Television in 2016 has been overwhelming, both in quality and quantity. We have already ranked the best new offerings from the first and second halves of 2016, but now it is time to look at the year as a whole. As such, this week’s edition of Top 10 Tuesday is ranking the best new shows of 2016.
10. Hap and Leonard
James Purefoy (Rome) and Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire) lead the cast of this super pulpy series about 2 lifelong friends who manage to find themselves in a heap of trouble. The chemistry between Purefoy and Williams is the biggest strength to be found here. The 2 accomplished Actors effortlessly play off of eachother, making their inseparable friendship believable.
09. Luke Cage
My least favorite of Netflix’s Marvel series is still an accomplishment for the streaming service. Mike Colter (The Good Wife) shines as Cage, just as brightly as he did in the role when he took it in Jessica Jones. It is Mahershala Ali (House of Cards), however, in the role of the villainous Cottomouth, that really impressed me. That, and the way the series turned its Harlem setting into a character itself.
08. The Good Place
If only the finale, which aired in 2017, could count towards The Good Place‘s ranking on this list. Even without the amazing finale, though, The Good Place is still deserving of a good spot among the best new TV in 2016. Michael Schur (Parks and Recreation) has hooked me again, Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) exudes cocky charm, and Ted Danson (Cheers) steals every frame he is in. The Good Place is network comedy, done right.
07. The OA
I am unsure as to how I feel about the ending that The OA offered. If the series continues for a second season, it should be moving into some even more fascinating directions, if it does not, than I will remain uncertain. That being said, the ride that is The OA, was most certainly worth my time. I savored the narrative structure of the series, the mysteries spread throughout, and the gorgeous imagery presented within. Much credit must also be given to Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter), who turned in a uniquely chilling supporting role as “The Angel Hunter.” In fact, all of the cast was suitably strong, in their portrayals of multifaceted messes.
06. The Detour
The best new comedy of 2016, for my money, has to be TBS’s Vacation-esque goldmine of raunchy family comedy, The Detour. Created by Husband and Wife duo Jason Jones (who also stars in a lead role) and Samantha Bee (Full Frontal with Samantha Bee), The Detour tells the story of a family on a road trip, and the hi-jinks that ensue along the way. The tone is pitch perfect, as the family faces disastrous problems, one after another, and manages to hang together through it all.
05. The Night Of
The Night Of, based on the British series Criminal Justice, was a passion project for Sopranos star James Gandolfini, who sadly passed away before work could begin on the series. After Gandolfini’s death, the project continued with Robert De Niro (Goodfellas) taking over the role, but scheduling conflicts forced De Niro to vacate the role as well. Persistence lead to good fortune, however, as the series continued with the always excellent John Turturro (Miller’s Crossing) in said role. Turturro portrayed John Stone, a Defence Attorney who took on the case of the young Nasir “Naz” Khan (as portrayed by Rogue One‘s Riz Ahmed). The fly on the wall elaboration of the American criminal justice system, from the events preceding the crime, to the end of the trail, was punctuated with Turturro’s brilliant take on a reviled, underestimated, and fully capable Lawyer.
Preacher has circulated adaptation for decades, since its debut as a comic book series in the 1990s. The series finally came to fruition on AMC thanks to the involvement of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (This is the End) as series Producers, and the talents of Sam Catlin (Breaking Bad) as Showrunner. Though the story of the series is an insane mishmosh of genres and styles, the chemistry between the 3 leads of the series, Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger), Ruth Negga (Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD), and Joe Gilgun (Misfits), manages to hold it all together into something, somehow, coherent. Season 2 cannot come soon enough.
Westworld‘s first season might have started much stronger than it ended, and might have failed to offer many surprises that weren’t widely predicted, but the sheer scope and execution of the series has to count for something as well. Despite it’s predictability, Westworld became THE water-cooler show of 2016. Fans figured out all of the mysteries before they were revealed to us, but that only happened because fans were so invested in dissecting every possible clue, for every possible answer. It should also be noted that Westworld managed to pull together, perhaps, the most impressive ensemble cast ever seen in a television series to date. Killer performances were delivered by legendary Actors like Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris, and new legends in the making like Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood, and Jeffrey Wright. An astounding cast giving great performances, a massive scope with production values to match, and the fervor of fans desperately dissecting every frame made Westworld one of the funnest rides of 2016.
02. The Magicians
Though the pilot episode technically aired in 2015, I left it off of the 2015 lists because that broadcast was intended as a preview event. The series didn’t truly debut until the following year. The Magicians was my favorite news series from the first half of 2016. I fully expected to award it the top spot for the entire year as well, but that was not to be. As a huge fan of classic fantasy trappings and the beloved Harry Potter franchise, I was blown away by SyFy’s use of adult themes in dissecting the tropes of modern YA fantasy. Mixing some of the coolest parts of Harry Potter with the world building of Narnia, and aging it all up with a twisted, and at times funny, darkness neither had, The Magicians has solidified itself as one of my current favorite shows.
01. Stranger Things
I didn’t expect The Magicians to be edged out of the top spot on this list when I wrote the list for the first half of the year. A surprise series disrupted those plans, however. Netflix’s Stranger Things seemingly came out of nowhere, blowing children of the 80s away with its relentless nostalgia bombs. If Nostalgia was the only play, Stranger things would have still been great, but it was not the only card its Creators prepared. Stranger Things so masterfully blends the tropes of the 80s into a cohesive, fun, haunting, and endearing story, that it ends up feeling like a missing classic from the era itself, more than just a fun imitation like others that have played on such nostalgia before (Super 8, for example). I would also argue that Stranger Things’ short uncluttered run, and dense packaging makes it one of the truest examples of the Netflix binge model to date. The short run of the series left me wanting to immediately re-watch it again, a rare feat for a TV series, whose longer lengths often obstruct such desires. Stranger Things always entertained, and never lagged, as such, I can only look back upon it as something I want to watch, over and over again.
As always, this list represents the opinions of TVEnthusiast, and, as such, may not reflect your own favorites. If you agree or disagree with our list, tell us in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast for more coverage of all of your favorite shows.