Skip to navigationSkip to content
WORTH YOUR WHILE

The 10 TV shows from 2017 most worthy of your time

the handmaid's tale hulu
Hulu
There was a shocking amount of good TV this year.
  • Adam Epstein
By Adam Epstein

Entertainment reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

By now you’ve probably already read at least one “best of television in 2017” list, if not several of them. Many of these lists are quite good, explaining in detail why a wide variety of television shows are deserving of the accolades they’ve received. But these lists don’t take always into account your precious time and energy, both of which are increasingly limited in this era of rapid TV proliferation. No reasonable person can actually be expected to watch all of the shows that TV critics tell them to.

To that end, Quartz has compiled the 10 TV shows of 2017 that we believe to be most worthy of your time and attention. We have calculated exactly how many hours it will take you to complete each series in their entireties. In total, the shows listed below will account for 102.7 hours of your life (4.28 days).

Feel free to watch all, some, or just one of them. We’ve also specified whether or not we recommend binge-watching each show. Some you can knock out in a weekend, others we’d suggest spreading out over days or weeks. The following 10 shows that aired in the past year won’t make you regret investing in them:

10. Catastrophe (Amazon)

Amazon Video
  • Time investment: 7.5 hours (18 episodes)
  • Plot: An American man (Rob Delaney) and an Irish woman (Sharon Horgan) engage in a weeklong fling which results in an accidental pregnancy. Rather than part ways, the near-strangers try to make it work.
  • One-sentence review: Endlessly clever but still completely honest and heartfelt, Catastrophe is the class of the rapidly growing “dramedy” genre.
  • Great moment: The funeral for Sharon’s father, complete with an appearance by Carrie Fisher as Rob’s mother in one of her final roles
  • Binge it?: Each of the three seasons are bingeable on their own, but we’d recommend a break in between seasons.

9. The Vietnam War (PBS)

PBS
  • Time investment: 16.5 hours (10 episodes)
  • Plot: Prolific documentarians Ken Burns and Lynn Novick chronicle the Vietnam War in this 10-part series replete with battlefield footage and interviews with veterans, activists, and journalists on both sides of the conflict.
  • One-sentence review: Thorough, fair, and always compelling, Burns and Novick’s series is a titanic feat in educational entertainment and an essential record of a dark period in human history.
  • Great moment: The archival footage, in both color and black-and-white, is spellbinding.
  • Binge it?: Definitely not—you’d go crazy. Watch one or two installments and then come back when you’re feeling studious again.

8. Legion (FX)

FX
  • Time investment: 6.9 hours (8 episodes)
  • Plot: Based on the Marvel comic book character of the same name, Legion follows the mutant awakening of a man diagnosed as a child with what he believes to be schizophrenia.
  • One-sentence review: Legion is the most fearless and original “superhero show” ever made, subverting virtually everything you thought you knew about how these stories are supposed to be told.
  • Great moment: In the middle of a climactic moment in its seventh episode, Legion suddenly erupted into a four-minute black-and-white silent film set to a twisted cover of “Boléro” by French composer Maurice Ravel. Yeah, it’s that kind of show.
  • Binge it?: It’s possible, but it might get a little too trippy. Each episode needs some room to breathe.

7. The Good Place (NBC)

NBC
  • Time investment: 8.1 hours (21 episodes)
  • Plot: An immoral woman dies and wakes up in a heaven-like afterlife, realizing she’s been sent to the wrong place by mistake.
  • One-sentence review: A hilarious fantasy romp that is also unexpectedly fascinating, The Good Place examines deep philosophical questions with a creative flair.
  • Great moment: Eleanor (Kristen Bell) is introduced to a woman who lives in “The Medium Place,” a thoroughly mediocre eternal existence placed somewhere between heaven and hell.
  • Binge it?: You can certainly watch a solid chunk of episodes at a time.

6. The Deuce (HBO)

HBO
  • Time investment: 9.2 hours (8 episodes)
  • Plot: A sweeping character study set in Manhattan in the 1970s during the birth of the Times Square porn industry
  • One-sentence review: David Simon’s best work since The WireThe Deuce is a stunningly detailed and intimate glance at a unique place and time even as it scrutinizes the larger socioeconomic systems that created it.
  • Great moment: NYPD patrolmen perform their routine roundup of prostitutes working in Times Square, then casually ask for their dinner orders as they all share Chinese food in a jail courtyard.
  • Binge it?: It’s only 8 episodes, so you theoretically could, but you probably won’t want to, unless you’re a huge fan of The Wire-style slow burn storytelling.

5. The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

Hulu
  • Time investment: 8.5 hours (10 episodes)
  • Plot: In a dystopian near-future America, women are forced into sexual servitude by a totalitarian Christian regime.
  • One-sentence review: Equal parts beautiful and devastating, The Handmaid’s Tale is a timely thriller that features a remarkable performance by actress Elisabeth Moss as the titular “handmaid.”
  • Great moment: In a brutal, bizarre ritual that shows off the series’ cinematography, a rapist is sentenced to death by (several dozen) handmaid.
  • Binge it?: It’ll be really hard to stop after just one, but watch more than two or three in a row and you’re going to be emotionally exhausted.

4. American Vandal (Netflix)

Netflix
  • Time investment: 4.5 hours (8 episodes)
  • Plot: A “mockumentary” satirizing true-crime shows like Making a Murderer and The JinxAmerican Vandal digs deep into the investigation surrounding who drew a series of graffiti penises on cars in the faculty parking lot at a California high school.
  • One-sentence review: Hysterically committed to its zany premise, American Vandal is a brilliant and perfectly irreverent spoof of one of America’s most popular types of entertainment.
  • Great moment: The investigation turns to a “foreign exchange student,” Ming.
  • Binge it?: There’s no other way to watch it.

3. Big Little Lies (HBO)

HBO
  • Time investment: 6.1 hours (7 episodes)
  • Plot: Based on the book by Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies depicts how a murder shocks the seemingly idyllic upscale beachfront town of Monterey, California out of rhythm.
  • One-sentence review: Boosted by five fantastic performances by women (Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, and Zoe Kravitz), Big Little Lies is a darkly funny, moving portrait of internal lives that are very different from how the outside world perceives them.
  • Great moment: Do not fuck with my daughter’s birthday.”
  • Binge it?: This could go either way: You won’t be left quite as worn out as The Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s the kind of show where you’ll hope you saved at least a few episodes for yourself for later.

2. Mindhunter (Netflix)

Netflix
  • Time investment: 8.3 hours (10 episodes)
  • Plot: FBI agents interview serial killers to help solve existing cases in the early days of criminal profiling, based on the book of the same name by real-life FBI profiler John E. Douglas, who also inspired characters in Silence of the Lambs and Criminal Minds.
  • One-sentence review: Far more cerebral and rebellious than the average crime caper, Mindhunter is more interesting and stylish than every network crime procedural show put together.
  • Great moment: The team’s interviews with Edmund Kemper (based on the actual serial killer) are some of the most engrossing TV of 2017.
  • Binge it?: I maniacally binged it, but I was left wondering if everyone I knew was secretly a serial killer. Take that as you will.

1. The Leftovers (HBO)

HBO
  • Time investment: 27.1 hours (28 episodes)
  • Plot: Families attempt to put their lives back together following the unexplained disappearance of 2% of the world’s population.
  • One-sentence review: Imaginative, disturbing, dazzling, and often inspiring, The Leftovers is the most rewarding TV experience of the last three years and the most essential artistic artifact of 2017.
  • Great moment: It’s impossible to pick just one, so here are a few:
  • Binge it?: Though it may be tough to resist, we highly recommend putting some space between these emotional episodes, which should let the show’s existential questions gnaw at you until you’re ready to dive in again.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.