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Hidden gems of 2017

There are so many great TV shows and films out there that you'd be forgiven for missing out on the lesser-known titles. You're a busy person, we get it.

So if you're at loose ends over the holidays and want to check out what you may have missed this year, click through to find out what CNET staffers have picked as our hidden gems of 2017.

Published:Caption:Photo:Erica Parise/Netflix
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The app/interactive series that director Steven Soderbergh developed with HBO redefines scripted story-telling. Sharon Stone plays a rich author with two very different men in her life, and you get to decide which of those two men to learn more about. 

The decision takes "Mosaic" on one of two paths, which divide again when the viewer gets to make another choice. Soderbergh uses the viewer as a surrogate editor to decide what you want to watch -- or not. 

The app is available in Apple's App Store and the Google Play store. (A more linear edit of "Mosaic" will debut on HBO itself in January, but who wants to wait?)

Recommended by Patricia Puentes, engagement editor

Published:Caption:Photo:Claudette Barius/HBO
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'American Vandal'

What looks like merely an amusing parody of true crime shows based on penis jokes turns out to be a razor-sharp satire of the justice system, of the modern lives of high school kids and of genre touchstones like "Serial"... with penis jokes. Endlessly funny and incredibly well performed by a young cast, Netflix's "American Vandal" feels more realistic and less contrived than any show about actual crimes. You'll forget you're watching a parody. 

Recommended by Drew Stearne, managing editor, CNET's Carfection

Published:Caption:Photo:Tyler Golden/Netflix
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'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'

While everyone gets excited about Netflix's originals, Amazon has released a number of great shows. Chief among them is this delightful 1950s-set confection, a witty, quippy tale of a New York wife who turns to stand-up comedy to escape her troubles. Packed with sumptuous period detail, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" is like "Mad Men" with jokes.

Recommended by Richard Trenholm, senior editor

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I never cared one bit about wrestling, real or fake, but I love Netflix's "Glow." Alison Brie is wonderfully vulnerable as a less-than-confident, struggling actress who finds her home in this silly, self-aware female-centric comedy. After I binged "Glow" over a weekend, I gained a new appreciation for wrestling, why it's over-the-top and why it's a lot of fun.

Recommended by Caitlin Petrakovitz, engagement editor

Published:Caption:Photo:Erica Parise/Netflix
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'The Good Place'

I didn't have to be convinced to watch this show starring Kristen Bell ("Veronica Mars") and created by Michael Shur ("Parks & Rec" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"). As a fan of those other shows, I was in from the first episode, and I was richly rewarded for watching from the start. The first season of this comedy about a group of morally challenged goofballs trying to make sense of the afterlife was delightful.

Then it turned out the NBC show wasn't just a sweet romp. The record-scratch, spit-take season finale promised to deliver a different, potentially dark second season. But would the show be any good after a major shift in its premise? Short answer: yes. 

In the second season, every character in "The Good Place" is on the same path as Bell's character: desperate for redemption but comically bad at accepting the moral lessons needed to become better people. The show entertained in clever and unpredictable ways that made it even more enjoyable than season 1. That's quite a feat for a show that explores moral philosophy, ethical conundrums and thought experiments.

Recommended by Laura Hautala, reporter

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It could be the German version of "Stranger Things," a "Steins;Gate" inspired by David Lynch, or "Broadchurch" made by the team behind "Lost." 

"Dark" reeks of Netflix's algorithmic approach to creating shows that audiences will jump on, but it's still a tremendous success. It's a sad slog through a town of miserable people, but it has enough unsettling imagery, fantastic casting and eerie hooks to a (potential) broader universe to keep you watching tearful Germans standing in the rain for hours.

Recommended by Morgan Little, social content manager

Published:Caption:Photo:Stefan Erhard / Netflix
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'The Orville'

If you listened to most critics, Fox's "The Orville" was sloppy and one-note with few redeeming qualities. Truth is, it's a fantastic spiritual successor to "Star Trek: The Next Generation," even with Seth MacFarlane at the helm. "Orville" benefits from great cameos (like Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson) and continues to grow and surprise.

With basically every Star Trek trope, including a way-too-strong alien security officer, an android who just can't quite understand humans, weird planets and sometimes jenky-looking makeup, "Orville" is a whole lot of fun and a really easy watch. Now that the season is over (and we have another to look forward to), you can binge it all (on Hulu) over the holidays. 

Recommended by Caitlin Petrakovitz, engagement editor

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'The Incredible Jessica James'

For fans of movies like "The Big Sick" and TV shows like "Master of None." I hesitate to call "The Incredible Jessica James" a rom-com because I want you to watch it. The Netflix film stars Jessica Williams, a former "Daily Show" correspondent and the co-host of podcast "2 Dope Queens," as an aspiring playwright. She's electric in it. The ending is unpredictable -- if you haven't been paying attention -- and perfect. 

Recommended by Anne Dujmovic, associate editor

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'The Tick'

Another underrated Amazon original, "The Tick" has two big things going for it: It's a hilarious superhero send-up that finds the black comedy often missing from the current superhero boom. And it's short.

If you balk at spending 14 hours of your life on every new Marvel TV show, the bite-sized episodes of "The Tick" are the perfect antidote.

Recommended by Richard Trenholm, senior editor  

Published:Caption:Photo:Jessica Miglio
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'Big Mouth'

"Big Mouth" is an animated Netflix show from Nick Kroll and his best friend from elementary school, Andrew Goldberg. I watched this admittedly grown-up show with my 15-year-old sister. She agrees that it accurately depicts what it's like to go through puberty and how hard it is to be a teenager when "hormone monsters" dictate behavior and intense mood swings.

The show also deals with kids whose parents are going through divorce, what it's like to be a girl trying to make female friends and the role of social media in relationships. (There's a great scene with two teens texting and sending each other YouTube videos to express their affection for each other.) The show is also super, super funny with excellent one-liners that are easily quotable in everyday life, and it's got awesome celebrity cameos like Maya Rudolph. 

Recommended by Alexandra Able, social producer

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'Channel Zero: No-End House'

I'm not going to write much about the meat of this because it's one of those "you need to watch it" and I don't want to be a spoiler. 

"Channel Zero: No-End House" is about great storytelling and how horror isn't simply slashers or outright gore. This is the type of horror that lives deep within us all and that forces us to confront fear, hostility, jealousy, rage, depression and isolation. But this Syfy show does it in a way that isn't manipulative just for the sake of being so. It's bizarre, unpredictable, disturbing, unsettling and thought-provoking in a way that will haunt you (no pun intended) you for a long time.

Recommended by Jon Chaikin, senior manager, direct marketing and merchandising 

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A late contender for series of the year, "Wormwood" is on Netflix now. It's a true crime story told in six episodes, but it's not like anything you've seen before. Legendary documentarian Errol Morris tackles the true story of a mysterious death in the 1950s with a mix of interviews and dramatization that piles on information, speculation and interrogation of what truth actually means. This compelling cocktail approaches a near-hallucinatory pitch -- literally, as the unfortunate victim was dosed with LSD by the CIA.

Recommended by Richard Trenholm, senior editor

Published:Caption:Photo:Zach Dilgard/Netflix
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'A Christmas Prince'

This is the perfect saccharine holiday film outside the Hallmark channel. I mean, come on: "aspiring, young journalist" meets "dashing, young prince" and both must admit that at some point you have to grow up. 

Delightfully terrible and predictable, this Netflix movie features a dead parent (or two), a huge mistake simply because someone isn't telling the whole truth, and a classic fairy tale ending (spoilers, kinda, I guess). 'Tis the season for "A Christmas Prince" and for brain-free happiness.

Recommended by Caitlin Petrakovitz, engagement editor

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