For those of us who obsess over the weird, the supernatural and the superheroic, 2017 was a great year for geek television.
This year had dozens of new and returning series based on comic books, sci-fi novels, epic fantasies and reboots of '90s cult favorites. While Stranger Things and Game of Thrones returned as the most possible series on Netflix and HBO, respectively, Showtime brought back surreal drama Twin Peaks while Syfy brought more internet horror culture to life with a new season of Channel Zero.
The criteria for this list is simple. The show didn't have to premiere this year, it just had to air this year. I couldn't possibly make a best-of nerd TV list by excluding returning shows. I see you Game of Thrones and Stranger Things. Keep up the great work.
So here, in chronologically order, are my favorite geeky shows of the year.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Millennials' only hope for this adaptation of the beloved cynical book series was that it be better than the movie with Jim Carrey. Netflix delivered twofold. The adaptation of Lemony Snicket's series of children's tragedies was far from unpleasant or uninteresting. A Series of Unfortunate Events was weirdly wonderful, a blend of goth and Dr. Seuss's style. It looked as if Dr. Seuss himself and Tim Burton created a show together. It was a whimsical tale of woe about three orphaned children struggling to keep out of the clutches of a vile guardian (Neil Patrick Harris) after their fortune.
Not all comic books have superheroes, but CW's Riverdale (based on the Archie comics) was the juicy breakout teen star of this year's winter season. The adaptation twisted the original wholesome comics into a pulpy, noir melodrama with elements from soapy favorites likes Twin Peaks, Gossip Girl and Dawson's Creek. The first season was an Archie story above all, but also quickly delved into the personal lives of other classic characters like Betty, Veronica, Jughead and the Pussycat Dolls. Riverdale is not your father's or grandfather's Archie comics, but reeled in a whole new generation of fans with pop culture-saturated dialogue and a seedy murder-mystery involving a small town full of beautiful people.
FX took a risk by diverging from the norm with Legion. It certainly wasn't the typical show adapted from comic books, but ended up transcending the superhero genre. Dan Stevens played David Haller, an antihero of sorts who's spent his life in and out of psychiatric hospitals because of his severe schizophrenia. But he soon realizes he may not be sick at all, but really the most powerful Marvel mutant. Creator Noah Hawley's (Fargo, Bones) interpretation of Legion was sheer originality, producing a story about a man with superpowers while still remaining beautifully human.
Mystery Science Theater 3000
We got movie sign years ago for a reboot of the cult sci-fi comedy years ago when longtime fans petitioned for another season. The original series from the 1990s was a bonkers concept that pitted a regular Joel (Joel Hodgson) and his handmade robots against the worst movies ever made. To keep their sanity they continuously riffed on the story, characters and dialogue. The Return continued the original's legacy with the same concept but with fresh faces like Felicia Day, Jonah Ray and Patton Oswalt.
The most beautiful, cinematic series of the year. The Starz series adapted the novel from Neil Gaiman and chronicled a brewing holy war between ancient deities and the new gods of vice and technology. Deadwood's Ian McShane led as a humanized Odin, the Norse god of war with human Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) at his side trying to find his place in this clash of titans after the death of his wife (Emily Browning). Showrunners Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Logan) bring their expertise in beautiful gore to this series with stunning effect along with a striking commentary on modern religion.
The nostalgic reboot trend is still going strong, and David Lynch's surreal drama Twin Peaks was ripe for a sequel series. The series picks up 25 years after the shocking murder of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in the sleepy Pacific Northwest town of Twin Peaks. It was also more two decades since Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) ventured into the mysterious Black Lodge. The Return answered quite a few questions left by the original, but also dumped dozens more on fans of the surreal David Lynch series. Twin Peaks was an often opaque story about small town scandal and the supernatural elements of human evil.
Game of Thrones
It might be an unpopular opinion, but the penultimate season was one of the series' best yet. Probably because the events of the last six seasons were all leading up to the jaw-dropping events of Season 7. The families of the North and South finally (sort of) came together to team up against supernatural evil, multiple fan theories were confirmed and there was a plethora of stunning scenes of dragon burning down everything in their wake. And everything that happened in the seventh season is even more buildup to the battles of the eighth and final season, where we'll see who finally wins the game of thrones.
The truly underrated sci-fi horror series had the opposite of a sophomore slump this year. Channel Zero's second season brought to life the Creepypasta story No-End House, about a mysterious haunted mansion that just appears in a quiet neighborhood one evening. Only the bravest can make it past the first few rooms, but the most dangerous task comes when leads Margo (Amy Forsyth) and Jules (Aisha Dee) try to get out. The second season pushes the series into the prestige horror realm, with long pans and shuddersome sound design that are reminiscent of It Follows and The Shining.
I didn't think last summer's sleeper hit could get any better, but I was wrong. It had been about a year since Eleven's (Millie Bobby Brown) disappearance after the defeat of the demogorgon. Now this season, something even more sinister has made its way out of the upside down and into the mind of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). The Duffer brothers' '80s nostalgia masterpiece made a satisfying follow-up with the return of the cast of brilliant young actors and a pop culture-soaked storyline.
The new Hulu series, which premiered in November, was the right way to adapt a comic book series into a TV show. Based on the Marvel comics, Runaways follows a ragtag group of teens who find out their parents are actually members of an evil cult bent on controlling the city. Runaways presented the correct way to adapt a comic book series into a television show. It's chiefly a family drama sprinkled with bits of science fiction and futuristic technology. But its exploration of the complex relationships between teens and each other and their parents gave it an authentic warmth that other superhero shows lack.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.
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