We all thought 2016 was a horrible year, what with the never-ending election news cycle and the parade of celebrity deaths that seemed intent on wearing us out and destroying every last sliver of hope for humanity.
And then 2017 happened.
This year was a struggle for many people across America for a number of different reasons. And in times of stress and struggle, everyone needed a respite at one point or another. This year, television was a comforting presence to many of us. So, as we prepare to say goodbye to 2017 and hello to the new year, TV Guide is looking back at the TV shows that helped us get through the maelstrom of the past 12 months. And hopefully by marathoning them all through the holiday break, it'll set a significantly better vibe for 2018.
Everwood and Felicity
If one day I stumbled into a magical land and was granted a wish for some noble act I did to save everyone, I would wish to bring back The WB in all of its beautiful, angsty, magical glory. That might seem like a weird thing to wish for when I could also wish for the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series, but Everwood and Felicity got me through the darkest days of 2017 when Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn't enough. Yes, Ephram's (Gregory Smith) bad hair and penchant for wearing long-sleeved shirts under short-sleeved shirts is still annoying in 2017, but the complex yet simple problems of Everwood's characters allowed me to immerse myself in a world much different than the one outside my window, which was burning down, literally and metaphorically, this year. Everwood is a heartfelt coming-of-age drama that thoughtfully tackled far more serious topics than perhaps anyone expected of it. To this day the series remains a warm blanket on the coldest of days, but when I needed something more than the ongoing saga of the Browns and the Abbotts, I found myself gravitating toward another WB favorite: Felicity. It was a series that too felt comforting and familiar, even if the more I rewatched it the more I found Noel (Scott Foley) and his frequent sense of entitlement with regards to Felicity (Keri Russell) off-putting. I guess, at the end of the day, I've realized there is no better cure for 2017 than to escape with that beautiful mumbler Ben Covington (Scott Speedman), who was far funnier than anyone ever gave him credit for. — Kaitlin Thomas
The Real Housewives franchise
Although Friends has been and will always be my go-to for when I need a major dose of comfort, this year I've found myself relying on another source of distraction: the Real Housewives. You'd think that something that thrives on conflict would only worsen my mood, but there's something so immersive about watching Housewives that the outside world just slips away. That's because to fully appreciate this wonderful world of women, you have to be an active participant, even if you aren't an active viewer. You may be on Twitter or absent-mindedly painting your nails while you watch, but you also have to be ready to yell at the screen at a moment's notice when LeeAnne Locken threatens to strangle Cary Deuber or when Kim Richards gives Lisa Rinna back a blue bunny wrapped in cellophane. Even when you watch alone, being a Housewives fan is a group sport. There is a community built around these women that I feel very lucky to have been a part of this year, because it's way easier to parse through my feelings about Tamra forgiving Vicki than it is to face the real world sometimes. Plus, no matter how bad I feel at any given time, I can always remind myself: at least I'm not married to David Beador. — Sadie Gennis
All the more important now that it's been canceled, Hulu's Difficult People was my balm in a chaotic world. First of all, episodes came out weekly, which heightened anticipation for the vicious, vacuous banter between Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner as... Billy and Julie. Their self-absorbed, catty yet entirely relatable drama was always a delight, packed with rapid-fire pop culture references and petty patter that required deep concentration and (almost) always paid off. It's hard to think about a mass shooting or budding race war when those two are sabotaging someone for a part or trashing Kevin Spacey, amirite? Then there was the gift to humanity known as Cole Escola, who stole every scene with demented lines that stretched the boundaries of what "comedy" means in 2017. And that's not even including the silliness from the always-outraged trans conspiracy theorist activist Lola (Shackina Nayfack) or Andrea Martin as Julie's cloying, passive aggressive mother. All of it added up to a bizarre yet believable world that existed far away from the one we occupy — a welcome distraction from the much more troubled Earth we occupy. — Malcolm Venable
In a year where the real world unequivocally blows, who doesn't want to escape to a world of magic and gods? The Magicians has been my happy place in 2017, not just because of my desperate need for escapism, but because it perfectly walks the line between fantasy and farce. Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) and his merry band of self-aware misfits use magic the way actual millennials would — creating portals to Ibiza or enacting rousing musical numbers — while also fighting the good fight against monsters and evil tyrants. Most importantly though, this little Syfy series that could manages to celebrate the super nerd without simultaneously shading them for the stuff they like (trust me, it happens more than you know). The status quo that seems to be beating the little guy down at every given chance this year is just not something anyone at Brakebills, or in Fillory for that matter, aspires to. Why be normal when you can be awesome instead? Simply put, if you haven't indulged in The Magicians yet, you're robbing yourself of 26 hours where the world is as it should be: totally bonkers and magical AF. — Lindsay MacDonald
After a tough TV season of watching emotionally exhausting shows like This Is Us and Grey's Anatomy, I was looking for a lighthearted, easy binge in early summer as a palette cleanser. I love Sutton Foster and I had only heard great things about Younger. With each episode coming in at 22 minutes, it seemed like the perfect thing to put on while cleaning or getting ready for bed just to relax. I started watching the show on Sunday afternoon and finished the first season in one day. I couldn't stop. Watching Sutton as the 40-year-old Liza trying to restart her career in publishing by lying about her age was magical. Hilary Duff, as always, was iconic. And let's face it, who can say no to Nico Tortorella's face? Eventually, I became so invested in the love triangle between Liza, her younger boyfriend Josh (Tortorella) and her similarly-aged boss Charles (Peter Hermann) that I actually missed a flight for my best friend's wedding. No, really, I was sitting at the gate and was so absorbed in the Season 3 finale that I didn't hear them calling my name to board the plane. So it left. I was already crying because of the show and then I cried some more because my flight left. Luckily, I was able to catch another flight 30 minutes later, but yes, Younger is that good and exactly what I needed this year. #TeamJosh — Megan Vick
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and DC's Legends of Tomorrow
Though this wonderful job of entertainment journalism often means jamming full seasons of television in your brain as quickly as possible, I've been taking my time with two shows: Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and The CW's DC's Legends of Tomorrow. It wasn't initially a conscious choice to alternate them, but I've found they make a wonderful brain scrub for the fountains of bile often pouring out of the news and social media throughout the day. For the past few weeks, I've started most days by watching 20-30 minutes of Maisel on my subway ride to work. It's joyful, hilarious, and beautifully choreographed, so rather than starting my day by reading the news, I'm inspired by the possibilities of what art can say about comedy, feminism and family. Then I've been ending most days with Legends. It's the goofiest of the CW superhero shows, but that's on purpose. It took the show a while to find its footing, but its now firmly in the realm of comfort food, a modern iteration of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys or Xena: Warrior Princess — shows that knew the constraints of their budgets and instead focused on finding fun and depth for their cast of characters to play with. It also probably helps that one show takes place in the past, while the other travels to everywhere but the present — a helpful way of divorcing myself, at least 20-40 minutes at a time, from the realities of today. — Alex Zalben
Star Trek: Discovery
For a world that demanded escape, Star Trek: Discovery premiered at the perfect time. For me personally, it was an undeniable lesson in how to move the f--k forward after I felt totally defeated by the trashfire that was America in 2017. Starring a disgraced Starfleet officer about to serve life for treason, Discovery shined a light on how people can manage to put themselves back together again, and find not only a way to survive, but also thrive. The quiet joy of making a new friendship, repairing an old one, or regaining the trust of people you hurt, is where the true heroics of show lie. And while the massive, explosive action pieces in the distant reaches of space don't hurt either, at its core Star Trek: Discovery is about how people can lift each other up. In a year where I only felt let-down, Discovery was a soothing balm that promised tomorrow would be brighter. — Krutika Mallikarjuna
Friends is hardly a novel answer, but it's my all-time favorite show and as I mentioned a couple years ago, when I think of Friends, I think of comfort. It's like a warm, fulfilling cup of soup (not noodle soup) on a cold winter day. It makes you feel nice and cozy without a worry in the word, and after 23 (!) years, I'm still not sick of hanging out with the six of them. They're my lobster. — Joyce Eng
The West Wing
The West Wing is my go-to escapist binge-watch, but in 2017 more than any other year in memory, I needed to revisit the comfort of the Bartlet White House to take my mind off of the disastrous political events in the real world. It was a refreshing change of pace to laugh and cry along with Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford), CJ Cregg (Allison Janney) and other officials as they work to better the country and are actually competent at their jobs (most of the time). As I struggled to find inspiration in our actual leaders, I relied on President Jed Bartlet's (Martin Sheen) starry-eyed speeches for a reminder of what political figures should aspire to. For anyone starting to lose faith in our democracy, The West Wing is a reminder that America can be great. — Liz Raftery
What show helped you this year?
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS.)