2017 was a cracking year for television. Whether you binged on scandi-noir or backgrounded hundreds of hours of quality 22 minute comedy, you probably noticed that this year really brought the goods.
As the national museum for the moving image, we spend a lot of time watching the box, and these are the shows that surprised and impressed us in 2017. We've included streaming links where possible, so you can use your end-of-year down time to catch up on some seriously great telly.
Helen Simondson, executive producer Series Mania, says:
I watched literally hundreds of hours of television while curating Series Mania. But even with all the amazing international TV that premiered, I was really thrilled to open the festival with the world premiere of the locally filmed crime drama, Sunshine. Set in Melbourne's South Sudanese community, this is incredibly refreshing television: both in its positive representations and its brilliant performances from a largely amateur cast of South Sudanese actors, with standout debuts from Wally Elnour, Ror de Poet and Autiak Aweteek. Screened to a packed cinema of largely TV Industry and community, the Q & A that followed the screening really affirmed the importance of this ground breaking series from the Australian South Sudanese perspective. Sunshine is a really gripping four-part series that you can still see on SBS on demand.
Arieh Offman, Public Programs producer, says:
After the extraordinary success of their hilarious web series, The Katering Show, McCartney and McLennan made a triumphant return with this bitingly funny and irreverent satire of morning television. Always on the verge of being completely inappropriate, the Kates' brand of of comedy is current and unexpectedly devastating, and has caused strangers to stare at me strangely as I laugh far too loudly while streaming it on public transport. Bekjut's dazzling eyes are now the only thing I can think about when I think about weather...
Get Krack'n is all available to stream on iView.
Chelsey O'Brien, assistant curator, says:
It was a tough decision, but Netflix’s first German language series, Dark, created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, has my vote for best TV show of 2017. The mesmerising matrix of multi-generational narratives, unsolved murders, an incredible soundtrack, stunning cinematography... oh, and time travel (!!) had me hooked from the beginning of the gorgeous opening credits. While the complicated, yet hypnotising, plot is too laden with spoilers to describe in detail, Dark focuses extensively on how the past affects the future, and importantly, how the future affects the past. Against the breathtaking backdrop of fog drenched forests, shadowy caves, and with a healthy serving of 80’s beats, I found Dark to be utterly stunning, addictive television. Bring on season two!
Dark is available to stream on Netflix.
The Handmaid's Tale
Jessica Bram, Wonderland curator, says:
It’s been a massive year for TV binge watching and I’m hard-pressed to choose a favourite moment. But in amongst all of them, The Handmaid’s Tale landed on screens in 2017 with a timeliness and timelessness that was sometimes extremely difficult to watch, and yet ultimately, impossible to turn away from. The critical reimagining of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel was small screen watching at its very best – dramatic, relentless and hugely profound with an outstanding combination of performances, production values and searing political parables. And there’s an incredible White Rabbit moment in Episode 8 that affirmed for this Wonderland curator that Alice really is everywhere.
The Handmaid's Tale is available to stream on SBS On Demand.
Star Trek: Discovery
Andy Serong, web developer, says:
This year saw the launch of the first new Star Trek TV series since Star Trek: Enterprise wrapped up in 2005. Starring Sonequa Martin-Green as Lieutenant Commander Michael Burnham, it's the first in the franchise to focus primarily on a First Officer who joins a new crew, rather than a captain. Struggling to redeem herself after the death of her mentor, Burnham joins the crew of Discovery, an experimental ship playing a key part in the war with the Klingons. The show captures the aspirational and progressive spirit of Star Trek that made me fall in love with the universe as a kid, but also breathes fresh life into the franchise. In a post-Game of Thrones world, this isn't a squeaky clean PG Star Trek. It is decidedly grown up, with an excellent and diverse cast, and like many of its predecessors, it is a show that uses sci-fi to explore personal, interpersonal and societal issues with grace and energy, while also being fun.
Star Trek: Discovery is available to stream on Netflix.
Anna Svedberg, Public Programs producer, says:
This Netflix seven-parter is right up there with Making a Murderer and The Jinx in terms of true crime mystery, grit and storytelling. At the heart of it are a two amazing women in their golden years on the quest to solve a murder mystery they lived through in the late sixties. They’re the perfect duo, and throughout the process they uncover secrets and corruption that has been buried for decades in their town. Their research is meticulous and their drive is remarkable. It’s uncomfortable but powerful viewing, especially in a year of celebrating silence breakers.
The Keepers is available to stream on Netflix.
The Night Of, particularly episode 4 'The Art of War'
Ben Haller, memberships coordinator, says:
Acclaimed English director James Marsh (Man On Wire, Shadow Dancer) stepped into the chair for my favourite episode of HBO’s standout crime mini-series. In general, The Night Of displayed methodological storytelling and intense dialogue that absolutely exceeded my expectations of modern TV. And then beyond that riveting drama, Marsh brings a refreshingly snappy photographic style in 'The Art of War' that made this episode really stand out. He somehow seems to analyse the social and urban backdrop where the mystery unfolds (post 9/11 New York City) while also providing an intimate window into Naz’s (the superb Riz Ahmed) spiralling descent into criminality as an inmate at Rikers Island, New York’s primary jail complex. Outstanding stuff.
The Night Of is available to stream via HBO.
Tied: Stranger Things 2 and The Crown 2
Katrina Sedgwick, ACMI Director and CEO, says:
Both of these were immensely satisfying long form narrative experiences – beautifully scripted, fabulously cast, great direction and production design. And both series show restraint in the best possible way – for maximum dramatic effect.