The Handmaid’s Tale

A gorgeous-looking horror show, an excruciatingly tense thriller and a remarkable compendium of stories about women, this masterly adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel aligned flawlessly with the real-life horror of Donald Trump’s America to make it the perfect show for tumultuous times. Read our full review.


Line of Duty (BBC One)

What separates Line of Duty from its more generic peers is its extraordinary interrogation scenes … masterpieces of sustained intensity. Jed Mercurio is brilliant at contriving endings that feel satisfyingly conclusive yet pregnant with further possibility. Read our full review


Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime/Sky Atlantic)

David Lynch’s reboot was smarter than most shows, funnier, stranger (obviously), sadder, more terrifying and – during a five-minute scene of a man sweeping a bar-room floor – more boring too. It contained multitudes. Read our full review

David Lynch in Twin Peaks: The Return.
David Lynch in Twin Peaks: The Return. Photograph: Showtime


Blue Planet II (BBC One)

The aesthetically marvellous but often wounding series allowed critics and audiences alike to both marvel and think. Each episode offered something improbable. And, along the way, we also saw the damage humans have wreaked on the world. Read our full preview


Big Little Lies (HBO/Sky Atlantic)

Soapy melodrama meets whodunnit meets Euripides. Somehow, it managed to explore dark waters without popping the soapy bubbles on top. Read our full review

Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley and Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies.
Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley and Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies. Photograph: HBO


Mindhunter (Netflix)

David Fincher’s dive into the minds of 20th-century serial killers is full of inspired weirdness – such as the unlikely bromance between an FBI officer and a 6ft 9in murderer. Read our full review


The Deuce (HBO)

Where other series use sex as titillation, The Deuce prefers to examine the nature of desire, both fantasy and reality. Read our full review


The Good Place (NBC/Netflix)

This may be the best Ted Danson has ever been. He is an actor utterly liberated, playing Satan having an existential crisis – not the easiest role – but he throws himself into every new twist with abandon. Read our full review


The Vietnam War (PBS/BBC Four)

Impartial viewers would surely struggle to find a greater model of journalistic objectivity. The whole series should be required viewing for any president or prime minister tempted by a foreign conquest. Read our full review

The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War Photograph: BBC


Transparent (Amazon)

That the show had to become narratively chaotic and greedy to stay thematically radical is a testament to social progress. By focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in series four, it confirmed its perverse dedication to fashioning binge-watchable television from the most contentious topics imaginable. Read our full review


Game of Thrones (HBO/Sky Atlantic)

Compressing season seven into seven episodes either destroyed GoT’s nuance or wisely accelerated it as it neared its end, depending on your view. Thrilling, either way. Read a review


Glow (Netflix)

Protofeminism in perms and leotards, with the awesome Alison Brie leading an almost all-woman ensemble in a comedy about 80s wrestlers that wasn’t as flimsy as it looked. Read more


Master of None (Netflix)

Aziz Ansari let his cinematic influences run amok as his ambitious dramedy gained a wider palette, a more focused mind and a bigger, artfully bruised heart. Read a review

Aziz Ansari and Eric Wareheim in Master of None
Aziz Ansari and Eric Wareheim in Master of None Photograph: Netflix


Motherland (BBC Two)

Vicious middle-class competitive parenting became a painfully sharp sitcom in the hands of Linehan, Horgan et al, with national treasure Diane Morgan its careless hero. Read more


Broken (BBC One)

Jimmy McGovern’s answer to It’s a Wonderful Life – with Sean Bean superb as a guilt-racked priest – told us that, amid so much bleakness, we can be each other’s saviours. Read more


Top of the Lake: China Girl (Sundance TV/BBC Two)

Nicole Kidman and Gwendoline Christie joined Elisabeth Moss in a reboot of Jane Campion’s languid drama. It was ultimately absurd, but there was nothing else like it. Read a review

Nicole Kidman in Top of the Lake: China Girl
Nicole Kidman in Top of the Lake: China Girl Photograph: See-Saw Films


The Trip to Spain (Sky Atlantic)

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s biggest indulgence yet, with the lushest restaurants and the loosest structure for their impersonations and complex frenemy vibe. Read a review


Catastrophe (Channel 4)

Grief, addiction and a posthumous appearance by Carrie Fisher meant Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan’s sitcom was heartbreaking this year as well as cathartically filthy. Read more


Pls Like (BBC Three)

A mockumentary satirising popular YouTubers as vapid shills might be shooting fish in a barrel, but Liam Williams’s aim was still satisfyingly, mercilessly accurate. Read more

Liam Williams in Pls Like
Liam Williams in Pls Like Photograph: Publicity image


The Good Fight (CBS/Channel 4)

The Good Wife was always going to spawn a strong spin-off. But with fan fave Christine Baranski centre-stage and the plotlines more boldly contemporary, was this … better? Read a review


The Keepers (Netflix)

The true-crime binge of the year was the genre’s darkest yet, uncovering years of abuse in a Baltimore school as well as a knotty unsolved murder. Read more

The Keepers … Sister Cathy Cesnik and her father, Joseph
The Keepers … Sister Cathy Cesnik and her father, Joseph Photograph: Netflix


Bojack Horseman (Netflix)

After three seasons of laceratingly honest cartoon fun about a depressed celebrity horse, Bojack slackened up a tad and let minor characters’ misery shine. Read more


Three Girls (BBC One)

Nicole Taylor’s unpleasant but necessary drama about the Rochdale abuse scandal put the focus where it should be: on the victims and those who fought for them. Read a review


Doctor Who (BBC One)

Lurchingly uneven as per, but 2017’s Who saw Peter Capaldi go out sparkling, even as he was regularly upstaged by tantalising one-season wonder Pearl Mackie. Read more

Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie in Doctor Who
Peter Capaldi and Pearl Mackie in Doctor Who Photograph: Simon Ridgway/BBC


Doctor Foster (BBC One)

The most talked-about melodrama on TV returned, and probably signed off, with a deliriously destructive war between Suranne Jones and Bertie Carvel’s toxic ex-spouses. Read a review


Broadchurch (ITV)

The ITV sleuther was back to form with a third season that got Britain guessing whodunnit again, boldly replacing murder with rape, thoughtfully handled. Read more

Julie Hesmondhalgh in series three of Broadchurch.
Julie Hesmondhalgh in series three of Broadchurch. Photograph: Colin Hutton/ITV


Insecure (Sky Atlantic)

Issa Rae’s careful documenting of every mistake people make in their 20s dealt with heavier issues this year as it continued to tell its unique emotional truths. Read more


People Just Do Nothing (BBC Three)

More mockumentary pratfalls from the berks at crap pirate station Kurupt FM, whose selfish delusions now started to have sad, serious consequences. Read more


Norsemen (Netflix)

Game of Thrones met Fawlty Towers in an irresistible Viking sitcom that had the mud, blood and treachery of an ancient epic – but with an inept chieftain losing every battle. Read a review


Chris Packham: Asperger’s and Me (BBC Two)

The naturalist laid his lifelong struggles bare in a valuable, taboo-busting celebrity autobiography that showcased Packham’s lyrical bent. Read a review

Chris Packham with an animal friend
Chris Packham with an animal friend Photograph: Richard Ansett/BBC


Taboo (BBC One)

Peak Tom Hardy: grizzly, sexy, threatening, virtually indecipherable. His grunting, mystery loner was at the centre of a murky period cocktail about the evils of empire. Read a review


The Leftovers (HBO/Sky Atlantic)

More fool you if you didn’t stick with this kooky, impassioned US drama: its third and final run had fans whispering “greatest show ever”. Read more


Count Arthur Strong (BBC One)

Alas, the last showing for Steve Delaney’s Marmite malapropist. When this old-fashioned sitcom was on its best form, it was as good as the classics. Read a review


Chewing Gum (Channel 4)

The genius of Michaela Coel burned brighter as she, somehow, delivered a second season of her coming-of-age comedy that was filthier and more heartfelt than the first. Read more

Michaela Coel in Chewing Gum
Michaela Coel in Chewing Gum Photograph: Mark Johnson/Channel 4


The State (Channel 4)

Why would Brits join Isis? Peter Kosminsky’s drama didn’t really know, but it was a shockingly vivid picture of what life is like inside. Read more


The Girlfriend Experience (Starz/Amazon Prime)

The diamond-hard drama about high-end sex work returned, ready to reflect 2017’s narrative of rotten men who need taking down. Read more


Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)

As Sherlock disappeared further up itself, Elementary just kept on going: it’s the slick, modernised Holmes that’s there for you if you actually want him to solve crimes. Read more


Unforgotten (ITV)

ITV’s deeply empathic cold-case drama surpassed its startling debut with a tale of abuse survivors’ revenge that built to a brave, devastating last episode. Read more


Halt and Catch Fire (Netflix/Amazon Prime)

A fine farewell for a period saga, set at the dawn of the computer age, that became an affecting character piece about tiny conflicts between humans chasing a dream. Read more

Mackenzie Davis in Halt and Catch Fire
Mackenzie Davis in Halt and Catch Fire Photograph: AMC


Legion (Fox)

Fargo creator Noah Hawley reshaped the overstuffed comic-book genre with a trippy, cinematic X-Men spinoff that was more Stanley Kubrick than Stan Lee. Read more


Black Sails (Starz/Amazon Prime)

The timber-shivering Treasure Island prequel bowed out – it’s caught up with the book – with an orgy of rewardingly spectacular set pieces and lethal showdowns. Read more


Detectorists (BBC Four)

Mackenzie Crook’s perfectly crafted comedy about two treasure-hunters with deeply buried emotions returned, as serene and picturesque as ever but with more hidden prickles. Read a review

Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook in Detectorists.
Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook in Detectorists. Photograph: Chris Harris/BBC/Channel X


Ozark (Netflix)

Basically Breaking Bad, but by a lake and the wife and kids are in on it. Jason Bateman excelled against type as a money launderer having a bloody crisis. Read a review


Stranger Things 2 (Netflix)

Really it was just a reshuffling of the first season’s trump cards, but Netflix’s 80s-horror homage was once again a nostalgic other world, a comforting escape. Read a review


Inside No 9 (BBC Two)

By turns the cleverest, funniest and nastiest thing on TV, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s miraculous anthology remained horribly underappreciated. Read more

Rula Lenska, Steve Pemberton, Jessica Raine, Reece Shearsmith and George Bedford in Inside No 9.
Rula Lenska, Steve Pemberton, Jessica Raine, Reece Shearsmith and George Bedford in Inside No 9. Photograph: Sophie Mutevelian/BBC


Gogglebox (Channel 4)

TV’s best, and indeed only, TV review show provided pithy laughs as always – and, in a celeb special, gave us the gift of Jeremy Corbyn’s coddled eggs. Read more


Preacher (AMC)

The bloodiest and funniest show in a new wave of weird TV. In 2017 it gave Hitler a major story arc; this was not its most outrageous move. Read a review

Joseph Gilgun, Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga in Preacher.
Joseph Gilgun, Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga in Preacher. Photograph: Skip Bolen/AMC


One Mississippi (Amazon Video)

In a world of flabby binges, Tig Notaro’s tart dramedy sketches quickly and confidently: just six half-hours this year as her damaged screen alter ego began to heal. Read more


Back (Channel 4)

David Mitchell and Robert Webb reunited, parlaying their uptight loser/infuriating chancer shtick into a new personality-clash sitcom with hints of real menace at its core. Read a review


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW/Netflix)

What was already a smart mesh of comedy, drama and musical morphed into something greater as creator/star Rachel Bloom tackled her character’s mental illness head-on. Read more

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