There was a LOT of great television this year so this was not an easy list to compile. Before we get to the top ten however, here are two honorable mentions who also deserve some recognition. Also, be sure to check out Nad’s Top 10 Shows of 2016.
The Sinner (Season 1)
The Sinner is an addictive thriller about a woman who inexplicably commits a very public act of violence. It’s Jessica Biel’s very best work (I was never even a fan of the actress) and it goes to some really dark places. If you find yourself intrigued by the show’s opening episode, then stick around for 8 terrifying and unsettling hours. Read my review of season one here.
Santa Clarita Diet (Season 1)
One of my favorite shows of the year, Santa Clarita Diet came out of nowhere and reeled me in from the start. It’s a gory but hysterical show about a housewife with a secret, and it balances comedy and drama to maximum effect. Plus Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant have awesome chemistry! I can’t wait to spend another season in this crazy world. Read my review of the pilot and of season one.
10 – Mindhunter (Season 1)
Mindhunter is a fascinating drama about a trio of FBI agents who try to unravel the minds of the most twisted serial killers. Its pilot episode is slow, but you’re completely immersed in its intricate world by the second outing. The rest of the season is just as mesmerizing with its slow-burn storytelling and excellent performances. Read my review of season one here.
9 – This Us Us (Season 1)
There’s a reason this family drama (with a twist that I won’t spoil) was such a breakout hit; This Is Us beautifully merges heartfelt storylines and lovable characters into an uplifting and hopeful combination. It’s also very refreshing as a contrast to all the cynics and antiheroes that permeate the television landscape. Happy tears never felt so good. Read my episode reviews here.
8 – American Gods (Season 1)
The mysterious story of a convict called Shadow, American Gods takes a while to get going but I was totally enthralled by its bizarre world and eccentric characters. Even when the narrative confused the heck out of me, the top-notch chemistry between Ricky Whittle and Ian McShane kept me coming back for more. Is it the successor to Game of Thrones? If it keeps improving, it very well might be. Read my episode reviews here.
7 – Feud (Season 1)
Although it wasn’t nearly as high profile as the rest of the standout shows this season, Feud was an immaculately-done drama that perfectly illustrated the sexism and misogyny of old Hollywood. Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange both turned in some spectacular performances, and the production design from the sets to the cinematography was always on point. I enjoyed every bit of the journey, and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what Ryan Murphy cooks up in the anthology season’s sophomore year (apparently it will focus on Prince Charles and Princess Diana). Read my episode reviews here.
6 – American Crime (Season 3)
It breaks my heart that American Crime has been cancelled, but at least we got three stellar seasons of thought-provoking television with impeccable performances. Year three wasn’t as perfect as season two, but it still managed to engross me till the very end with its disturbing subject matter. Plus it managed to give Felicity Huffman yet another powerful character, so here’s hoping the actress gets another star vehicle soon. Show, you will be missed! Read my episode reviews here.
5 – The Good Fight (Season 1)
Who knew that I would deal with the loss of The Good Wife (one of my favorite shows of all time) by diving right into this clever spinoff? In fact, one could argue that The Good Fight is even better legal drama than its parent show since it focuses on a complex ensemble instead of just Alicia Florrick. This is an intelligent show that’s sharply written and always satisfying. Mark my words: this one’s going to be around for a long time to come. Read my episode reviews here.
4 – Game of Thrones (Season 7)
Although it had an unspectacular season finale, Game of Thrones‘ seventh season was quite the extravaganza. Sure it could be argued that the show put a lot of emphasis on action instead of characters this year, but I have no problem after years of slow-paced storytelling. It was high time the show got to the explosive stuff and began paying off pivotal points. It wasn’t without its flaws, but it was one heck of a thrilling season. Read my episode reviews here.
3 – Alias Grace (Season 1)
Alias Grace is a deeply disturbing psychological drama about a domestic servant accused of murdering her employer. The premise doesn’t sound too catchy, but trust me when I say this elegant series is phenomenal. The drama’s exploration of our protagonist’s mind is discomforting, and the narrative keeps you guessing right through the finale. Read my review of season one here.
2 – The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 1)
Who knew that Hulu’s first proper foray into drama television would be such a resounding success? As its recent Emmy wins proved, The Handmaid’s Tale is one heck of a brilliant show in every way. Its thought-provoking take on a dystopian future is truly captivating, and Elisabeth Moss’ staggering performance anchors the show with a hefty dose of emotion. I can’t recommend this one enough. Read my episode reviews here.
1 – Big Little Lies (Season 1)
Headlined by Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspooon, the show that cleaned up at the Emmies this year produced seven absolutely perfect hours. The performances, the music, the frenzied narrative – it all came together for a truly unforgettable season. The marketing might have you believe that this is some Desperate Housewives knockoff, but Big Little Lies is actually for anyone looking for truly great television. Here’s hoping the quality can be maintained through season two. Read my episode reviews here.