The Top 15 Television Performances of 2017

1 Jan

I cheated with some of these.

15. TIE: Timothy Olyphant, “Santa Clarita Diet” and Andy Daly, “Review” – Daly would be much higher if he didn’t have only an hour of screen time this year, but I figured I’d still sneak him on here somehow. It may not seem like it at first, but he actually gives one of the most psychologically complex performances on television. As for Olyphant…I just love Olyphant, and he’s a ton of fun in “Santa Clarita Diet”.

14. Pamela Adlon, “Better Things” –  A refreshingly grounded performance, one that feels honest and real every single week.

13. Kyle MacLachlan, “Twin Peaks: The Return” – MacLachlan pulls off a tough job in this season, playing several different versions of one character while ensuring that they feel connected in a manner beyond appearance. Not to mention the fact that he has to sell the humor and horror of Lynch, which is never an easy task.

12. Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji, “Insecure” – As best friends in the show, Rae and Orji deftly navigate all the difficulties of love, work, and friendship.

11. Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies” – The clear standout from an overall great cast. Her scenes with Skarsgard are the most compelling scenes in the show by a wide margin, and Kidman explores and exposes her character’s psyche like the veteran actor she is.

10. Sarah Gadon, “Alias Grace” – A mesmerizing tightrope of a performance, with every moment of blankness revealing a reservoir of psychological pain.

9. Rachel Bloom and Donna Lynn Champlin, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” – Bloom’s performance is chock full of energy, but she also nails the struggles her character experiences in the show’s most challenging season to date. Champlin, meanwhile, has quietly been giving one of the best supporting roles on television for the last few years.

8. Claire Foy, “The Crown” – So intoxicating precisely because Foy is performing as someone perpetually living a performance. She has a special talent for finding the Queen’s emotional core and allowing that to inform every perfectly calibrated element of her powerful, prominent, and even contradictory role in society. This is Foy’s show.

7. Tatiana Maslany, “Orphan Black” – I don’t see her on many lists this year, which makes sense because 1) The show became a shell of its former self, and 2) We all take her for granted at this point. At the same time, it also doesn’t make sense because Maslany is the epitome of versatility and delivers one final incredible run in season five. For each of the past five years, she’s had a very strong case for best performance of the year.

6. Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishe, “Halt and Catch Fire” – Their characters have gone through their ups and downs, but what remains when all is said and done is a wonderful platonic relationship between two flawed yet resolute women.

5. Katherine Langford, “13 Reasons Why” – Langford takes what can sometimes be problematic, melodramatic writing and makes it remarkably believable and nuanced. The show’s entire premise hinges on this one character, and without an actor as good as Langford in the role, it’s not going anywhere. Say what you will about the show in general, but Langford is phenomenal.

4. Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Deuce” – She displays such an air of assuredness on screen, with just the right mix of warmth and resolve.

3. Michael McKean, “Better Call Saul” – I singled out Seehorn last year, but it has to be McKean this year. Probably the person on this list most capable of making you feel the character’s pain.

2. Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale” – Brilliant as always, but her Emmy win for this show should not have been her first.

1. The Cast of “The Leftovers” – The greatest cast on television. In the show’s final season, regulars like Eccleston and Brenneman deliver incredible performances, but the show ultimately rests on the very capable shoulders of Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux. This is a pairing so tense, so beautiful, so rich in emotion, and the final scenes between them are absolutely stunning. Coon in particular is an acting force to be reckoned with and the greatest performer in today’s television industry.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell (“The Americans”), Aya Cash (“You’re the Worst”), Carmen Ejogo, Anna Friel, and Louisa Krause (“The Girlfriend Experience”), Nathan Fielder (“Nathan For You”), The cast of “The Good Place”, Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”), Laura Linney and Jason Bateman (“Ozark”), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”), Jude Law (“The Young Pope”), Emmy Rossum (“Shameless”), The “Fargo” cast, Aubrey Plaza (“Legion”), Logan Browning (“Dear White People”), Will Arnett (“Bojack Horseman”), Cameron Britton (“Mindhunter”)

OTHERS CONSIDERED: Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe (“Master of None”), Rashida Jones (“Angie Tribeca”), Ian McShane and Pablo Schreiber (“American Gods”), The “Stranger Things” cast, Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Gillian Jacobs (“Love”), The “Silicon Valley” cast, Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Alison Brie (“GLOW”), The “Search Party” Cast, Regina King (“American Crime”), Kyle Chandler (“Bloodline”)

A special shoutout to all the “Black Mirror” performers.

Haven’t Seen: Catastrophe, Casual, Orange Is the New Black (S5), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Godless, Happy, The Sinner, The Vietnam War, Baskets, Bates Motel, Feud: Bette and Joan, The Good Fight, Five Came Back, One Day at a Time, Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, Narcos (S3), Anne with an E, The Keepers, Sneaky Pete, The Path (S2), She’s Gotta Have It, Preacher, I Love Dick, Crashing, Top of the Lake: China Girl, Black Sails, Peaky Blinders, This Is Us, Riverdale

One Response to “The Top 15 Television Performances of 2017”

  1. Ethyl February 12, 2018 at 10:55 am #

    No Jeff Daniels in “Godless”!? Supporting actor Emmy hands down.

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