Most Underappreciated Shows of 2017 That you Need to be Watching
Continuing our look back at television from last year, here are our picks for the most underappreciated TV shows of 2017 that you need to be watching.
If you wanted to, and if you had the means, you could probably line up enough original TV to watch until your eyeballs revolt, scream “no more,” and jump out of your head never to be seen again. Ok, that might be a little extreme but there’s truth in hyperbole – or so we heard somewhere on TV.
But while there is an ungodly amount of content at your fingertips, some of the best shows currently on the air are being ignored. Maybe audiences tried gave it a try and gave up on, or maybe the marketing was crap. Maybe it just slipped by, or maybe the subject matter isn’t something that would normally be appealing. Whatever the reason, we have a few of our favorite, most underappreciated TV Shows of 2017 that you should give a try.
A few notes about this list: First, because we are apparently weird, we tend to hold off on our end of the year lists until the year has actually ended. As a result, this list includes a few shows that are still ongoing, along with some that are either between seasons or have concluded. Second, these are our picks, and so they fit with our sensibilities. There are plenty of great shows that deserve a little love, but we tended to stay in our sandbox with this list. So while we might enjoy a show like, say, Iron Chef, it doesn’t really fit with this list.
If you’re looking for more info on TV shows from last year, check out our list on the most disappointing shows of 2017, and keep your eyes peeled for more articles – including our picks for the best of the year.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
It’s upsetting that this show is on this list, but not all that surprising. If you gave up on Agents of SHIELD after the first season or two back when it was basically a superhero procedural, that’s understandable. But it has gotten better and better, and the fourth season was the best yet. So why the hell aren’t you watching?
The show has changed in its format, offering multiple story arcs, aka pods, instead of a single season-long arc padded with a few standalone eps. Last season had three pods, each of which connected to the others while also telling a complete story in its own right. This season, the show’s fifth, will be broken into two pods, the first of which is well underway and takes the team into space and a future where the Earth has been destroyed. In some ways, the show is taking inspiration from the MCU while not directly connecting to it. Movies like Thor: Ragnarok and both Guardians of the Galaxy films proved there is an audience for weird scifi, and SHIELD is embracing that.
It’s too bad we won’t get to see Captain America give Agent Coulson build a true bromance, but even if they could, booking Chris Evans for a guest stint would probably cost about one-third the entire season budget. By moving further and further away from the MCU, SHIELD is finally coming into its own.
Ok, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, it is a little debatable to include one of the biggest and most popular shows in the world on a list of underappreciated shows, but hear us out.
The Peter Capaldi run of Doctor Who was very hit or miss, especially during his first two seasons. There are plenty of reasons for this <cough>Clara<cough> (just kidding… sort of), but the tenth season was one of the best in years – as well as one of the least watched. In the UK, the recent season was the lowest rated since the show’s return, and it was the third season in a row that has recorded a significant decline. That might change soon – there is a lot of excitement surrounding the introduction of the first female Doctor in Jodie Whittaker (and a new showrunner) – but the tenth season shouldn’t be ignored.
Rejuvenated in part by the addition of Pearl Mackie’s Bill and overall stronger stories, the tenth season also saw one of the best finales in the show’s history. It made the Cybermen scary again – and not just the modern wannabe Iron Man Cybermen, the old school Cybermen that were originally created using whatever was left over in the BBC dumpsters back in 1966. It also gave the Missy/Master storyline a great cap. There were some plot holes – Moffat aint afraid of a plot hole or seven – but overall the season was exceptional and gave us Capaldi at his finest.
Come on, people. This is the second time that The Expanse has been on this list. That’s just sad for a show this good.
The second season of The Expanse was an improvement on what was already one of – if not the – best hard science scifi shows on the air. The first season set the stage and showed what life might actually look like when humans leave the Earth and head into the solar system. Spoiler: it sucks hard. There are no food replicators or warp drive, just dwindling resources where people kill over oxygen and really long periods of time in transit. The second expanded the story and kicked it into a higher gear.
Unfortunately, the ratings aren’t great and it is an expensive show. Syfy has greenlit a third season set to air in 2018, but it will need to see a jump in the ratings to guarantee a fourth. So start watching it. Tell your friends to watch it. Watch it live then watch it again on Syfy’s app or another streaming service. Because if it is canceled, it will be just one more confirmation that not only can we not have nice things, we don’t deserve them.
Since its creation, we have been huge advocates of Expedition Unknown, and especially its host Josh Gates. The show focuses on fascinating myths, legends, and historical curiosities from around the world. That should be enough to draw in viewers, but even when the topic doesn’t resonate, Gates’ natural enthusiasm is enough to make the show interesting to watch.
Beyond the interesting content, it’s also nice to occasionally retreat into a show where there are no explosions and the threat of death isn’t constantly hanging over the heads of the main characters (although Gates has probably terrified his insurance providers while delighting the ratings-hungry Travel Channel execs as he has come close to dying on the show more than once). If you are looking for a show on this list a family can watch together, here you go.
The good news for fans is that the shows seems to be doing well, especially by Travel Channel standards. Gates has even become popular enough that the network also picked up and airs his old show, Destination Truth (which originally aired on Syfy). Expedition Unknown is an interesting and entertaining show where you can actually learn something, starring a host charming enough to turn a tense situation with Russian poachers in a remote part of Siberia into a drunken night of revelry (that actually happened). Check out where he goes next.
Halt and Catch Fire
Sadly, this is another repeat performer from our list of underappreciated shows of 2016. The good news, however, is that you won’t have to hear anyone badger you about watching it anymore. After four seasons, AMC decided not to renew it for a fifth, but thankfully they gave the producers enough time to craft a satisfying ending.
The entire series is available on Netflix, so you can binge watch it all now. Then the next time your TV snob friends ask if you’ve seen Halt and Catch Fire, you can say yes. Then stop hanging out with them because no one should judge you because of your TV habits. Life’s too short for that. But you should definitely watch Halt and Catch Fire or you are a bad person.
One thing that may have scared people away is how deeply ingrained the show is in the early days of the tech revolution. Weirdly, we have been told that there are some people who don’t really care about the early days of the PC or how broadband was first introduced in America. Strange. Regardless, there’s more to it than that. Halt and Catch Fire is a deeply personal show that just so happens to encompass the early days of the PC, the birth of online connectivity, the rise of software, and the explosion of the internet. So it has a little something for everyone.
It only lasted three seasons, but HBO’s sorta scifi show managed to tell a compelling and engrossing story without really explaining much at all. The Leftovers asked the question what would happen if 2-percent of the world’s population suddenly and randomly disappeared. Granted, it’s a rather specific question, but it works because the show just accepts it as fact and deals with the consequences. The characters don’t spend the entire series trying to solve the mystery of the missing people, they just have to live in the aftermath.
The series could have easily gone another year or two, but the low ratings may have actually worked in its favor. The show was overseen by Lost co-showrunner Damon Lindelof, and we all saw what happened to that when it ran out of ideas but still had episodes to fill. Instead, The Leftovers had a tight three seasons that answered some of the big questions but left plenty open to interpretation. And there was not a polar bear or smoke monster in sight.
It’s a bit intense to binge the whole series over a very short period of time, but if you have HBO you should give it a try.
Marvel’s The Punisher
Right from the start, there were a few things working against Marvel’s The Punisher both on screen and off. Timing was a factor, and not in a good way. Netflix – understandably – downplayed The Punisher more than other Marvel shows following a rash of mass shootings in the U.S. – the show was originally set to give a first-look to audiences at the New York Comic-con, but it pulled it from the schedule and began to slow the marketing push following the horrific attack in Las Vegas that left dozens dead.
Netflix was keenly aware of the ongoing debate in the U.S. involving guns and gun violence, and The Punisher is deep into gun violence. To be fair, so is… well, roughly 50-percent of all fictional TV in America, but the character of the Punisher is really into guns.
The other obstacle to promoting The Punisher was that it was released after the disappointing Iron Fist and The Defenders. After two relative bombs, a show that is basically just a guy with a lot of guns and an epic grudge seemed risky. The result, however, was a show on par with the other Marvel solo shows in terms of quality (Iron Fist excluded).
It will be interesting to see if the character of Frank Castle is included in the other Netflix Marvel shows or it remains quarantined. Either way, the series is a solid addition to the lineup.
Orphan Black has a strong cult following, but for a show this good to enter its fifth and final season with as little fanfare as it did is borderline criminal. But at least we are spared the annual dance of whether or not the story will be continued or just left on a cliffhanger. It also means the series managed to avoid the familiar trap of increasing the threat each and every year until the big bad is so ridiculous that it makes the show retroactively worse.
As it stands, Orphan Black has five strong seasons and the overarching story never feels untrue to the characters. The heroes don’t barely survive a deadly threat once a year just to go on to an even bigger deadly threat, they bounce from situation to situation organically. It’s also easy to underappreciate how impressive Tatiana Maslany’s performances are. She plays five major roles and a few smaller ones, and they are so different you can easily forget you are watching the same actor. She deserves all of the awards, and it’s almost shocking that the Emmys recognized the star of a genre show with two nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress. She even won in 2016.
Watch it now, and along with getting a great show you will also earn the right to tell people years from now that you were a fan of Maslany way back before she was a superstar.
There are few shows as divisive as Sense8, and that’s not surprising. It is a very progressive show, and one that doesn’t just scream diversity, it punches you in the face and then kicks you with it when you are down. That’s part of what makes it great, but not everyone will be into it – and that’s not the only issue. The bigger problem is that the first season was slow and kind of boring at times. The second season seemed to recognize that and pushed things in a better direction. Still, the show was canceled.
Sense8 was an incredibly expensive series, and while Netflix doesn’t release ratings, they obviously weren’t good enough to justify a budget that rivaled a major Hollywood movie. The fan backlash tot he cancelation was strong though, and the powers that be gave Sense8 a partial reprieve. There will be a single episode series finale coming later this year. It won’t come close to completely resolving the massive and sprawling story, but something is better than nothing.
So while fans wait for the finale, catch up on all the magical orgy action through the two seasons that are available now.
Star Wars Rebels
It’s weird to think that a Star Wars series might be considered underappreciated, but Rebels is very good and doesn’t get a lot of love outside of its devoted fans. Part of that is because it is buried away on Disney XD, and part of that may be because Star Wars prequels have… let’s just call it a troubled past. Plus, the story features two Jedi after the purge in Revenge of the Sith, so don’t expect a happy ending. But the show is worth watching for Star Wars fans.
It doesn’t radically change the world of Star Wars, but it actually tells a good story on its own. The fourth and final season is currently underway, and the final episodes are scheduled to begin airing in late February. That should earn some positive attention, but there’s a slight chance that a serialized cartoon prequel is a wee bit overshadowed by the recent release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The good news is that it will conclude soon enough, and then Disney will certainly find a way to sell it to people. And then resell it. And then release a special edition. And then… well, you get the point.