Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Best TV Shows of 2016 - Top 60

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 60-51.

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 60-51 for 2016!

Season 1: October 16, 2016

The drama marked David E. Kelley's return to the legal genre. This time as a serialized case across eight episodes. It also marked his least quirky series in a long time. Plus, it was abundantly clear that he enjoyed being able to swear and avoid the restrictions of broadcast standards. The main story was engaging and was fronted by a strong performance from Billy Bob Thornton. And yet, the resolution was a bit of a letdown. It didn't really deliver in the end like it had promised. But it was still an interesting world of colorful and nuanced characters.

Season 1: March 30 - May 25, 2016

This turned out to be a big year of growth and confidence for Hulu. The Path was a strong addition to the network's drama lineup. The story didn't always work. It was ultimately a story about human connection and spiritually than one of a cult-based religion. But the series was grounded by some wonderful and distinctive performances by Aaron Paul, Hugh Dancy and Michelle Monaghan.

Season 1: May 22 - July 31, 2016

At one point in time, the comic book the series is based on was deemed unadaptable for television or film. The 10-episode season was filled with both high and low moments. It ultimately became just an introduction to these characters before the true story could start. That was ultimately disappointing. And yet, the show was so confident with its world-building. As long as the core trio of Dominic Cooper's Jesse, Joseph Gilgun's Cassidy and Ruth Negga's Tulip had clear character arcs, it was a terrific viewing experience.

Season 1: October 2 - December 4, 2016

The drama set out to tell stories in a different way in its first season. It was a grand and bold experiment. At times, it was very frustrating and confusing. It put more value on being mysterious than giving the audience characters to care about. But it was also a drama boosted by phenomenal performances from a truly stacked ensemble cast. Seriously, the show pulled such interesting and varied work out of Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins.

Season 1: March 9 - May 11, 2016

The drama approached a familiar story with a bold and original perspective. It looked at a slave drama as a tense, action thriller. It was a fun experiment filled with so many tense and emotional moments. And once more, it was a show filled with wonderful performances from a deep and talented ensemble - including Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Aldis Hodge, Amirah Vann and Christopher Meloni. Issues with the season finale didn't take away from the overall impact of a strong first season.

Season 1: January 4 - February 22, 2016
Season 2: August 19 - November 10, 2016

In the beginning, I wasn't a huge fan of the comedy. It felt like a knockoff of The Office without a distinctive voice. As the series has gone along, I've since changed my opinion and seen how great and special it is. It tackles subject matter (unions, gun control, seasonal help, race, etc.) in interesting ways and has built an ensemble of unique characters with important points-of-view. Not every story works but more than enough of them have this year to help make this show become a strong series for NBC.

Season 2: July 12 - September 6, 2016

The comedy's second season spent a little bit too much time on surprise celebrity cameos - which included Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, Julianne Moore and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Those cameos were fun. But the core dynamic of the series between Billy and Julie only grew stronger. In fact, the series only grew in its creativity this season. Of course, things typically followed the same pattern in each episode. That could become annoying after awhile. The show hasn't hit that point yet. It's still just a hilarious and fun series.

Season 2: April 18 - July 18, 2016

The first season of the drama showed just how capable this series can be as an ongoing narrative. But the premise grew much stronger in the second season. It had a whole lot more fun with its time travel concept - especially with the series highlight hour "Lullaby" that saw Aaron Stanford's Cole and Amanda Schull's Cassie trapped in a time loop. The connections between the characters deepened and allowed for the stakes to become that much more personal. Plus, a couple mind-bending twists really elevated the main narrative.

Season 2: March 6 - May 15, 2016
Season 3: September 25 - December 11, 2016

The post-apocalyptic comedy took a turn for the darker and was much improved for doing so. This year opened with Jason Sudeikis' Mike return to Earth and struggle to survive before potentially getting the virus. The gang then had to leave their home yet again after a disastrous run-in with other survivors. And then, it closed with one character maybe committing suicide. All of this is emotionally dark material. It has allowed the bonds between the characters to be more developed and emotional - which has led to even greater stakes for the series.

Season 1: November 21 - November 25, 2016

This turned out to be a phenomenal year for original programming at TBS. At times, it was difficult to watch this new comedy starring Alia Shawkat because the characters were too self-obsessed and annoying. But that was also the point of the series. It embraced its dark ambitions while also being a satire of the young generation. It represented a bold and original stance on a familiar case of a missing person investigation that grew into something much more.