As TVLine launches its annual review of the year in television, we will not be saving the best for last. Rather, we’re kicking things off with no less than a countdown of the 10 best TV programs to cross our screens, large or laptop, during 2016 — no easy feat, given the hundreds of options available across broadcast, network, streaming and whatever Louis CK decides to finance with his own checkbook.
How high did this fall’s freshman hit, This Is Us, rank? Where be Stranger Things among the 10 finalists? Was Westworld able to best sister series Game of Thrones? And did last year’s No. 1-ranked drama, Penny Dreadful, make the cut this time around, with what would be its farewell run?
Our staff reflected on the last 12 months, and then went through the painful process of whittling it down to the most innovative, most moving and most gasp-inducing of the bunch. Check out the following 10 best TV shows then tell us where you think we got it right, which shows we snubbed, and what drama you’d put at No. 1.
The 6 Best TV Shows of 2016
6. HORACE AND PETE
What if Cheers was more talky, and at times quite dark? At first blush, Louis CK’s self-distributed 10-episode “tragedy” (as he categorizes it) looks like another multi-cam sitcom set at a bar. But as a series of very real issues (e.g. mental illness, cancer) start driving the story of the titular cousins/watering hole co-owners, played by CK and Steve Buscemi, and you begin to sense you’re watching the equivalent of a stage play. With a cast that also included the estimable Alan Alda, Jessica Lange, Edie Falco and Laurie Metcalf (who earned an Emmy nod), this stealthy series dared you to keep watching, but ultimately rewarded you if you did.
5. THE NIGHT OF
Over the course of eight episodes, HBO’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it limited series turned into one of the year’s most compelling commentaries on prejudice within the court system — not to mention one heckuva murder mystery. One part The Wire, one part Serial and one part Making a Murderer, the series gave us a front-row seat to the devastating transformation of Naz, a young Pakistani man who is tried for a murder he may or may not have committed. Despite its much-needed moments of levity (Stone’s eczema problem! And his cat!), The Night Of never lost sight of its protagonist’s high stakes. As a result, we couldn’t look away — even when we really, really wanted to.
If a measure of a great drama is that it makes you think about it when it’s not on, HBO’s Westworld deserves every accolade thrown its way. Straight outta the (park) gate, the sci-fi drama built a world so complex and engrossing — with such attention to both visual and dialogue details — that you couldn’t help but keep turning it over in your mind after each week’s credits rolled. And those top-notch performances by Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton and Anthony Hopkins? We have our memories repeatedly wiped by a dark overlord die. Just like the robotic “hosts” that inhabit its central theme park, Westworld is a highly addictive puzzle that begs to be studied, taken apart, theorized about and ultimately (dare we hope?) solved.
3. THIS IS US
We blame the Pearsons. If the family at the center of This Is Us wasn’t so believable, relatable and downright likable, NBC’s hit drama wouldn’t have the stranglehold it does on our emotional equilibrium. And yet we happily reach for the tissues each week! That’s thanks to a solid combination of talented actors on the rise and scripts that feel like they’re inspired by moments pulled straight out of our family photo albums. Watching Kate, Randall and Kevin — both as questioning children and struggling grown-ups — is a bittersweet affair that makes us laugh and sob, sometimes at the same time.
2. BATES MOTEL
In Season 4, the A&E drama delivered 10 near perfect episodes that delved deeper into Norman’s troubled mind while giving Norma a small taste of the happiness that had eluded her for much of her life. When their mostly separate storylines collided in inevitable tragedy, we were heartbroken; our investment in and sympathy for these two characters had us (foolishly) hoping that perhaps a different fate awaited them. And much of the credit belongs to Vera Farmiga and Freddy Highmore. As the titular mother and son, their knockout performances transcended the series’ Psycho source material. Simply put, it was crazy how good they were.
1. GAME OF THRONES
Season 6 of HBO’s fantasy series taught us that even death doesn’t mean your quest for the Iron Throne is over. (Oh hi, Jon Snow!) And that quest got even bloodier, from the epic war-is-hell spectacle of “Battle of the Bastards” to Cersei’s icy vengeance in “The Winds of Winter.” Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss continue to shift the key players of Westeros around like chess pieces, but it’s the women who made the boldest moves this year, from the swashbuckling Arya to a newly assertive Sansa to the Mother of Dragons herself, Daenerys Targaryen, burning her enemies alive and setting sail for the ultimate battle to come.
Tips on Watching Best TV Shows 2016
If you purchased some of the TV programs mentioned above or other TV dramas from iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Windows Media Center, Zune Marketplace, BBC iPlayer, Xbox Live Store, uTorrent, FrostWire and more , you must understand that they are DRM protected M4V, WMV, ASF, etc. In this case, you won’t be able to enjoy them freely on any device you like. The only way that can let you fully manage these purchased TV shows is to unlock the DRM encryption. After that, you can do whatever you like to them and truly own the purchased items forever.
DRM Media Converter (Windows Version Only)
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