In a year that was sort of terrible for nearly everything else, television was never better. The future of American storytelling is alive and well–especially if you have Netflix, Amazon and HBO. It’s mind-boggling how many great scripted television shows there are right now which means coming up with a list of just ten of my favorites was really fucking difficult. Especially, when you consider that tv shows were more than just average tv shows in 2016. They became sources of inspiration and light as well as entertainment. At least in my world they did. Like after a tragedy like Orlando, I was thrilled immerse myself in the spooky, 80’s soaked world of Stranger Things. The latest season of Netflix’s Grace and Frankie saved my life during the crazy week after my grandmother died. To keep from jumping out of a window after the election, I was more than happy to spend 10 episodes in Buckingham palace with Queen Elizabeth in The Crown. Sure, I’ve always used television and pop culture of all kinds as a way to escape and also deal with reality but these shows were all really fantastic. I think great art of any kind transcends its medium and becomes something more important, like a service or a contribution and television felt like it did just that this year.
Naturally, this list is missing some titles that I really loved like One Mississippi, Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse, Orange is the New Black (renewed, fierce and shocking), Lady Dynamite, Love, both 2016 incarnations of RuPaul’s Drag Race and The Great British Baking Show. Also, there are brilliant shows like Fx’s Atlanta and TBS’ Search Party that I didn’t finish watching that didn’t make the list but they are certainly worth checking out.
So without further ado, here’s my list of the best shows of 2016 (in no particular order) that not just entertained me but made a difficult year a little bit easier.
The Crown: I can’t be positive but when I look back on 2016 I will always remember this show. Not just stunning to look at and incredibly well-acted, The Crown had profound things to say about the marginalizing of women in power, the isolation of celebrity and complicated family dynamics that all felt very 2016, even though it took place in the 1950’s.
Catastrophe: As we’ve discussed, I love this damn show. Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan are gifts to the world of entertainment and this seemingly simple, underrated sitcom rolled up its sleeves and got messy this year with hilarious results. Plus it has my favorite season finale of anything I watched all year.
Transparent: Like Catastrophe, I have written about this show before and if it continues to be this damn good I will write about it again. I have a theory about how many shows (Sex & the City, Six Feet Under, Parks and Rec, Top Chef) really find their stride and get better in their third season and this gorgeous, moving and very funny season of Transparent goes a long way in reinforcing my theory. Plus, no moment on any show this year was as amazing as Judith Light singing an Alanis Morissette cover.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: More is more when it comes to the jokes on this show and Tina Fey and company sling out the one liners at dizzying pace. Minute for minute, it’s the funniest show currently on tv and this season even had some unexpected heart and empowerment.
Silicon Valley: Another one that I find to be highly underrated, the super satisfying season three(theory proven once again, people!) of Silicon Valley finally delivered on long simmering plot points, trimmed the fat on dead-end jokes and storylines and really found its footing as the funniest, albeit most untraditional, workplace comedy of 2016.
Game of Thrones: I’ll pretty much tell anyone who will listen how much I hated the rambling, misogynistic piece of garbage that was season five of this show so color me delighted when GOT returned more badass, fast-moving and fun to watch than ever.
BoJack Horseman : Another show I’ve rambled about here before but it’s worth the ramble if gets one more person to watch this incredible show. Cynical, beautiful, crass and downright hysterical, who would have suspected that an animated show about a half horse half man would be the most human and biting show of 2016?
Chef’s Table: Unapologetically artsy and pretentious, Chef’s Table’s second season provided visual delights for days. You don’t have to be a foodie to revel in the beauty and artistry of chef’s around the world and their individual struggles to stay inspired.
Stranger Things: I’ll fight anyone who says this show is just capitalizing on 80’s nostalgia. It had great storytelling, creativity for days and in my mind, the best cast on television.
Westworld: Look, I’m sorry if it bored you in the first 5 episodes and it didn’t move fast enough for you. But I honestly, thought Westworlds’s slow-brew storytelling was a huge part of the appeal. It didn’t deliver the goods right away and it made us wait but when it did it was all worth it. And I’m on the edge of my seat to see where they take it next.
Now, it’s your turn tell me what you watched and loved in 2016 in the comments. Happy New Year!