Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Best TV Shows of 2016 - Top 70

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 70-61.




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 70-61 for 2016!


70. ABC's SPEECHLESS
Season 1: September 21 - December 14, 2016

Once again, ABC has proven that it knows how to craft a family comedy that focuses on a family not typically seen on TV while never becoming too preachy about the subject matter. Only 10 episodes in and the comedy is already a reliable source for laughs while still being about a family with a disabled son. Plus, Minnie Driver is a welcome addition to the trend of lovable but type-A mothers on ABC.


69. NETFLIX's SENSE8: A CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
Aired December 23, 2016

It's been well over a year since the first season of Sense8 debuted on Netflix. It will still be a few more months before Season 2 arrives as well. But the Christmas special served as a fine reintroduction to this world. It's a fun and engaging series that knows how to do stories about human emotion and connectivity well. Sure, it was basically the first two episodes of the new season instead of an actual special. And yet, that still worked perfectly fine to build up excitement for the series once more.


68. TV LAND's THE JIM GAFFIGAN SHOW
Season 2: June 19 - August 21, 2016

The comedy never set out to reinvent the norm or be the most distinctive series out there. And yet, it showed that a comedy can still be conventional while also being bold and original. The second season built on everything that worked in the first season. It had a number of fantastical episodes that worked well while also being grounded for a three episode arc about Jim and Dave pitching shows to TV Land. It was meta but also very funny. It will be missed but at least it went out on a high.


67. HBO's LOOKING: THE MOVIE
Aired July 23, 2016

The ratings for the comedy weren't good enough for HBO to justify a third season but it did give the creative team the ability to craft a satisfying ending with a 90-minute movie. The wrap-up was much more about Jonathan Groff's Patrick than the other characters. His emotional arc was the backbone of the movie. Frankie J. Alvarez's Agustin and Murray Bartlett's Dom had their moments as well. But it was largely about Patrick coming to terms with what he wanted in terms of love. It wasn't a simple decision either. The movie understood that things should be complicated even though this is the last we'll see of these characters. In that regard, the ending was a success.


66. NBC's THIS IS US
Season 1: September 20 - December 6, 2016

The drama proved to be the biggest breakout hit for the broadcast networks this fall. It proved that shows can still appeal to a broad audience if the storytelling is right. Yes, the main narrative is very manipulative. It relies very heavily on twists to surprise the audience. And yet, everything that has happened on the show so far has been so exciting and compelling. Yes, Sterling K. Brown's Randall works much better as a character than the rest of the main family. His stories aren't defined by one thing like they are for the rest of the ensemble. But it's still been rewarding to see a family drama work as well as this one has.


65. MTV's FAKING IT
Season 3: March 15 - May 17, 2016

The third season of the comedy suffered because of a rather abrupt ending. It played as the first half of a season that wasn't able to finish telling the story it wanted to. The finale was good in showing just how complicated the characters' lives will continue to be. But it wasn't designed as a series finale - which it ultimately became. And yet, the emotion that came from the fight between Rita Volk's Amy and Katie Stevens' Amy was so heartbreaking and earned. That alone showed how special this series could be while still being very funny.


64. BBC AMERICA's ORPHAN BLACK
Season 4: April 14 - June 16, 2016

After a less than stellar third season, the drama took a step back and simplified its narrative this year. That decision proved to be a smart one because the story was much more engaging to watch when it was easy to keep track of what was going on. It was a devastating season that saw great personal loss for the characters. But it was a lot of fun as well as the show continues to find new uses for its ensemble of clones. Plus, this was the year Tatiana Maslany finally won an Emmy for her phenomenal performance as so many clones. That was long overdo.


63. SYFY's THE MAGICIANS
Season 1: January 25 - April 11, 2016

The drama's willingness to go dark with some complicated subject matter while still being set in a world of magic was particularly impressive. It showed the tragic lives that come out of people having these special abilities. It wasn't afraid to use sex, drugs, addiction and death as parts of the characters' lives. It was a bold and original take on the material that has already been done before. The plotting was scattered for a large amount of the season. It was difficult to understand how every plot thread would come together in the end. The ultimate resolution was pretty bleak but not as earned as it could have been. But still it was an interesting season that set up an even larger scope for Season 2.


62. FOX's THE GRINDER
Season 1: January 5 - May 10, 2016

The comedy was one of the most original ideas on the broadcast networks this past year. It's disappointing that it didn't connect with a broad audience. It was cancelled after one season. But it produced so many hilarious moments this year - from Timothy Olyphant playing himself to an ongoing serialized arc that threatened to destroy the entire firm. It was an excellent showcase series for Rob Lowe and Fred Savage. Not every episode worked. But when the show hit those highs, it was one of the best comedies on television.


61. FX's BASKETS
Season 1: January 21 - March 24, 2016

The comedy starring Zach Galifianakis was an extremely niche show in the early-going whose humor didn't totally work for me. I could enjoy it for Louie Anderson's phenomenal performance as the mother of Galifianakis' Chip and Dale. But the overall storytelling was just off. It got better as the season went along. It finished in quite a strong and interesting place. But that could only offset so much of what happened in the early episodes with the show not really knowing what it was. It was special and distinct. It just took some time to truly find itself.