By Robert Lloyd / Los Angeles Times
A nonhierarchical, non-exhaustive selection of (mostly) new series I found extraordinary, pleasurable or surprising in 2017. Fourteen shows in 10 items.
“Twin Peaks: The Return” (Showtime); “Dark” (Netflix)
Fairy tales of youth, age and missing persons set in the curvature of time. In “Twin Peaks,” David Lynch and Mark Frost revisit the open mysteries of their 20th-century classic by piling on new ones and leaving them open as well; an exciting mix of forms, styles, speeds and attitudes, every new episode was a surprise, sometimes a revelation. “Dark,” in German, maintains a stately pace through the gloom, with feeling.
“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” (Netflix)
Daniel Handler’s series of dark comic children’s books, concerning three plucky orphans and the guardians they must survive, finally got the adaptation it deserves, formal and eccentric, rich and strange.
“Legion” (FX); “American Gods” (Starz)
Delirious, poetical, semi-comical genre pieces, mixing homely detail and hallucinogenic invention. Adapting Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel, “American Gods” is a supernatural road trip in which the deities of the old natural world struggle against the new digital ones. The giddy “Legion,” from Marvel, cloaks its mutants-in-love-and-war story in a riot of slippery realities and visual treats.
“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (ABC)
More specifically, Jimmy Kimmel. My belated appreciation of the most straight-ahead of the late-night hosts was awakened by the easiness of his awards-show work, but this year he became a voice of sincere common sense, whose mainstream standing only amplified his message.
“Danger and Eggs” (Amazon Prime)
A girl daredevil and a cautious egg are unlikely best friends in this gracefully executed, smart and slapstick cartoon series, set in a world-embracing city park. Difference is celebrated.
“No Activity” (CBS All Access)
This formally fresh conversational comedy proceeds mainly in duologues, as detectives, dispatchers and minor criminals kill time, mostly seated, while a major drug deal/drug bust continues not to happen. Among the players: Tim Meadows, Amy Sedaris, Jesse Plemons, Bob Odenkirk and Will Ferrell, whose Funny or Die funneled this American remake of an Australian original.
“At Home with Amy Sedaris” (truTV); Michel Gondry’s Instagram account (www.instagram.com/michelgondry)
Odd flowers grow at the fringes. Sedaris’ eccentric how-to show is somewhere between Martha Stewart and “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” Film director Gondry’s magical animated social media series is crafty in two senses of the word, telling clever short stories with construction paper, markers, scissors, cotton balls and whatnot.
“Downward Dog” (ABC)
This lovely, meditative, epistemologically plausible comedy of canine consciousness was quickly canceled, but that is not a yardstick by which we care to measure television. Allison Tolman played the human partner of a soliloquizing mutt (voiced by co-creator Samm Hodges) reckoning his cosmos.
A period piece in which the people are the point. This fictional recounting of the actual birth of televised women’s wrestling offers many of the familiar elements and anticipated pleasures of a backstage drama or comedy but with original characters and a naturalistic bent. Tender, funny, educational.
“One Day at a Time” (Netflix); “Young Sheldon” (CBS)
“One Day at a Time” puts Cuban-American new flesh on Norman Lear’s issues-oriented family-of-women (and Schneider!) comedy. “Young Sheldon,” a single-camera prequel to “The Big Bang Theory” in a “The Wonder Years” mode, deepens the multi-camera original, with a fine, oddball Iain Armitage as the future Jim Parsons.