Friday, December 30, 2016

Best TV Shows of 2016 - Top 30

As 2016 comes to a close, it's a perfect time to look back at the year that was and celebrate all the great things that happened on television - and there were so many this year too. Over the next few days, I'll be counting down my favorite shows of 2016 - a list that will include 100 shows! The list continues today with the shows I've ranked 30-21.




Of course, it should be noted that all lists are completely subjective. These are simply the 100 shows that I enjoyed the most this year. The act of ranking is completely arbitrary. I may rank a show much lower or higher than you would. That's completely fine. We all have different tastes in this world. Moreover, it's more difficult than ever before to keep up with all of the shows currently airing on the broadcast networks, basic cable, pay cable and streaming services. This year saw the total of original scripted shows rise to 455. That's completely insane. More networks are producing original content than ever before. That's notable because so much of it is good. When I was making this list, I was surprised by how strong the overall quality was. In years past, I could get away with only talking about the 20 or 50 best shows on television. This year merits a list that includes 100 shows. It was just that good.

And yet, it's impossible for any one person to watch it all. There simply isn't enough time to watch everything. So this list will have some pretty notable omissions. I am only human. Stuff that I missed out on years ago are particularly challenging to get caught up on because of all the new shows coming out. You'll notice that HBO's Game of Thrones isn't on this list. That's entirely because I still have not found the time to watch any of it. It's something I'm interested in doing but I've also had to keep up with everything else happening in this industry. Of course, there's also a fair number of new shows I missed out on as well. Streaming only continues to grow. A few years ago, outlets like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu weren't even producing original scripted series. And now, they are seemingly debuting new shows every week. It's a lot to keep track of. I caught up on a number of shows over the last month in the hopes of being able to cover many of the great things that happened this year. But my time management skills could only do so much. I couldn't get to Netflix's period drama The Crown or the second season of Amazon's The Man in the High Castle. So while I do think it's a good idea to do this year-end list, it shouldn't cause concern or outrage. These are simple the shows I watched this year and really enjoyed.

Here are the previous posts from this week:

So with all that being said, here's the shows I've ranked 30-21 for 2016!


30. HULU's CASUAL
Season 2: June 7 - August 23, 2016

The second season of the indie comedy took everything that worked in the first season and made it even better. Michaela Watkins' Valerie, Tommy Dewey's Alex and Tara Lynne Barr's Laura are all just looking for their place in this world. They are an unconventional modern family forced together because of their own unique upbringings. Their shared past has been healthy and toxic for all of them. It's been fascinating watching these characters try to grow and avoid making the same mistakes. But as time goes along, it's clear to everyone that it's so much harder than they thought. Not alone to find someone to love but to actually grow in all aspects of life.


29. SHOWTIME's PENNY DREADFUL
Season 3: May 1 - June 19, 2016

The third season plays differently knowing that it was the final season of the show. Series creator John Logan wanted it that way to keep the suspense up through the final hour. But it also makes the decision to separate the entire cast throughout the edges of the world that much more questionable. And yet, there were still many distinctive and memorable moments from this season. Eva Green's Vanessa tried to survive all by herself in London while a new demon hunted her while Josh Hartnett's Ethan and Timothy Dalton's Sir Malcolm traveled the Wild West. It was a different season. But one with powerful performances from the entire cast plus terrific visuals. And "A Blade of Grass" was one of the best episodes of the year.


28. USA's MR. ROBOT
Season 2: July 13 - September 21, 2016

When the drama first started, it was hard to imagine the show working with Rami Malek's lead performance as Elliot Alderson. In its second season, the inverse was almost true. The supporting female characters had such terrific stories this year - with Carly Chaikin's Darlene struggling to lead fsociety, Portia Doubleday's Angela trying to avoid being a pawn in ECorp and Grace Gummer's Dom investigating the Five/Nine hack. Those were powerful stories. Elliot's was good as well. But it may be relying too heavily on narrative tricks to fool the audience. The show is still capable of pulling off a good surprise - like the episode that reimagined the series as an 80s sitcom. But things were starting to get a little murky and lackluster near the end.


27. HBO's SILICON VALLEY
Season 3: April 24 - June 26, 2016

At times, this comedy can be so frustrating and annoying to watch. It's very smart with its satirical take down of the Silicon Valley culture. But sometimes, the narrative quirks of the characters can be too overbearing. In the past, Thomas Middleditch's Richard wasn't always an effective leader because he never knew how to express himself properly. This season saw a significant amount of change and growth. It saw Pied Piper move out of the house for a little while and get an experienced CEO. They then faced financial hardship directly from problems of their own making. It was a fascinating exploration of getting too caught up in a project - with an interesting payoff too. And of course, T.J. Miller and Zach Woods are still reliable sources for constant laughter.


26. TBS' PEOPLE OF EARTH
Season 1: October 31 - December 19, 2016

A year of significant growth for TBS closed with the debut season of this comedy. It started off with so much confidence with its unique world. It's a far-out there premise focusing on an alien support group. It found the emotionally earnest and wonderfully funny material out of that setup. Plus, the positioning of the aliens as just another group of co-workers who don't really like each other was a stroke of genius. It was just such a bold and original idea. The season as a whole was a ton of fun while also delivering on a number of major twists that made sense for both the narrative and the characters. It was a blast to watch this season. It starts strong and only gets better.


25. NBC's THE GOOD PLACE
Season 1: September 19 - November 3, 2016

This comedy is one of the smartest and most clever shows on TV at the moment. It has to be if it finds humor out of the philosophical debate of what makes a person good. It has imagined a whole world that humanity goes to after death. It's unique and special but also so amusing. This season was so well thought-out. Careful attention was placed to every single plot detail. Every minor moment is important. That attention to detail gives this show a lived in feeling already. Plus, it features Kristen Bell and Ted Danson giving some of the best performances of their entire careers. Danson is fulling embracing the silliness of his character while Bell revels in her character's search to be a good person.


24. ABC's BLACK-ISH
Season 2: January 6 - May 18, 2016
Season 3: September 21 - December 14, 2016

In a year of great family comedies from ABC, it was clear that this one was the best. I didn't always believe that. The first season really struggled for me because I just couldn't connect with the characters - especially Anthony Anderson's Dre. But the second season did a strong job in humanizing him and making his concerns for the family genuine even though they are ridiculous most of the time. This show became about something this year. It wasn't afraid to use its voice to say something important and profound. "Hope" is a phenomenal episode of television - and so are "Keeping Up With the Johnsons," "God" and "Being Bow-Racial." This has proven to be one of the best TV families out there right now.


23. NETFLIX's BLACK MIRROR
Season 3: October 21, 2016

I'll admit that this show didn't land on my radar until this year. I knew that it was coming to Netflix for a new season but I didn't know more than that. And then when I finally watched, I learned of the brilliance that is Charlie Brooker. It's so difficult to craft a different story with different characters in each episode. Plus, this year the episodes got to run for as long as they wanted because Netflix doesn't have those restrictions. The episodic nature means some work better than others. But this was a powerful and distinctive year for the show. It's easy to praise "San Junipero" as the best of the year with its intense focus on finding love and connection in the most unexpected of places and the beauty and tragedy that come from that. That episode was so special. But really, this whole show is unique and doing things no one else is doing.


22. HBO's INSECURE
Season 1: October 9 - November 27, 2016

Issa Rae is a unique and singular voice who has thrived with the move to television as the creator and star of her own show. This was a strong opening season for her show. It took a familiar concept of the 20-something struggle and gave it new purpose. Issa is simply a girl at 29 struggling to know if she is happy with the choices she's made. But the season also smartly examined whether the questioning of that would in fact ruin the happiness. It was a fascinating main story that was smart and engaging while also being funny and heartbreaking. Plus, the show has one of the best female friendships on all of television - between Issa and Yvonne Orji's Molly.


21. AMC's BETTER CALL SAUL
Season 2: February 15 - April 18, 2016

The Breaking Bad prequel only got better in its second season. At times, it felt like it was depicting two parallels journeys: Bob Odenkirk's Jimmy struggling with legitimacy as a lawyer and Jonathan Banks' Mike falling further into a relationship with the cartel. Both were greatly satisfying on their own. They paid homage to what will happen later on in this story while also being entertaining and intense in their own right. Plus, this season gave some terrific material to Rhea Seehorn's Kim and Michael McKean's Chuck as well. It made their characters feel like a part of this world too. Their fates haven't been determined yet. So, it was so fascinating watching them change and react because of what Jimmy is doing.