Best Television Shows of 2016
Each year, there are many television shows that are premiered, and others that are coming back for another season. There’s only so much TV a human can watch, so it’s best to watch the best television so you don’t waste your time. 2016 had many great television shows, but there were only so many shows of which I could bring it up in conversation to other people. If there response is equal or more to my excitement, I usually shut up. The television shows below are the shows that everyone was talking about this year. And for good reason: They’re great.
The moment I saw this gem appear on the new arrivals list on Netflix, I was pulled in by the poster. It looked as if everything from all the classic films in the ’80s was merged into one poster. I gave it a shot, and was pulled in from the opening scene that surrounded a group of kids playing Dungeons and Dragons. What was refreshing about this show was that I had almost no idea who anyone was. Besides Winona Ryder, it was a cast full of unknowns and people who recognize from that one movie or TV show. Stranger Things pulled inspiration from the classic films, but managed to create something new and engaging. With only 8 episodes, Stranger Things gave us a world of monsters, friendship, redemption and nostalgia.
HBO hasn’t really had a big hit since Game of Thrones. They have great shows, but they don’t have shows that you set your clock to watch live like GOT. That all changed when Westworld premiered this year. It’s a show so good that if you watch anything that night, you have to watch it last. Why? Because the quality of Westworld makes everything else look bad. I actually tested it: I watched The Walking Dead after Westworld one Sunday and found that The Walking Dead seemed like a bad student film in comparison. Then again, when I watched The Walking Dead before Westworld, The Walking Dead still sucked. That’s only because that show is terrible now.
Westworld was created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. It’s based on the 1973 film of the same name by Michael Crichton that inspired many of the best bad guys in film history: Predator, Terminator. Nolan has famously co-written most of the movies directed by his brother Christopher Nolan, but he really shines without him here. He created the acclaimed A.I. series Person of Interest, so he has the genre down.
Game of Thrones
After what felt like a lackluster season 5 of GOT, season 6 was one amazing episode after another. It gave long-time fans the answers they wanted. it was so good that watching reaction videos of people after each video was fun because you got to witness other people reacting just like you did. When the show has a heartbreaking death, you’ll claim that you’ll quit the show (you won’t). When the show offers you sweet revenge or amazing battle scenes that actually push the plot forward, you’ll yell that it’s the best show ever. Season 6 felt like it took everything fans loved about the show and shoehorned it in to make one of the best seasons yet.
Peter Morgan, the genius behind The Queen and Frost/Nixon, decided he’d like to create a series about the early life of Queen Elizabeth II. Since I’m a huge fan of his work (especially when he writes about monarchs and gov’t), I knew it would be a great show. I was right. Each episode looks like a glossy, beautiful film that costs a small fortune to produce. The writing is so exquisite you could swear that someone went back in time and video taped the behind-the-scenes of the royal family. It’s television shows like this that not only make you want to watch more and more, but inspires you to read up on history you may not be that informed on.
The cast include Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, Matt Smith as Prince Philip, and the unexpectedly good John Lithgow as Winston Churchill. I don’t mean that last part as an insult, I just never saw him as being cast as that historical figure. Many actors have taken on that roll, so I was pleasantly surprised when Lithgow killed in every scene he was in. He was so good that I wondered why he would gain all that weight for a part. Then I remembered he was wearing make-up and a fat suit. He carried himself like Churchill so well that it suspended belief. We have a lot of cold weekend coming up, so I suggest you give this show a viewing.
The first season of Mr. Robot really took what was going on in the world and put it in front of you. It was fiction, but it felt like every episode predicted a major occurrence within a few weeks of it happening. It came with twist and turns almost every episode. Internet forums would have theories that were spot-on or not even close. The second season came with a fresh narrative that increased the internet theories.
I wrote summaries and questions after each episode on here because the show had so much going on. Having to break the show down each week made me appreciate how much work was put in to make this season as good as the first. They pulled it off. The dynamic between existing characters and new characters add even more to a show that hits really close to what’s happening in the world. Although, I don’t think they could’ve predicted November.
This Is Us
Knowing that NBC usually cancels anything that I love, I waited a bit to watch this show. After about 4 episodes of seeing each episode trending online and seeing viewership raising, I felt it was time to finally give this show a shot. It was not at all what I thought it was going to be. It dealt with a family that dealt with a lot of growing pains after a tragedy. The first episode alone ended with a major twist. They did a great job of hiding the twist because the direction keeps the obvious signs at bay.
As the first half of the season goes by, I nearly got angry at the show because it kept making me tear up like a baby. That’s just a good sign of a good drama. One episode after another was more information given to you about this family. It’s also another one of those shows where you recognize a lot of people in it, but probably only know a few names. No matter, it’s nice to see Mandy Moore back at acting again. I always felt she was better as an actress than a singer.
The Night Manager
After feeling the major burnouts of James Bond and Jason Bourne, it felt like there needs to be a spy film or TV show that portrayed someone being undercover without walking into a place where everyone knew who he was. The moment you walk into a place and they know you by name… you’re a terrible spy. What makes The Night Manager great is he keeps Tom Hiddleston keeps his cover so well that many in the gov’t he works for don’t even know who he is or where he is when he’s on the job. When you have that advantage, how the hell are the people you’re trying to bring down going to know? Who can you torture when the people you torture can’t give up what they don’t know?
The Night Manager brings back that espionage that’s done with intelligence of silly one-liners. Great performances, writing and cinematography highlight this series. Props to Hugh Laurie on being an exceptionally likable maniac.
The People vs. O.J. Simpson
I was a little kid when this O.J. Simpson case was going on, but I was still pretty sure the evidence against him was solid. Even in grade school the kids talked about the case. That was a bit morbid, but the damn coverage and trial was on television all day. The People vs. O.J. Simpson showed us what was going on behind the cameras, behind the bars in jail, what was going on in the police station, and what was used to defend and prosecute Simpson.
To be honest, I thought this show would be terrible. Another thing on television about O.J.? Do we really need to go over all that again? Yes. Yes we do. It got people talking again about race, the justice system, inequality, and how Cuba Gooding Jr. doesn’t have to do movies that go straight to the clearance bin at Walmart anymore. The People vs. O.J. Simpson took everybody by storm this year…. just like it did over 20 years ago.
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Jeff Sorensen is an author, writer and occasional comedian living in Detroit, Michigan. You can look for more of his work on The Huffington Post,UPROXX,BGR and by just looking up his name.