We’re at the halfway point of 2017, so all this week Mashable entertainment will be rolling out our 8.5 (Get it, half of ’17?) picks for the best of the year – so far! – in movies, TV, music, and more. It’s our eight best picks for you, along with a bonus choice that, while not strictly one of the greats, deserves a guilty pleasure mention. Enjoy.
1. The Handmaid’s Tale
The best show of the year so far is also the hardest to watch, but don’t you dare look away. While seeing women being stripped of their rights sadly isn’t a far-fetched concept right now, no other series has captured the zeitgeist in such an effective way — its impact can be seen all around us, from public protests across the country to a mansplaining Saturday Night Live parody. Confrontational, horrifying and beautiful in equal measure, Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale is both a timely parable and an electrifying call to action against the evil that is allowed to flourish when good people do nothing. What could be more vital?
2. The Good Fight
On paper, CBS All Access’ first scripted series may not be as flashy as the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery, but The Good Fight is a worthy successor to The Good Wife, and that’s a damn high bar to clear. It’s every bit as fearless as its predecessor when it comes to interrogating thorny themes like racism, sexism and ageism in corporate America, and showrunners Robert and Michelle King are still among the best writers in the medium when it comes to distilling some of the country’s most challenging ideological issues — from police brutality to cyber-bullying — into deeply personal stories. The only downside? The show’s agonizingly short 10-episode order, compared with its forebear’s 22-episode seasons. We’re counting the days until Season 2.
3. Big Little Lies
Executive produced by Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, who also starred alongside Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern and Zoe Kravitz, this supposedly closed-ended HBO miniseries already has fans clamouring for a second season — and they just might get one.
The show is noteworthy for giving us one of the most unflinching representations of domestic violence ever seen on TV without ever being gratuitous or preachy, but it’s the relationships between the fully-realized women at its core that kept viewers coming back for more. A lot of the credit for the beauty of the show and its gracefully unfurling mystery is owed to director Jean-Marc Vallée and writer David E. Kelley — we just wish the decidedly female-driven narrative had featured female writers or directors too.
4. Dear White People
Justin Simien’s Netflix adaptation of his own movie may have completed production before last November’s election, but no show has a better response to the myth of "post-racial America" than this comedic gem. Brutally honest and blazingly funny, Dear White People might be hard to swallow for some sensitive snowflakes, but we need more shows with this level of self-awareness, humor and heart.
Even though it was only released on June 23, this ode to ’80s women’s wrestling is already one of the year’s most entertaining new entries — a breezy binge that nonetheless packs a powerful punch thanks to its roster of painfully relatable female leads. Co-created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, with Orange is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan on board as an executive producer, Glow has all the charm and quirkiness of OITNB, and — with a svelte 30-minute run time and 10 episode order — none of its bloat.
6. Shots Fired
The only show from a broadcast network to make the list, this Fox limited series tackled the issue of police brutality from both sides of the thin blue line with enviable nuance and grace. Created by Gina Prince-Bythewood and Reggie Rock Bythewood and anchored by powerhouse performances from Sanaa Lathan and Stephan James, this vital murder mystery wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions, or provide even tougher answers.
7. American Gods
Showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green set themselves an almost impossible task in trying to adapt Neil Gaiman’s beloved novel, but the weird, wild freshman season of their Starz drama proved that they were more than up to the challenge. Every bit as artful as Fuller’s Hannibal, with all the compelling character drama of Green’s Logan script, this trippy road trip hooked us from the start, and we still have many miles to go before we sleep, thank the gods.
8. 13 Reasons Why
Understandably divisive but undeniably compelling, Netflix’s uncompromising teen drama hit close to home for many viewers, sparking a vital conversation about mental health, bullying and suicide that the TV industry usually shies away from. While mental health professionals criticized its graphic depiction of self-harm, the show undoubtedly touches on themes that are all-too relatable for many teens (and plenty of adults) — and uses a refreshingly diverse and intersectional cast to deliver them. Whether you thought it was too much or just enough, its cultural impact can’t be overstated.
The CW’s soapy teen drama owes a lot to Twin Peaks, but while the Showtime revival is drowning in self-indulgence, this deliciously twisted take on Archie, Betty and Veronica offers a tightly-plotted murder mystery while still making time for high school hijinx and Dynasty-esque family feuding. Riverdale might not be an Emmy contender, but in the era of Peak TV, when we have a dozen identical shows jostling for prestige drama status, it’s refreshing to find a series that knows exactly what it is and consistently delivers that addictive blend of camp, noir and sass with its pussycat ears firmly in place.