BEST TV SHOWS OF 2016
2016 has proved to be a fantastic year for TV, there have been many returning shows that continue to prove why they are still some of the best on TV and then there are the new shows, the ones no-one sees coming, that slip under the radar and surprise everyone when they release. Netflix and binging TV shows is becoming increasingly popular and this is resulting in plenty of top quality entertainment being developed for various streaming services, Netflix of course being the dominant force. So after a very successful year of TV i was toying with how to approach giving my thoughts on some of my personal favourite shows, whether it was episode by episode, or one review at the end of the season i wasn’t sure which one to go with. Some of you may have noticed i did a review of Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ (S1) on here in the format of a single non-spoiler review. Some shows are easy to review without going into spoilers, some are hard to really talk about and analyse without doing so. So in the end i thought, why not just do one end of year post with a brief rundown of all the shows i watched from Least to Most Favourite, and that’s what this is. Now there will be minor spoilers for the most recent seasons of some of the shows in this list and possibly major spoiler for older seasons, so if you go down the page and get to a show you would rather not know anything about, don’t leave, just scroll down to the next numbered entry, and enjoy.
#13 – WAYWARD PINES (Season 2)
Season 1 of the Wayward Pines mini-series was by far one of my favourite shows of 2015, it was high in tension, action, and mystery as you tried to figure out not only where this town is but as you later find out…. ‘when’ this town is. The mystery elements of that first Season as well as the greatly written and engaging characters you follow were what drew me into the show so much for it to be in my top 3 of that year. But as you know if you watched Season 1 the mystery behind the town is revealed to you by the end and the entire show closes out very nicely and is wrapped up in a nice confined story. It did leave itself open for the possibility of a Season 2 but it also closed off the story from that first season in the event that it didn’t get a follow-up. But of course it was given the go-ahead for a Season 2 and i was unsure of what to expect. I knew it had to be different from Season 1 as the mystery element was gone and i didn’t know how i would respond to it. Unfortunately, the resulting season was jut fine.
Comparing it to the first season would be unfair due to it being a very different type of show, but it is also necessary. Where Season 1 was more of a mystery with very weird elements and tones similar to that of ‘Twin Peaks’ this season took a more action oriented approach dealing with the impending war with the Abbeys. There were returning characters, plenty of characters were killed off, you learned more about the time leading up to the opening of the town, and there was a lot more action. Unfortunately all of the stories explored in this season weren’t as engaging as those explored in Season 1. There are still interesting things in this season though, learning more about the Abbeys, why they are there, and their ways of life was fascinating and it does hint at going in an interesting direction towards an inevitable Season 3. But although this is still far from a bad show it is my least favourite show to come out of this year, hopefully it improves in Season 3.
#12 – THE FLASH (Seasons 2/3)
Of the shows in DC’s TV Universe (Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash) this is the only one i can enjoy watching. It has a good balance of serious superhero content and more fun comical content that is balanced very well through the group of very loveable characters at S.T.A.R. labs. Whether it is Barry Allen, Cisco Ramon, Caitlin Snow, or even the nefarious Harrison Wells everyone has their favourite character they can follow throughout the episodes as they all have very interesting arcs. The characters really are what makes this show enjoyable to watch, their chemistry is great in every episode and you buy the fact you are watching a team at work. The show has plenty of very exciting episodes that go deep into the lore of The Flash dealing with the multiverse, different Earths, the future, the past and this leads to some very cool episodes, especially in this most recent season. Unfortunately though where the show has plenty of highs, it also has plenty of lows, there tends to be a pattern with this show where you get a really cool, awesome high octane action episode or two, then the show goes into a bit of a lull for a few episodes with the occasional big moment to close out an episode.
This seems to happen quite a bit and a lot of it happens to be linked to which villains they focus on. When you have sequences focusing on villains such as Zoom, Alchemy, or even Harrison Wells, you have rich engaging content, but then when you have the moments focusing on the ‘villain of the week’ a lot of the times you are relying on the main characters to keep you interested, which isn’t always enough. One of the things that is beginning to irritate me recently is the apparent stupidity of Barry Allen who within each season seems to mature to a point where he understands the dangers of messing with the Speed Force, but then he goes and changes the past selfishly and ends up fucking things up for everyone else, resulting in more major fuckups when he tries to fix his mistakes. I am still looking forward to where Season 3 will go in 2017 and hoping it continues to improve so that i don’t end up watching this show just because i started it, as i’ll just give up at that point.
#11 – FULLER HOUSE (Seasons 1/2)
2016 and Netflix came with the introduction of ‘Fuller House’, the follow up series to ‘Full House’ which aired way back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. My introduction to Full House was with re-runs of certain episodes quite a few years back, it made me laugh a lot and i loved it almost as if i grew up with the show. So when Fuller House was announced, it’s safe to say i was very much looking forward to it, and what i got was more or less exactly what i expected from this show. You have your returning characters in both lead and cameo rolls, and you have a similar style of humour that is a little more on the silly and campy side than the original show. No-one (including me) is saying that this is a fantastic show, but this is probably as big as guilty pleasures ever get. This show is very amusing with the very rich personalities and campy humour making this a very fun show to just sit down and watch. It makes fun of itself, it makes fun of the original show, and it breaks the fourth wall often enough to keep me interested. And seeing as though it is apparently Netflix’s most watched series and is renewed for a Season 3, they must be doing something right.
I like the way the show handles the grown up versions of DJ, Stephanie, Kimmy, and even Steve, and how they play against the new cast members, most of whom are kids. Max, Ramona, and Fernando are some of the more entertaining new characters who all add a very unique personality to the mix. The humour in this show is rich and the way it handles callbacks to the original show is done very well. As you venture further and further from the pilot episode the show begins to come into its own and is able to stand on its own just focusing on the new characters. But who doesn’t love seeing Uncle Joey, Uncle Jesse, Rebecca, and Danny Tanner show up in the occasional episode here and there. They aren’t overused at all and when they do show up it is like a little event that you can just sit back and enjoy. The only character i would say i don’t like in the show would be Jackson, he does get on my nerves a little and it’s more the character than the performance, he has some good moments but overall i wouldn’t mind if we focused on other characters. But anyway, bring on 2017 and Season 3.
#10 – THE WALKING DEAD (Seasons 6/7)
Ahhhhhhhh, The Walking Dead, what a long and interesting history we have had…. There have been plenty of amazing highs, and a lot of long running lows. I started watching this show from day one back in the day without any knowledge of there even being a comic. It is a show (especially this year) infamous for it’s individual episodes (mainly Season Premieres and Finales) that seem to blow everyones socks off and make for some of the best episodes of that given year. But it is also infamous of having many filler episodes, character centric episodes, and flashback episodes (all of which are sometimes necessary) playing back, to back, to back extending each Season to a heavy 16 episodes (Please just make them shorter). It’s a shame to see this recent Season(s) at #10 considering how explosive some of the more recent episodes have been but i have to look at the season as a whole and unfortunately it gets worn down by long lulls between engaging episodes. And by engaging i don’t just mean action packed, there are some interesting episodes that go into character backstories and are some of the more interesting episodes in the season. The problem is lots of time is spent on unfortunately boring episodes that you have to sit through waiting for an inevitable payoff at the end of the season, or as we saw this year the payoff at the START of the season.
For instance, this season started off with a bang, or two bangs shall i say, the premier was huge and hinted at big things to come with Negan this season who i will say is the best villain the show has seen so far due to how evil and sadistic yet charismatic he is. That big opener was followed by episode after episode of underwhelming, rather boring content. The Negan centric moments this season have proved to be pretty much the only really entertaining ones as they offer something different than what we have gotten in the previous seasons. I will continue to stick with this show just to get to those massive episodes it has once in a while because they are some of the best episodes of TV.
#9 – STAR WARS REBELS (Seasons 2/3)
What is one of my ‘Best of’ lists without a Star Wars property somewhere in the mix eh? Star Wars Rebels is a show featured on Disney XD, so it is primarily aimed at providing content for kids, but when this thing gets serious oh boy is it fucking good. As this is a show geared more towards kids there are episodes here and there and at times clusters of episodes that stray from the main ‘Star Wars’ stories being told and instead focus on Space Whales, Azmorigan, etc. Some of these episodes are entirely uninteresting but some do offer some humour in the form of character interactions that allow you to get through them. And being only 30 minutes in length it isn’t a whole lot to have to sit through if it isn’t that great. The annoying thing is the wait between getting the really Star Wars heavy episodes that go dark and deal with elements that connect to the wider Star Wars universe. This season got real, introducing Grand Admiral Thrawn (previously in the ‘Legends’ material) and continuing on exploring the adventures of Darth Maul in the universe, because if you haven’t been living under a rock you would know that Maul did not die in ‘The Phantom menace’.
Thrawn is an awesome villain due to his very different approach to dealing with the Rebel soldiers. Where most other Admirals in the Empire would shoot first ask questions later he is a much more strategic figure, calculating when the best time to strike is and thinking ahead of the Rebels, often being 2 or 3 steps ahead of them. His grand scheme is yet to fall into place as of the middle of Season 3 but hopefully the show goes full on Thrawn in the second half of the season and we get more confrontations between him and our team of rebels. The other amazing villain (one of the best in all of Star Wars) who plays a prominent role in this season is Darth Maul whose interactions with Kanan and Ezra make for some intense episodes. Where his story is going in the second half of the season has me seriously pumped and i cannot wait to be surprised with whatever we get. Even Sabine looks to be heading for a big second half of the season so i cannot wait to see how everything plays out.
#8 – THE OA (Season 1)
WILL STAY SPOILER FREE FOR THIS ONE AS IT IS SO RECENT. The OA is another brand new Netflix Original Series that only premiered not even 2 weeks ago. I literally heard about this show like the day before it was due to drop on Netflix, so seeing a trailer drop for a mysterious Sci-Fi Drama right before its release definitely caught my attention, especially after Stranger Things. My experience with this show was a rather odd one, in that it wasn’t as smooth as i had hoped it would be. After watching the first 2 episodes i wasn’t really feeling this show. There were elements i liked, specifically those exploring the lives of the modern day characters and also being eager to know more about the past of Prairie. There were a lot of unanswered questions i had very early on and i feel like it was a little too weird for its own good, in the sense of the way it tells the story not in the story being told. But something amazing happened following episode 3, more and more elements started coming together, i was learning more and more about the characters in the story, their motivations, what makes them unique, and i was getting sucked into the story through my engagement in wanting to learn about the characters.
I really enjoyed episodes 4 and 5, and then when the show began ramping up to the finale i found myself absolutely loving the last 3 episodes of the show because they connected everything we had learnt prior and everything it had hinted at in previous episodes. Those looking for a Sci-Fi Action will not get that here, it is a much smarter Sci-Fi show that deals with characters and focuses on character relationships more and that is why i ultimately really enjoyed this show. It is one of those pieces of media that get better the more you think about it, as the more you think about it you realise how clever the show is, all of the hidden meanings behind certain weird scenes, and what it is really about. If Sci-Fi is your thing i would recommend checking out this show and sticking with it, as the payoff is grand.
#7 – LUKE CAGE (Season 1)
Back again with another Netflix Original Series, this one comes from Marvel and is the third entry in their Netflix superhero shows following Daredevil and Jessica Jones. What makes these Marvel Netflix shows so great is that each one feels very connected but also very unique and independent. This is probably the most unique of those shows as it takes place in a much different environment, this one being Harlem, and the setting brings so much personality to this show through the music, the violence, and the personalities you come across as you follow Luke Cage through Season 1. This is my least favourite of the Marvel shows but it is still very bloody great. The action for instance is absolutely brutal, rather than the more choreographed fights in Daredevil, Luke Cage is a bigger machine, like a bulldozer, and he smashes through everything with absolute ease, but what is great that this show also does very well is show that this ‘bulletproof’ man is not invincible. It really explore Cage’s character more, you get what he stands for, what his priorities are and ultimately what he cares and fights for, that being Harlem and the communities of good people within given bad reps due to the crime in the area.
And that leads into the villains, the villains in these Marvel Netflix shows seem to be the only ones they can actually do right. From Kingpin, to Kilgrave, and now Cottonmouth and Diamondback these villains are evil, charismatic and so great to watch. The way the show explores Cottonmouth as not only a villain but a person is very good to establish a personal human connection to them adding to their character and understanding their motivations. So with great hero characters, great villain characters, and great action where does this show struggle? Ultimately it comes down to the pacing, some sections in the middle of the show run a little slow, it is brief, but the slight lull is noticeable when looking at the overall season. The cutting out of 1 episode worth of content could have tightened the whole show up a bit and improved it in many places. But in saying all that this is a great show and is still building hype towards ‘The Defenders’ in 2017 which is going to be massive…. and better than ‘The Avengers’.
#6 – 11.22.63 (Season 1)
This miniseries was one of the bigger surprises of 2016, it dropped very early in the year in February and is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. This 8 episode event follows Jake Epping (James Franco) who goes back in time to prevent the assassination of JFK but is met with many obstacles along the way as time starts to push back making his journey through the early 1960’s a dangerous one. It is a story that sucks you in right from the get-go and you are instantly on this mission to solve a crime before it happens filled with mystery, suspense, and romantic elements that all lead to a big emotional finale in the end. It’s stuff like this show that i love so much, it is a self contained, 8 episode story with a beginning and end, and you don’t need to worry about being sucked into 5 seasons of never-ending drama. It is intense and dramatic and i really don’t want to spoil a whole lot about what happens.
There are emotional elements that play out in the story, one involves a character who you meet in the future and then in the past in what is a side plot that has a very cool message behind it and pays off constantly throughout the series. Josh Duhamel also plays a part in this storyline and he is fantastic in a very serious and evil role. There is a love story in the show and although it was a good one when it was a secondary plot it became a little more involved in the main plot around 3/4 of the way through the show but as with everything else in this show, the payoff at the end was great and makes this a fun show you can watch twice, due to its quality and length.
#5 – DAREDEVIL (Season 2)
Daredevil Season 2 was probably the strongest of the Marvel Netflix shows building upon everything that was fantastic about Season 1. This one built upon the action of Season 1 and also introduced Elektra played greatly by Elodie Yung and The Punisher who was perfectly cast by Jon Bernthal who completely owns it as the vigilante turning Hell’s Kitchen into a complete ‘Warzone’. You thought the hallway sequence in Season 1 was incredible, you haven’t seen anything yet as Season 2 takes the hallway scene and does it 10x better, this time with a chain, and taking it to a staircase as Matt Murdoch takes on a never ending run of enemies usually seen in TESIV: Oblivion. This season was just insane, start to finish it was a fun and thrilling ride full of action and great character development between Murdoch and Foggy. Elektra even gets a good chunk of her story packed into this show and it works really well here as her past is so closely linked to that of Matt Murdoch. Could a standalone show about Elektra work? Sure, but with the upcoming slate of shows currently in development i’m pretty sure i’d rather see one about one of my favourite Marvel characters.
The Punisher is probably the number one reason to check out this season. He steals the show time and time again from Daredevil and is such an interesting character with a rich backstory and ambitions that i’m sure will lead into his standalone show. He goes up against Daredevil in intense showdowns and also has his fair share of brutal, bloody fights that will make you love/hate him at various points throughout the show. You would know whether this show would be your thing if you liked Season 1, this only improves on that first season in every way fitting so much content into its 13 episode length.
#4 – GAME OF THRONES (Season 6)
You knew it was coming, this was the biggest season in the history of Game of Thrones and really bought it in terms of moving the various stories along and delivering on the big brutal wars it has been promising all along. Coming off Season 5 i was so glad this season delivered on so many levels as to be honest, i didn’t really enjoy Season 5, definitely my least favourite season where the majority of it was just meh. But that isn’t the case with this season which was huge is scale and a 10 week long event i didn’t want to end. You had Hodor, plenty of Jon Snow, Daenerys, The Battle of the Bastards, and Cersei just casually killing off half of the primary cast. The Battle of the Bastards was one of the best hours of television i’ve ever seen and was exhilarating, exciting, claustrophobic, and features a long overdue finale i’m sure everyone was waiting for. The season was full of emotional moments, plenty of surprises, and one thing that Season 5 greatly lacked…. progression. This season set up big things to come from the final 2 seasons of the series and Game of Thrones is getting bigger, and better leading to what will hopefully be a finale fitting for the journey we have all been on over the past few years.
#3 – Ash vs Evil Dead (Season 2)
If there was one show i would say i was looking forward to the most week after week after week it would most definitely be Ash vs Evil Dead. I love the original Evil Dead series of films for the great use of horror and the hilarious use of silly comedy that still rings true in this follow up series featuring Ash, his new group of sidekicks, and some occasional familiar faces. Episode upon episode this season surprised me with just how good it could get, just when i thought i had seen the most hilariously disgusting thing i could imagine this show producing, i come back next week to see a head up an asshole. It is truly the most disturbing and the most amazing thing i’ve ever seen on TV.
It is probably the best reboot or followup series of a film when it comes to matching the tone, humour, and horror of the original material. This is due to many of the original personalities involved in the original films having their inputs on what goes into this new show. The main one being Bruce Campbell who obviously plays Ash in the show. After all these years he still has the character nailed down and at this point has embodied the character to where i don’t ever see Bruce, only Ash. And his supporting crew in Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) are perfect companions to counter the craziness of Ash and are potentially paving the way for a post Ash world where we see maybe Dana take the lead fighting off the Deadites. But for now, if you haven’t seen Ash vs Evil Dead, stop what you’re doing, go watch the original 3 films, and then come back and watch this show because you have most definitely not seen anything like it.
#2 – WESTWORLD – (Season 1)
THIS REVIEW WILL ALSO STAY COMPLETELY SPOILER FREE. Westworld is HBO’s attempt to turn a 1973 Yul Brynner Sci-Fi Western about a theme park full of androids that run amok into a Sci-Fi Western Mystery with so many twists and turns that every time you think you have nailed what is going on the show flips the tables on your head and blows you away. And you think this happens only once? Hahahaha this show will blow your mind multiple times to the point where your brain will be fried trying to put all of the subtle hints together. The show boasts a phenomenal cast including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright, and Evan Rachel Wood who all absolutely kill it in this amazing mind bending show. This show is like an onion, it is layer upon layer of mystery with hints and tricks at every corner so you have no idea what to expect at every moment. It is one of those shows that after finishing all 10 episodes you will want to go back and rewatch every single one to pick up every little hint you missed, and then you will go back to watch it all again just because of how damn good it is.
If you are a Sci-Fi fan, Westworld is 100% a must watch as it is one of the best new shows of 2016. The only downside to this whole thing is that we must wait until almost 2018 to receive the second season due to the huge production this show undertakes.
#1 – STRANGER THINGS (Season 1)
Here we are, finally at number one where we find the best show of 2016 and what instantly became one of my favourite shows of all time. This Netflix Sci-Fi Horror featured incredible characters, with loveable, emotional, and comical chemistry with phenomenal performances behind every character. The mystery behind where Will Byers is and what is The Upside Down and just the overall eerie and creepy tones throughout the show made for intense episode after intense episode and it didn’t end until the final credits rolled. The constant callbacks and references to classic 80’s cinema and pop culture gave this show a whole new meaning as also being a love letter to 80’s film. Everything about this film worked amazingly, i’ve gone through the whole season 3 times as of the end of 2016 and i’m assuming it isn’t going to be the last time i revisit this absolute masterpiece. If you want a longer look into what i thought of this show and the score i ultimately gave it check out my FULL REVIEW.