In real life terms I didn’t consume too many material goods last year. In 2017 I did travel a lot however, and between trains, planes, and the occasional boat, I consumed more media than I think I’ve done before. It may just be because we’re living in both the golden age of tv and the podcast era, but last year there were some creations that really stuck with me for varying reasons. I absolutely love good storytelling, something I’m passionate about cultivating more of on this blog, so today I thought I’d share some of the television and podcast media I consumed in 2017 and why I loved it (I did also read and watch movies in 2017, but we aren’t going there today or we’ll be here for hours).
If you’re looking for something new to enjoy in 2018, maybe some of these will be a good place to start.
Shows that show diverse aspects of life, and helped me understand experiences outside of my own.
- Please Like Me
This Australian show, created by and starring Josh Thomas, came to Netflix in 2017, and it both hugely entertained me and devastated me in equal measure. The show features its main character navigating life after coming out as gay and dealing with the aftermath of his mother attempting suicide. It deals with topics like mental illness, homophobia, relationships and modern life with a refreshing frankness and unique humour that will make you fall in love with it. I am honestly so sad that there won’t be more episodes.
- Dear White People
I watched both the movie and the tv show this year, but the show has more time for in depth exploration. Whilst it isn’t perfect (there’s been criticisms over the portrayal of an African character), I think this show was an important watch, especially for those of us who are white as it’s our job to educate ourselves and continue to learn about racism and prejudice. As someone who doesn’t live in the US it also helped me continue to learn more in that regard.
This show, which jumped from a YouTube web series to being picked up by Netflix, isn’t talked about as much as it deserves in my opinion. It’s a dark comedy focusing on a gay couple dealing with infidelity in their relationship, with a strong fanbase because of its representation of LGBT+ culture and relationships. I stumbled across this show by accident but found myself really invested in the characters and their world.
- Crazy Ex Girlfriend
It’s hilarious, the music is great, the storytelling is original and it’s a really sensitive exploration of mental illness. This show does a great job of both poking fun at tropes about women whilst exploring real life issues. It also features a filipino man as its romantic lead and one character realising they’re bisexual without making these elements feel tokenistic.
A strong, kick ass female cast plus all the fashion of the 80s. What a combo.
- Master of None
I’ll always have a soft spot for Aziz Ansari, but I was especially happy to have a new series of Master of None. Whilst at times it isn’t perfect, it is original, smart and full of beautiful storytelling and diverse characters.
Shows that were innovative, interesting or downright funny.
- The Mindy Project
I was oh so sad to say goodbye to this gem in 2017. This show was groundbreaking since it premiered in 2012, both in terms of its humour and the fact that an Indian American woman was its creator, executive producer and star. I rewatched the past five seasons in the run up to the show ending in 2017, and I loved it both for its funny, sweet nature and its positive attitude to body image. I sure will miss you Mindy Lahiri.
- The Good Place
Before the first season dropped all at once on Netflix I had never heard of this show, now I’m eagerly awaiting its return. On an acting level I think Ted Danson and Jameela Jamil are a delight in this (also, this was Jamil’s first ever acting role!). It’s a wonderfully funny show with a unique aesthetic and diverse main cast that also digs at deeper questions of morality and ethics.
- Brooklyn 99
I’ve had a LOT of love for this show since day one. Like The Good Place it was also created by Michael Schur, whose touch turns anything to tv gold, and it has never disappointed. It’s hilarious, heartwarming and optimistic, but when it does tackle bigger questions it does so with real sincerity. This year it addressed systemic racism in the police force in a really authentic way. Also Captain Holt may be my favourite character on any TV show.
- Stranger Things 2
Doesn’t really require explanation. Extra points for Steve Harrington’s hair.
I honestly think this is the best thing Marvel has ever made and, whilst it technically exists in the same universe as X-Men, it completely stands on its own. It’s pretty wacky for the whole first half of the season, but if you stick it out it is definitely worth the wait. Aubrey Plaza is stand out, whilst Jermaine Clement is also a nice surprise.
- Jane The Virgin
Trying to describe a show that both pokes fun at telenovelas whilst also following the telenovela format is difficult, but you have to trust me when I say this show just works so well. It’s funny and full of heart, and it will have you moving from laughter to tears to mystery. Gina Rodriguez and Jaime Camil are especially wonderful in this, it’s just a good time all round!
- You’re The Worst
You’re The Worst started off as an anti comedy that won admiration for its honest exploration of mental illness. While the fourth season faltered in places, I’m so invested in the characters and writing at this point that I loved it nonetheless.
- Search Party
This show kind of came out of nowhere for me, but I’m glad I discovered it. It’s part mystery, part hilarious social satire, and the plot moves in directions you just could never imagine. I guarantee you’ll be hooked on this almost straight away, and it’s an impeccable piece of writing. There really is nothing else like this show.
- My Dad Wrote a Porno
I fell in love with MDWAP in 2017, I can’t believe I didn’t know about this podcast earlier. Whilst it’s definitely not suitable for younger listeners, this is so laugh out loud funny that whilst I was binging this my housemate actually thought I was hysterically crying in my room every night. If you need some relief from the madness that is our world, you can’t do better than this.
- This American Life
You could honestly pick any episode of this show and it would be a good listen. I’ve been listening since 2013 and this show never disappoints, Ira Glass is truly an artist when it comes to storytelling.
For deep thinking
Shows that feature big concepts and questions about modern life.
- The Handmaid’s Tale
Brilliantly written, acted and directed. Somewhat terrifying to watch at times, but an impeccable piece of television and a really great adaptation from the original novel. It’s dystopia at its very best, just don’t watch it if you’re feeling particularly bleak.
- Black Mirror
I technically watched this in 2018, but as it was released right as the year ended I’m going to include it here. Whilst the show moving to a longer series run on Netflix has resulted in a few episodes that I didn’t love, there are still some amazing stand out pieces from series four. The first episode is especially brilliant, which helps lighten some of the darker dystopian tones that this series carries. You may want to throw out all of your technological devices after watching.
- The OA
I honestly don’t know how to describe this show, other than to say it is completely beautiful and unlike anything else I saw this year. It’s mysterious and beautifully acted, but it may leave you with more questions than answers. It also features a great ensemble cast and a trans character that felt nuanced and three dimensional who was actually played by a trans actor.
- The Liturgists
After listening to their Enneagram episode in 2016, I’m glad I dived into catching up on this podcast in 2017. This is a show for the big questions of life, and I particularly loved their episodes on climate change, suffering, shame and fake news (which really helped when I wrote my post on media bias). If you’re at all interested in spirituality or faith, you might find yourself enjoying this.
S-Town is perhaps the most incredibly crafted piece of storytelling I’ve ever heard in podcast form. It comes from the creators of Serial and This American Life and focuses on John B McLemore, a man who lives in a town in Alabama that he calls ‘Shit Town’. He originally contacted S Town producer Brian Reed with a story of corruption, but the show ends up being about much more as it unveils the realities of life in a small, poor community in the American south. There’s been debate about the ethics around the release of this show, but I can’t deny that it has stayed with me a long time after I finished listening.
(Though I will say, there are mentions of both self harm and suicide in the show, so do be aware)
All in all, beyond being great shows all of these works also helped shape how I understand others, think about things and relate to the world. Good storytelling holds great power when it comes to shaping our ideas, and I’m glad I was able to consume some really diverse work that helped me see things in multiple ways. Here’s to 2018!