With so much prime programming these days, it can be overwhelming to decide what invest your time in. That is exactly why I wanted highlight and compliment the best spring TV shows of 2017.
In the glorious Golden Age of Television, it seems each season a new series comes along that resets the bar for what is considered quality entertainment. This TV season was no different with feuding actresses, royal magicians, schizophrenic telepaths, fierce lioness-like mothers, and a mysteriously murdered teenager raising said bar. Needless to say, I found myself racing home each night to compulsively catch the latest episodes of these extraordinary spring shows.
Incorporating the beloved characters of the Archie comics, chief creative officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa reimagines his comics’ context and themes in an enticing new dark and steamy drama. The series opens with the inexplicable murder of Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines), twin to the devastated Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), who promises to expose and exact revenge upon her brother’s killer. The small town is shaken by the shocking turn of events when everyone becomes a suspect as their own dark secrets come bubbling up to the surface (like Jason’s corpse).
With an exceptional cast of new faces including K.J. Apa (Archibald “Archie” Andrews), Lili Reinhart (Elizabeth “Betty” Cooper), Camilia Mendes (Veronica Lodge), Ashleigh Murray (Josephine “Josie” McCoy), and familiar face/series narrator Cole Sprouse (Forsythe “Jughead” Jones III), Riverdale succeeds as a modern teen drama by delivering fresh concepts and subverting typical tropes. For me, the most attractive element of the series is the repercussions of the parents’ actions on the Archie Gang themselves which eminent the true frustrations of feeling powerless as a teenager.
Even more of a bonus, the series features Shannon Purser (Barbara “Barb” Holland of Stranger Things)! Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. EST on The CW and you can catch up on past episodes here!
5) ‘Bates Motel’
Based on the characters of Alfred Hitchcock’s Pyscho, Bates Motel started as a teen-esque drama about a mother and son and has since transformed into a conversation about sexual assault, violence against women, mental illness, and, of course, murder. Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring) and Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) bring truly Emmy worthy performances before saying goodbye to Norma and Norman Bates in the final season.
While not technically “new,” after the events of last season (no spoilers), this feels like a brand new show as we finally reach Psycho territory. With big name guest star Rihanna (above) starring in an iconic role, the final season of Bates Motel is one you simply must check into.
Bates Motel airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. EST on A&E. You can catch up on season 5 here and watch seasons 1-4 on Netflix now!
4)’Feud: Bette and Joan’
If you, like me, were devastated when Jessica Lange left American Horror Story, you’ll be pleased to know that she and Ryan Murphy have reunited once again for the historical period drama (and new anthology series) Feud: Bette and Joan. Alongside Susan Sarandon, the two recount the infamous feud of Bette Davis (Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Lange) during the production of their 1962 box-office hit What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? With an all-star cast including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kathy Bates, Stanley Tucci, and Jackie Hoffman, the series highlights the ageist, patriarchal world of Hollywood and the strain of such disadvantages on Davis and Crawford.
True to Murphy’s work, the series illuminates women in a positive light both on and off-screen as both his writing AND directing staff for Feud is inclusive of women. After witnessing the horrendous treatment the actresses endured on-screen, it’s comforting to see that in today’s day and age, times have finally changed.
Feud has already been renewed for a second season that will focus on the relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana of Wales to premiere in 2018; while Feud: Bette and Joan airs its Oscar centric episode Sunday (4/2) at 10 p.m. EST on FX. You can catch up the first four episodes here on FX!
3) ‘The Magicians’
I wrote about this series last year but I had to bring it back again because it still feels like a fresh, new series. The royal second season picks up exactly where we left off in season 1 with our heroes scrambling for a new plan to defeat The Beast after all hell broke loose. While perfectly balancing original material with Lev Grossman’s trilogy (which I’m still baffled by how well Sera Gamble and John McNamara do so) the newest season packs more than enough punches for book readers and show-only fans to be surprised.
Continuing the running theme of last season, our young magicians are still grappling with the responsibilities of growing up such as loss, sacrifice, and power. With a kingdom and world to rule, a six-fingered magician in pursuit, a sexual assaulting God on the loose, and the source of magic itself in peril, The Magicians interweaves fantasy with post-graduate life as they are forced to confront their problems head on and work together.
Though the themes of the series are often dark, it still manages to continue all the meta, self-aware fun of the first season with a special bank heist episode and even a musical number featuring Les Misérables‘ “One Day More.” If you haven’t started The Magicians yet, it’s about high time you do because it’s only getting better. You can catch up on season 2 online here and watch the entire first uncensored season on Netflix!
Plot twist! There are actually two shows for the number one spot! These new series are so great, I couldn’t pick just one.
2) ‘Big Little Lies’
“None of us really see things as they are, we see things as we are.” — Zoë Kravitz as Bonnie Carlson
Stunning direction, an enticing and unfolding narrative, and powerhouse female performances elevate Big Little Lies from dark comedy to an introspective experience of relationships and the lies we tell. With an astonishing cast ensemble of Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Alexander Skarsgård, Adam Scott, and Zoë Kravitz, Big Little Lies becomes so captivating you almost forget someone will be dead in the finale. To find out who, catch up now on HBO before the finale Sunday, April 2!
Having just watched the finale of Legion’s first season, I can honestly say it was nothing short of perfection. As a whole, Legion is entirely transcendent in visuals, music, and story. Dan Stevens and Aubrey Plaza (both pictured above) give singular, Emmy deserving performances in each episode as David and Lenny.
The series successfully annihilates the established superhero formula with as much force as its main character’s telepathic abilities. This not only brings an original perspective to the genre but also helps ground it as a human story with superhuman elements rather than simply another superhero story about superheroes.
Legion, like the other recent successful yet unconventional Marvel hit Logan, will leave a lasting impression and challenge others to rework the expectations of an overcrowded genre. You can now binge the first seven episodes of Legion now on Hulu (“Chapter 8,” the finale, on Sunday 4/2) and the entire first season on FX!
Be sure to stay tuned after the credits of the finale! It is Marvel, after all.
It seems most shows are starting to follow the quality over quantity model (Feud and Legion have only eight episodes where Big Little Lies only has seven) which is a breath of fresh air perfect for spring.