UTM’s TV Shows Of The Year 2017

Besides our constant attempts at telling everyone how wonderful we think Twin Peaks is, we don’t give enough love to the very best offerings on television (although the majority of these comfortably sit on streaming platforms, hidden away from your Sky Plus box). This list is a shoutout to the serialised standouts from 2017.

Master of None: Season 2

Netflix model of favouring creator driven content has delivered us a number of visual gems over the last few year, but very few feel like the perfect summation of a person’s personality and creative spirit in the same way Aziz Ansari’s Master Of None does.

Much like the first season, Master of None sees Ansari’s Dev navigate through New York as a millenial trying to make sense of his personal and professional life, while simultaneously finding the best eating spots. However, strides are made in improving the shows formula, with an increased focus on the wonderful side characters, such as the Thanksgiving episode, which chronicles 12 years of Thanksgivings in which Lena Waith’s Denise struggles to have her family understanding and accept her sexuality, with her mother’s eventual leading to one of the most feelsy conclusions of the year (only bested by the same show by Dev’s lengthy taxi ride). A more experimental flavour  also brought up the quality, with the opening episode being shot in black and white to recall classic italian cinema. It’s impeccable comic timing is not to be ignored either, as Dev’s ‘Tall Boys’ bit with Eric Wareheim’s lanky Arnold (“hi cutie”) is excellently pulled off, while Ansari’s dad, who plays his Dev’s father too, is clearly having a blast here.

Master of None has just the right amount of creative flair to dazzle, the right amount of heart to warm and the right amount of comedy for hysterics, it’s rare to see a show that nails these qualities so consitently.

Connor Cass

Mr. Robot: Season 3

For however much Mr. Robot fell out of favour with a large portion of viewers last year, the introspective and challenging second season of the show seems all the more integral now. The third season of the show, which began just as slow-paced as the second, ramped things up to the extreme. As soon as the season hit the middle point with its technically and artistically ambitious one-take episode, it was clear that the show’s divisive meandering had come to end.

With Sam Esmail once again directing every episode, we were treated to one of the most aesthetically innovative and daring shows of the year outside of Twin Peaks. The aforementioned one-take episode isn’t even the high-point of the season, with the following three episodes eclipsing it through both narrative momentum and an astonishing performance from the show’s star Rami Malek. The eighth episode in particular sees Malek at his absolute best, framed through a cinematic aspect ratio as his planned suicide is continually delayed until he poignantly finds a purpose once more.

Few shows are capable of depicting the abject corporate horror of the real world alongside the crippling hopelessness of depression as well as Mr. Robot. This year, perhaps more than even the remarkable first season, the show got to the heart of the human condition. Greed and the desire to be anything but alone dominate every episode. With its third season, the show has a found a clear end goal in between the commentary and emotional turmoil. But judging from how the season ended, it’d be foolish to expect anything but chaos as it approaches its conclusion.

Joe Price

The Punisher

In recent years, Marvel’s output has improved, especially on the TV front and whilst 2017 saw some record breaking-ly bad ratings, we also got some excellent Netflix offerings, most notably this year’s Marvel’s small screen adaption of The Punisher comic books.

Punisher’s triumph is the patented ‘90s action film ultraviolence, gloriously splattered across the show’s ever-weaving web of political intrigue. Every single episode builds to a crescendo of artfully choreographed ultraviolence, justified by its tightly wound plot.

Beyond the violence, the show’s plot is perhaps it’s greatest strength – every single action sequence, muted meeting in a darkened warehouse or dreamlike flashback has a purpose. Marvel’s Punisher doesn’t fuck about and for this reason, Punisher has stood out from the crowd this year.

Richard Lowe

Twin Peaks: The Return

Twin Peaks: The Return could have gone so wrong, but the God Hand of David Lynch has steered the third season of the beloved TV show into the annals of television history. Stranger Things showed us this year that diving headlong into a follow-up can lead to a pretty lacklustre season, although fans of the Duffer Brothers’ hit show are probably a lot more forgiving (putting it kindly) than the scrutineers of Twin Peaks.

25 years is perhaps a bit too long to sit on another season of Twin Peaks though, because the nervousness of fans was palpable – the question on everyone’s lips was “will this be a disappointment because we’ve waited so long for this?” In short, no. Long – FUUUUUUCK NOOOOO.

The balance of new and old tilted heavily in favour of the new from the get go. The first episode was far removed from the town of Twin Peaks and the sprinklings of nostalgia from then on was added to taste, so as not to trade on past glories.

Although it was wonderful to see all the old faces come through 25 years on, the new additions to the cast were absolutely inspired and undoubtedly led the show. The Mitchum Brothers brought about the giggles frequently, and Richard Horne earned the ire of every viewer with his scorched earth journey throughout the 18 episodes.

The music was so phenomenal that it deserves its own feature (got you covered there), but unfortunately word counts are a thing.

For the longest time Twin Peaks has been a bit of a niche/cult TV show that I wouldn’t recommend to most of my friends, but The Return is so incredible that I would absolutely suggest sitting through the admittedly painful and slow parts of seasons 1 and 2 just to get to this because it’s by far and away the biggest TV event in a very long time, and it needs to be seen by more than just a bunch of weirdos with a proclivity for non-linear stories.

Nathan Butler

Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light

Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light is definitely the niche pick on this list. The Netflix original was hardly talked about, if at all, outside of Final Fantasy sub-Reddits and forums, but for those communities the hype was real. Although the Final Fantasy games have a large fanbase worldwide, the MMORPG has a small cluster of fans compared to the behemoth that is World of Warcraft. Therefore, for a huge company such as Netflix to make a series about the game was a Big Deal™.

The show revolves around a young salaryman, Aiko, and his attempt to reconnect with his recently retired father, Hirotaro, through FFXIV. Although the base of this show does focus on the game, you don’t have to have prior knowledge to get into it. The way the show merges IRL drama about Aiko’s work life with URL drama makes it easily accessible to anyone who likes light-hearted humour and gaffes.

As the show goes on we see Hirotaro’s character ‘Indy Jones’ progress into a true Warrior of Light, of course it can’t be smooth sailing so there’s more than a few keyboard-related mishaps along the way. On a personal note, seeing Indy Jones fight his way through the dungeons and raids warmed my heart as I remembered my own journey. The little Easter eggs dotted throughout the episodes, while not being obvious to those who had not played the game, really made the show special.

In terms of story, it’s a little slow to start but it’s so wholesome and sweet it doesn’t really matter, it’s just a feelgood series to watch. In conclusion I am 100% biased about this show but it’s great nonetheless, everyone should watch it (and play the game because that’s great, too).

Em Gunn

Stranger Things 2

Sequels to anything are a hard thing to get right, especially when you did such a fantastic job on the first series. Noah Schnapp more than makes up for his 90% absence in the first series with a show stealing performance in the second, and the Emma Watson-esque Millie Bobby Brown was captivating and badass throughout. To have such high calibre performances from a fucking 13-year-old actress is mind blowing and one of the many reasons it was my favourite show of the year.

After watching the first series over a year ago (Christ, what a world we used to live in; no oompa loompas running anything back then let alone a whole country) I had pretty high expectations for the sequel and I even held off watching it for a while. It was finally my parents (who had actually introduced me to the first series) that finally forced me to watch it. Needless to say, I was blown away and full credit to the Duffer brothers, they managed to keep all the niche style and charm that made Stranger Things 1 so successful. Some new characters perked up this time but they mainly focused on new relationships with odd pairings of already established characters which I think worked to their favour.

And now my Girlfriend Amy’s thoughts: Personally, I’ve never watched a single episode and I don’t intend to, is too scary for me. But I’ve heard it’s goodish.

Well there you are ladies and gentlemen, what a fantastic review.

Fynn Buckland

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