There's no denying that this was a great year for television. But one side effect of the current golden age of programming is that there's simply too many shows for any one human being to possibly watch, and some of 2017's most underrated TV shows may have flown under the radar. By some estimates, close to 500 scripted programs aired over the past 12 months, between broadcast, cable, premium channels, and streaming platforms — a record high.
Some of these programs reached blockbuster status to rival any major Hollywood production. Game of Thrones continued to break HBO ratings records, Big Little Lies brought together some of cinema's biggest names, The Handmaid's Tale scorched its way into the zeitgeist with frightening relevancy, and Stranger Things 2 upped the ante in the fashion of some of your favorite blockbuster sequels.
But what about the shows that didn't quite enter mainstream consciousness, the ones that didn't earn record ratings or boatloads of Emmy nominations? Just because they're not as popular doesn't mean they don't deserve your attention. So here, in alphabetical order, are 14 of the most severely underrated shows that premiered during 2017. (So no, The Leftovers — perhaps the most criminally underrated show of all time — didn't make the list for its stunning final season. But you should still go watch it.)
1. American Gods (Starz)
This series based on Neil Gaiman's fantastical novel may have gotten a lot of press, but it ultimately pulled in fewer eyeballs for Starz than either Outlander or Power. And given that creator Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) has departed the show ahead of Season 2, those first eight episodes will be the only time viewers truly get to see his insane, hallucinatory, feverish, mythic take on the story of the American melting pot.
2. American Vandal (Netflix)
Netflix kept the true crime ball rolling this year with The Keepers and has more Making A Murderer coming up — but it was also able to laugh at the phenomenon it helped resurrect with this pitch-perfect parody of the genre. Who knew "Who drew the dicks?" would be the most compelling mystery of 2017?
3. Big Mouth (Netflix)
Did you go through puberty? Then you'll certainly enjoy this animated treasure from the mind of comedian Nick Kroll, with terrific voice performances from Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph as the Hormone Monster and Monstress. And perhaps no moment on television summed up our society's collective feelings about 2017 better than the show's original song "Life Is A F*cked Up Mess."
4. Claws (TNT)
I would describe this TNT series — starring Scream Queens' Niecy Nash as a salon owner, The Good Wife's Carrie Preston as a manicurist, and Breaking Bad's Dean Norris as a bisexual gangster named Uncle Daddy — as a guilty pleasure… except I don't feel the slightest bit guilty about enjoying a show as funny, fierce, and feminist as Claws.
5. Dark (Netflix)
A Netflix sci-fi series suffused with '80s nostalgia about a small town, a shadowy government installation, things in the woods, flickering lights, a missing boy, and the group of friends who go looking for him? No, I'm not describing Stranger Things, but rather this excellent German import. Dark is what would happen if you crossed Stranger Things with the creepy French series Les revenants… and then stuffed it all inside the hatch from Lost.
6. Dear White People (Netflix)
Expanding on the 2014 film of the same name in consistently surprising ways, Dear White People shone the spotlight on a different student at the fictional Winchester University each week, crafting parables of racism, class, feminism, sexuality, and intersectionality that were as insightful as they were hilarious.
7. Godless (Netflix)
There's probably no genre more traditionally associated with masculinity than the Western, so it was refreshing to watch as Godless — which ostensibly stars Jeff Daniels as a fearsome outlaw — gradually and subversively pushed its female characters (played by Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery and Nurse Jackie's Merritt Wever) more and more to the forefront of the narrative.
8. Marvel's Runaways (Hulu)
While Netflix defended and punished, The CW averted a crisis on Earth-X, and FOX and FX got in on the X-Men game, Hulu quietly premiered the best superhero show of the year in their buzzier shadows. It might be tempting to dismiss this show about a group of friends who discover their parents are supervillains as a mere teen trifle (coming as it does from the writers of Gossip Girl) — but if you do, you'll be missing out on the quirkiest and most diverse roster of heroes the genre has to offer on the small screen.
9. The Mayor (ABC)
A series about a public figure who runs for office to inflate his own celebrity, and then gets stuck with the job he never really wanted in the first place: Nope, this isn't a biopic about Donald Trump, but rather an ABC sitcom about a rapper named Courtney Rose. The Mayor is a surprisingly hopeful show that might actually inspire people to get involved in politics during a time when politics are less popular than ever.
10. Room 104 (HBO)
Taking a unique new twist on the anthology format, this series from the Duplass Brothers (Togetherness) finds each episode taking place inside the same hotel room. But those four walls are literally all that binds the series together, allowing each half-hour to experiment with time period, genre, and subject matter. It truly has a little something for everyone.
11. The Sinner (USA)
It takes a lot to surprise audiences these days, but USA's summer mystery series — which also contains the best performance of Jessica Biel's career, incidentally — unspooled its knotty "whydunnit" in a consistently unexpected manner. In the end, The Sinner wasn't so much the story of a single grisly murder, but rather a painful accounting of how lingering trauma can go on to shape a person's life in unseen ways.
12. Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)
It's too bad that the new chapter in the Star Trek saga premiered on CBS' nascent streaming platform, because it absolutely deserves to be seen by a wider audience. The fierce performance by Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead) anchors the most diverse cast in the franchise's history, and the plots manage to combine the philosophizing of old-school Trek with the eye-popping action of the recent feature films.
13. Ten Days In The Valley (ABC)
This mystery series was one of the first casualties of the Fall 2017 TV season — which is too bad, because not only was it one of the only offerings of the season created by a female showrunner, it was also quite a bit better than its reputation suggests. At the very least, it has a terrifically committed lead performance by Emmy-winner Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) to recommend it.
14. The Young Pope
What do you get when you cross Italy's most sumptuous filmmaker with Jude Law and the Vatican? You get a show that makes almost zero coherent sense but somehow manages to combine Cherry Coke Zero, mountains of babies, Diane Keaton in a habit, spiritual musings, kangaroos, fabulous hats, and Jude Law's butt into the most provocative, sensual, stylish, and blasphemous melodrama you could imagine in your wildest fever dream.
This year undoubtedly had a lot to offer, from new shows like The Deuce, departing shows like Halt And Catch Fire, and returning ones like Twin Peaks or Will & Grace. But if you didn't catch any of these 14 underrated shows, then you're missing out on some of the absolute best television of 2017.