2016 proved to be as great a year for television as it was bad for just about everything else. While the world burns, it is at least nice to have so much great content to distract ourselves with. The growth of television year over year has been exponential since Netflix and Amazon brought the tech industry’s higher competition to the content ownership game. While 2017 promises to be even greater, and by an order of magnitude so, 2016 is at this time, perhaps, the greatest year for original content in television history. The days in which we passively watch shows that spark moderate interest in us are all but dead, as the landscape of content is flooded. In a year of so much great TV, a year in which it is now flat-out impossible to watch everything of merit that has come out, we at TVEnthusiast are here to present our picks for the best of TV in 2016. Tyson posted his picks earlier this week, here are my picks.
Best Technical Production
Game of Thrones
When it come to technical production two shows stood out for me in 2016, Westworld and Game of Thrones, but while Westworld‘s brilliant creation of a robotic wild west impressed, Game of Thrones took the crown through sheer spectacle. The epic Battle of The Bastards was probably the most impressive thing I have ever seen on television, from a technical standpoint. The sheer number of actors involved alone would have made such a sequence expensive and difficult to pull off. But pull it off they did, and in the process they created one of the most memorable television moments of 2016.
Best Artisitc Production
While Game of Thrones impressed technically, it was HBO’s breakout freshman drama that prevails for artistry. Every scene in Westworld is beautifully shot. The entire series, at times, takes on a dreamlike quality as it masterfully immerses the viewer in it’s surreal world. A masterpiece.
There’s no doubt nostalgia is big, look all around and you’ll find a ton of things pandering to people’s love of the good ol’ days, Stranger Things is no exception. But what sets Stranger Things apart from most other nostalgia fueled media is how credibly, and genuinely, it portrays its era. Hell, put it on a VHS tape and you’d be hard pressed to say this show wasn’t actually produced in the 80’s. The lion’s share of the credit for this goes to the show’s excellent script, which captures the essence of being a child of the 80’s. Outside of the nostalgia, Stranger Things is also a fantastic supernatural thriller that stands up to the best of anything Steven Spielberg or Stephen King could dream up, standing on it’s own, even without the 80’s backdrop.
Rami Malek: Mr Robot
In a year not short on great performances, Rami Malek’s performance as Elliot in season 2 of Mr Robot stands at the top. Mr Robot ‘s second season saw Elliot grappling with, and struggling to come to terms with, his second personality, Mr Robot (as portrayed by Christian Slater). While Elliot was already one of 2015’s most intriguing characters, the fact that he had a split personality wasn’t revealed until the end of the first season, which meant that there was little chance to explore that aspect of his character. Though Rami was already crushing it as Elliot, the reveal introduced new challenges for the Actor, which he seemingly overcame with relative ease. Malek certainly earned his Emmy this year.
Best Ensemble Cast
While Game of Thrones large ensemble cast is always great, year over year, this year’s newbie HBO drama Westworld has bested it’s older network sibling with a fantastic cast, giving the best performances of their careers. We’re talking powerhouses such as Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, and Evan Rachel Wood invigorating rich complex characters with such vitality that they channel the characters themselves. Hell, it was even more impressive for actors like Wood and Newton, who portrayed robots slowly gaining sentience with such mastery that you often fail to notice. Westworld may have it’s flaws, but it’s cast certainly wasn’t one of them.
Matt and Ross Duffer – Stranger Things
After writing for the M Night Shamaylan produced series Wayward Pines, newcomers Matt and Ross Duffer tried their hands at their own original series, and knocked it straight out of the park. Stranger Things was the biggest new series of 2016 and that’s entirely thanks to the talent and vision of the Duffer Bros and the unique distribution platform that Netflix has provided. Together the Duffers crafted an exciting and daring supernatural thriller that most networks wouldn’t touch but, thanks to Netflix, found a large and eager audience. It’s safe to say that these brothers have set the bar high for themselves, and anticipation for Stranger Things second season are through the roof.
Supergirl/Kara Danvers as Portrayed by Melissa Benoist – Supergirl
Television these days sure does love their protagonists to be dark, brooding, and morally questionable. So it’s a breath of fresh to have a protagonist so unapologetically optimistic, positive, hopeful, and moral, which is exactly what Kara Danvers AKA Supergirl is. Supergirl is an inspiration, facing off against the worst that humanity, and beyond, has to offer without ever losing hope and the belief that, deep down, there is goodness in everyone. Kara is such an effective antidote to Zack Snyder’s dour Man of Steel, that Warner Bros’ film division should be taking notes. Kara is not simply a one note Girl Scout either, Actress Melissa Benoist, and the series writers, do a fantastic job of giving the character depth, showing she has the same fears, wants, and desires of any human, despite her inhumanity. These qualities make Supergirl my pick for best protagonist of 2016.
The Man in Black as Portrayed by Ed Harris – Westworld
In a show as complex as Westworld it is difficult to point to a singular character and say “ah that’s the series antagonist,” since nearly every non-robot seemed motivated by their own self interests, and were willing to do nefarious things to achieve those goals. If you were, however, to insist on pointing to a singular antagonist in Westworld it would no doubt be Ed Harris’ Man in Black, AKA William. He is introduced very early as someone who is more than willing to do evil deeds in the service of achieving some mysterious goal. As the series goes on, it is revealed that he’s just a bored park goer, and Delos board member, who has simply experienced everything Westworld has to offer, and wants more. That more being an actual sense of danger, since nothing in Westworld can really harm you, which William finds boring. Thus William spends his time trying to unlock “the maze”, and while he misunderstands the purpose of the maze itself, he does intuit enough to believe solving it will undo the mechanisms which make Westworld safe. In a lot of ways, William is like a bored gamer playing Red Dead Redemption, rampaging mindlessly through a game he’s mastered, wishing that it offered more of a challenge for him. In the end The Man in Black get’s his wish. We’ll see how that works out for him when Westworld returns.
Most Interesting Character
Robert Ford as Portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins – Westworld
The enigmatic co-founder of Westworld, Robert Ford’s, motivations are shrouded in mystery. Seeming, at first glance, to be the kind but naive father figure of the park, Ford quickly shows us how ruthless he can be. Ford is willing to go to extreme lengths, including murder, to achieve his goals of finishing what his late partner started. A most interesting character indeed.
Best Action Scene or Fight
Battle of the Bastards – Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is certainly no stranger to epic battles, as the show loves to show off its extravagant budget with the amazing battle sequences that leave us breathless. Season 6’s The Battle of the Bastards, may just be the best one yet. First off, there is the sheer immensity of literally hundreds of actors battling it out, enough to make Braveheart blush. Secondly, the battle is held up by the raw emotional core at it’s center. This wasn’t just a battle for the sake of having a battle, this was the epic destined confrontation between Jon Snow, and the evil Ramsay Bolton, who had previously raped John’s sister, and kicks off this battle by killing Jon’s brother. Problem is, going in, Jon is hopelessly outnumbered. It is a fight that he has little chance of winning, but he’s determined to fight it anyways, and those emotional stakes crank the tension up to eleven. Lastly, the battle itself is brutal and raw, with Jon, at one point, being buried in a literal sea of bodies. In the end Littlefinger and the Knights of the Vale come to Jon’s aid, thanks to a letter from Sansa, and Jon prevails over Ramsay in what will probably go down as Game of Thrones most memorable battle. Unless the show can top it this year.
Alf runs over Gideon Goddard – Mr Robot
Possibly one of the most surreal bits of television in 2016 happened during season 2 of Mr Robot, after Elliot was beaten unconscious. Mr Robot himself, Elliot’s alter ego, whisks Elliot away to a TGIF fever dream, a straight send-up of early 90’s sitcoms. The homage is complete with the iconic alien Alf, who shows up to run over Gideon Goddard, a character who was sadly murdered earlier in the season. The scene is one of the most unexpected and funny scenes of any show in 2016.
Hold the Door – Game of Thrones
The saddest scene of 2016, for me, was the infamous “Hold the Door” scene from Game of Thrones, in which good ol lovable Hodor met his grisly end while attempting to save Bran and Meera from a vicious horde of the undead wights. Through the course of the scene we learn, thanks to Bran’s green sight, the tragic origin of Hodor. Bran’s visions, actually turned Hodor in Hodor. Yeah, it is a bit hard to wrap your head around. The scene is memorable, Hodor tries to hold the door and stave off the breaching wights, so that Bran and Meera can escape, as Meera is shouting for Hodor to “hold the door!” Back in the past of Bran’s green sight, young Hodor (then known as Willis) hears the present set Meera, and goes into a seizure, while repeating what Meera is saying, eventually condensing the words Hold The Door, into Hodor. In the present, Hodor is eventually torn to shreds by the wights. Very sad indeed.
Most Tense Scene
Showdown with the Beast – The Magicians
During season one of The Magicians, one thing was made perfectly clear, That the Students of Brakebills would eventually have to face The Beast, a terrifyingly powerful being from another dimension bent on killing them all. What’s more, it is revealed that not only have they confronted the Beast multiple times, but that each time leads to their certain deaths. So when the students, led by Quentin Coldwater, finally face off against The Beast in the season finale, and they are still woefully under-powered, and death seems all but certain, Quentin has an ace up his sleeve, or so he thinks. The encounter takes a wrong turn quickly and the Students of Brakebills, as had always happened before, are decimated by The Beast. This time, however, there is a factor that nobody expected. Thanks to a previous unfortunate encounter, Julia is able to overcome the Beast, and save Quentin and his friends. Julia, however, has her own agenda, and she disappears, along with the Beast, ending one of the tensest scenes of 2016.
Most Shocking Scene
Tommy Shelby Turns His Entire Family In – Peaky Blinders
Despite being criminals, the Shelby family was always nothing but loyal to each other, and no one was more loyal to his family than Tommy Shelby, the head of the Shelby clan. That is why, in the final moments of Peaky Blinder‘s third season, it was so shocking that Tommy turned his entire family over to the police. No doubt, it’s part a an elaborate master plan, but that ending still hits you in the gut.
Most Satisfying Scene
Ramsay Gets Fed to His Dogs – Game of Thrones
Ramsay Bolton wasn’t only a bastard by birth, he did everything he could to fully live up to that title. Possibly the most evil and twisted character to appear on Game of Thrones, Ramsay’s misdeeds are numerous. None of them, however, has caused as much controversy as Ramsay’s honeymoon rape of Sansa Stark, an act so reviling it had some viewers quitting the series, out of anger. So with that in mind, it is only fitting that at the end of The Battle of the Bastards, Sansa gets her revenge. You see, Ramsay had always kept his dogs hungry, as he loved feeding his victims to his dogs, something which Sansa was well aware of, when she turned Ramsays hounds on him. At first Ramsay scoffs, thinking that his loyal dogs won’t harm him, but Sansa is confident that they won’t care if they are hungry enough, and she is correct. The hounds devour Ramsay in a brutal and horrifying, yet oh so satisfying scene.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
In it’s second season, Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt still manages to be the freshest comedy anywhere.
Mr Robot continued to intrigue in 2016, delving deeper into the fractured psyche of Elliott while the conspiracy involving F-Society and the Dark Army deepened.
Best New Series
After a long run of mediocrity and just plain awfulness, SyFy came roaring back in 2016 with two excellent new series that promised to put the network back on track. While I greatly enjoyed The Expanse, I found the channel’s other breakout drama, The Magicians, to be more entertaining. The show throws Harry Potter and Narnia into a blender, and then let’s it age, giving us a more adult take on students, at a school of magic, fending off ever encroaching evil. It’s fun, it’s scary, it’s tense, and I can’t wait for more in 2017.
Game of Thrones
Ok, this wasn’t easy for me, really, 2016 had a lot of great television, and I deliberated hard over all of the great shows I watched this year. Even so, I kept coming back to Game of Thrones, which had one of it’s best seasons yet this year. Look, I’m not gonna elaborate, just go and read the other awards I gave to Game of Thrones to see why it’s worthy of this award. Because seriously, that was some good TV
Special Category: Best Romance
Yorkie and Kelly – Black Mirror
And finally for my special category I am giving a shout out to one of the most touching hours of television I have seen this year. I am talking about the Black Mirror episode San Junipero which gave us a love story so epic that it transcended time, space, and the entire physical realm. When shy Yorkie meets confident Kelly, magic happens, and unlike most episodes of Black Mirror this one has a happy ending, which was very refreshing, believe me. This was the finest moment of Black Mirror this year for me, and I think everyone reading this owes it to themselves to watch it.
What do think? Tell us in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast for more coverage of all of your favorite shows. Lets have a great 2017!