Best TV Performances of 2017… So Far

Time was, you’d have to wait until the Fall to see some of the best performances of the year. That went out the window with the advent of streaming, with highly bingeable shows leading to enormously engrossing performances all year long. And 2017 (so far) has delivered acting feats that rival anything appearing on the big screen, from both established performers and relative newcomers.

With that in mind, here are our picks for the best performances of the year (so far), those that debuted — or happened in part — between January 1, 2017 and June 30. And be sure to check out our picks for the best shows, as well.

10. Rob Delaney, Catastrophe

Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, <em>Catastrophe</em>Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, Catastrophe

Delaney, who has spoken candidly about being a recovering alcoholic, had to channel his darkest inner demons for Season 3 of Catastrophe, in which his character Rob falls off the wagon and tries to hide his drinking from his partner Sharon (Sharon Horgan). The results are hard, and heartbreaking, to watch as Rob (and eventually Sharon) struggle to overcome this latest hurdle in their relationship. At the same time, thanks to Delaney’s performance and excellent writing (along with Horgan), Catastrophe manages to be one of the most hilarious shows on television, even as it’s wrenching your gut at the same time. Fictional Rob is one of those frustrating characters you love, hate, and are rooting for all at the same time. — Liz Raftery

Where to Watch: Amazon

9. Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies

Nicole Kidman, Big Little LiesNicole Kidman, Big Little Lies

Leave it to Kidman’s first foray into American television for the world to finally, collectively appreciate her tremendous gifts. As Celeste, a housewife and victim of domestic violence at the hands of her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgard), Kidman painted a shattering, complex and vivid portrait of victimhood. Fearlessly diving into the role, Kidman shone brightest in her therapy scenes in particular, masterfully conveying Celeste’s eternal internal conflict — crying for help, and defending Perry’s actions and their “volatile” relationship — while trembling through an array of heartbreaking emotions before reluctant acceptance washed over her. It’s a wrenching, astonishing turn, and in a show full of amazing performances, Kidman was indisputably MVP. — Joyce Eng

Where to Watch: HBO Go

8. Logan Browning, Dear White People

Logan Browning, Dear White PeopleLogan Browning, Dear White People

As Samantha, the principled provocateur of Dear White People, Logan Browning impressively maintains alpha status in a large cast of great performers. Her graceful toggling between hot anger and simmering fury over injustice is captivating, but it’s her expression of Sam’s soft side — vulnerability with her white boyfriend, her occasionally misguided politics — that lets Browning’s versatility and restraint shine. Love her or hate her, Sam one of the year’s most compelling characters, and Browning is a big reason why. — Malcolm Venable

Where to Watch: Netflix

7. Nicole Richie, Great News

Briga Heelan as Katie, Nicole Richie as PortiaBriga Heelan as Katie, Nicole Richie as Portia

Who could have predicted that Richie, late of The Simple Life and tabloid fare, would deliver one of the most laugh out loud funny performances of the year? But that’s exactly what she’s done as the breakout star of the Tina Fey produced comedy as cable news co-host Portia. In show filled to the brim with ridiculous performances, Richie’s often clueless anchor is the most ridiculous. Bring on Season 2! — Alexander Zalben

Where to Watch: Hulu

6. Aubrey Plaza, Legion

Aubrey Plaza, <em>Legion</em>Aubrey Plaza, Legion

As the villainous main form of the psychic entity known as The Man With the Yellow Eyes (it’s complicated, just go with us) on FX’s tripped out X-Men spinoff, Plaza is mesmerizing. From being best buddies with a clueless Dan Stevens, to torturing mutants like a cracked-out Beetlejuice, to performing the absolute best dance sequence possibly ever committed to film, Plaza is indelible. She may be a viciously evil brain slug, but isn’t that just another phrase for friendship? — AZ

Where to Watch: Amazon

5. Michael McKean, Better Call Saul

Michael McKean, <em>Better Call Saul</em>Michael McKean, Better Call Saul

Michael McKean is largely known for his comedic work, but on the acclaimed AMC drama Better Call Saul he’s deadly serious as Chuck, the miserable older brother of Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill. McKean’s brilliant, layered performance as a man battling a complex mental illness that’s destroyed everything of value in his life made it increasingly difficult to dislike Chuck even as his arrogance and treatment of Jimmy made you want to smash his face into a jelly. That’s why his tragic end in the season finale — after his perceived sensitivity to electricity returned following his first conversation with Jimmy since the riveting courtroom scenes in “Chicanery” — hurts us even more than it will likely hurt Jimmy. — Kaitlin Thomas

Where to Watch: Amazon

4. Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan

Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and JoanJessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan

Like in life, Joan Crawford was the flashier, over-the-top character. Lange had a ball delighting in Crawford’s glamour, theatricality and shady, bitchy one-liners. But that’s not what stays with you. What does is her naked commitment to showing us the actress’ vulnerability, her mercurial fragility, her lonely agony and her manipulative yet admirable hustle to stay in the game. Crawford was broken but Lange was immaculate in portraying her. — JE

Where to Watch: Amazon

3. Carrie Coon, The Leftovers

Carrie Coon, The LeftoversCarrie Coon, The Leftovers

The final season of The Leftovers was populated with several career-defining performances, but it’s Carrie Coon’s mesmerizing turn as Nora Durst that will likely live on as the show’s legacy (well, that and Justin Theroux in sweatpants). From the knock-down, drag-out fight with Kevin (Theroux) in a flooded hotel room to the powerful eight-minute monologue about her trip through to the other side in the series finale, Coon portrayed the flawed and complex Nora with an intense raw emotion that made it damn near impossible to forget her. And we wouldn’t want to. — KT

Where to Watch: HBO Go

2. Sterling K. Brown, This is Us

Sterling K. Brown, <em>This Is Us</em>Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

Sterling K. Brown had so many jaw-dropping, tear-jerking scenes as Randall in NBC’s breakout hit, it’s kinda hard to decide which amazing moment made Brown one of the season’s most remarkable players. Was it his subtle rage when he learned of his mother’s betrayal? His convincing panic attacks? Literally every single moment in “Memphis?” The jury may still be out, long after Brown scoops up every well-earned award. — MV

Where to Watch: Hulu

1. Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale

Elisabeth Moss, <em>The Handmaid's Tale</em>Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale

Elisabeth Moss anchors Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale with her portrayal of Offred, a woman formerly known as June who’s been forced into sexual servitude in a dystopian future. As Offred, Moss’ pain is always evident just below the surface, even when she’s putting on a good face for her rulers. It’s a stunning performance far more still, and less histrionic than the attention-drawing showstoppers that often pull trophies come awards time. But that’s exactly why, when every bit of Offred exudes from Moss’ eyes, or a twitch of her cheek that the performance is all the more powerful. Add in her humorous commentary and scathing sarcasm, and Offred is a fully-realized character modern viewers can relate to; and easily the most unique, commanding performance of the year. — LR

Where to Watch: Hulu