By: Bill Cushing – Jan. 2017
It’s that time of year again. That time when all TV people start thinking about the best shows that they watched over the past year. As usual, it was a hard list to compile. It was tough to leave some shows off the list, but here are my picks for the best TV had to offer in 2016.
10. Veep (HBO) – The only comedy to make my list was HBO’s hilarious Veep. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the rest of the cast are the best comedy cast on TV. The shows 5th season was perhaps its best.
9. Stranger Things (Netflix) – Netflix’s original series was full of creepy, nostalgic fun. The cast of kids were terrific, led by Millie Bobby Brown as the mysterious “Eleven.”
8. American Crime (ABC) – Season 2 of ABC’s anthology series, American Crime, followed the fallout of a relationship between two boys that evolved into a case of sexual assault. The show dealt with sexual identity, class, race, and gun violence. Amazing performances filled this season, particularly from Connor Jessup as the victim.
7. Bates Motel (A&E) – This terrific series about Psycho’s Norman Bates and his early years continued to deliver great acting and compelling drama. Season 4 showcased the performances of Vera Farmiga as Norman’s mother Norma. But Freddy Highmore stole the show. His portrayal of Norman and his gradual descent into madness was one of the year’s finest.
6. Billions (Showtime) – Showtime’s riveting new series Billions has Paul Giamatti as Chuck Rhoades, a U.S. attorney who is obsessed with bringing down a hedge-fund billionaire named Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis). The scenes between Giamatti and Lewis are pure gold.
5. This Is Us (NBC) – This freshman drama series tugged at everyone’s heartstrings right from the very first episode. Standout performances from Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia, Sterling K. Brown, and Chrissy Metz as well as a few unique twists made this show appointment viewing.
4. Better Call Saul (AMC) – The ‘Breaking Bad’ spinoff really took off in its fantastic second season. It solidified itself as a show that can stand on its own. Season 2 had great storylines, and the season finale left us with the hint of even better ones to come. Not to mention, just a tease of the fascinating flash-forwards to Saul’s life after Walter White.
3. The People VS. OJ Simpson (FX) – When everyone knows the beginning, middle, and end of a story, yet it can still be riveting and filled with suspense, it must be doing something right. This 10 part series about the OJ Simpson murder trial was a powerful examination of fame, race, the legal system, and all the points where those things collide. The acting was as good as it gets, with Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, and Courtney B. Vance leading the way. Cuba Gooding, Jr. was a bit miscast as Simpson, but that didn’t hurt the show one bit.
2. The Americans (FX) – Once again, FX’s engrossing spy drama ranks very high on my list. It continues to be one of the very best dramas on television. Every year critics wonder how long the show can keep being so good, and every year it continues to amaze, delivering perhaps its best season yet this year.
And my pick for the best TV series of 2016 is….
1. Rectify (Sundance) – This series has been called “haunting,” and that is a perfect word to describe it. Aden Young’s portrayal of Daniel Holden as a man, who is freed from death row and returns to his hometown where his guilt or innocence is still in question, is one of the best and most unsung performances of this or any other year. This show is jam packed with amazing acting from its top-notch cast. Abigail Spencer and Clayne Crawford are outstanding. The series final season, which just concluded in December, had some of the most emotionally draining and well-acted scenes I’ve seen in ages. TV doesn’t get much better than this.
Shows that just missed my list: Happy Valley, Game of Thrones, The Night Manager, Life in Pieces, Ray Donovan, Homeland.
Do you have any questions about TV? Email me at BillsTVTalk@gmail.com. I will answer all of your questions and will feature some of the questions I receive in a future column. For daily TV news, follow Bill on Twitter @TVNewsandNotes and on Facebook at TVNewsandNotes. www.tvnewsandnotes.com