Paste‘s 20 Most Popular TV Stories of 2017

TV Lists 2017 in Review
Paste‘s 20 Most Popular TV Stories of 2017

Technically speaking, the following 20 stories aren’t actually the most popular we published in 2017. If we went strictly by the numbers, this list would be dominated by, well, lists: of the best tv shows, performances, episodes, and characters of the year, for instance, which might grow a bit tiresome 20 times over.

Instead, we’ve collected the 20 most-read reviews, essays, interviews, features and videos from a remarkably wide-ranging year in TV. From small series with passionate fan bases—Home Fires, Into the Badlands—to the subjects of countless water cooler conversations—Game of Thrones, American Gods—here’s a taste of what you loved in 2017, and what we promise to bring you more of in 2018.

20. American Gods, Sense8 and the Future of Gay Sex on TV
Author: Matt Brennan
Publication date: May 15

“Representation is popular culture’s Overton window: It inscribes the boundaries of the possible, and so determines the political imagination as well as the narrative one. American Gods, Sense8 and the other series that foretell the future of gay sex on TV open the window, as it were, rejecting the temptation to hide.”

19. How Did Netflix’s Star-Studded Friends from College Go So Wrong?
Author: Amy Amatangelo
Publication date: July 14

Friends without benefits.

With Friends like these, who needs Netflix?

Winter, spring, summer or fall, please don’t call.

I had a lot of fun putting new spins on old clichés while watching the new Netlix series Friends from College. I had to do something to distract myself from how bad the show is.”

18. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War Might Be the Most Important TV Series of the Season
Author: Matt Brennan
Publication date: September 14

“It is by marshaling the familiar images and frequent phrases of that tumultuous era into a single, stricken epic that The Vietnam War becomes the most thorough screen treatment of the conflict since its ignominious end, and perhaps the definitive one: What it lacks in the immediacy of Emile de Antonio’s In the Year of the Pig, the Winterfilm Collective’s Winter Soldier, Peter Davis’ Hearts and Minds, and the thousands of hours of ghastly footage that Americans watched from the dinner table in the 1960s and 1970s, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s indispensable docuseries regains from the sheer grandeur of its portrait, and from its plaintive understanding that the war was the hinge on which the optimism of ‘the American century’ swung firmly, irrevocably shut.”

17. The Uncomfortable Legacy of Buffy’s Xander Harris
Author: Sara Ghaleb
Publication date: March 7

“If there is a woman who fights the forces of evil, then right behind her will always be a nerdy everyman trying to get out of the friendzone. Maybe it’s Jake from Crazyhead, using a puppet to offer to eat Amy’s pussy while they are at work. Maybe it’s Winn from Supergirl, suggesting Kara hasn’t gone out with him because she’s a lesbian. Maybe it’s Boyle not taking Rosa’s no for an answer on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Whoever he is, he owes it all to Xander.”

16. How Younger Perfected the Cliffhanger Ending
Author: Rae Nudson
Publication date: August 16

“For every twist in Liza’s story, Younger uses an adept episode structure that matches the ups and downs that Liza feels. Rather than using a traditional sitcom structure that wraps up an episode’s story in 22 minutes, save for a few two-parters here and there, Younger’s episodes often end on cliffhangers, teasing the next step of Liza’s journey right before the credits roll.”

15. What Went Wrong with Iron Fist?
Author: Trent Moore
Publication date: March 14

“Jones might as well be playing Danny Bland (an easy joke, but a true one): This version of the character doesn’t come off as particularly smart or savvy, and though Iron Fist tells us again and again that he’s an ultra-powerful weapon, he swings from heroics to an almost child-like demeanor on a whim.”

14. Watch: Outlander’s Newest Heartthrob, Richard Rankin, Discusses His Role as Roger Wakefield
Author: Keri Lumm
Publication date: July 26

Richard Rankin is as charming as he is handsome. Paste caught up with the Scottish actor at Comic-Con to discuss his role in Outlander Season Three.

13. American Gods Owes Its Imaginative Take on the Divine to Two One-Season Wonders
Author: Sara Ghaleb
Publication date: May 5

American Gods owes it all to two long forgotten one-season wonders: Wonderfalls (2004) and Kings (2009). Each was created by one of American Gods’ co-creators, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, and each is a bold, imaginative take on the divine in modern America.”

12. Masterpiece: Endeavour’s Shaun Evans on Reinterpreting Inspector Morse, Tarot Cards and More
Author: Kari Young
Publication date: August 18

“I think when you’re in the middle of a piece of work, there are things that bleed over into your life. You’re spending a large portion of your day pretending to be somebody else, to tell somebody else’s story.”

11. Watch: American Gods’ Ian McShane and Ricky Whittle on Their Highly Anticipated TV Show and Mutual Love of Soccer
Author: Keri Lumm
Publication date: March 21

The pair sat down with Paste at SXSW to chat about American Gods, their shared love for soccer, and their dislike of alternative facts.

10. Why Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why Is One of the Most Important TV Shows of the Season
Author: Whitney Friedlander
Publication date: April 4

“While it’s easy to get wrapped up in the gossipy (and eventual) unraveling of Hannah’s postmortem cryptogram, the message of 13 Reasons Why is that everyone—no matter if they were on the tapes or not—had a chance to save Hannah from herself, even the adults.”

9. Big Little Lies Is a Big Little Disappointment
Author: Amy Amatangelo
Publication date: February 17

“Reading the book, the characters’ immense affluence didn’t detract from the novel’s larger themes of parenthood, marriage and the “big little lies” that we tell ourselves. But here, as the impeccably dressed and coiffed stars look out from their mansions onto the ocean, it’s hard to feel a lot of kinship with these mothers.”

8. Game of Thrones’ Instantaneous Westeros Travel Fallacy Is Driving Me Insane
Author: Jim Vorel
Publication date: August 21

“The show is now hurtling along at such a ridiculous pace that the writers simply can’t keep up and craft simultaneous developments of multiple plotlines that make no sense under the most basic of scrutiny.”

7. The Real History Behind Medici: Masters of Florence Is More Captivating Than Netflix’s Fiction
Author: Christine Contrada
Publication date: January 10

“Historical intrigue can make for excellent TV, and Netflix’s Medici: Masters of Florence boasts an exceptionally captivating historical premise. But the series fails to capitalize on this advantage: It never captures the real Medici.”

6. Home Fires Creator Simon Block on the Series’ Abrupt Cancellation and Literary Future
Author: Kari Young
Publication date: May 8

“There was shock [on] our end that it was canceled. We weren’t given any indication. We were still told, right up to the day before, the executive producer was given assurance. The ratings—they were strong first series and they held up in the second series. That added to the shock of it.”

5. BoJack Horseman Is the Defining TV Series of Our Time
Author: Matt Brennan
Publication date: September 11

“Let’s face it, the world is a stupid piece of sh*t: Politicians dither, or otherwise harm. Corporations profit while the rest scrape by. Oceans rise and storms intensify. Wars rage. Militarism grows. Nazism spreads (again). Culture dulls, when it doesn’t deaden entirely. And this atop the smaller indignities we face, strengthening their influence, their soul-stabbing gnaw: the estranged parent, the mistreated friend, the man you love who doesn’t love you back; the leaky faucet, the flat tire, the sprained ankle, the stubbed toe; the conference calls, listless dates, bad arguments; the fear buried in our marrow that it might amount to less than nothing, and the fear, just as deep, that we’re unworthy of love.”

4. Into the Badlands Is the Most Stylish Show on TV Today, and It Deserves an Emmy Nod
Author: Jim Vorel
Publication date: April 20

“From production design, to costuming, to choreography and stunts, the second season of Into the Badlands has already surpassed its first, bringing its audience a mythology-rich tribute to classic Hong Kong action cinema and wuxia films that is the closest thing we’ve ever seen on TV to a serialized version of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

3. A Series of Unfortunate Events Author Daniel Handler on Bringing the Baudelaire Orphans’ Miserable World to Netflix
Author: Zach Blumenfeld
Publication date: January 20

“We were just thinking about different ways of stitching in a mystery, and it was an idea that I liked right away. I liked the idea that fans of the books would be upset for most of the first season, thinking “I can’t believe they changed it,” and then would suddenly be relieved, and then people who were unfamiliar with the books would be relieved and then suddenly not.”

2. This Theory on How Game of Thrones Ends Is So Good It Has to Be True
Author: Shane Ryan
Publication date: May 31

game of thrones best of 2017.jpg
“It is our solemn duty to warn you that massive spoilers lurk ahead. No, ‘lurk’ is the wrong word—they are descending like dragons, ready to turn your innocent, spoiler-free flesh into the roasted, smoking meat of worldly knowledge, or something. If you’re not caught up on the TV show or the books, and you want to remain in blissful ignorance, stop now. If you are caught up, and don’t want to read a theory on how the drama in Westeros ends—a theory that is so thorough, so smart, and comes with so much corroborating evidence that I basically consider it a spoiler—stop now.”

1. We’ve Been Bamboozled: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Centers a White Woman’s Gaze on a Black Family
Author: Shannon M. Houston
Publication date: April 21

“I know you want to believe I’m exaggerating, and I want to believe it, too. Because, after all, it just can’t be. It can’t be that Hollywood could take a story that has everything to do with a black woman, her family and her legacy and still manage to make it about a white woman. It can’t be that Oprah Winfrey would allow her own, wildly fascinating and passionate role to somehow play second fiddle, in a film that she’s also producing. And to be clear, Deborah Lacks is an interesting character, and Winfrey delivers a strong performance. The film might have even succeeded, if the same could be said for Byrne’s character. But for some reason, Byrne (whose previous work I’ve always respected and enjoyed) is practically one-note here: a constantly smiling but oft-confused woman in the midst of Deborah’s unpredictability and mental and emotional instability.”

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