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12 Best TV Shows of 2017 So Far

From the Young Pope to the Black Lodge – the cream of the TV crop that’s already made 2017 a banner year for the small screen

We’re only halfway through 2017 – and in so many ways, these past six months that have felt like years. But what a strange and wondrous time for TV it’s been, with so many different kinds of shows breaking new ground, inventing new genres, spinning new stories. Week after week, the sheer abundance of crucial TV can be dizzying. But these 12 shows are the best of the best – a lean, mean and dirty dozen. From the Young Pope to the Black Lodge, from surreal science-fiction theology to foulmouthed comedy, these are the year’s most rewarding TV creations so far.

The best shows of 2017 so far

‘Master of None’ (Netflix)

Aziz Ansari goes deep on food, family, romance and trying to jumpstart your acting career by hosting a TV baking competition called Clash of the Cupcakes. He’s Dev, a neurotic gourmet searching for tapas and true love in the big city. He’s consumed by romantic cravings he hasn’t begun to sort out rationally, so the long-running subplot about his crush on an Italian pasta-phile never clicks. (Dev barely knows this woman, and neither do we.) But he’ll always have tapas. He really hits home with his amazing episode about religion, as our hero tries to break it to his Muslim Indian parents that he eats pork. Even better, the Thanksgiving episode tells the poignant tale of his lesbian BFF Denise, unfolding over years of holiday dinners. Lena Waithe as his friend and Angela Bassett as her mom are just perfect, with Ansari excelling as a support player.

‘Twin Peaks’ (Showtime)

The weirdest Twin Peaks twist ever – after all these years, David Lynch puts the old band back together for a reunion that does a lot more than live up to the original. He populates this hallucinatory small town with faces both fresh and familiar – Kyle McLachlan and Laura Dern, Sherilyn Fenn and Naomi Watts, Harry Dean Stanton and Amanda Seyfried (even a few actors who’ve died since filming their scenes: R.I.P, Log Lady), along with some of the moral heft of Mulholland Drive. When Audrey Horne’s sleazebag uncle Jerry gets asked the question at the heart of the whole series – “Who is Laura Palmer?” – he sighs, “Oh, that, my dear, is a very long story.” But it’s a story that kept growing long after Lynch thought he was finished telling it. So a TV experiment that got wrapped in plastic in 1991 after just two seasons – unwatched, unnoticed, unmourned – lives again, just because it touched an audience passionate enough to goad the auteur into responding. Nothing like Twin Peaks: The Return has ever happened before.

The best shows of 2017 so far

‘Veep’ (HBO)

“This election is going down like Eleanor Roosevelt at Dinah Shore Weekend.” Preach on, Selina Meyer. Veep is set in an alternate-timeline version of the American political scene that by now has started to look infinitely less fucked up than the real one. Julia Louis Dreyfus brings the bile as an ex-President scrounging around for some new gig, whether that’s literature – “I’ve got a White House book that’s hotter than Nancy Reagan’s Guide to Cocksucking” – or the Supreme Court. (Richard: “The Judiciary Committee would like to see everything you’ve ever written about abortion.” Selina: “I could give them my actual abortion if I could find it lying around here somewhere.”) But she can’t shake off all the horrible cronies she’s collected in Washington, from Timothy Simons’ Congressman Jonah Ryan to Dan Bakkedahl’s Roger Furlong. As always, Kevin Dunn’s Ben is the most bitter and hilarious asshole here, grousing about his corporate-consultant gig at Uber: “a bunch of dumb-ass millennials too lazy to learn how to drive drunk.”

The best shows of 2017 so far

‘The Young Pope’ (HBO)

Let us proclaim the mystery of faith. Jude Law is bizarrely brilliant as Pope Pius XIII, the young thug of Pontiffs, ranting at his Vatican underlings for not knowing who Daft Punk are or supplying him with Cherry Coke Zero for breakfast. He was raised in a New York City orphanage by Diane Keaton – she finally gets to play a bad-ass nun, all these years after asking Al Pacino “Would you like me better if I were a nun?” in The Godfather. Now he’s dazzling the faithful in St. Peter’s Square – his theology might be a little “reads Summa Contra Gentiles once,” but he’s sure got style. In the hands of Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino, The Young Pope is a lavishly ridiculous pageant that plays as both a goth Catholic kinkfest and a mobbed-up game of thrones. Even when this pontiff goes to confession, he plays psychological war games until the priest runs out of the room in tears. (Hey, who doesn’t made that kind of confession?) Long live the Pope!

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