The Top 15 Television Shows of 2016

28 Dec


HONORABLE MENTIONS: Search Party, Westworld, Atlanta, You’re the Worst, The Night Of, Narcos, Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot, Stranger Things, Better Call Saul

OTHERS CONSIDERED: Shameless, The Crown, New Girl, Masters of Sex, Transparent, UnREAL, Angie Tribeca, Silicon Valley, Penny Dreadful, OITNB, Orphan Black, Archer, Lady Dynamite, Banshee, The Night Manager, Girls, Childrens Hospital, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Togetherness, iZombie, Billions, Hap and Leonard, 11.22.63, Daredevil, IASIP, Love, The X-Files, The Affair, And Then There Were None, The Path, The Last Man on Earth

15. Fleabag – At only six episodes long, season one of this dark comedy still packed a big punch. Phoebe Waller-Bridge was terrific, turning what could’ve been an annoyance (fourth wall breaking) into an asset for the show.


14. The Good Place – From Michael Schur, the main mind behind Parks and RecreationThe Good Place took a unique concept and made it an endlessly enjoyable series about community, morality, and change. Kristen Bell and Ted Danson make the show worth watching on their own.

13. Veep – Without Armando Iannucci, the series was still as good as ever. Season five featured some huge changes, and the cast and writing staff handled them with aplomb. “Mother” and “Kissing Your Sister” were two of the best television episodes of the year. It was also nice to get an expanded role for Catherine.

12. Black Mirror – Seasons one and two of this show would easily be in my top five for any given year. However, though this season was a small step down, it was still a great season. It featured the show’s most optimistic and beautiful episode yet (“San Junipero”), as well as the terrifying “Nosedive” and brutally intense “Shut Up and Dance”.

11. Bloodline – The most underrated Netflix series. Though it’s a slow burn, this show understands how to build up tension over the course of a season. Even without Ben Mendelsohn in a large role, the rest of the cast was up to the task, and the last four episodes were some of the most intense of the year. A wonderful show about lying.

10. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – This CW musical was wildly creative this year, its songs infectiously catchy and indelible aspects of character development. Early in the year, we saw an absolutely stellar run with the second half of season one, and we’re currently in the midst of a great second season. A series that both features an accurate portrayal of depression and is so much damn fun should not be slept on.


9. American Crime – This year, American Crime took the hot-button topic of a school shooting and turned it into an engaging exploration of its characters and of the larger issues at hand. Episode seven featured a heart-wrenching final scene in a diner booth, and episode eight was unique and impactful. The storyline wasn’t exploitative; it was respectful, nuanced, and compelling.

8. The Girlfriend Experience – Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz have crafted a hypnotic show here. Anchored by Riley Keough’s pitch-perfect performance, season one featured a refreshing take on the call girl character and packed a ton into 20-minute episodes (more dramas should try this). It was a cold but mesmerizing season.

7. The Americans – Every season is better than the last. Season 4 revolved around two brilliant supporting characters (Martha and William), and the former’s storyline was the most heartbreaking of the year. The final two seasons should be amazing.

6. Bojack Horseman – Creative, hilarious, and devastating. The show is the perfect mix of comedy and melancholy, and the most recent season showed that. As is the tradition with this series, the final few episodes hit hard. Also, special shoutout to the whiteboard of nominees in “It’s You”, as well as the Sopranos gag.


5. Person of Interest – What seemed like your run-of-the-mill CBS procedural in season one really turned into something special, didn’t it? The final season closed off a five-year run that delivered thrills, amazing characters, and an insightful and nuanced examination of AI.

4. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story – When I saw Ryan Murphy’s name attached to this project, I was wary. However, his style fit the show extremely well, and the trial’s outlandish nature was captured perfectly. The series also did a great job of delving into the people who made up the trial and the ways in which the trial impacted them.

3. Horace and Pete – Arguably Louis CK’s greatest creation, this innovative–yet simple–project brought together a cast of legends and explored life in a tragic fashion. Released online and featuring up-to-date social commentary, this series changed the mold of online television watching. Also, it could make you cry.


2. Rectify – Speaking of shows that can make you cry… This was a gorgeous, transcendent, and lyrical four year-run. It did more with one conversation than other shows do in their entire runs, and it was an ode to the act of living and figuring out your place in the world. Easily one of the best shows I have ever seen.

1. O.J.: Made In America – I wanted to give Rectify the top spot, but this documentary was somehow even better. An unpacking of race, class, and celebrity that potently argued for how O.J.’s persona was constructed before, during, and after the Trial of the Century. A stunning achievement.

Haven’t Seen/Haven’t Seen Enough Of: Baskets, The Get Down, This Is Us, Insecure, Quarry, Better Things, Luke Cage, Jane the Virgin, Catastrophe, Casual, Speechless, Halt and Catch Fire, High Maintenance, Broad City, Peaky Blinders, One Mississippi, black-ish, Preacher, Gomorrah, People Of Earth, Happy Valley, The A Word, Queen Sugar, Easy, Documentary Now!, Steven Universe, Ash vs. Evil Dead, Supergirl, The Flash, Outlander, RuPaul, Agent Carter, Superstore, Arrow (did not watch this season), Vikings, Vice Principals, Roots, Underground, Bates Motel, The Carmichael Show

Special Mention: I only realized after I published this that Please Like Me aired its fourth season this year. I’ll get around to it eventually, but it likely would’ve received recognition on my tv lists had I seen it earlier. I really enjoyed seasons 1-3.

Photo credits: NBC, Sundance TV, FX, Netflix, CBS, HBO,

2 Responses to “The Top 15 Television Shows of 2016”

  1. Matthew Thompson December 28, 2016 at 9:25 pm #

    I hate to say it, but I only watched about half of these. I haven’t been watching quite as much TV this year which means I’m probably enjoying most all of what I watch for a change, but also missed out on some good ones I either didn’t try or didn’t have time for. I need to get back into Bloodline for instance. I really liked Season 1. I’m glad to see American Crime getting some love here. I think that is perhaps one of this year’s more underrated shows. I didn’t think much of the first season, but loved Season 2. Great list. Wish I had caught more of these shows!

    • polarbears16 January 3, 2017 at 4:31 pm #

      Half is a lot more than most! And yeah, American Crime was fantastic this year, but really went under the radar in terms of year end lists. Unfortunate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: