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Looking Back: The Best and Worst of Television 2016

We look at which shows rocked our worlds and which ones left us underwhelmed.

This has been an interesting year for television as Netflix continued to up its game, broadcast television tried to find its footing and HBO reminded everyone why it’s still the king. We take a look back at the year in television and give our opinions on what soared and what sunk.

Best New Shows of 2016

Where to begin, is it the phenomenal acting? The way the show questions the nature of humanity? The writing that is intricate and thought provoking, answering questions while at the same time laying out mystery, after mystery? All of the above? All I know is that this show is the worthy successor to Game of Thrones and Battlestar Galactica and the spiritual sibling to Mr Robot and it’s amazing.

Luke Cage
How can Luke Cage not be the best show this year. It’s literally the show that broke Netflix worldwide. Marvel and Netflix exceeded anyone’s expectations for the 70’s exploitation character and brought him into the modern world of contemporary Harlem. Mike Colter did a commendable job playing Cage but the breakout star was Simone Missick, who made Misty Knight the heart of the show and the reason a lot of fans will be back for season 2. While the main villain might have been a little lackluster, Mahershala Ali had better be back – somehow, someway – for season 2.  Luke Cage broke Netflix and expectations.

A show like this has been a long time coming. One that stars an actually disabled person in the role of a disabled character. One that examines disability, but doesn’t make the character an object of pity or ridicule. One that looks at the comedy in the lives of a family where one person has special needs. There are so many reasons to love this show. The chemistry between Micah Fowler & Cedric Yarbrough is amazing, and the rest of the cast never hesitates in bringing the laughs.

Designated Survivor
So, who saves Kiefer Sutherland when he isn’t saving the president as Jack Bauer? This show couldn’t have come along at a more interesting time in American history. On the show the U.S. government is brought to its knees as a bomb wipes nearly every government official out. Sutherland plays Tom Kirkman, the guy least likely to replace the President but due to a rule that keeps him off-site, allows him to step in. As he does, many others rise up against him and he is beset by conspiracies within and without. We watch to see how deftly Kirkman handles a world against him and if he can rise to the challenge. Too bad the show is better than real life.

Stranger Things
This Netflix original brought the best of the 80’s flooding back to me, from the clothes, to the toys, to the hairstyles. It delivered true terror while still giving off a “Goonies” vibe. At only 8 episodes, it flew by, leaving me thirsty for more.

The Exorcist
If there’s two things that can polarize people, it’s religion and remakes.  So who’d have thought that a revival of an old 70s horror movie with a hefty dose of Sunday Catechism would make so many people happy? Despite low ratings, The Exorcist was a surprise hit among critics and viewers, whether they’re Catholic, non-Catholic, or even atheist. Picking up from threads in the original films, the show concerns a woman played by Geena Davis whose daughter seems to be possessed. When she turns to her parish priest – a “Father-what-a-waste” who doesn’t believe in demons – and a rogue Vatican exorcist who’s haunted by his failures in demon warfare gets involved, the tension turns up to eleven. Davis, along with Alfonso Herrera, Ben Daniels, Robert Emett Lunney, and many other talented actors, provided the surprise show of the season. The show gives us, through equal parts horror and tragedy, the beauty of human relationships.

At the time this project was announced, plenty of people railed on Donald Glover for leaving a show as beloved as Community to do what he described as “Twin Peaks with rappers”. However, as this first season of Atlanta shows, Donald Glover like his avatar Earn, shouldn’t be underestimated. Running the gamut of subjects from transphobia, to BET parodies – and even just a day in the life of someone who’d normally be disregarded like Van – a show like this could easily slip into disorganized chaos. However, between Hiro Murai and Stephen Glover behind the director’s chair, along with the tremendous work by Brian Tyree Henry, Keith Stanfield and Zazie Beetz on camera with Glover, there’s a much grander future for television at hand.

Worst New Shows of 2016

Son of Zorn
When I first heard about this show, I really had high hopes for it. I watched the trailers, the promos, and read all about it in preparation for its debut back in September. After all, we hadn’t really seen a good live action + animation property come out since Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. However, my sincere want to like this show, and my hopes for seeing the brilliant comedy of Cheryl Hines & Tim Meadows, were dashed when I watched the show’s premiere and was left feeling…just disappointed. The delivery of all the comedy felt stifled, and it was almost as if the actors had no idea how to act, or react, to the character of Zorn himself. I just really didn’t like this one.

Best Returning Shows of 2016

The little show that could, the one no one paid attention to, has not only beaten the odds but thrived. In its twelfth year, the show has accomplished something almost no other live action drama has on this side of the pond: gotten better with age. With fantastic writing that always remembers the show’s history; a phenomenal supporting cast that has expanded to include the return of Samantha Smith as Mary Winchester, Ruth Connell as Rowena and the legendary Rick Springfield as Lucifer himself; along with the smart choice of bringing the show’s focus inward after the previous season’s universe saving finale, the show has gone to new and interesting places that have been keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. This is all built on the foundation of the core cast and their amazing chemistry together: Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki as the universe saving, ‘never give in, never give up’ Winchester brothers with Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard as their angel and demon, respectively, best friends. Going into the back end of the season, and that intense mid-season finale, things are about to be lit.

Mr Robot
After the epic first season many wondered if Mr Robot had what it took to sustain the momentum. We shouldn’t have worried. Sam Esmail, Rami Malek and Christian Slater not only brought their a-game but upped the ante with even more mind screws and some truly terrifying twists. The real surprises this season were Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday and Craig Robinson who’s Darlene, Angela and Ray respectively were the breakout characters of the show, giving us complexity and danger with each episode. The revolution was televised and it has only just begun.

Person of Interest
This probably isn’t going to be a popular opinion but, in the gamut of Jonathan Nolan/J.J. Abrams productions, Person of Interest is far superior to the more recent Westworld. While that’s a tall order given that the latter has a luminary like Anthony Hopkins at the fore, there’s something to be said for both reliability in productivity and the relationship built up over five years. While Person of Interest was languishing at CBS, it built up a grand mythology that started with simply preventative crime and evolved into two dueling A.S.I.’s for the fate of the world. For five seasons, without the benefit of an HBO budget or marketing engine to support it, P.O.I. was telling stories that were quite literally predicting the future (remember the Snowden hack?). Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Amy Acker, Sarah Shahi, and Kevin Chapman did truly underrated work. Hopefully Westworld doesn’t end up burying the show that preceded it.

Worst Returning Shows of 2016

American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare
I may catch a lot of flack for this one, but hear me out. This season of AHS really left me…underwhelmed. That’s saying quite a lot because of the stellar talent of actors like Cuba Gooding Jr. and Angela Bassett. I would normally jump at the chance to watch them perform their craft, but in the case of AHS, everything just felt…stilted. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the format the showrunners chose for this season. I feel like going with more of a “A Haunting” type re-enactment format was a misstep on the part of the writers, directors and producers. It really broke the suspension of disbelief for me, and took me away from the core story too much. AHS this season got a solid “Meh” from me.

This show has long outlived its usefulness. I don’t care if Star City is saved or burned to the ground. The writing is far too formulaic for my taste and the characters, both old and new, have delved into “I don’t give a flip” territory. Oh, how I long for the good old days of season 2…

Most Divisive Shows of 2016

On the one hand Gotham, more than any other show in the DCTVU, fully embraces its comic book origins. Each week you’re guaranteed a mini-movie, thanks to the gorgeous production values and cinematography, where the cast fully commits to whatever outrageous script they’re handed. On the other hand….there’s those outrageous scripts. The show delights some comic fans with its over the top antics, while others can’t get past the loopy timeline which cherry picks from every era of the Batman mythos. However, no matter which side of the line you fall on, Gotham is never boring.

The Walking Dead
Some have called it grief porn, others comic book faithful, however most can agree The Walking Dead has been uneven, at best, this season. The first episode aside, the show has been all over the place, saved only by the performances of its outstanding cast. Will the back end of the season bring viewers back or be the final nail in the coffin after plummeting ratings? Only time will tell.

The Flash
Oh, The Flash, what are we going to do with you? Boasting the best cast of the Arrowverse shows, hands down, this show has suffered from 3rd year fatigue. In fact the entire 3rd season up until this point could be subtitled Barry Allen Never Learns, because, well… Barry Allen never learns. However, it’s not all bad: Caitlin has finally gotten a storyline that doesn’t revolve around her dead fiance/dad; Cisco is subtly going dark after finding out about Barry’s time travel shenanigans and the moment we’ve all been waiting for since Wally and Jesse got hit by the particle accelerator happens: Wally becomes Kid Flash. Unfortunately the mid-season finale doesn’t give much hope that anyone on the show has ever read the classics: when you try and change a prophecy you always fulfill it.

Most Improved Shows of 2016

The Daily Show w/Trevor Noah
Last year this was one of our Best New shows, for good reason: Trevor Noah brought a unique and interesting sensibility to The Daily Show, a combination of John Oliver’s outsider perspective and Stephen Colbert’s eviscerating satire. It was a good first year, though not quite there yet, but then something happened on the way to season 2…Trevor Noah ‘grew up’. Yes, he always approached the show with an underlying seriousness, but the 2016 election brought out an unexpectedly solemn side to him. As our democracy became a three ring circus we were vividly reminded that this bright, handsome, playful young man grew up in South Africa during the age of apartheid. He was our canary in a coal mine, faithfully warning us of what was to come, while making us laugh to soften the blow. As our country becomes increasingly fractured Noah’s perspective becomes more and more necessary.

Game of Thrones
As some of you know, Game of Thrones and I were not friends last year. Yes, there were some moments of brilliance but overall the season lagged terribly: slow pacing combined with unnecessary violence by, and violation of, the shows characters made season five a slog. However, a funny thing happened on the way to season six: George R.R. Martin hadn’t completed the next book by the time filming commenced. Thus, with only the outline available of what was going to happen in the next few books, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff did something remarkable: made me invest in the show again. After years of drawing our faves (and not so faves) apart they began bringing all the threads together, deftly and beautifully, and in the process made the show event television once more. This was certainly helped by the fact that season six was the year of Sisters (and Jon Snow) Doing It For Themselves as we saw every single female character, in their own unique way, being bosses. It was gratifying and frankly, necessary, to the show’s fans and characters, with the added benefit of making this the most creative, intelligent and well directed season of Game of Thrones in years.

Honorable Mentions

Bob’s Burgers
Week end and week out the Belcher family proves that being adorable isn’t boring.

Speaking of H. Jon Benjamin, Archer continues to deliver some of the best action sequences, and driest wit, on television.

The Man In The High Castle
The ultimate worst case scenario, this show is unexpectedly timely, and brutally well done.

The sleeper hit of the year, Sense 8 explores what it means to truly be connected and the power of unconditional love and friendship.

What do you think Dear Readers? Agree, disagree or are there shows we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

About belleburr (495 Articles)
Actor, writer, singer

2 Comments on Looking Back: The Best and Worst of Television 2016

  1. Reblogged this on sargestamps.


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