The best TV shows of the year, according to the people who actually run them

Best of the best, according to the best.
Best of the best, according to the best.
Image: (Left to right): Netflix, HBO, HBO, Hulu
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The 2017 Emmy nominations are nearly upon us: Voting on the prestigious TV awards ends next week, and the nominations themselves will be revealed live on July 13 (the ceremony takes place in September). But you don’t have to wait until then to know the best TV shows of the year.

Variety asked 34 of television’s top showrunners what their favorite shows of the year were (excluding their own), and a pattern quickly emerged. Hulu’s breakout hit The Handmaid’s Tale and Netflix comedy Master of None tied for the most mentions, with HBO dramas The Leftovers and Big Little Lies following in third and fourth place, respectively.

The 34 respondents do not, of course, include every TV showrunner, nor even every good showrunner—but they do create a sense of which shows are most beloved by the people perhaps most qualified to assess their merits. Think of it as a more curated version of the Emmys.

Those surveyed include Empire showrunner Ilene Chaiken, Stranger Things duo the Duffer brothers, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul legend Vince Gilligan, and Bates Motel showrunner and Friday Night Lights producer Kerry Ehrin.

Showrunners (typically those who lead a show’s writing and production) vote on the Emmys too, but so do thousands of professionals across the industry, including publicists, agents, executive, choreographers, and stunt coordinators. Many of them do not watch enough television to be effective evaluators. (Shameless plug: Check out the recently announced 2017 Television Critics Association nominees, voted on by people whose jobs are to watch everything on TV.)

Other shows that received love from the showrunners include little-known BBC-Amazon co-production Fleabag, FX comedy Atlanta (my favorite show of 2016, though since surpassed by The Leftovers), and NBC family drama This Is Us—a rare appearance by a broadcast show.

This list won’t necessarily predict which shows will be nominated for the most Emmys. The Leftovers, for instance, though adored by critics and showrunners alike, has only been given 66-to-1 odds of receiving a best drama nomination, according to awards predictor Gold Derby. Other shows likely to get several Emmy nominations, like HBO’s Westworld, AMC’s Better Call Saul, and Amazon’s Transparent, received one or zero mentions from the showrunners Variety surveyed.