Radio Times Top 40 TV Shows of 2017: 30 to 21

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

Motherland (BBC, EH)

30 OJ: Made in America BBC4


This mammoth Oscar-winning documentary (eight hours altogether, but shown on BBC4 in five parts) wasn’t immediately inviting: is there anyone left who doesn’t know the story of OJ Simpson, all-American football hero turned murder suspect? But this infamous public tragedy became unfamiliar, astonishing, an almost inevitable subplot of a much wider history – that complex, still painful one of black lives in the United States. Hannah Shaddock

29 Ambulance BBC2

Of all the fly-on-the-wall medical shows on TV, Ambulance has been the most consistently moving. Risky births, heart attacks, falls, stabbings, addiction – we saw the ways things went wrong for humans and the way the paramedics and the control-room reacted with such humanity despite their long, difficult shifts and diminished resources. It was a heart-wrenching series: no show has been a more convincing case for the NHS. Kasia Delgado

28 Count Arthur Strong BBC1

In his third and what turned out to be testimonial TV series, the delusional former music-hall turn and his greasy-caff chums became embroiled in an exorcism, a “soupover” and, in a textbook half-hour of farce, gangster activities. Though he didn’t break the ratings-o-matic, the Count was and is adored by the fans who get him. He may plough his own comedy furrow, but what a hilariously wonky furrow. Mark Braxton

27 Doctor Who BBC1

With star Peter Capaldi and showrunner Steven Moffat already on their way out, 2017 could have brought us a lame duck Doctor Who series. But instead, the pair pulled off one of the best runs of episodes the sci-fi classic has seen in years, full of invention, emotion and one terrific new companion in Pearl Mackie’s Bill. New Doctor Jodie Whittaker and writer Chris Chibnall have big shoes to fill… Huw Fullerton

26 Peaky Blinders BBC2

Vengeance was on Tommy Shelby’s mind as he came back for series four, more brutal than ever in the beautiful, thrilling Peaky Blinders. Tommy (Cillian Murphy) and his family faced the most lethal feud so far as the New York Mafia descended on Birmingham, while the unnervingly good Tom Hardy and Adrien Brody joined the cast. “You know Mr Shelby, it’s almost as if you want trouble,” union firebrand Jessie Eden (Charlie Murphy) told Tommy in episode two. Cheers to that – because Tommy’s trouble makes for TV paradise. Kasia Delgado

25 The Good Place Netflix

Self-absorbed Eleanor (Kristen Bell) dies and arrives in a utopia-like heaven, having been mistaken by its “architect” Michael (Ted Danson) for a human rights lawyer. As she tries to conceal her many, many faults, strange things start to happen. Can she, with the help of her assigned soulmate, a decision-phobic ethics professor, ever truly fit in? And what’s with all the frozen yogurt shops? Looking for a smart comedy with added philosophical dilemmas and some excellent plot twists? You’ve come to the right place. Gill Crawford

24 Taboo BBC1

This historical drama from Tom Hardy, Ridley Scott and Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight turned a fairly straightforward revenge tale into a gonzo journey through 19th-century British colonialism, with a standout growly turn from Hardy as the mysterious and dangerous James Delaney. Sometimes frustratingly opaque and full of bizarre dreamlike sequences, Taboo wasn’t the easiest watch – but if you stuck it out until the end, the payoff was truly spectacular. Huw Fullerton

23 Motherland BBC2

A parenting sitcom in which children hardly featured: middle-class couples snorted in recognition as, somewhere in a posh corner of London, mums (and stay-at-home dads!) fought trivial battles for social position. Two strong lead performances, from Anna Maxwell Martin as an underprepared struggler and Diane Morgan as a laid-back queen of irresponsible shortcuts, gave it bite. Jack Seale

22 Three Girls BBC1

The drama based on the Rotherham sex abuse scandal was a faultless example of how fictionalised TV can crystallise urgent real-life issues. Rather than linger on the depravity of the perpetrators, it trained its tender focus on the helpless victims of grooming gangs, and on the people who tried for so long to help them. Not easy viewing, but a story that had to be told; Three Girls judged it perfectly. Jack Seale

21 Girls Sky Atlantic


Farewell to Lena Dunham’s band of confused, entitled Brooklyn 20somethings, who in the end had to decide on some sort of future and wander casually off our screens. As it ended, Girls was no longer provoking the debates the early episodes fuelled; what didn’t change was Dunham’s uncanny genius for picking at the emotional core of her characters to make unlikeable people amusing and deeply relatable. Jack Seale

Click here to see 31-40