Whatever age of television this is — gold, platinum, trusty tin — what's certain is that there's more TV to sort through than ever before. There's so much, it can be hard to know where to even start looking for something you'd like. So here's a handy guide to some of the shows worth watching in 2017.
1. Fresh Off the Boat (ABC, Jan. 3)
Constance Wu is back from hiatus! Fresh Off the Boat is a tight, funny family sitcom that's developed outward from its original premise thanks to its immensely strong cast. The show started off from the point of view of Eddie Huang (played by Hudson Yang), a Taiwanese-American kid who loves rap and doesn't quite fit into his family — but it quickly expanded to center its other characters, including Eddie's father (Randall Park), his brothers, and his mother (Wu, who steals every scene). FOTB dedicated a lot of its third season to exploring what immigration means. Even the episode titles: "Coming From America," "How to Be an American" and "Citizen Jessica" register the show's interest in exploring what those concepts meant in the '90s (and, implicitly, what they mean now).
2. Man Seeking Woman (FX, Jan. 4)
Simon Rich's witty surrealist comedy about an average guy named Josh (Jay Baruchel) looking for love is back for its third season. The show's quirky premise — what if you showed up at a party and your ex was dating literally Hitler? — could have worn thin, but with the addition of Katie Findlay as Lucy, Josh's fiancé, the third season is the best yet. It's as tight as ever and the Indiana Jones parody is sure to be a fan favorite.
3. Blackish (ABC, Jan. 4)
The award-winning comedy — about an upper-middle-class black family negotiating the mismatch between racist stereotypes and their reality — spent much of its third season dealing with the election. Many of those engagements are funny, but some episodes that aired after the mid-season hiatus, like "Lemons," transcend comedy by dealing frankly and sadly with the aftermath. "What happens when the winners and losers are supposed to be on the same team?" Dre asked, distressed that his son's classmates yelled "Send her back!" at their Spanish teacher and frustrated by his own coworkers' inability to conduct business. "Seriously. I'm really asking. What happens?" It's a difficult episode filled with hard confrontations between people who disagree — and one that directly addresses the present, the way shows like Murphy Brown used to.
4. Portlandia (IFC, Jan. 5)
Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen's sketch comedy making fun of hipsters in Portland has started its seventh and penultimate season. This time, the show pillories men's rights activists, tech startups, people who cut sugar out of their diet, and that fad where major artists drop a surprise album. Now that Toni and Candace have retired from running the Women and Women First bookstore, they've been unleashed on an unsuspecting world. Guest stars include Laurie Metcalf, Claire Danes, Vanessa Bayer, Jeff Tweedy, Rachel Dratch, and Judy Greer.
5. One Day at a Time (Netflix, Jan. 6)
This delightful multi-camera sitcom — an adaptation of the 1970s show of the same name — is the magic you get when you combine 93-year-old TV legend Norman Lear, EGOT winner Rita Moreno, and executive producers Gloria Calderón Kellett (whose credits include How I Met Your Mother and Mixology) and Mike Royce (showrunner for Louis CK's Lucky Louie). It's the story of a Cuban-American nurse and veteran, her two children, and her mother. This is not a sophisticated or meta or complex show. It's simply well-built. It's funny and smart and retro, and yes, it might make you cry.
6. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW, Jan. 6)
Back for a two-hour mid-season premiere, Rachel Bloom's comedy about a woman who left her high-paying law firm to follow her teenage crush to West Covina, California, is one of the funniest, smartest, most satisfying satires on TV. The musical parodies are exceptional, the entire cast can sing, and almost every song hits its mark with weird, almost worrying perfection. Think Flight of the Conchords, but with more singers. The show's sophomore season went eerily dark for awhile: It looked like Rebecca Bunch was finally going to face up to her demons. Not so! She wanted Josh Chan, and now she has him. Will that be enough? Or will Bunch, who's now engaged to the man of her dreams, finally have to face the consequences of buying into a romance culture whose narratives are (let's face it) pretty toxic?
7. Taboo (FX, Jan. 10)
The protagonist of Tom Hardy's period drama, created with his father Chips Hardy and Steven Knight, is named James Keziah Delaney. Delaney is an excellent swimmer. He is dangerous. He sports weird tattoos and a cross-shaped scar under his left eye. A rumored cannibal, he sometimes says things like "One thing Africa did not cure is that I still love you." His father bought his mother from a Native American tribe, he's in love with his sister, he almost died on a slave ship, and both his parents were insane. This is a ridiculous show.
8. Full Frontal With Samantha Bee (TBS, Jan. 11)
Full Frontal With Samantha Bee blossomed into a force to be reckoned with fast — so quickly that The New York Times published an article blaming her political show (which was just a few months old) for Hillary Clinton's failures. Few shows have found their feet this quickly; Bee, a Daily Show alum with a gift for nailing the inept, delivers fast acerbic fury where John Oliver is wry and Trevor Noah is, well, pleasant. Last season she interviewed Russian trolls hired to post online and female heads of state around the world (and President Obama). Her interview with Glenn Beck, once her ideological foe, became an internet sensation. This season, she has tackled Trump's immigration order and Jeff Sessions, and interviewed ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt and journalist Masha Gessen.
9. A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix, Jan. 13)
This eight-episode adaptation of Daniel Handler's Lemony Snicket novels mimics the feeling you get sitting in front of a fire while it storms outside. Patrick Warburton (Puddy from Seinfeld) warns you, as Lemony Snicket, to turn back now: This is a bad story with a bad middle and a bad end. But the misadventures of the poor Baudelaire children are perversely pleasurable to watch. The kids are great, and Aasif Mandvi, K. Todd Freeman, Joan Cusack, and Rhys Darby are terrifically inept caretakers. But no one — not even the viewer, frankly — has as much fun as Neil Patrick Harris does playing the villainous Count Olaf.
Paolo Sorrentino's drama — about a maverick American pope wreaking havoc on a Church he deems both too tolerant and too corrupt — is as silly as it is opulent. Jude Law plays Lenny the Pope with Machiavellian gusto and fits of pique. Diane Keaton does what she can with a disappointingly thin role as his female consigliere, and Silvio Orlando steals many a scene as the scheming Cardinal Voiello, never more than when he confronts fellow cleric Javier Cámara while clutching a stuffed animal. This is worth watching just for the visual jokes and sumptuous cinematography.
11. Baskets (FX, Jan. 21)
Zach Galifianakis' oddball dramedy about a failing clown named Chip Baskets spent its first season plumbing the depressive depths of suburban Bakersfield, where he worked as a rodeo clown. The show's second season starts with Baskets on the road — or the rails, to be exact. His stint as a train-hopping hobo ends when Baskets is variously rescued by his mother (played by a transcendent Louie Anderson) and in other ways by his Costco gal-pal Martha (Martha Kelly). You'll start this show for Galifianakis and stay with it for Anderson and Kelly.
12. Jane the Virgin (CW, Jan. 23)
Back from its third season winter hiatus, the CW's tongue-in-cheek soap opera — about a woman who gave birth after being artificially inseminated by mistake — is back in all its bubbly, pastel-colored splendor. This is a series that wears its telenovela twists lightly — people pull off faces, twins impersonate and paralyze each other — but it offers substance too. The show dealt with surprising intelligence and care this season with the psychological ramifications of Jane's loss of her virginity. The Villanuevas are back. Jane (Gina Rodriguez) and Michael (Brett Dier) are adjusting to marriage.
13. Outsiders (WGN, Jan. 24)
WGN has become the network for underground communities, whether it's the witches in Salem or the slaves in Underground. Outsiders is the network's show about Appalachia's most isolated hillbillies — it features the technology-free Farrell Clan, who've lived on Shay Mountain for two centuries without technology trying to defend their way of life from the town below. Season 1 had the Farrells fighting off Big Coal (which wants to mine Shay Mountain and evict them) while establishing their own line of succession. Imagine a Shakespearean power struggle in an Amish court smelling like Braveheart.
14. Riverdale (CW, Jan. 26)
The new teenage drama from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Big Love, Looking, and Supergirl) takes a noir approach to showing small-town rot from the point of view of the Archie kids. Billed as a cross between Twin Peaks and the Archie comics, this latest project about high school kids is stylized, pleasantly eerie, and in deep dialogue with a range of genres and tropes (for example, Luke Perry — Dylan from Beverly Hills 90210 — plays Archie's dad). In this grittier Archie, a kid named Jason Blossom is dead, Archie slept with the music teacher, and Jughead Jones (Cole Spouse) is the show's lonely, diner-dwelling narrator.
15. Z: The Beginning of Everything (Amazon, Jan. 27)
Amazon Studios produced this intriguingly stressful period drama about Zelda Sayre (Christina Ricci) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (David Hoflin). From their first meeting in 1918 in Montgomery to their rise to Jazz Age stardom, this show engagingly portrays the famously difficult literary marriage, warts and all. Based on the novel by Therese Anne Fowler, Z recovers Zelda's side. Ricci might be an odd choice for Zelda in that she's not quite odd enough: Still, this show sucks you in.
16. Powerless (NBC, Feb. 2)
This workplace comedy about the unremarkable people who have to live in the DC Universe among superheroes could be terrible or it could be great. The premise, in any case, is brilliant: Emily Locke, an ordinary woman (played by Vanessa Hudgens) works at Wayne Securities trying to develop ways to protect ordinary citizens from becoming superheroes' collateral damage. Danny Pudi (a favorite from Community) plays Teddy, a prankster and Emily's best friend. Alan Tudyk plays Bruce Wayne's nightmarish cousin Van. The pilot was so-so, but some shows take awhile to find their footing. This one has good comic DNA.
17. Santa Clarita Diet (Netflix, Feb. 3)
Netflix's goriest family sitcom to date, Santa Clarita Diet stars Drew Barrymore as Sheila, a wife and mother who lives in suburban Santa Clarita with her husband Joel (Timothy Olyphant) and her teenage daughter Abby (an endearingly standoffish Liv Hewson). Sheila and Joel are both realtors perishing quietly from boredom when the greatest vomit scene in the history of television changes their lives forever. Barrymore's comic timing kills in this, and Olyphant plays one of TV's greatest, most implausible straight men.
18. 24: Legacy (Feb. 5)
24 feels like a very Bush-era show to me, but Brian Grazer resurrects the franchise with a new set of terrorists and a fresh crop of actors. Corey Hawkins takes up Kiefer Sutherland's torch as U.S. Army Ranger Eric Carter. Carter and his team killed a terrorist named Ibrahim Bin-Khalid, whose people are now targeting them one by one. The series will follow the usual format — one hour of TV corresponds to one hour. It also stars Anna Diop, Miranda Otto, Jimmy Smits, Teddy Sears, and Dan Bucatinsky.
19. Legion (FX, Feb. 8)
Noah Hawley's show, starring Dan Stevens as the most powerful mutant the Marvel Universe has ever seen, looks absolutely incredible. David Haller, Charles Xavier's son (!), was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a boy. It goes without saying that he has special abilities: telepathy, telekinesis, who knows what else. This show is stunning; even the sequence showing his development is so gorgeous and stylized you might try to find prints of it to put on your wall. And if Stevens isn't enough to tempt you, how about Jean Smart and Aubrey Plaza?
20. Girls (HBO, Feb. 12)
Lena Dunham's divisive show about a group of self-absorbed millennials living in New York is about to enter its sixth and final season. Hannah Horvath — the show's smart but unlikable protagonist, played by Dunham — told her parents at the beginning of the series that she wanted to be the voice of her generation. She failed, and so have the other girls: Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke), and Shoshonna (Zosia Mamet) have struggled and erred and made a long and fascinating series of selfish, appalling decisions. This show is extremely uneven, but when it's great, there's nothing like it: Season two's "One Man's Trash" is one of the best things television has done. Let's hope season six recaptures the rich, experimental weirdness that made Girls feel fresh and different. (Update: More on the season here and here.)
21. Doubt, (CBS, Feb. 15)
Katherine Heigl plays Sadie Ellis, a defense lawyer at a fancy firm who starts falling for her client Billy Brennan (Steven Pasquale), a winsome pediatric surgeon accused of murdering his girlfriend 24 years ago. The 13-episode drama also stars Dulé Hill and Laverne Cox as Sadie's co-workers Albert and Cameron. It's terrific to see Cox as a series regular, and it's a treat to watch the excellent Elliot Gould play Sadie's boss. Then there's Judith Light, whose recent comeback here and in Transparent has made TV better. Doubt could be fine; it could even be great. (Update: This was canceled after two episodes.)
22. Big Little Lies (HBO, Feb. 19)
HBO's new seven-episode miniseries — about a trio of mothers who become close in ways that expose some worrying undercurrents — has an impressive cast including Zoë Kravitz, Adam Scott, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Alexander Skarsgård. David E. Kelley's adaptation of Liane Moriarty's book about bullying, abuse, and kindergarten parents promises to be as funny and sociological and dark as its source material. All seven episodes will be directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, the director of Dallas Buyers Club and Wild. (Update: More on Big Little Lies here.)
23. Crashing (HBO, Feb. 19)
Peter Holmes writes and stars in this new comedy, produced by Judd Apatow, about a mild-mannered comedian who finds out his wife is cheating on him. With nowhere to live, he ends up bouncing between comics who take him in — including Artie Lange, Sarah Silverman, T.J. Miller, and Hannibal Buress. This looks like it'll be great if you like the genre of funny people being sad (and funny) together in New York. (Update: more on Crashing here.)
24. The Good Fight (CBS, Feb. 19)
It'll be interesting to see whether this spinoff of The Good Wife can recreate the magic of the original. A year after the events of The Good Wife finale, a scam costs Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) her life savings and professionally ruins her goddaughter Maia (Rose Leslie) — a lawyer she mentors. Forced out of her own firm, Diane starts a new one with Maia and The Good Wife alumna Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo).
25. When We Rise (ABC, Feb. 27)
Given protests across the country, When We Rise looks eerily prescient. Dustin Lance Black's seven-part docudrama covers the rise of the gay rights movement. The unbelievably talented cast includes Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louise Parker, Guy Pearce, Rosie O'Donnell, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Kenneth Williams, Rob Reiner, and Phylicia Rashad. Directors include Gus Van Sant, Dee Rees, Thomas Schlamme, and Black himself. The series was supposed to air nightly starting Feb. 27, but the schedule was changed to accommodate President Trump's State of the Union address on Feb. 28. It will resume on March 1.
26. Feud: Betty and Joan (FX, March 5)
Ryan Murphy proved with The People vs. OJ Simpson that he can turn tawdry source material into astoundingly good TV. His latest anthology project, Feud, is in that tradition: The eight-episode season will revolve around Bette Davis and Joan Crawford's rivalry during the filming of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Starring Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, and Sarah Paulson, this looks like it's going to be campy and funny and terrific. (Update: our review of Feud is here.)
27. The Americans (FX, March 7)
This show has won a bevy of awards for good reason: It's one of the most scintillating, well-written, well-scored, well-acted dramas on television. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings, Russian spies who have embedded in America and raised their children as Americans, too — with an FBI agent as their neighbor. Set in the '80s, the show features cheesy disguises, bad wigs, sophisticated plots, and tremendous acting from everyone — including the Jennings' daughter, Paige, who they're in the painful process of recruiting. And not since the '80s has a show about Russian spies been this relevant. (Update: our recaps of The Americans are available here.)
28. Underground (WGN, March 8)
WGN's intense, experimental series about the underground railroad and slavery in 1857 Georgia is back for a second season. The first season was notable for its unusual juxtaposition of contemporary music with period drama — one inspired sequence had Kanye West's "Black Skinhead" playing over footage of a runaway slave, coordinating the beat to the sound of his frightened breathing. I had mixed feelings about some other directorial choices; a scene in which a slave seduces her white owner to save her son from being sold was too eroticized for the horrifying context it represented. This is a weird show, though, and those experiments sometimes save it from predictability. Jurnee Smollett-Bell is terrific in this; so is Amirah Vann, who plays her mother.
29. Hap and Leonard: Mucho Murder, Mayhem, & Mojo' (Sundance TV, March 15)
Based on Joe R. Lansdale's '90s book series, this noir-lite comedy about two friends, Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael Kenneth Williams), stumbling on and solving crime in '80s-era Texas is back for a second, six-episode season. If the yellow landscapes of True Detective's first season spoke to you, you might like the swampy texture of Hap and Leonard too. No Christina Hendricks this time, but there's evidently a skeleton and a "literal pissing match."
30. Grace and Frankie (Netflix, March 24)
Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin's buddy comedy is back for a third season. The ladies' vibrator business is taking off and Sol and Robert are settling into their new home, but even Brianna's decision to hire a male prostitute doesn't save the season from feeling a little staid. The dramatic, life-altering pain of the premise has mostly been dealt with. The show's second season ended with a climactic confrontation featuring, among other things, the discovery that Robert had pre-bought Grace a lifetime's worth of gifts and that Sol had faked the sale of one of Frankie's paintings to Kenny Loggins. Those betrayals were wretchedly funny, but they carried real emotional resonance. While this season doesn't reach those cathartic heights, it's always a pleasure to watch Tomlin and Fonda onscreen. (And I wish Bud and Brianna would get a room already.)
31. Ingobernable (Netflix, March 24)
This absorbing political thriller stars Kate del Castillo as Emilia Urquiza, a first lady of Mexico gone rogue. She planned to divorce her husband, Diego Nava, a sometime idealist corrupted by the system — but her announcement initiates an upsettingly vivid confrontation. When Emilia comes to, her husband is dead. Understanding that she's the likely suspect, she goes on the lam — evading Mexican security forces and surviving thanks to an underground network of people who are victims of the corrupt regime. Alberto Guerra plays Canek, her closest ally. Aida López is extraordinary as Chela Lagos, the leader of the "Cabronas de Tepito," a gang of women dedicated to protecting Tepito. A warning: "The Oath" is one of the darkest episodes of television I've ever seen.
32. Better Call Saul (AMC, April 10)
Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad spinoff is impishly slow for a prequel: If this is supposed to be the story of how Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) becomes Saul Goodman, the only hints of Saul in the first two seasons have come from black-and-white flash-forwards and a colorful Skydancer who inspired his palette. It doesn't matter: This show is gorgeous and deliberate and recursive (and the first real clue about how Saul found his name is in the trailer above). Michael McKean is exceptional as Jimmy's brother Charles. So is Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler. The show is brimming with Breaking Bad alumni, and there will be more — the third season teaser includes a Los Pollos Hermanos ad. Simply put, this is one of the best shows on television. (Update: more on Better Call Saul here.)
33. The Leftovers (HBO, April 16)
Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta's gently post-apocalyptic show about the aftermath of an event called the "Sudden Departure," which caused 140 million people to vanish, is back for its third and final season. The beauty of The Leftovers has always been its belatedness: Most shows (like Under the Dome) are about the Big Thing happening; The Leftovers is only interested in the weird aftershocks of living with a mystery that's unsolved and likely unsolvable. That means love, friendship, cults. Starring Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, and Christopher Eccleston, you should also watch this for Perrotta's great dialogue and the show's distinctive look. (Update: Our recaps of The Leftovers are available here.)
34. Veep (HBO, April 16)
Veep's fifth season ended with Julia Louis-Dreyfus' fabulously foul-mouthed Selina Meyer forced out of the White House. It was a stunning twist, and this season finds her scrabbling for relevance — sometimes plotting how to get back to Washington, D.C, sometimes charting her legacy (there's talk of a presidential library), and sometimes lending an unhelpful hand overseas as she tries to build up credibility as a kind of elder statesman. The results are mixed. The team that makes the show work has been dispersed, and rather than commit to the finale and let them go, the show keeps finding ways to bring the characters back into orbit with each other in ways that feel forced. What the show lacks in logic it makes up for in invective; this is still some of the best insult comedy around. (Update: Our review of Veep is here.)
35. Pretty Little Liars (Freeform, April 18)
A small-town show about a group of girls dealing with the murder of their "leader" Alison, Pretty Little Liars put ABC Family (now Freeform) on the map. The teen thriller became a social media phenomenon back in 2010 and will wrap up the second half of its seventh and last season. The first half of season seven featured a beheading; hopefully there will be more of the campy and ridiculous in Rosewood as the pack finally confronts their mysterious tormentor.
36. Fargo (FX, April 19)
In the third installment of Noah Hawley's anthology series (based on the Coen Brothers property of the same name), Ewan McGregor plays Emmit and Ray Stussy, a pair of brothers whose sibling rivalry turns lethal. They aren't the only confusing doubles; this season plays with echoes and coincidences and it falls to Sheriff Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon — Nora from The Leftovers) to solve the pointless murder of her elderly stepfather, who turns out to have had a secret identity himself. David Thewlis is seamy and villainous as the mysterious V.M. Varga, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead channels Selma Blair as Nikki Swango, an ex-con and aspiring bridge champ who manipulates one of the Stussy brothers into doing her bidding. (Update: Our review of the first few episodes of Fargo is here.)
37. Silicon Valley (HBO, April 24)
This affectionate satire of tech startup culture is a smart and hilarious (if declawed) descendant of Office Space. But after two seasons that follow roughly the same pattern (company gets stolen from Richard, he and his buddies claw their way back) — and without the guys living together — it's hard to know whether it has much gas left in its tank. (Update: Our review of the first few episodes is here.)
38. The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu, April 26th)
Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel about an America that was quickly overtaken by a totalitarian theocracy is being adapted for television on Hulu. The protagonist remembers what it felt like to be free, but in the new regime, hellbent on oppressing and enslaving women, they're named according to the men they serve. Elizabeth Moss play the protagonist — now named Offred because her "commander" is named Fred. With a killer cast including Orange is the New Black's Samira Wiley and Madeline Brewer, Joseph Fiennes, and Gilmore Girls' Alexis Bledel, this looks like it's going to be horrifying, relevant, and good. (Update: More on The Handmaid's Tale here.)
39. Catastrophe (Amazon, April 28)
Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney's deliciously dysfunctional comedy — which began with a surprise pregnancy between strangers — returns for a third season. If the relationship started off volatile and sex-crazed, their problems now are familiar and emphatically adult: Rob struggles with his career, Sharon struggles with her brother. Principally, though, the spiky, charismatic pair struggle with each other. The show has always dealt intelligently with the peculiar isolation of adulthood in general and parenthood in particular. There are other considerations now, like money. Watching the couple slash and spar over what can be compromised on and what can't is a weird pleasure — this show has some of the best dialogue on TV, and the rare professions of unconditional warmth pay off. Carrie Fisher has a precious cameo.
40. American Gods (Starz, April 30)
Bryan Fuller and Michael Green created this adaptation of Neil Gaiman's fantastic novel about a world where the old gods are living in relative obscurity and squalor while the new gods Media and Technology take over. The show stars Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon, a recently widowed ex-con in deep mourning who's recruited by the Norse god Odin (alias "Mr. Wednesday," and played by Ian McShane!) to help him gather the old gang together. Gillian Anderson will play Media. I have high hopes for this — it looks beautiful and fantastical and somber and mischievous. Bonus: Crispin Glover and Cloris Leachman play gods. (Update: more on American Gods here and here.)
41. I Love Dick (Amazon, May 12)
Jill Soloway's rangy adaptation of Chris Kraus' cult classic about obsession and love and sex and art is brilliant — and weird, and sunbaked, and filled with lusty embarrassing meditations on the ways self-disclosure affects and inspires and even humiliates others. Soloway and Sarah Gubbins chose to set the show in Marfa, Texas, so there's the added thrill of watching Chris' escalating experiment in the leaky, incestuous ecosystem of a small art town. Kathryn Hahn finally gets her star turn as Chris herself, with Griffin Dunne as her husband Sylvère. Kevin Bacon is perfect as cowboy artist Dick, the object of Chris' obsession and the widely-revered head of the Institute. The writers' room was all female or gender non-conforming and so were most of the directors. It shows. (Update: Our review of I Love Dick is here.)
42. Twin Peaks (Showtime, May 21)
David Lynch's cult series returns after two and a half decades. The show has gotten even stranger and more oblique, but there are plenty of familiar faces; appearing in the first few episodes are Deputy Hawk, Benjamin and Jerry Horne, Sarah and Leland Palmer, Norma, James, Shelly (and her daughter, played Amanda Seyfried) and Bobby Briggs, now a deputy. Lucy and Andy are still at it (and proud of their son Wally — played by Michael Cera with a certain familiar panache) and Dr. Jacoby has taken to painting shovels. On the FBI side, Lynch reprises his role as Gordon Cole, and Albert and Denise are back. It's unclear what Special Agent Dale Cooper knows (or, indeed, is), but it's fascinating to watching him chatting once again with Laura Palmer — the hardest-working character on television — along with the giant and the One-Armed Man. New faces include Naomi Watts, Chrysta Bell, and Laura Dern. (Update: Our review is here.)
43. House of Cards (Netflix, May 30)
Netflix's Machiavellian antihero drama about presidential politics returns for its fifth season. Frank and Claire Underwood's near-nuclear rift is on pause; they're in the White House plotting to wreak terror on everyone else. Even back when the fourth season aired, it seemed to me that current events had rendered it irrelevant, even obsolete. Frank and Claire seem to belong to another era of American politics (more on why here). I suspect that's still the case. Still, the show has the best opening sequence in television (and Robin Wright is worth watching no matter what she does). (Update: Our review of House of Cards is here.)
44. I'm Dying Up Here (Showtime, June 4)
Jim Carrey is the executive producer of this ambitious period drama about stand-up comedy in the '70s. Created by David Flebotte, I'm Dying Up Here is based on William Knoedelseder's 2009 book about the magical moment in L.A. comedy when comics like Letterman, Kaufman, and Leno were coming up at Mitzi Shore's The Comedy Store. Unfortunately, the show's decision to fictionalize that history neuters it. Nothing against Ari Gaynor, Clark Duke, Joel Kelley Dauten, Al Madrigal, and RJ Cyler, who play some of the up-and-coming comics, but the stand-up is just okay, and the breakthrough moments don't earn the laughs they should. Melissa Leo is wry and mysterious as Goldie, the proprietor of the famous comedy club. In theory, this is a great show with a lovely aesthetic. In practice, it feels a little shapeless, like the punchline never comes.
45. Orange is the New Black (Netflix, June 9)
This series has such a deep bench of talent that it's a treat even when it's slow or flawed. OITNB's fifth season is anything but: Litchfield is now the site of a prison riot, and the entire fifth season takes place over the course of three intense and tensely rendered days. Jenji Kohan has famously steered the show away from its "white lady goes to prison" premise; this season deals with the ramifications of Poussey's (Samira Wiley) death. It particularly showcases Danielle Brooks as Taystee. (Update: Our review is here.)
46. Orphan Black (BBC America, June 10)
The ambitious sci-fi thriller for which Tatiana Maslany finally won an Emmy last year airs its fifth and final season this year. Orphan Black is fast and funny and, yes, stressful. By making one immensely talented actress embody virtually every type of woman found on television — and writing them as cloned sisters to each other — it has a lot to say about gender, science, and reproductive autonomy. Even with a few too many plot twists, this show does brilliant work with its metaphors, and the creators have had a show bible, so there's reason to believe they'll stick the landing.