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Idiot Box

Best/Worst TV of 2017

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The Best

“GLOW” (Netflix) This scripted series based loosely on the cheesy ’80s syndicated women’s wrestling show delivered knockout comedy and surprising emotional weight with its potent piledriver of exploitation and feminism. Alison Brie (“Community”) came off the top rope as the wannabe actress searching for her raison d’etre and finding it, improbably, as the Russian villain in a corny piece of sports entertainment.

“Legion” (FX) Everybody’s favorite ubiquitous British boyfriend, Dan Stevens (“Downton Abby,” Beauty and the Beast, Marshall, The Man Who Invented Christmas) turned in his most complex performance with this twisty, mind-bending, borderline avant-garde superhero series from creator Noah Hawley (FX’s “Fargo”). Freely mixing X-Men comics, groovy ’60s design and mental illness, “Legion” introduced us to a protagonist who is either the most powerful mutant on Earth or a raving lunatic. Or both.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu) Timing is everything, and this pitch-perfect adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s tale of a dystopic, misogynistic future ruled by religious conservatives couldn’t have beeen more timely. What was once far-fetched social science-fiction now feels nauseatingly plausible in an America dominated by Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Harvey Weinstein.

“The Good Place” (NBC) It couldn’t have been easy following up on that first, concept-flipping season finale twist. But creator Michael Schur (“The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) pulled it off seamlessly in season 2, diving deeper into the existential possibilities, the eternal timeframe and the absurd humor of this metaphysical sitcom.

“Last Week Tonight” (HBO) I’m not sure how we would have survived the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency without the sober, stabilizing humor of John Oliver. More than just mocking those in power, Oliver’s show was a weekly crash course in how corporations and politicians stick it to ordinary citizens like us. Need to get a grip on “big issue” topics like net neutrality, civil forfeiture and the American Health Care Act? Oliver and his team of writers are the ones to break it down, forcing you to laugh and cry at the same time.

Also worth watching: “Master of None” (Netflix), “Stranger Things” (Netflix), “Fargo” (FX), “Big Little Lies” (HBO), “American Gods” (Starz), “DuckTales” (Disney XD), “The Dark” (Netflix), “Better Call Saul” (AMC), ”Rick & Morty” (Cartoon Network), “Mr. Robot” (USA)

The Worst

“Emerald City” (NBC) sure looked pretty, but it was virtually impossible to tell what was going on in this painfully muddled attempt to “modernize” The Wizard of Oz. The dunderheaded, pie-in-the-sky cop drama “APB” (FOX), attempted to fight crime with the help of a kindly white billionaire and his endless supply of high-tech gadgets but was shot down after a month on the air. Marvel Comics has made plenty of fine TV series (“Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage”)—but “Iron Fist” (Netflix), with its annoying lead character, its weak storyline and its seeming aversion to anything martial arts-related, wasn’t one of them. Neither was “Inhumans” (ABC), which looked more like a cheap Chinese knockoff than an officially licensed Marvel product. Finally, we’ve got to give the lady credit for ditching Fox News—but “Megan Kelly Today” (NBC) proved the controversial broadcaster to be the awkward, vapid, charmless Kelly Ripa-wannabe most of us suspected.

 
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