The TimeOut team pick the best TV shows to screen this year.

HANDMAID'S TALE

Lightbox

This show took us into a world where women were slaves, outlaws and baby-making machines, in what has to be one of the bleakest releases we've ever seen. It was made all the worse given it hit our screens right when women around the world were marching for their rights against Trump's America, and in a year which has seen potentially millions of women speak up about sexual assault and harassment under #metoo. But the terrifying yet worryingly plausible storyline, compelling characters, brilliant cast, acting and the whole look and style - bleak as it was - made it unforgettable. (SY)

STRANGER THINGS

Netflix

We were all hoping the second season of Netflix's surprise pop culture hit would live up to the first, but I don't know if anyone really expected it to surpass it. But, boy, did it ever. The chemistry between the gang felt far stronger, things - strange as they were - moved quicker, and all the winks and nods to the 80s didn't feel as forced. And, on top of all that, they even added a Goonie to the cast and showed us a cute wee baby Demogorgon. Totally rad. (KP)

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BIG LITTLE LIES

Sky Soho/Neon

A few critics took one look at the glossy exterior of this series and wrote it off as soapy frivolity. Their mistake. Big Little Lies was indulgent, sure – it hammed up the flashbacks and dream sequences – but as the series progressed, indulgence became its strength. Beneath the catfights and Reese Witherspoon's perfect hair lay a gripping, emotional story about five women suffering under the restrictions of a patriarchal society and the strength they eventually found in female friendship. With staggeringly good performances, Big Little Lies became a thoroughly engrossing watch - and set a new benchmark for modern television. (GF)

GLOW

Netflix

At first glance, this Netflix series seemed like a cheap gag, full of big hair and 80s leotards. But further investigation revealed GLOW to be a quirky delight, led by a cast of strong, diverse women. Inspired by the real-life story of women's professional wrestling in the 80s, GLOW packs a smart, sassy punch with every 30-minute episode. Plus, those leotards are ridiculously great. (JH)

TWIN PEAKS

Sky SoHo/Neon

After 25 years David Lynch welcomed us back to Twin Peaks and the surrealistic nightmare of its dreamlike logic and confuzzling mysteries. So much style, so much substance, so much creepy menace and satisfying quirk. So much to get lost in. So much WTF. But somehow - and I don't know how Lynch does it - but somehow, it all made sense. Even when it didn't. (KP)

INSECURE

Sky SoHo

Why this show isn't a bigger deal is beyond us. It has hilarious, talented, three-dimensional female leads, the vast majority of the cast are people of colour and the stories are almost a little bit too real. Think of it like Girls but with more diversity, heart and hip hop. Possibly the best part is that the main character Issa likes to break the fourth wall to freestyle rap her monologues, which are amazing. Add to that a killer soundtrack and really - what's not to love? (SY)

GRAND DESIGNS NZ

Three

We love the #BlackHouse with its pops of colour. 🙌 #GDNZ

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Another reality rip-off of an overseas show seems like an unlikely entry here. But Grand Designs NZ's underrated third season contained some incredible long-form storytelling. Who could forget the woman who made her family live in a barn to build her dream home, only to sell it soon after finishing? Or the Ponsonby couple who passed on a $1.5m Auckland house to spend $6m on a mixed-use apartment complex? Or the fishy furnishings of a Slipper Island hideaway? This was Kiwi property porn done in a way that didn't make you feel like taking a shower afterwards. (CS)

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM

Sky SoHo

You'd forgive Larry David for running out of things to be worked up about. But because humans are largely inconsiderate jackasses there seems to be a bottomless pit of grievance for him to mine; apologies that aren't commensurate with the crime, the pointlessness of biscuit tongs, queue jumpers, latecomers, and the attractiveness of the mountain women vs. lowlands women of Romania - don't ask - are just some of the flies in season nine's comedy ointment. At its core, under all the yelling and shouting and arguing and aggravation, Curb is a comedy of manners and this season LD and co. were in rude health.

GAME OF THRONES

Sky SoHo/Neon

Game of Thrones

copped a lot of flack this year as viewers started to turn away from the simpler storylines and increased fantasy elements (here's looking at you, ice zombie dragon...thing). But still, no other show in the world has elicited as much hype and conversation; hell, we even made an entire podcast about watching it (find us iTunes). No matter what issues you have with it, there's no denying few other shows have managed to build such a rich, elaborate world with characters you simultaneously hate and worship. Bring on the final season! (SY)

MARRIED AT FIRST SIGHT

Three

Bear with us here. Yes, we know plenty of people will scoff at this choice and declare MAFS was an unmitigated disaster. And it was. But that's why it made the list. No other show had us talking, reading or despairing for humanity as much as MAFS did. It was unscripted drama of trainwreck proportions and the nation couldn't look away. Plus, it gave us Brett and Angel. (JH)


*Reviews by Joanna Hunkin (JH), Chris Schulz (CS), Karl Puschmann (KP), Siena Yates (SY) and George Fenwick (GF)