The Top 5 TV Shows of 2016

While 2016 has been a garbage year for many of us in myriad ways, one bright spot has been TV. Cable networks, both basic and premium, and streaming services have continued to raise the bar. And broadcast networks have delivered some of their freshest programming in years. In fact, it's been extraordinarily difficult limiting my list of the year's best to just five shows, but I powered through like a goddamn champ. Here are some thoughts on the television that blew me away in 2016:

 

High Maintenance, HBO

Unfamiliar with the original web series, this show came out of nowhere to earn my love, becoming probably my favorite cable comedy of the year. Created by the married duo of Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld, the six half-hour episodes follow a nameless pot dealer as he makes his deliveries. The premise is tight, allowing viewers to get to know "The Guy" while also opening up a diverse mix of storylines by segueing into the lives of his customers. It's quite clever; even the order of the episodes is thoughtful. Really, if by the time you get to the third installment you're not completely smitten, there is no hope for you.

 

Orphan Black, BBC America

A true binge-watch, I raced through the first three seasons so I would be prepared to edit Season 4 recaps. The mix of heartfelt drama, slapstick comedy, and sci-fi terror is incredibly difficult to pull off, but the show manages to nail it, in large part due to Tatiana Maslany's prodigious talent. While I'd been aware of complaints that she was being snubbed, I wasn't prepared for how demanding and magical her performance is. Maslany is TV's MVP right now, without question. Seriously. Do not come at me with your questions. While she deserves all the accolades she has (belatedly) received, the show is more than the clones. The supporting actors are excellent, especially Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy, and Kristian Bruun. The series is ending next year, so this is the perfect time to get onboard. (Speaking of, I would totally watch a Krystal spinoff.)

 

The Americans, FX

This is not just the best spy drama on TV (sorry, Homeland), but probably the best drama. The fact that the show, which started off so good, has gotten better during each of its four seasons is as surprising as two KGB spies living across the street from an FBI agent and becoming best buds. The writing is smart, the stories are intriguing, the threading of real events is fascinating. But since, at its heart, this is a show about an incredibly complicated marriage, most of its success can be attributed to Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. And thankfully, the rising cries of frustrated TV critics across the country finally reached the ears of Emmy and Golden Globes voters, who nominated both talented actors this year.

 

The Good Place, NBC

My favorite broadcast network comedy of the year, this is another creative win for Mike Schur. Kristen Bell is the perfect actress to play the likably "bad" girl. As Eleanor, a mistaken arrival who's trying to change her selfish ways, Bell must swing from aggressively terrible (especially in the flashbacks) to earnestly aspirational. Co-star Ted Danson reminds viewers why he's been a constant TV presence for 40 years. And a big shout-out to D'Arcy Carden, whose Janet quickly has become one of television's funniest scene stealers.

 

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The CW

After delivering a full season of innovative, thoughtful, funny television, some might have expected a bit of a sophomore slump, especially considering that the star also is a co-creator and co-writer of the show's unique songs. But the second season's quality has matched the first's. The razor-sharp series tackles an incredible variety of subjects both dark and light, from mental health and self-loathing to female friendship and party busses. Rachel Bloom has said repeatedly that a positive, satisfied, healthy Rebecca would spell the end of the series, so let's hope Rebecca continues making terrible choices.

 

You can find SideReel's Best and Worst of 2016 here. Which shows are on your best/worst lists? Let us know in the comments below!

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Dec 19, 2016 9:07AM EST

Jeez, Your "Worst list" has infinitely better shows than this one. In fact, every "best list" on that joke of a ranking was beyond laughable. I didn't see a single actual 5 star show, it ranged from average to overrated complete garbage like Game of Bores etc etc.

How ironic is it that the people who actually (somehow) get paid to write about tv shows for a living always end up having the absolute WORST taste by far? HA, too funny ; )

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zazerhContributor
Dec 19, 2016 2:54PM EST

The Americans is definitely already on my binge list, but perhaps I'll check out High Maintenance. I powered through Orphan Black recently and Krystal was an absolute delight!

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Dec 19, 2016 4:33PM EST

Krystal is a star! And HM is an easy binge-watch -- and so (surprisingly) good.

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Dec 20, 2016 2:07AM EST

Well you names 4 of my faves so I guess I'll have to go check out High Maintenance.

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