Take a look at our top 10 television shows for 2016 including the best series of the year…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Some say this is the golden age for television where storytellers are reaching an even wider audience thanks to more accessibility for shows on streaming services such as Netflix, downloadable services such as iTunes and word of mouth thanks to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
While the wide spread appeal of television has never been bigger, there have also never been more choices than what we saw during 2016.
In 2015 there were 409 original scripted shows and that number increased in 2016, which means there were even more choices when viewers decided to sit down in front of the television to devote their time to a series.
There were a number of new shows that absolutely helped to define genres while a few old favorites maintained their stranglehold on the medium for yet another year.
So here is our look at the top 10 television shows for 2016 along with a few honorable mentions.
10. The Flash
Director Kevin Smith revealed after working on ‘The Flash’ for an episode during season two that this series was built on three tenants — heart, humor and spectacle. There’s no doubt that season two of ‘The Flash’ had a little bit of all of those and the show continued to break down boundaries from what is supposed to be just another comic book series on The CW.
With Barry Allen now embraced as The Flash by Central City, he begins running into a new breed of meta-humans who are being sent to wreak havoc from another Earth. Before long, Barry runs into a villain named Zoom, who is not only faster than him, but far deadlier as well. Each encounter with Zoom pushes Barry further and further to the edge while he’s also trying to maintain a stable home life that includes the continued pursuit of the love of his life — Iris West.
Of course ‘The Flash’ is good old fashioned popcorn chewing television but the dialogue is sharp, the acting is on point and the stories are timeless. ‘The Flash’ is the classic tale of good versus evil except this is comic book television at its very best.
Best Episodes: ‘Welcome to Earth-2’ and ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’
9. Mr. Robot
‘Mr. Robot’ had a lot to live up to in it’s second year after the freshman season was hailed as one of the best shows of 2015 — including our award as the top show of the year.
While there were certainly hiccups during ‘Mr. Robot’ season two, the show was still a master class in storytelling, acting and directing throughout all 13 episodes.
Picking up after the hack that brought down Evil Corp in season one, ‘Mr. Robot’ season two shows Elliott trying to stave off any interactions with his alter ego and doing his best to distance himself from F Society — the hacker group he founded to bring down the corporate giant in the first place. With Elliott absent, his sister picks up the pieces and carries on the mission in his place, but soon finds out that going up against Evil Corp and the FBI can be a daunting task for just about anybody.
Rami Malek continued to shine as Elliott Alderson, Christian Slater was at his best as Mr. Robot and the breakout stars for season two had to be Stephanie Corneliussen playing cold blooded yet hot tempered Joanna Wellick as well as Grace Gummer playing damaged FBI agent Dom DiPierro
Best Episodes: ‘eps2.4_m4ster-s1ave.aes’ and ‘eps2.9_pyth0n-pt2.p7z’
The first season of ‘Daredevil’ set the stage for Marvel’s new television series on Netflix, but season two managed to up the ante even more with the introduction of Jon Bernthall as Frank Castle aka The Punisher.
After taking down ‘The Kingpin’ Wilson Fisk in season one, Matt Murdock and his partner Foggy Nelson are starting to get their lawfirm off the ground when a vigilante shows up in Hell’s Kitchen using military grade weapons to wipe out every criminal syndicate in town. That puts Daredevil on the front lines as he continues to fight crime in his own way while a rival is putting people down while acting as judge, jury and executioner.
Matt also has to contend with his ex-girlfriend Elektra, who shows up out of nowhere and shakes up his life just like she did when they first met back in college. Add in a particularly chilling guest appearance from Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk and ‘Daredevil’ season two proved that the first season was no fluke.
Best Episodes: ‘Penny and Dime’ and ‘Seven Minutes in Heaven’
Donald Glover stars in one of the most original new series of the year as he attempts to become a music manager to his cousin, who is an aspiring rapper living in Atlanta, while also trying to give a better life to his daughter at the same time.
‘Atlanta’ tackled so many socially important issues during the first season while still managing to be one of the funniest shows on television. It is absolutely impossible to make it through the second episode of the season when a waitress continues to upsell Glover’s character while he’s taking his girlfriend out to dinner on a budget without falling on the floor laughing, you might want to get your sense of humor checked.
‘Atlanta’ personified the best of Glover because he was given the chance to shine as a writer and actor but his co-stars stole plenty of scenes throughout the first season.
Best Episodes: ‘Streets on Lock’ and ‘Nobody Beats the Biebs’
6. American Horror Story: Roanoke
Somehow Ryan Murphy continues to re-invent the horror genre every season with his series ‘American Horror Story’ and the latest installment was no different.
‘American Horror Story: Roanoke’ was a series within a series as the show started out by retelling the horrific incident with a couple who moved from Los Angeles to North Carolina looking for a fresh start but instead found nothing but terror after buying an old farm house that sat on haunted ground. The ‘true story’ being retold through the first five episodes was gripping and terrifying television at its very best, but after what seemed to be the conclusion was only the beginning of this season of the show.
Then the show turned on a dime, twisting into a reality series where the people involved in the original incident along with the actors who portrayed them would return to the haunted house for a sequel of sorts. When bodies start turning up dead, everybody involved starts to realize that this isn’t reality television — it’s just a horrific reality.
The show included a ton of old favorites returning from past seasons of ‘American Horror Story’ as well as a few new faces as well. ‘Roanoke’ also felt like a fast watch with only 10 episodes during the season rather than the typical 13 for past years of ‘American Horror Story’. This was also by far one of the scariest installments of the show, which after all is kind of the point of this entire series.
Best Episodes: ‘Chapter 2’ and ‘Chapter 6’
5. The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story
Who knew that a crime case that riveted the nation more than 20 years ago would ultimately become one of the best TV series of 2016 but that’s exactly what happened when Ryan Murphy decided to tackle the infamous O.J. Simpson murder trial with his series ‘The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story’.
Based on the book ‘The Run of His Life’ by Jeffrey Toobin, ‘The People vs. OJ Simpson’ followed the case from the moments after Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman were brutally murdered all the way to the aftermath of ‘the trial of the century’ where former football star OJ Simpson was exonerated for the crimes.
While viewers were glued to their TV sets back in 1995 to watch the trial, ‘The People vs. OJ Simpson’ gave a deeper look at what happened behind the scenes. From the power struggle that took place between Robert Shapiro and Johnnie Cochrane to the venomous treatment of attorney Marcia Clark in the press to Simpson’s own volatile behavior, the series captured everything from start to finish and gave this trial a whole new look when it was over.
‘The People vs. OJ Simpson’ also examined with great detail the racial discourse that ultimately dominated the trial while the actual crime seemingly took a backseat in many parts of the trial.
The performances in this show were nothing short of jaw dropping including Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran and Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden. This show had a little bit of everything — and everything was good.
Best Episodes: ‘Marcia, Marcia Marcia’ and ‘Manna From Heaven’
4. Stranger Things
Set in the 1980’s, ‘Stranger Things’ was a show that didn’t get much attention when it first landed on Netflix but it didn’t take long for a social media storm to turn this series into one of the can’t miss experiences of the year.
‘Stranger Things’ follows a group of adolescent outcasts, who are on a mission to find their friend after he mysteriously disappears after riding home one night following a rousing game of “Dungeons and Dragons”. Add in a government facility dabbling in human experimentation as well as inter-dimensional travel, a distraught mother hell bent on finding her boy, a disillusioned sheriff who suddenly finds purpose again as well as a very special little girl with powers who loves Eggo waffles while simultaneously changing the meaning of the number 11 forever.
Add in a frightening monster made from the stuff of nightmares, an 80’s soundtrack that was ripped right out of a John Hughes movie and ‘Stranger Things’ was nostalgia and great storytelling all wrapped up in one.
Best Episodes: ‘The Vanishing of Will Byers’ and ‘The Flea and the Acrobat’
3. Better Call Saul
The ‘Breaking Bad’ prequel focused on Walter White’s less than scrupulous attorney Saul Goodman — better known as Jimmy McGill in this series — continued to be a tour de force during 2016.
The second season saw Jimmy try to walk the straight and narrow as an attorney working behind the scenes on the Sandpiper Crossing case that he helped discover back in season one where elderly residents were quietly being fleeced by the people charged with taking care of them. But old habits die hard and Jimmy was quickly cutting corners and walking outside the law to make sure his case got made. This also came at the cost of Jimmy being at constant odds with his brother Chuck, who ended up betraying his sibling in one of the most heartbreaking cliffhangers on television in 2016.
Add to that, Jonathan Banks absolutely shined once again playing enforcer Mike Ehrmantraut, who went up against notorious ‘Breaking Bad’ villain Hector ‘Tio’ Salamanca in another crossover between the original series and the prequel.
Even if you never watched a single episode of ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Better Call Saul’ is worth your time because this series will crack you up with laughter as easily as it will shatter your heart or leave you pounding the remote in hopes that another episode will air immediately after the last one.
Best Episodes: ‘Cobbler’ and ‘Nailed’
The much maligned series from creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy had been hyped up as HBO’s next big series to take over when “Game of Thrones’ came to an end, but sadly production delays had many viewers skeptical that this might be another high budgeted flop just waiting to happen.
Thankfully, ‘Westworld’ ended up as the best new show of 2016 and by far one of the top television series of the year as a whole.
‘Westworld’ takes place inside a theme park where everything goes because the human vacationers are only limited by their own deepest and darkest fantasies while being paired up with robots who are there to serve their every whim. But what happens when the quickly evolving robots start to remember — and actually feel — the disturbing and demented things the guests do to them on a daily basis?
All hell breaks loose.
With a cast that includes Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright and two stand out performances from Evan Rachel Wood as well as Thandie Newton, ‘Westworld’ stood toe to toe with every television series in 2016 when it came to great acting.
‘Westworld’ also became the most theorized series on television in 2016 with viewers spending hours upon hours picking apart footage to try and figure out the twists and turns laid out by the creators throughout the 10-episode first season before they could happen. Reddit threads were must read material for viewers after every episode because ‘Westworld’ left you guessing and wanting more at the end of each hour.
Best Episodes: ‘Trompe L’Oeil’ and ‘The Bicameral Mind’
1. Game of Thrones
There are times when a series is so good that it’s almost taken for granted because you just come to expect excellence during every, single season.
That’s where “Game of Thrones” ranks in the pantheon of great television because the series is so rich, so well acted, so well written and meticulously produced that it almost seems like a forgone conclusion that it will be placed amongst the best shows of the year no matter what.
But in 2016, ‘Game of Thrones’ truly dominated the spectrum when it came to quality storytelling while also producing a true thrill ride from start to finish in every episode during the season.
Whether it was Daenerys defiantly standing amongst the flames for a second time while amassing the army that may bring her the Iron Throne or Jon Snow’s muddy and bloody battle to take back his childhood home from the usurpers who butchered his family. Perhaps it was Cersei’s homicidal revenge to take out every enemy in one fell swoop or the tragic loss of her son when he (sort of) got caught in the crossfire.
Whatever it was, ‘Game of Thrones’ season 7 was the best of the best when it came to television in 2016.
Best Episodes: ‘The Battle of the Bastards’ and ‘The Winds of Winter’
Orange is the New Black
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
House of Cards