It’s been quite a year for TV. Some shows took pop culture by storm (Stranger Things), some bounced back after weaker seasons (Orange Is The New Black), and others continued to blow my mind (I’d put The Affair at the top of the list, but technically the show’s stellar second season aired at the end of 2015). Read on for my list of 2016 favorites!
10 – Daredevil – Season Two
The second season of Daredevil was not perfect; The Punisher arc was somewhat tedious, and the Black Sky shenanigans were highly flawed. But the addition of the gorgeous Elodie Yung (can Elektra get her own spinoff please?), not to mention the top-notch action and haunting cinematography ensured that this was yet another gripping season of superhero television. It wasn’t as great as Jessica Jones’ debut season (released at the end of 2015 so it’s not eligible for the list), but it was still pretty darn good.
9 – The OA – Season One
The OA is a very strange little show. Its pilot episode was kind of a mess, but its second hour was a disturbing and captivating creation that hooked me right until the end of its eight-episode season. This show is not for everyone, but it’s worth a look thanks to its spiritual undertones and layered performances. If you’re looking for something different (no spoilers here), give this a shot but be sure to watch two episodes before making a decision.
8 – American Crime Story – Season One
Who would have thought that the story of OJ Simpson would produce such a brilliant year of television? With superb performances by Sarah Paulson and Sterling K. Brown, and sharp writing that never spoon-feeds its audience, American Crime Story is an impressive achievement by Ryan Murphy (especially after he tarnished his legacy with the latter seasons of American Horror Story). It’s real, it’s raw, and it’s not to be missed.
7 – Westworld – Season One
Hailed as the next Game of Thrones, HBO’s new drama is a big sprawling epic with a multitude of storylines and complex themes. The show’s ten-episode first season is a very ambitious production, punctuated by an incredible pilot, shocking season finale, and engaging performances by Anthony Hopkins and Thandie Newton. I’m positive this show is going to be messing with our minds for a long time to come.
6 – The Crown – Season One
The most unexpected of surprises, The Crown is an immersive look inside the world of Queen Elizabeth. It’s elegantly made, beautifully realized, and strangely addictive. You’d think the subject matter would be boring, but this is a unique little show that’s bound to entertain with its absorbing stories and richly-drawn characters. Kudos!
5 – Game of Thrones – Season Six
This was the year Game of Thrones turned me into a true believer. Before season six, I used to watch the show with a certain sense of detachment. However, the mindblowing season finale brought everything together after six years of careful buildup. In fact, the finale was so good that I’m currently rewatching the series from the start and reviewing every single episode. Suffice to say, I finally understand why the show gets so much hype, and it’s an honor it rightfully deserves. Breathtaking stuff!
4 – House of Cards – Season Four
So many people gave up on House of Cards after a somewhat weaker season three, and that’s a real pity because season four is the show’s finest season ever. Everything about this year works, not the least of which is the addition of new cast members Neve Campbell and Ellen Burstyn. Moreover, the season finale (which I won’t spoil here) ends with one heck of a powerful final scene that has me suitably pumped for season five. Wow.
3 – American Crime – Season Two
Season one of American Crime was an intriguing little mystery, but season two (which you can watch separately because it’s a completely new story) is a thought-provoking season filled with impeccable performances and some unsettling subject matter. Headlined by Felicity Huffman’s outstanding turn, this season proved that American Crime is a truly special production unlike anything else on television.
2 – The Good Wife – Season Seven
The Good Wife will always be one of my most favorite shows on television. The series was consistently clever, and Julianna Margulies never stopped adding layers to Alicia Florrick, one of the finest characters ever created for television. The show’s final year proved to be a terrific bookend, and while the finale itself wasn’t perfect (the final scene was insanely controversial), this was still one phenomenal season. Alicia, you will be sorely missed.
1 – The Night Of – Season One
With eight perfect episodes, The Night Of is my favorite series of the year. Right from the pilot, its tension-filled narrative grabs holds of you and never lets go right until the very end. Most importantly, it’s a complete story that ends after eight episodes, so you know the narrative won’t get dragged out for years on end. If you’re going to watch one new show this year, make it this one!