Radio Times Top 40 TV Shows of 2017: 40 to 31

The votes have been counted and the results are in... here's our critics' countdown of the year's best telly

chewinggum

40 Sherlock BBC1

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Fans spent much of 2016 wondering if Night Manager star Tom Hiddleston would play Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes’ long-lost brother. Imagine their surprise when Steven Moffat revealed that the Holmes boys had a sister instead. Sian Brooke burst on TV screens as the enigmatic Eurus, who very nearly outwitted her siblings while doing her best “girl from The Ring” impression. If Sherlock doesn’t return – Holmes and Watson are Marvel men now – this year’s three-episode arc will serve as a fitting farewell. Sarah Doran

39 Man Down C4

The third series piled more misery on Greg Davies’ hapless but entirely lovable central character Dan and his misfit mates (take a bow, Mike Wozniak and Roisin Conaty). But tighter plotting across the arc and some fabulously imaginative scrapes made for a peerless run that ended on a beautiful, bittersweet high. This show has always had tons of heart as well as hilarity – so much so that one does wonder whether Davies will be too kind to put Dan through the wringer again. Fans will be desperate for him to, of course. Ben Dowell

38 People Just Do Nothing BBC3

Who’d have imagined that a mockumentary starring a group of unknowns about a pirate radio station in Brentford would become such a phenomenon? Four series in, the enterprising emcees at Kurupt FM are social media stars, regulars on the festival circuit and have even headlined their own tour. The show itself remained ludicrously funny and brilliantly observed, with the crew affronted this year by rival station Kold FM, and Grindah desperately trying to win back Miche before their wedding. Wheeler-dealer station manager Chabuddy G is a catchphrase favourite, but the standout caricature – and the most accidentally witty – is the gormless Beats, who this series grappled with fatherhood. Superb. Sarah Carson

37 Sgt Pepper’s Musical Revolution BBC2

In a perfect marriage of minds, the Beatles’ game-changing, summer-of-love, landmark LP was forensically examined by the greatest explainer of music on the box. Composer, theme-tune maestro and all-round good egg Howard Goodall gave us a colourful, scholarly and endlessly moreish lecture. The first take of Mr Kite, studio banter (“Ringo, keep it a bit straighter”), Lucy in the Sky chord analysis… it was all here in an exemplary pop-doc. Mark Braxton

36 Chewing Gum E4

The second series of this gem proved as sparkling as the first, and, cheeringly, no less outrageous. The weight of a 2016 Bafta win could have unnerved a talent less sure of themselves than Michaela Coel, Chewing Gum’s star and creator; instead she returned bolder than ever, as Tracey – simultaneously sheltered and comically, belligerently sexual – continued her quest to lose her virginity. The trick was, it wasn’t just Tracey who learned from her messy, questionable encounters; we did, too. Hannah Shaddock

35 Transparent Amazon Prime

Even for a series as confident in controversial territory as Transparent, a season-long trip to Israel was bold, but creator Jill Soloway and her writers flourished. The episodes balanced reverence for the holy beauty of Jerusalem with a take on life in the Occupied Territories that would have been unbroadcastable on a regular US network, but as with the show’s exploration of gay and trans experiences, you didn’t need to identify with the politics directly. This profound drama tells universal truths about how a family can wound and heal as people change: the change of scene helped Transparent rediscover its own identity. Jack Seale

34 The Met: Policing London BBC2

The second series of this no-holds-barred documentary offered an engrossing and exhaustive window into the unflinching and often thankless tasks undertaken by the capital’s police force. From drug dealing to sexual assaults, moped crime to murders, Policing London never shied away from the tragic and the gruesome. Although it would have been easy to sensationalise, every episode addressed sensitive subjects with respect. Thoughtful, powerful TV. Frances Taylor

33 Hospital BBC2

Budget cuts and bed shortages were the critical themes threaded through this emotionally charged series that served as a stark warning about the strain junior doctors are under. However, it was the first episode, in which a BBC film crew at Paddington’s St Mary’s Hospital inadvertently found themselves documenting the aftermath of the Westminster terror attack in March 2017, that made for one of the year’s most arresting hours of television. Frances Taylor

32 Curb Your Enthusiasm Sky Atlantic

Six years we waited for a ninth series of Curb, so what a relief that Larry David’s brand of incredulous, inappropriate, tactless, tone-deaf cynicism returned unchanged. When Curb began in 2000, David’s capacity to shock was unmatched: no grievance was too outrageous to voice aloud, no social norm went unchallenged. Comedy has caught up since, so this series was never going to feel groundbreaking. But Cheryl, Richard, Jeff and his hysterical wife Susie were all back, and pleasingly on form, with David’s impossibly ill-advised Fatwa! The Musical the crux of a very funny comeback. Sarah Carson

31 Inside No9 BBC2

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Prefaced by the gloriously ambitious, then genuinely nasty festive special The Devil of Christmas, the third run of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s anthology confirmed them as television’s cleverest, most dangerous storytellers. When everything works, from the appalling premise right down to the devastating last twist, there’s nothing finer than a shot of IN9. This year had at least two classics: the tricksy, ruthless Riddle of the Sphinx, and the deeply macabre Diddle Diddle Dumpling. Jack Seale