Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My 10 Favourite TV Shows of 2016

So here we are again. That inevitable end of the year look back at the best, or favourites, if you will, shows of the year. As TV, or what we still archaically call TV,  evolves, so does my annual list. As the best of TV moves away from the networks. and towards cable and pay TV, and even non TV outlets such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, my list does the same. Two years ago, my top ten had two network shows still hanging on. Last year, there was just the one network hanger-on. This year, this list? Not a single network show is left. Sure, there are a handful in the runners-up section, but none on the list proper. What does this mean? I suppose it means the networks all suck. Anyhoo, without any further annoying ado, here are my choices for the best shows of 2016.

1. Stranger Things (Netflix) - Blending together the essence of everything from Stephen King to Steven Spielberg to John Carpenter to Predator and The Goonies and just about every other sci-fi/horror/fantasy moment from the 1980's, this fun and strange little eighties period piece is the perfect nostalgic, loving creature for this Gen Xer. Oh yeah, and it also happens to be a brilliant take on the tricks and tropes of genre film and television, and is designed and filmed (and very well at that) to look like a movie made in 1983. Oh yeah, and it has Winona Ryder too. What more does a grown-up sci-fi loving 80's teen need?

2. Mr. Robot (USA) - This was the surprise hit of 2015 (at least a surprise in my mind), and with it's second season, it got even better. Even darker and deeper down the rabbit hole we went. Rami Malek is a cerebral sensation here, accompanied by some of the sharpest writing on television, and a visual presence that reminds one of Kubrick doing The Matrix, with a tinge of Fight Club. Oh yeah, and it has Christian Slater too. Look at that, Winona and Christian in the top two spots.

3. Atlanta (FX) - I love things that are uncategorizable, and Atlanta is definitely one of those things. Part half hour comedy, part drama or even tragicomedy, part semi-autobiographical narrative, and part self-deprecating satire, Donald Glover's auteuresque cinematic small screen creation plays at almost as many tropes as the actor-writer-director's last effort, Community. Sometimes quite meta (one episode played out as a talk show within a show, complete with hilarious fake commercials mixed in with the real ads) and sometimes quite tragically real, Atlanta was the new shining light of cable television.

4. Game of Thrones (HBO) - This cult favourite show will only be around for two more seasons, and shortened seasons at that, but for this list, we are only talking about season six, and what a season it was, with the season finale rivaling the show's classic Red Wedding in brutality...hell, surpassing it even. This season spent it's entirety, bringing loose ends together, to shape up for the aforementioned final seasons, and the inevitable sharing of the Iron Throne by Daenerys and Jon Snow (spoiler alert...well, at least my prediction), and something like that could have killed a show's creative forces, but it only managed to make the damn hing even better, And that final episode (again), wow indeed.

5. The Get Down (Netflix) - Imagine if Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee, two people who will probably never collaborate, collaborated in the creation of the re-creation of the creation of Hip-Hop. If you did that, you would probably imagine something as cool and funky as The Get Down. Set in The Bronx of 1977, this Netflix series, actually directed by Baz Luhrmann, blends reality with fiction, as we are introduced to the fictitious kids of The Bronx, the kids that will help build the Hip-Hop world, and real life Hip-Hop pioneers like Grandmaster Flash and DJ Kool Herc. Blend the lush Lurhmannesque visuals and funkadelic music, with the underworld intrigue and seventies martial arts vibe, and you can certainly imagine one hell of  show. But no need to imagine such a thing...just go watch the damn thing.

6. Documentary Now! (IFC) - Originally created on SNL, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and Seth Meyers, bring the mockumentary genre to IFC. Inspired by This is Spinal Tap, this show, which is introduced by a very serious Miss Helen Mirren (to give it faux gravitas), takes on parodies of famous docs such as Grey Gardens, Salesman, and The Thin Blue Line. The desire to make everything as real as possible, in their take on Nanook of the North, they even took the time to use the actual camera used to film the 1922 movie. This desire for reality, combined with sharp satire, and mocking comedy, makes this one of the best shows of the year.

7. Better Call Saul (AMC) - Breaking Bad may be one of the greatest TV shows ever created, so when this prequel debuted in 2015, I had my doubts. I mean, how could they live up to such a great show? Well, ya know what? They did. They goddamn did! And then came season two this past year, and they managed to get even better. Bob Odenkirk digs deeper down into the depths of Jimmy McGill, nee Saul Goodman, than he ever did before. A brilliantly subversive show that may even get better with the upcoming season three.

8. Westworld (HBO) - Taking a cue from, but not acting as a remake of, the 1973 Michael Crichton film, this astounding HBO series reaches further and further down the rabbit hole of it's own insanity, and surprises at every turn. Westworld is the most watched first season of any HBO show ever...and this is a network that has given us The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, and True Detective. And it's worthy of such success. The writing and directing and acting is all wonderful, and Thandie Newton is the highlight of it all. I cannot wait until the second season....even if that wait is going to go on until 2018 sometime.

9. The Walking Dead (AMC) - I don't know of any major critic who has ever placed this show on their annual best of lists, as it seems to be regularly overlooked (and at all the awards shows as well), and it almost seems as if you cannot be a cool and aloof critic if you like the show. But hey, I never claimed to be all that cool, nor have I ever played at being aloof, so here it is. Granted, last year this show was number two on the list, and the year before, it was in the number one spot, and now it has dipped to 9th place, but this is not a dig at it's quality, especially since this past year's addition of the character of Negan has breathed new life (ironically enough), but just at how many great shows are being made these days. Nonetheless, here it is.

10. Veep (HBO) - With the political ups and downs of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' title character, and (spoilerish alert) the ever-increasingly misnamed show, I really have no idea where this show is going to go in season six, but that is a ponderment for 2017. This past season may have been the best one so far. The straight-up funniest show currently on TV (thanks to the elongated hiatus of Louis), Veep is the closest thing this list has to an actual situation comedy. Brilliant and warped and fast-paced, quick-witted and featuring some of the best comedic performances on television. Veep is better than ever. Now, let's see what we get in season six.

And, if I were to make it a top 20 list (in no particular order): Better Things (FX); The Americans (FX); Bojack Horseman (Netflix); The Night Of (HBO); Orange is the New Black (Netflix); Baskets (FX); Horace and Pete (Hulu); Silicon Valley (HBO); Halt and Catch Fire (AMC); and The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX).

And a bunch of runners-up, again in no particular order: Modern Family (ABC); Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW); Archer (FX); Transparent (Amazon); The Flash (CW); UnREAL (Lifetime); Fleabag (Amazon); Doctor Who (BBC); Supergirl (CBS/CW); Last Week with John Oliver (HBO); Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (TBS); American Horror Story: Roanoke (FX); House of Cards (Netflix); Empire (Fox); The Outsiders (WGN); You're the Worst (FXX); Penny Dreadful (Showtime); Jessica Jones (Netflix); Master of None (Netflix); Insecure (HBO); The Night Manager (HBO); Gotham (Fox); and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix).

So there ya'll go. My choices for the 43 best shows on so-called TV.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

1 comment:

  1. Since I do not get any of these channels I have not seen any of these and I really want to see Westworld. I have no desire ever to see The Walking Dead, I see them in the malls every time I'm I. There.

    ReplyDelete