At the end of an eventful 2016 it’s time to look back on the TV scene of the year and pick out the best of the bunch. Here are my top 10 favourite TV shows of 2016.
2016 may have received a primarily negative reception for its real world occurrences, but there have been a plethora of great shows to watch. We got some great debut seasons, including Luke Cage, Westworld and Stranger Things. We got some great returning shows, such as Veep, Silicon Valley and Black Mirror, and some disappointing returns in Mr. Robot, Bloodline and The X-Files. Patiently waiting for Fargo and The Leftovers to roll round again in 2017, here are my picks for the ten best TV seasons of 2016.
(Honourable Mention) Jane the Virgin
Best Episode – “Chapter Forty-Four”
Jane the Virgin briefly lost momentum at the start of its second season back in 2015, but recovered in time to deliver more telenovela soap opera craziness for 2016. Look past the strange title and you’ll find one of the most fun shows on television. This year saw an evil celebrity stalker, a wedding, a submarine, identical twins and a dozen other perfectly-pitched tropes. We’re currently in the midst of Jane‘s third season, and this fast-paced surprise hit shows no sign of slowing down.
(10) Orange is the New Black
Best Episode – “The Animals”
Following a more meditative third season, Orange is the New Black hit back in fashion in June with a gruelling new twist for the inmates of Litchfield. With sinister corporation MCC now in control, we were given two terrific new villains in slimy corporate Linda and savage chief guard Piscatella. With nutty celebrity Judy King and Piper’s accidental inciting of a race war in the mix, this season escalated into a series of the most intense episodes ever seen on Orange is the New Black. We were given the welcome return of Nicky and Sophia, yet another brilliant performance from Kate Mulgrew and, in a year filled with surprises, perhaps the most shocking and upsetting loss of all. It’s little wonder Netflix have renewed the show for three more seasons.
(9) Ash vs. Evil Dead
Best Episode – “Ashy Slashy”
On paper Ash vs. Evil Dead should never have worked, yet somehow it totally does. The first season was a bombastic horror-filled road trip tribute to the original Evil Dead films of the 80s, but the second season found something even better by setting the whole thing inside Ash’s hometown of Elk Grove. Horror fans will find two of the best action stars on screen period in Bruce Campbell and Lucy Lawless, as well as a series of increasingly grotesque set pieces and creations. A rogue monster car, a haunted asylum, a skin-stealing (literally) demon and a time travel trip meant that Ash vs. Evil Dead was able to keep up its rip-roaring quality from start to end. It’s the grooviest cult show ever made.
(8) American Crime Story – The People vs. O.J. Simpson
Best Episode – “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”
Though not without a cringe-worthy start and a few lacklustre performance, little else was as engaging and enchanting as Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of the case of the century. Emmy-award winning Sarah Paulson gives the year’s best performance as lawyer Marcia Clark, bringing life and depth to a woman who was denied just that by the media. It’s amazing how exciting a show can be even when you know what verdict awaits at the end. The People vs. O.J. Simpson is a re-telling in good taste, and one that FEELS important.
Best Episode – “Nuestra Finca”
Narcos is an epic amazing show that still goes overlooked by far too many, and likely won’t last Wagner Moura’s departure. It’s his astounding performance as Pablo Escobar that drives the continual plummet that began at the end of the show’s first season through crime drama and back to the magical realism that defined Narcos to begin with. Accompanied by a huge ensemble cast of memorable faces, shock twists and nasty escalations, it’s hard not to be totally engrossed in Narcos‘ Columbia.
Original review here: https://doorknobishthings.wordpress.com/2016/09/17/review-narcos-season-2/
(6) Bojack Horseman
Best Episode – “Fish Out of Water”
If you thought that being nominated for an Academy Award would make Bojack finally feel better, you haven’t been watching Bojack Horseman closely enough. Season 3 gave us the series’ best episodes so far, even if the overall quality wasn’t quite as consistent as the excellent Season 2. It was very difficult to pick a favourite, with bottle episode “Best Thing That Ever Happened” and heart-stoppingly dark “That’s Too Much, Man!” coming close, but the nearly entirely speechless “Fish Out of Water” was one of the most daring feats accomplished this year on any show, and has to get top honours.
(5) Stranger Things
Best Episode – “Chapter Seven: The Bathtub”
From word-of-mouth debut to international phenomenon and go-to Halloween costume, Stranger Things’ blend of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Steven Spielberg’s E.T. blew up like nothing else. Perfectly cast and bursting with 80s nostalgia, this was a winning combination that felt more like a film than a television show. Let’s hope that such incredible success doesn’t change Stranger Things at all – this is the quirky fantastical cult show that captured the hearts and minds of an audience no-one could have expected.
(4) Documentary Now
Best Episode – “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”
That’s right, it’s coolest network in America IFC’s bizarre comedy show that parodies acclaimed documentaries of history. Following an experimental first season that had mixed success, the second season nailed everything it did in spectacular and hilarious fashion. It’s a bizarre collection of stories and references from around the globe performed by two of the best comic actors out there in Fred Armisen and Bill Hader. We got the perfect rice and chicken recipe, a live concert episode, and in the moment that re-defined Documentary Now as something special, the wonderful “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”. Seek it out online to watch twenty minutes of the most creative funny show on television.
(3) Black Mirror
Best Episode – “San Junipero”
With its third season on Netflix, Black Mirror went from being a very good show with a few outstanding episodes to an interconnected wonder. Not only did we get THREE of the best stories of the year in “Shut Up and Dance”, “San Junipero” and “Hated in the Nation”, but some clever linkage and trickery that tied themes of public perception, love, fear and cake together in a smart package. Black Mirror is as daring as ever, and delivered one of the great gut-punches of all time with the story of Kenny, but it also went beyond its usual remit by also giving us one of the loveliest and most uplifting stories of the year in “San Junipero”. You can read my analytical reviews of all six episodes through the links below.
“Nosedive”/”Playtest” – https://doorknobishthings.wordpress.com/2016/10/22/review-black-mirror-nosediveplaytest/
“Shut Up and Dance”/”San Junipero” – https://doorknobishthings.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/review-black-mirror-shut-up-and-dancesan-junipero/
“Men Against Fire”/”Hated in the Nation” – https://doorknobishthings.wordpress.com/2016/10/26/review-black-mirror-men-against-firehated-in-the-nation/
Best Episode – “The Well-Tempered Clavier”
Elegant, sophisticated and symphonic, Westworld is best compared to the player piano it takes as its symbol. In adapting a film about rogue robots fighting humans in a theme park based on the Wild West, the writers chose to develop the concept into something far more philosophical, Shakespearean and mysterious, and in doing so succeeded in creating the next great show for HBO in a legacy of the likes of The Wire, Deadwood and Game of Thrones. Don’t just watch Westworld to find the answers to its mysteries, watch it for the brilliant acting, the ear-catchingly bold music and its love of spectacle. Westworld may well have played all its cards in its first season, but the execution of the trick was breath-taking. These violent delights have violent ends.
(1) Game of Thrones
Best Episode – “The Winds of Winter”
I wanted to put something else, something cool that nobody had heard of to show off. But I’d have been lying. After a weak fifth season, Game of Thrones‘ sixth season was amazing. The Battle of the Bastards. Jon Snow coming back from the dead. The dragons returning to Meereen. The Hound back from the dead. Cersei blowing up the keep with wildfire. These are the moments that defined television in 2016, that couldn’t fail to have us exclaiming and speculating and jumping in joy and shock and horror. This was Game of Thrones‘ best and boldest season, and even though yes, it can be a bit of a crowd-pleaser, who cares when it’s THIS GOOD?! If you’ve already seen it, you know what I mean, and if you haven’t you’re missing out big time. Yep. It’s still all about Game of Thrones.
Written by Tom Besley