Television 2016

by Joanna Orland

This year’s television was kind of a big deal. As the Golden Globe awards nominations have reinforced, the quality of television in 2016 has surpassed that of film, with the nominees in the television category being much stiffer competition of the highest calibre. As there is so much good television to choose from, it’s impossible to watch it all, but here’s what we deem important or worthy for 2016, in order of importance / likability:

The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story – Hands down the best drama of the yearThe acting is brilliant, not caricature – even John Travolta as Robert Shapiro is walking a fine line here, but knocks it out of the park. The issues surrounding the trial of the century that this show touches upon brings notorious historical events into a new light. Absolutely genius, there is no way that American Crime Story season two can avoid disappointing as the bar is set way too high.

The Good Wife – Not necessarily the TV of the year, but the 7th and final season of The Good Wife aired in 2016. If only Netflix UK would catch up by adding the last season, I could comment more knowingly on it, but the beloved series has always been graceful, intelligent, and high quality television. It’s a shame to see it go, but I am excited about its upcoming spinoff The Good Fight.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – A groundbreaking musical comedy series from the CW network, season 1 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was brilliant, fun, and always having more to comment on mental illness than the average stereotypes. First and foremost, the music is the highlight of every episode, with its catchy and spot-on song parodies still being replayed on my Spotify. Season 2 was off to an amazing start, but has started to dip a bit in quality but still with song highlights to look forward to every episode. I hope it can recapture what it had as it stumbles its way through the second half of season 2.

Lady Dynamite – Another groundbreaking series about mental illness, Lady Dynamite takes a different approach to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend when examining the issues involved. Autobiographical based on Maria Bamford’s personal life, the show is surreal, hilarious, insane and poignant. Perfection.

Stranger Things – Netflix are on a role this year, with Stranger Things being the pop culture highlight of this year’s TV. Paying homage to 80’s pop culture in itself, the show never strays into parody and has its own uniqueness and charm to it making sure it never relies too much on past productions. This is inarguably one of the year’s biggest hits, and rightfully so. Also… Winona Ryder!

The Crown – Geez Netflix, leave some room for other networks! The Crown is a big budget drama about the early years of the Queen’s reign, from her father’s passing onwards. Claire Foy is stunning as the Queen and John Lithgow brilliant as Winston Churchill. In fact, everyone in the cast is perfect. While a bit slow to start, once the world of The Crown takes you hold, it is fascinating, addictive, informative, insightful and bloody brilliant.

Westworld – Pegged to take over the HBO limelight once Game of Thrones comes to an end, Westworld is the new IT show. Becoming an instant hit with viewers but then faltering a bit through the season, this is positioned to be THE show to watch in the coming years. Stay tuned.

Saturday Night Live – Not always of the highest calibre, this year was an important one for Saturday Night Live as it was Election year. Always on the nose with their presidential parodies, Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton and Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump had perfected their impersonations to the points of hilarity and poignancy. While the election did not turn out as anyone on the show had hoped or expected, satirical political comedy should play quite an important role over the next 4 years. It will be interesting to see how SNL replaces Alec Baldwin as Trump since he was only in it for the election and never expected any longevity out of such a crass candidate.

This Is Us – I’ve only seen the pilot episode, but I see why it’s this year’s American Network darling – the perfect amount of schmaltz for times like these, plus some very good actors (Sterling K. Brown from The People vs. O.J. Simpson for one). It’s already been nominated for a Golden Globe and has become Must-See TV for Americans. Let’s see if it can stand the test of time – so far, so good.

The Walking Dead – In spite of a huge decline in viewership in its 7th season, there is no doubt that The Walking Dead was one of the most talked about shows of 2016 with its cheap cliffhangers and over-the-top new villain Negan. Even I gave up after a few episodes into its latest violent and disappointing season, but I’m not convinced that this show is (un)dead yet. Either way, it certainly made an impact in 2016.

The Night Manager – This kind of came out of nowhere, but this 007ish spy thriller is the perfect amount of campy fun, making Tom Hiddleston a genuine candidate to take on the next Bond role if Daniel Craig ever steps down. A huge group of friends were watching it weekly on BBC here in the UK which made it conversational fodder for quite a while.

Mr. Robot – Season two of the show was highly anticipated and greatly disappointed in its first long drawn out half with a twist that everyone saw coming to some degree. But in the second half, it regained form and reminded us why we started watching this hacking thriller in the first place. Rami Malek is the acting darling of the awards circuit and a huge pop culture icon with his black hoody and bug eyes.

Fleabag – This female-fronted BBC comedy stood out from the crowd, using word of mouth to gain its deserved popularity in the UK. Phoebe Waller-Bridge became an instant sensation with Fleabag, a vulgar, hilarious and rather sad show based on her Edinburgh show about her life. If she doesn’t break the US soon, there is no justice.

The Night Of – Another HBO drama of high calibre, this miniseries may not have garnered much public attention when it aired, but it’s faring well in awards season. It is a heartbreaking story, all too true about the American (in)justice system, led by excellent performances from the likes of Riz Ahmed and John Tuturro in particular. Read our full review.

Orphan Black – The penultimate season of Orphan Black was not as gripping as previous seasons, but it rightfully earned Tatiana Maslany her first long-deserved Emmy award. I am counting down the days until the final season.

Orange is the New Black – After a bit of a lull in the series, OITNB made a relentless return for its 4th season, with one of the most harrowing and poignant TV deaths of the year.

Broad City – Abbi and Ilana strike again with season 3 of one of the funniest shows on television. HRC herself guest starred in one classic episode!

Fargo – Season 1 of Fargo was a tough act to follow, but with excellent casting, amazing characters and the usual Fargo flare, it was on 2016’s must-watch list.

How to Get Away with Murder – I have yet to catch up with season 3, but Viola Davis was still kicking it hard in the final half of season 2!

Silicon Valley – The trials and tribulations of the Pied Piper crew is some of the funniest stuff on television. Why it was overlooked at the Golden Globes, I have no idea. And why they still haven’t killed off T.J. Miller’s character, I also have no idea – that dude is SO annoying!

Better Call Saul – Season 2 dragged a bit, but when focusing on characters other than Saul (ie Mike), the show thrived. It’s not on the same level as Breaking Bad, but it is certainly worthy television.

Transparent – I find Transparent a bit slow and a bit samey, but there’s no doubt that it’s an important high quality show with an excellent lead performance by Jeffrey Tambor.

Scream Queens – Season 1 of Scream Queens was a hoot with Niecy Nash as Denise Hemphill as the best thing on television! I haven’t yet caught up with season 2, but I doubt this show can find longevity with it’s over-the-top premise.

Catastrophe – One of the few British comedies that has translated well to an American audience, Catastrophe continues the story of a true romance.

Love – Judd Apatow’s Netflix charmer was… err.. charming. Without as much substance as other relationship dramedies, Love still has heart and is a seriously enjoyable watch.

The Last Man On Earth – This comedy is seriously overlooked. From comedy overlords Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie) and starring Will Forte, this show makes me laugh so hard with its despicable characters and absurd premise. It’s fantastic and should get some traction!

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Making a sensation in its first season, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt brought to us by Tina Fey took a big dive in quality and laughs in its second season. When the third airs on Netflix, it will be make or break for the once groundbreaking, hilarious series.


Did we miss anything? Please comment below.

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