Someday we will tell our grandchildren that we were alive during April and May of 2017, when American TV was at its greatest and most plentiful.
Even in this era of “peak TV,” it’s rare for so many excellent television shows to be on the air in the US at the same time. There are so many good shows on right now that some TV critics selfishly hoped Hollywood writers would go on strike this month (they didn’t) because that might finally give them the chance to catch up on the ever-growing mountain of acclaimed series to watch.
It’s not hyperbole. There are, at the very least, four dramas currently airing new seasons that I’d consider to be mandatory viewing for anyone who enjoys television (The Leftovers, Fargo, The Americans, Better Call Saul). The current comedy slate isn’t quite as strong, but there’s more than enough out there (Veep, Silicon Valley, Archer, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and more reinforcements on the way in the next two weeks (Master of None, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).
And then there’s a slew of compelling, provocative new series that launched over the past month (The Handmaid’s Tale, American Gods, Dear White People).
All in all, it’s the most fertile month of TV I can remember. While research reveals that there may have been other calendar years with as much or more good TV as today, never has so much prestige been bottled up and distilled into just a few weeks.
The reason for this is pretty simple: the Emmys. Shows must have aired half of their seasons before May 31 to be eligible for the highest award in television. Starting a new season in April or May also helps with the marketing, keeping the show fresh in the minds of Emmy voters. Late spring is essentially the television equivalent of “Oscar season” (October through December) for film, Vox TV critic Todd VanDerWerff explained.
Combine the Emmys pandering with the sheer volume of content, and the increasingly diverse stable of creative voices in the industry, and the result is a month of television unlike any other.
Here’s a handy list to keep track of this month’s mandatory watching:
- The Leftovers (HBO), season three: premiered April 16, ends June 4
- Fargo (FX), season three: premiered April 19, ends June 21
- The Americans (FX), season five: premiered March 7, ends May 30
- The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu), season one: premiered April 26, ends June 14
- Better Call Saul (AMC), season three: premiered April 10, ends June 12
- American Gods (Starz), season one: premiered April 30, ends June 18
- Veep (HBO), season six: premiered April 16, ends June 18
- Silicon Valley (HBO), season four: premiered April 23, ends June 25
- Master of None (Netflix), season two: premieres May 12 (all episodes)
- Twin Peaks (Showtime), season one: premieres May 21, ends Sept. 3