Anything and Everything / TV

SQ’s Top TV Shows of 2017

Artwork by Eszter Jászfalvi

When the end of the year approaches it means that a lot of content has been piling up for us Screen Queens. 2017 was an especially good year for television, and for women in television. I actually found myself more drawn to the world of TV as opposed to cinema, which has never happened before!

Each of us picked out our favourite series’ of the year- believe me, it was hard! We couldn’t possibly mention all the great material that has been brought to life in the past 12 months, so feel free to share your favourites with us, too!

Here’s to a revolutionary year of television!

 

Eszti’s pick: Alias Grace

Margaret Atwood admittedly owned all of our TV screens this year. But while everyone was busy binge-watching The Handmaid’s Tale,  it seems like nobody noticed the six part gem that Netflix dropped this November, called Alias Grace.

This true story revolves around Grace Marks, a sixteen year old celebrated murderess, who was convicted of killing her owner, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, alongside her fellow servant, James McDermott. While McDermott was hanged for his crimes, Grace got a lifelong sentence in prison. But the question of her innocence is still unknown, even to this day.

It’s the most immersive experience I’ve ever had while watching a TV show. Grace’s story instantly pulled me in, it gripped me, and it still haunts me long after I’ve seen it. Sarah Gadon is BRILLIANT as Grace! Her character is like a figurehead, encompassing everything that’s been projected onto her, and at the same time staying away from it all. She’s looking from the outside in, objectively. I’m sure everyone who watched it has different theories about her, but in my opinion she’s a psychopath, although I’m still changing my mind about it every other day.

Everyone is morally ambigous, nobody is black or white. The show is not afraid of presenting us with the real, sometimes harsh, raw reality of the 19th century and its cast of characters, not afraid to make them unlikeable.

It touches on subjects such as opression, immigration, abortion, the consequences of having a child out of wedlock, the problem of the ’male gaze’. It’s bizzarly relevant today.

Alias Grace is a character study, a mindbending murder mystery, historical fiction, and a gripping psychological thriller all wrapped up into one.

It holds such a special place in my heart! I’m constantly thinking about it, it excites me, and at the same time it makes my heart ache. It has a mesmerizing score, the cinematography is beautiful, and the writing’s top notch. And the fact that it’s made by women is an amazing cherry on top! –EJ

 

I would also recommend: Bates Motel, AHS: Cult, Love & Atypical

Millicent’s pick: GLOW

Who isn’t a sucker for a bunch of badass women kicking ass? That was a rhetorical question.

Created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, in GLOW we follow the fictionalised tale of the real story behind the creation of “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling”; a 1985 TV show.

As Julia Raeside put so perfectly; “When has TV ever depicted women of every shape and hue throwing off all vanity and slamming each other into the floor with abandon?”

It is truly amazing to watch this group of, what society deems, “misfit women” use a dingy old gym to turn their bodies into weapons and build their strength with the support of one another.

GLOW feels like a huge middle finger to some issues in current society; for example, in our opening scene of episode one we meet Ruth (Allison Brie) mid-audition, only to discover she was reading the male part. When asked to read the female part, it was just a secretary knocking on the door about a phone call. We later discover she did this on purpose.

When faced with rubbish and/or not enough roles for women, it’s nice to see Netflix create a series full of brilliant ones and promote how beauty and strength can co-exist.

Though some characters may be lacking in depth, it is somewhat made up for with spectacular group training and fight scenes. It was perhaps a case of not enough time in the series for every woman, or too much time that wasn’t used in the right way. Regardless, an explosion of high cut leotards, hairspray and neon can’t help but bring a smile and a huge sense of nostalgia. –MT

 

I would also recommend: Girlboss

 

Alex’s pick: Twin Peaks: The Return

It’s without any doubt in my mind or heart that the 18 episode event that was Twin Peaks: The Return is the best work in any media of 2017. Is it TV? Is it a film in 18 parts? Does it matter? It succeeds in the very way its creator would most want it to – as a moving painting, each character a stroke of paint, each television trope a thing to dismantle and reassemble at will; a lesson in archetypes and surrealism and absurdity and extremes. If you watched because you were a Twin Peaks fan, it’s possible you were disappointed. If you watched expecting cathartic reunions and overwhelming answers to the death of Laura Palmer, you were heartbroken at best, livid at worst. But if you dove in because you are a follower of Lynch’s work as an artist, or simply believe in the power of dreams to lead you places you’ve never been before, then you were appeased the way an avid collector would be at receiving a work of an artist at the very height of his abilities. The Return harbored glimpses into every Lynch film before it – Lost Highway (endless driving through the night), Wild at Heart (is Twin Peaks Kansas or Oz?), Eraserhead (oh, the pleasures and disgust of diegetic and non-diegetic sounds, enmeshed), Six Men Getting Sick (vomit, vomit, vomit – beautiful, ghastly vomit) and even The Straight Story (as this is one long road trip, after all)No matter what you thought, or what you got out of it, the experience is the most worthwhile eighteen hours I spent this year. Bottom line: I’ve never seen a more complete work – of any art – than the career accomplishment that is David Lynch’s third season of Twin Peaks; from slow, creeping start to screaming, petrifying stop. –AL

 

I would also recommend: Five Came Back, Channel Zero: No End House

 

Ashleigh’s pick: The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

It’s a Hanukkah miracle! Amazon Studios and Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino has blessed us with another smart and sassy (and openly flawed) leading lady to rival Lorelai. Midge Maisel is the vintage Jewish Lorelai Gilmore we all not-so-secretly wished for. Rachel Brosnahan is Upper West Side perfection. Not only am I envious of every article of clothing in her designer drenched closet, but also the sharp wit that comes from her perfectly made up mouth. My wee feminist heart glowed when a man heckling her said: “Go home and clean the kitchen” and she bit back with “Oh sir, I’m Jewish. I pay people to do that.”

Given the criticism aimed toward Gilmore Girls, I was interested in seeing what steps the producers took in TM3 to address similar problems. While not entirely unproblematic, the show seemed conscious in its inclusion of positive representations of LGBT characters and people of color (albeit barely, re: the latter), two groups which were noted to be the butt of jokes or absent entirely from GG. Alex Borstein’s butch Susie Meyerson is complex and well rounded. She navigates her business partnership and tentative friendship with Midge without her sexuality being turned into a tired joke.

The first season has only 8 episodes (one for each night of Hanukkah, perhaps?) and is a hilarious tribute to what it means to be a Jewish woman in 1950s America. In its honor I have co-opted a Christmas carol to illustrate some specific parts of the series that brought me great joy.

On the eighth night of Hanukkah my bubbe gave to me:

8 Sing-a-long Sound Cues

7 Parental Guilt Trips

6 Cavorting Chorus Boys

5 Clairvoyant Teacups

4 Lenny Bruce Cameos

3 Bribing Briskets

2 Arrests for Obscenity

1 Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

*These numbers may or may not be entirely accurate –AB

 

I would also recommend: Big Mouth

 

Juliette’s pick: The Keepers

“Can we find justice? Can justice just be acknowledged from the community instead of waiting for the stamp of approval from the systems that we usually get it from?” When Jean Wehner first poses this question in Netflix’s The Keepers, she’s referring to the unwillingness of the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore to recognize and admit sexual abuse within the Church. Watching the series again more recently, her inquiry applies to a broader societal issue. Tackling themes of systemic abuse and the silencing of victims, The Keepers stands alongside Tarana Burke’s #metoo movement. The series begins by directing our attention to the 1969 murder of Seton Keough high school teacher Sister Cathy Ceznik but soon turns its gaze to a variety of other wrongdoings, using the murder as an entryway to exploration of sexual abuse and trafficking within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The format of the series is perfectly suited to its content–in arguing the merit of recovered memory in sexual abuse cases, the largely nonlinear narrative winds from story to story, recollection to recollection. The smallest details warrant attention, and victims are given the voice they deserve but so rarely receive. More than any other program I’ve seen this year, The Keepers builds on what poststructuralist feminists refer to as écriture féminine, or women’s writing. The nonlinear structure, the emphasis on collaboration, and the focus on individual stories to form a truthful whole all serve to elevate The Keepers to the top of my list in 2017 television.  –JF

 

I would also recommend: Big Little Lies

 

Alannah’s pick: Riverdale | Season Two

Netflix/CW’s Riverdale returned this year, for its highly anticipated second season, which saw the return of the main cast, with a few new added faces. Kicking off immediately in the aftermath of first season, season two promised bigger and better things. The storylines were more dramatic, and the sex scenes more controversial, notably Betty’s uncomfortable strip tease in episode eight, and Veronica’s insistence on referring to her father as ‘Daddykins.’ These scenes are bearable only in the knowledge, that the actors are much older than their on-screen counterparts, so yes, you are allowed to fancy Archie, if you must. Season two’s focus on the mystery surrounding the ‘black hood killer,’ fit in nicely with the 2017 boom in real crime drama. Riverdale’s light-hearted take on the subject, offers a needed breath from more hard-hitting shows like Mindhunter.  This season of Riverdale, mostly stays in its comically camp lane, but remained relevant by addressing matters such as drugs, date rape and cruising, proving the writers do not shy away from topical issues. These storylines, are supported by the fact that the characters are a lot more developed this season, as we see Betty and Archie flirt with the dark side, in their desire to unmask the killer, and Jughead eventually submit himself to the South Side Serpents. Riverdale is undoubtedly a guilty pleasure show, although, it makes for interesting viewing as a twenty-something, in its call back to noughties teen drama the OC, with the difference this time being, I find myself more on side with the conservative parents, than the absurd melodrama of the Riverdale teens. Riverdale remains a fun cringe-fest of a show, and its one I highly recommend for holiday binging. –AF

 

I would also recommend: Insecure & The Bold Type

 

Hannah’s pick: The Handmaid’s Tale

Out of all the television programmes that aired this year, only one truly stood out as the most thought-provoking piece of recent times. While shows such as ‘Big Little Lies’, ‘Mindhunter’, and ‘Stranger Things’ dominated conversation, rightfully so, one programme in particular felt more important than any other, more relevant than anything else could hope to be. In the age of Trump, an era in which minorities are singled out on a daily basis and targeted, only one show was truly able to capture the reality of life under an oppressive leader. Adapted from Margaret Atwood’s brilliantly haunting novel, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ felt more like a harrowing documentary than it did a depiction of a fictitious world. Set in a dystopian North America, reshaped into the Republic of Gilead, and centred around the life of one of the many women that have been stripped of their agency, and their dignity, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ proved to be an unflinching look at the true threat misogyny can pose.

By throwing us headfirst, without warning, into the brutal reality of a world ruled by theocratic fascists, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ managed to reflect the current plight of women in an increasingly hostile America. It followed the life of Offred, in a blistering performance from Elisabeth Moss, a formerly independent woman that found herself in the most unimaginable of situations, and portrayed her shattered existence with power and ire. It consisted of some of the most uncomfortable scenes I have ever come across on television, of savagery so intense that I could barely stand to watch at times. These moments, however, were as essential as they were brutal. Scenes in which ‘gender traitors’, the term used to refer to gay women in Gilead, are physically punished for their so called ‘crimes’ against the Republic may have been near on torturous to watch but were also necessary in demonstrating the dangers of patriarchal control. Much of what was difficult to stomach during ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ was vital in showing the world what can happen if toxic masculinity is allowed to seep into our governments, if deep rooted misogyny is allowed to go unchecked.

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is, without a doubt, my favourite television programme of the year. For its ability to so effectively convey the struggles that minorities are faced with every day and to warn us of the future threat that ‘casual’ misogyny can lead to, it must be considered the most socially important piece of 2017, and should be considered a modern masterwork. –HR

 

I would also recommend: The Good Place

 

Kelsie’s pick: Mr Robot | Season Three

With the third season coming to an end this month, Mr Robot is back stronger, smarter and packed with so much intensity it’ll leave you reeling in confusion.

Set in New York, the show follows Elliot Alderson, a cyber-security engineer by day and vigilante hacker by night. Recruited into activist hacker group fsociety – led by the frantic anarchist Mr Robot, Elliot’s tale is one riddled with corruption, millennial oppression, the destruction of capitalism and the call for revolution. Suffering from social anxiety, dissociative identity disorder and clinical depression, Mr Robot cracks a door open into the mind of its protagonist, portraying obscurities rarely seen.

Esmail delivers on everything the second season didn’t, making it the best one yet. Toying with his audience, he dangles the life of beloved characters in front of the viewer’s eyes, making it utterly unpredictable at times.

It’s not just the writing and character development that make this Amazon Original so damn good, diverse performances from Rami Malek, Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin, and BD Wong as Whiterose result in some of the most impassioned, twisted T.V. to date.

Throwing together the crazy character arcs developed in season 2, and season 1’s intense I have no idea what’s going on but I love it plot lines, Mr Robot steadily, and consistently gets better season after season, episode after episode.

The series has everything in terms of diversity, with some of the most complex three dimensional characters; it’s not easy to pick a favourite. That being said, Angela Moss (Portia Doubleday) glows furiously and curiously throughout the seasons. Witnessing the blur of her morals as she reaches for justice, and how she deals (barely) with the complications of her actions, Angela is an unpredictable yet required force in the world of Mr Robot.

Reflecting Western society’s oppression of the now, and the future, it depicts the power of the people, the consequence of revolution, and the sinister top 1% of the 1%. There’s too many reasons as to why this is a must see show for everyone! – And my favourite show of the year. –KD

 

I would also recommend: The Sinner

 

Compiled by Eszter Jászfalvi

Eszter Jászfalvi is a 17 year old femme from Budapest, Hungary, who’s a self-proclaimed perfectionist, a budding actress, a bibliophile and a beginner cook. Her favourite films include The Virgin SuicidesMarie Antoinette, Psycho, Donnie Darko, The Imitation Game and Brokeback Mountain. She’ll watch anything that Tim Burton and Wes Anderson makes, and whatever Dane Dehaan and Mia Wasikowska acts in. She’s also a serious binge watcher of all the good shows, such as Mr. Robot, Gossip Girl, American Horror Story, Bates Motel, Reign, also Black-ish. You can find her on Instagram @esztisworld, on Tumblr at esztiiscreatingherself.tumblr.com, and also on letterboxd here.

 

 

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