of “Halt and Catch Fire” takes place entirely during an hours-long phone call between Joe (Lee Pace) and Cam (Mackenzie Davis). Phones aren’t exactly the cutting-edge technology that so much of the show focuses on — but people being connected through wires, however imperfectly, is the core of the show’s beating heart. A tech story is always, on some level, a love story.


47. Reese Witherspoon, “Big Little Lies”
Witherspoon is one of the main reasons that “Big Little Lies” got made — the actress’ production company Pacific Standard bought the rights to Liane Moriarty’s novel, and then Witherspoon got director Jean-Marc Vallée and co-star Nicole Kidman on board for the project. And though Kidman, deservedly, has gotten a lot of praise for her performance, Witherspoon’s prickly Madeline Martha Mackenzie holds the show’s vision together. Territorial, passionate, and bitterly resentful, Madeline is the dark side of Monterey, and Witherspoon’s petite, high-heeled fury made “Big Little Lies” the force that it became.


48. “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”
Jimmy Kimmel, rightly, has made headlines for his heartfelt appeals to his audience about healthcare — and other comedians in the late-night space have found their own ways of responding to Trumpmania. But Colbert, who was growing into his role on CBS, has found a way to take the casual snark of Dave Letterman’s chair and combine it with his political instincts, making for a late-night program that inspires, amuses, and soothes the soul with its continued reminder that there are still smart, sane, conscious people in the world. To hs credit, Colbert hasn’t avoided discussing the sexual misconduct of men who are colleagues, like Louis C.K., or might share similar politics, like Al Franken. It’s taken a few years, but Colbert seems to have found his sweet spot with “The Late Show,” and his leaning into it for all it’s worth.


49. “She’s good,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
When I first started watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” I dismissed Joel (Michael Zegen), Midge (Rachel Brosnahan)’s cheating husband, as an early mistake that would be quickly forgotten. But the eight episode season, while not exactly redeeming him, provides poor boring Joel with a depth of character that illustrates all too clearly how limited his life is. In the Season 1 finale, “Thank You and Good Night,” Joel gets into the Gaslight to see Midge open for Lenny Bruce. She tears into his infidelity, his new girlfriend, and the humiliations she felt when he left her. Joel — an aspiring comedian himself — is dumbfounded by her talent, and becomes resentful and agitated. But when two louts in the audience heckle her with sexist comments, he follows them outside and — very rashly — decks one in the face. In a kind of self-deflating mixture of pride and horror, he shouts: “She’s good. She’s f—king good.”


50. Claire Foy, “The Crown
When I think about what I specifically love about “The Crown,” I always come back to Foy’s lead performance. It could be the moment when, in a temper, Elizabeth tells Prime Minister Macmillan that he and his predecessors are “a confederacy of elected quitters.” It could be when the queen confronts her uncle the Duke of Windsor, to present the kind of steely resolve available to a well-heeled woman upon learning a relative was a Nazi sympathizer. It could be when she gives her first televised Christmas address, with self-conscious anxiety clearly mingled with stubborn determination to do her duty. Or in “Dear Mrs. Kennedy,” when the normally modest queen finds herself obsessing over her appearance. Foy has the remarkable ability to make this exceptional woman’s problems into human ones, without necessarily making excuses for her, either. As it is her last season as the queen, she’s the one I’ll end on. Here’s to a good year, your majesty.

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    In case you hadn’t noticed, I watch a lot of TV. And although I love to write about my favorite TV in my ranking of the best shows of the year, there’s always dozens—hundreds!—of other things that catch my eye: performances, shots, music cues, and more. Sometimes I will discount an entire show except for […]

  • Arrow

    'Arrow': Echo Kellum Teases the New Team Arrow in Midseason Premiere

    In case you hadn’t noticed, I watch a lot of TV. And although I love to write about my favorite TV in my ranking of the best shows of the year, there’s always dozens—hundreds!—of other things that catch my eye: performances, shots, music cues, and more. Sometimes I will discount an entire show except for […]

  • 'Most Valuable Performer' EP Bob Horowitz

    'Most Valuable Performer' EP Bob Horowitz on Merging Sports and Entertainment

    In case you hadn’t noticed, I watch a lot of TV. And although I love to write about my favorite TV in my ranking of the best shows of the year, there’s always dozens—hundreds!—of other things that catch my eye: performances, shots, music cues, and more. Sometimes I will discount an entire show except for […]

  • The CW Logo

    CW Beefs Up Development Team Under Gaye Hirsch With Two Promotions, New Hire

    In case you hadn’t noticed, I watch a lot of TV. And although I love to write about my favorite TV in my ranking of the best shows of the year, there’s always dozens—hundreds!—of other things that catch my eye: performances, shots, music cues, and more. Sometimes I will discount an entire show except for […]

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