The Leftovers

The relationship between Nora (Carrie Coon, left) and Kevin (Justin Theroux) became the focus of the third and final season of HBO's "The Leftovers."

HBO

Most of the best scripted television is happening either on the premium channels or streaming services, which means you’ve got to reach deeper into your wallet to enjoy them.

Of my top 15 shows, four aired on HBO -- including three of the top five -- three on Netflix and one each on Hulu, Amazon Prime and Starz.

Here is a rundown of my favorites from 2017:

1. “The Leftovers,” HBO. Having read the Tom Perrotta novel, I wondered how the heck HBO would do a second season, let alone a third, after using up all of the source material in the first season. But each season got better, with the story evolving from a quirky science fiction tale to a heartwarming romance between characters played by Justin Theroux and Carrie Coon. Why it earned so little Emmy recognition befuddles me.

2. “Big Little Lies,” HBO. After binge-watching the series, I told my wife either Nicole Kidman or Reese Witherspoon would win the Emmy for best actress in a limited series. Kidman won, but it easily could have been Witherspoon. They were that good in this drama about domestic abuse. And so were the supporting players, with Alexander Skarsgard and Laura Dern also winning Emmys.

3. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Hulu. Talk about relevant. Margaret Atwood wrote her dystopian tale, from which the Elisabeth Moss-fronted series is based upon, in 1985. But its themes of fear and isolationism are very much a part of our current reality. Then add in Moss’s riveting performance, and you get a drama that sticks with you.

4. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Amazon Prime. The comedy features rapid-fire delivery and dialogue that creator Amy Sherman-Palladino had so much success with in “The Gilmore Girls.” Rachel Brosnahan is a revelation here, playing a 1950s Jewish housewife who discovers she has a knack for stand-up comedy.

5. “Game of Thrones,” HBO. It was so worth the wait. Daenerys and Jon Snow finally come together in a season filled with twists (so long, Littlefinger) and turns (you knew something was going to happen with the dragons). Here’s hoping season eight happens sooner rather than later.

6. “Stranger Things,” Netflix. The Duffer Brothers didn’t reunite Eleven and Mike until season’s two penultimate episode, but I’ll give them a pass on that because the story ended up being just as riveting as the first season. Plus, they introduced two great new characters -- Sean Astin’s “Bob” and Sadie Sink’s “Max” -- and gave us the unlikely “bromance” between Steve and Dustin.

7. “The Americans,” FX. The drama has become even more intriguing with Philip and Elizabeth’s teenage daughter, Paige, now a spy-in-training. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell have earned two straight Emmy nominations for their performances. They are no longer being overlooked in what’s become one of best shows on TV.

8. “The Good Place,” NBC. I was among those taken by surprise by the first season twist. So far, season two hasn’t missed a beat. And Ted Danson, who plays the architect of the Good Place, is one of the best things happening in TV comedy right now.

9. “GLOW,” Netflix. I’m a sucker for anything set in the 1980s, especially if it’s done well, as this fictionalized story is about the creation of a syndicated women’s professional wrestling circuit. Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin and Marc Maron headline the cast, but it’s really an ensemble piece, with the supporting players providing just as much of the comedy and heart.

10. “The Vietnam War,” PBS. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick spent 10 years crafting the engrossing, multi-episode documentary. It’s filled with tons of film footage, but what really hits home are the interviews, especially those with the soldiers who fought a war that nobody really supported. Their tales are harrowing.

11. “The Deuce,” HBO. David Simon knows how to tell a story, from “The Wire” and “Treme” to this tale, starring James Franco (as twin brothers) and Maggie Gyllenhaal, about of the sex industry in the 1970s and ‘80s in New York City. Simon gives weight to all his characters in multiple storylines, making it juicy work for an actor.

12. “Godless,” Netflix. Emmy winner Jeff Daniels (“Newsroom”) again shows his versatility, this time playing a truly scary outlaw hell bent on revenge in this gritty (and dusty) Western. While Daniels is good, the scene stealer is Merritt Wever as the sharp-shooting, no-nonsense sister of the town sheriff.

13. “The Good Doctor,” ABC. The best new show on broadcast TV stars Freddie Highmore, fresh off a stellar turn as Norman Bates on A&E’s “Bates Motel,” as a surgical resident with autism. It’s “House” meets “Grey’s Anatomy,” with a bunch of feel-good moments.

14. “American Gods,” Starz. I was sad to see Bryan Fuller walk away from the fantasy drama after just one season. He and co-showrunner Michael Green, who also left, turned the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s hefty novel about an ex-con caught in a war between old and new gods into a visual spectacle.

15. “Taboo,” FX. Tom Hardy’s period drama about a man believed to be dead returning from the jungles of Africa to inherit his father’s London shipping empire was, in a word, intense. That’s not surprising since Hardy brings an intensity to just about every character he plays. “Taboo” was dark, violent and, at times, scary.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSjeffkorbelik.

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