The 25 Best TV Shows of 2017 (So Far)

2. The Americans

Network: FX

In its fifth season, The Americans’ careful aesthetic, its uncommon precision, cultivate the sincere pleasures of “slow” TV: Despite the criticism from certain quarters, the series is neither loose nor languid, using its methodical construction to reconsider, as Paste contributor Evan McGarvey writes, “the serrated edges between parenting and handling.” If The Leftoversexternalizes psychic strain, The Americans bottles it up, tamps it down, quiets it, using its changes of tempo—the silent stretch capped by the report of the gun, the argument accompanied by the awkward silence—to create a sublime charge. Anchored by four extraordinary performances, from Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell, Frank Langella and Holly Taylor, The Americans pursues its portrait of spies hemmed in by history until the terse language and succinct images come to represent the characters’ evolution, turning inward as the passage of time turns their politics upside down. In other words, Season Five of The Americans is the ideal meeting of form and function, an ambitious family drama caught in the Cold War’s tightening vise: still one of the best shows on television. Matt Brennan