“Man Not Accepting Any More Television Recommendations At This Time,” went a particularly good Onion headline this week, and most of us can probably identify. An estimated 455 scripted shows aired on U.S. TV in 2016, and it’s likely to be even more than that in 2017, more than anyone could watch even if they devoted every waking hour (and beyond) to the idiot box.
We’ve already highlighted a good 250 hours or so in our 2017 TV Preview, but we only focused on new shows (or, in a couple of cases, a sequel, in “Top Of The Lake: China Girl,” or the decades-later follow-up to a beloved classic in “Twin Peaks”), whereas the year to come will see plenty more established hits returning, some of which took a year out last year (or even beyond that).
So, to help you juggle your increasingly demanding viewing schedule better, we’ve lined up 20 of the shows that we’re most looking forward to seeing back on screens, from the obvious blockbusters to the little-seen critical gems. Take a look below, and let us know what you’ve set to series-record in 2017.
20. “Better Call Saul”
It’s no mean feat for a spin-off not to instantly crash and burn, and while “Better Call Saul” might not inspire the same devotion and fervent fanbase as its source, “Breaking Bad,” it’s evolved over two seasons to be as consistently strong a drama as we have on the air, one quite distinct in many ways from its predecessor, with the emphasis on the show as a darkly funny morality play over some of the more explosive crime stuff (though making Jonathan Banks’ Mike essentially a co-lead helps to bring in some of the latter as well). Plot for the third season remains mostly under wraps at the moment, but we know it’ll pick up after Chuck (Michael McKean) managed to catch his brother Jimmy in incriminating himself. And rumors have it that we could be seeing a major “Breaking Bad” figure popping up in the shape of Giancarlo Esposito’s fearsome Gus Fring.
Airdate: Nothing confirmed beyond ‘Spring,’ but previous seasons premiered in February, so we assume that’ll the target here.
19. “Orange Is The New Black”
Perhaps it’s the curse of the Netflix binge model, of which Jenji Kohan‘s ‘OINTB’ was such an early and successful proponent, but revving up enthusiasm for subsequent seasons of shows that you tend to devour in one weekend is a difficult task. With ‘OINTB’ now heading into a fifth season (and remember, as a pioneer in this format, it will always be a good indicator of the challenges that will face younger shows), even fans like us have to admit it feels a little less urgent than it did a few years ago. But Season 4 was, again, terrific, mining that sweet spot between sharp and funny and — this time out particularly — devastating, with a deceptive lightness and universality despite, you know, being set in a women’s prison. With all the main cast — one of the most effortlessly diverse and interesting on TV — set to return for the 5th outing, we also plan to be there again, with bells on.
18. “Doctor Who”
2016 saw only a single hour of “Doctor Who” air, the least that the time-traveller has been on screen since he returned in 2005. But things are back on track with a full season, the tenth of the rebooted era, set to land in April, and it should be an interesting one, marking something of transitionary year for the show. On the one hand, we’re getting a new companion, with actress Pearl Mackie set to debut as a character called Bill in the first episode (Matt Lucas will also be joining them for at least some of the series, reprising his role from the last two Christmas specials). On the other, it’ll be the last series for showrunner Steven Moffat, who’ll bow out after six seasons in charge (and having penned some of the best episodes before that). Season 9 was arguably the best of the reboot era, so there’s every reason to believe that Moffat could go out on a high here, especially with A-list writers like Frank Cottrell Boyce (“24 Hour Party People”) and Mike Bartlett (“King Charles III”) contributing episodes too.
Airdate: April, exact date TBD, but Easter Saturday is thought to be a likely candidate.
By all rights, “Catastrophe” shouldn’t have become the comedy touchstone it is — its mismatched-couple sitcom premise is a fairly familiar one, and even the structure of the ensemble (central duo and their best friends and families) is pretty tried-and-tested. But Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney‘s hilarious show is one of the few that looks like a duck and walks like a duck without actually being a duck: The sharpness of writing, and the witheringly merciless insights into the characters’ foibles and flaws, makes the show eternally surprising. The aforementioned supporting cast, while they might slot into archetypal roles, are anything but archetypes and really came into their own in season 2, particularly — heart-clutch alert — Carrie Fisher, so brilliant in the role of Rob’s cantankerous mother. Fisher had completed filming on season 3 just prior to her death, and not that we needed another reason to check in with “Catastrophe,” but seeing her swan-song performance, especially one so appropriately un-self-pitying and so reportedly embellished with her own improvised moments, definitely is one anyway.
Airdate: As with the first two seasons, both seasons 3 and 4 are expected to air on Channel 4 in the UK this year, while U.S. viewers will get season 3 via Amazon Prime video this year, and season 4 in 2018.
16. “BoJack Horseman”
A fun challenge is to try to describe to a person who’s never seen an episode of “BoJack Horseman” just what Raphael Bob-Waksberg‘s creation is, and why they should watch it, without simply showing them a clip. “Er, there’s this horse who wears clothes and is a faded TV sitcom star and he has human friends and also dogs and turtles and there’s showbiz satire and lots of bad puns and…” — none of that really suggests that this animated Will Arnett-voiced Netflix show would turn out to be one of the cleverest, sharpest and most oddly melancholic TV half-hours around. Season 3 reached new heights, as the perennially existential-crisis-laden BoJack found himself both in the running for an Oscar and experiencing an almost dialogue-free underwater “bottle episode.” One could ponder the oddness of having anthropomorphic animals teach us so much about human psychology and vulnerability, but why bother, when it’s much more fun to shut up, watch and learn.
15. “Halt & Catch Fire”
Across its three seasons to date, “Halt & Catch Fire” has only grown and grown in excellence, going from a slightly cliched prestige cable white-male-antihero drama to something quite different and far more rewarding. Its ratings, unfortunately, have always been dire, so the axe was never far from falling, but credit to AMC (who admittedly struggle to launch new dramas that don’t have connections to their existing hits) for allowing the show a fourth and final 10-episode season to wrap things up in 2017. It’ll pick up after this year’s excellent finale, which saw a hefty four-year time jump, hinted that the development of a web browser will be the main concern in the new run, and showed Donna (Kerry Bishé) divorced from Gordon (Scoot McNairy) and estranged from business partner Cameron (Mackenzie Davis). Beyond that, we don’t know much else, but we trust that the consistent upswing of quality will only continue.
Airdate: Likely the end of August, as per the last season.