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12.19.2016by: Paul Shirey

Top 10 Best TV Shows of 2016

With so many shows to choose from growing exponentially each year it's become harder and harder to choose which ones you'll watch and which ones you'll skip. Some real first-world problems there, eh? While TV's golden age continues we've had to be more selective in what we watch, as it's near impossible to catch every hot new show that your friends and family rave about. There's simply too many good shows and not enough time. With that in mind, we've culled our Top 10 favorite shows of the year based on reception, hype, quality, consistency, and overall bang-for-your-buck entertainment. Let us know your favorites in the comments!

Vice Principals (HBO)

Danny McBride may be an acquired taste, but you cannot deny that Eastbound & Down was one of the funniest shows ever made. Well, McBride and Jody Hill somehow found a way to outdo themselves. Vice Principals is a ridiculous concept about two idiots vying to get the job of high school principal. It shouldn't work but McBride and co-star Walton Goggins make it work with their impeccable comedic timing and razor sharp writing. Split into two nine-episode seasons, Vice Principals benefits from having already determined the story it is planning to tell so season one feels fully conceived and doesn't have a single wasn't bit of dialogue. Very few shows have had me laughing as hard as Vice Principals did this year. - Alex Maidy

Better Call Saul, Season 2 (AMC)

The Breaking Bad spin-off continues to pull away from that iconic series and prove itself to be a top notch show all it's own. Bob Odenkirk is absolutely hilarious as Jimmy McGill as he moves up the ranks of his new law firm while wrestling with his less than legal desires as an attorney. Michael McKean continues to impress in his dramatic turn as Jimmy's brother and fan favorite Jonathan Banks is once again perfect as former cop Mike Ehrmantraut. But, season two belongs to breakout Rhea Seehorn as Jimmy's friend and love interest, Kim Wexler. Season two didn't feature too many direct links to Breaking Bad, but it has entered some phrases into the pop culture lexicon that will live on forever. Squat cobbler, anyone? - Alex Maidy

American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson (FX)

The first of two mammoth re-explorations of the O.J Simpson Trial (with the verdict having its twentieth anniversary this year), “The People Vs O.J” was the one for the masses, with FX loading it up with big stars (hey look – it’s John Travolta as Robert Shapiro!) and cute pop culture nods (I thought there were too many Kardashian jokes). Even still, it wound-up being a thoroughly engaging piece of appointment television, and a good companion piece to Ezra Edelman’s O.J: MADE IN AMERICA, as it gave you sophisticated insight into the lives of the lawyers involved, specifically Sarah Paulson’s Marcia Clark, Sterling K. Brown’s Christopher Dearden, and most fascinating of all, Courtney B. Vance’s Johnnie Cochran. It’s the best think Ryan Murphy’s done in a while, and the writing by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski along with their writing staff is superb.- Chris Bumbray

Black Mirror, Season 3 (Netflix)

I was lucky enough to have an early look at “Black Mirror” while attending this year’s edition of TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) where two of the best installments of the new season, the first produced by Netflix, were shown. “San Junipero” and “Nosedive” were the ones chosen, and I’m not exaggerating when I say these episodes were better than a lot of the movies I saw there, at least during the second half of the festival. While those are still my favorite episodes of the season (although, frankly, none beats the mind-bending “White Christmas” from a couple of years ago), the rest of the run was superb, with episodes like “Shut Up and Dance” keeping me on the edge of my seat throughout. It’s interesting how much cultural relevance the show took on during the election season, with the official “Black Mirror” Twitter account even posting ominous messages as the results started to shift in Trump’s favor. Like another Netflix show, “Stranger Things”, it tapped right into the zeitgeist. - Chris Bumbray

The Night Of (HBO)

The term "event series" is over-used these days, but The Night Of fully deserves the term. This HBO drama was unlike anything else on television this year. Fans of The Wire should check out this eight-episode saga of one man wrongfully accused of a murder. Tackling everything from xenophobia and the faults of the American justice system to cures for psoriasis, The Night Of is a tale that doesn't end nicely or neatly but instead leaves you with a heavy heart and a lot of conversation topics. Stories like this are far too large for the big screen which is why it is worth applauding that networks like HBO will take the chance on a project that doesn't have franchise potential. This is a serious drama without action or explosions in the traditional sense, but you will be blown away by the performances from Riz Ahmed and John Turturro. - Alex Maidy

The Americans, Season 4 (FX)

Over four seasons, FX's espionage series has never quite attracted the audience it deserves, but the critical acclaim keeps coming in and deservedly so. The Americans is more than a period drama about Russian spies during the Cold War. It is also a family melodrama, a political thriller, and a brilliant analysis of what patriotism means. Stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are phenomenal as they navigate married life with their duties to their handlers which are intertwined with actual historical events, big and small, which pepper the fully realized recreation of the 1980s. Frank Langella is stellar in his supporting role as Gabriel, but it is the culmination of the storylines involving Martha and Nina this year that really elevated the show. - Alex Maidy

Game of Thrones, Season 6 (HBO)

In what is probably the most satisfying season of the show so far, Game of Thrones season 6 feels like the payoff we've been waiting for after five seasons of witnessing one miserable loss after another. While justice is rare in the world of George R.R. Martin's Westeros, the events that led to this season feel like the audience finally got a moment to fist pump and feel a slight tinge of victory, even if we still lost some fan favorites along the way. From Jon Snow's rebirth to Arya completing her training to Sansa embracing her heritage to Daenerys finally rallying her army and setting sail for the throne, season 6 sewed together the threads of their journey for what seems to have been building forever.

And it's not just the drama or character arcs that got us excited for this show all over again; the battles and showdowns felt even bigger and better than before. Daenerys return in the Battle Mereen was straight up dragon fantasy bliss, while Jon Snow's fateful throwdown with that son of a bitch Ramsay Bolton in the Battle of the Bastards is simply one of the best action sequences ever seen on television and absolutely therapeutic after suffering along with Snow, as well as the many victims of Bolton's. In many ways, it's almost a fan service season, but after so much depressing (yet, still satisfying) seasons, I'll take it. With war on the horizon in a big way and only two seasons left, I think we'll be looking back on season 6 with a lot of affinity for years to come.- Paul Shirey

O.J.: Made in America (ESPN)

So is this a movie, or is it a TV series? The filmmakers certainly want you to think it’s a movie, having issued the full eight-hour version in a short theatrical run last summer, but the majority of people saw this on ESPN, where it ran as a “30 for 30” miniseries event. Whatever the case, it’s an outstanding piece of work. Re-examining the O.J Simpson verdict was in vogue this year, and certainly, many, having already seen “The People Vs. O.J” needed to be talked into watching this one. All that said, “O.J: Made in America” was about a lot more than just O.J. Rather, it gave viewers a comprehensive look at the context behind the trial, making it the rare thing that, while not excusing the verdict, makes you able to understand the logic behind it. It offers a truly dazzling insight into the question of race in America, as well as celebrity. The final chapter, which charts O.J’s post-trial existence, is the most fascinating of all. This is essential viewing. - Chris Bumbray

Stranger Things (Netflix)

One of the most talked about shows of the year, Netflix's Stranger Things has become a cultural phenomenon, much like the films and TV shows of the era it's encapsulating. Set in the '80's and acting as a mixture of Amblin-era wonder with John Carpenter-level horror and sci-fi, Stranger Things is effectively nostalgic and revolutionary in its execution. Following a mysterious government agency that's playing with some pretty powerful experiments in reality, alternate dimensions, telekinesis, and, of course, monstrous encounters, the show introduces us to a group of likeable kids who, in the search for a missing friend, encounter a new one that challenges everything they know and believe. It's chock full of energy, suspense, WTF shocks, and heart with plenty of creature spooks and thrilling encounters to boot. It's not all scares and spectacle, though, as heavier themes of teenage life, from relationships to bullying to friendship are all explored and with genuine care. Oh, and it's got a killer synth soundtrack by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein.

The show has made an icon out of Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven and has revived the career of Winona Ryder, who plays a fierce and troubled mother. David Harbour also emerges as a strong and formidable character as the Sheriff investigating these "strange" events. Created by The Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things feels like both a trip down memory lane and a jaunt into the future of television, where more recently bygone eras are now ripe for exploration. Season 2 can't get here soon enough. - Paul Shirey

Westworld (HBO)

Man, who would have thought that a revived sci-fi concept film from the late, great Michael Crichton would turn into such a massively entertaining and thought-provoking serialized show? As one of Crichton's biggest fans, I didn't see it coming. However, creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan have reimagined Crichton's idea into something sprawling, intriguing, titillating, confusing, and rousing all at once. The concept of people visiting a Western-themed park in order to basically kill or have sex with highly enhanced robot humans in order to live out a fantasy or discover their true nature is driven by complex issues of morality, consciousness, and the age-old battle of humanity vs. technology. From the piano renditions of modern songs to the bloody showdowns to the jaw-dropping reveals, Westworld has become the new water-cooler-topic and inspired a massive wave of fan theories that keep us invested from episode-to-episode.

And let's not forget the outstanding performances by all involved, many of which are doing their very best work to date (or, at least in recent years). Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Ben Barnes, Clifton Collins Jr., Tessa Thompson, Rodrigo Santoro, James Marsden and Jimmi Simpson are in top form here, but the real knockout performances belong to both Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton, both of whom are doing the best work of their careers. Let's hope their stay in Westworld is a long one, as there's so much promise in this new and brutal world left to be explored. - Paul Shirey

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4:20AM on 12/20/2016
Sheesh! Rectify cant catch a break!
Sheesh! Rectify cant catch a break!
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6:13PM on 12/19/2016
Hell's Kitchen season 16
Hell's Kitchen season 16
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5:33PM on 12/19/2016
Ray Donovan for the win.
Ray Donovan for the win.
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-1
1:37PM on 12/19/2016
I agree with BETTER CALL SAUL, GAME OF THRONES and STRANGER THINGS. I didn't dislike AMERICAN CRIME STORY; I just didn't love it. I didn't see the others. I'm still on season 1 of THE AMERICANS. Catching up is in my to-do list for this Winter.
I agree with BETTER CALL SAUL, GAME OF THRONES and STRANGER THINGS. I didn't dislike AMERICAN CRIME STORY; I just didn't love it. I didn't see the others. I'm still on season 1 of THE AMERICANS. Catching up is in my to-do list for this Winter.
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10:28AM on 12/19/2016
American Crime Story, Stranger Things and Westworld are awesome.
American Crime Story, Stranger Things and Westworld are awesome.
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