My Top Ten TV Shows of 2016

By Graham Gillespie

  1. Westworld

The first season of the show created by Christopher Nolan and Lisa Joy based on a 1973 film of the same name is not without its flaws, however it makes its way into this list ahead of series such as Narcos and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It was always going to be tricky for a series about Artificial Intelligence in a futuristic theme park to hit the ground running but season one did improve with each episode and the finale was a sign that Westworld is going in the right direction. Besides, the cast led by Anthony Hopkins redeem many issues in this first instalment of HBO’s latest blockbuster.

  1. BoJack Horseman

The Netflix comedy has come into its own in season three and continues to pull off the unforgiving task of discussing issues such as depression whilst remaining hilariously funny. All the main characters including the downtrodden BoJack are ultimately likeable and the humour is chock-a-block full of animal puns which helps counteract the dark subject matter and keeps this comedy a comedy.

  1. Preacher

Based on a comic book, Preacher follows the story of former outlaw Jesse Custer who returns home to take over his late father’s church in Texas and become a preacher. However when his body becomes the residence of a supernatural force his task becomes more challenging. Preacher is an off the wall show full of witty writing and left turns. The AMC series is worth watching if only for the chemistry between the main three actors Dominic West (Jesse), Ruth Negga (Jesse’s ex-girlfriend/partner in crime Tulip) and Joseph Gilgun who shines as Jesse’s Irish alcoholic vampire best friend Cassidy.

  1. Planet Earth 2

Not much needs to be said about Planet Earth 2. There’s astonishing work from the crew to get the shots that capture the drama of the natural world all sound tracked by David Attenborough’s timeless voice. Attenborough continues to set the benchmark in nature documentary making.

  1. The Night Of

The Night Of was a passion project of the late James Gandolfini, in fact a pilot of the series starring the former Sopranos actor was shot before his death. Based on the BBC show Criminal Justice and written by Richard Price (The Wire) and Stephen Zaillian, the HBO miniseries is a stunning crime mystery. The show follows Naz Khan, played by Star Wars Rogue One star Riz Ahmed, a Pakistani-American accused of murder who is represented by lawyer John Stone (John Turtoro). Reminiscent in some ways of The Wire, The Night Of offers a detailed insight into the US legal system and life in prison as Ahmed perfectly portrays an individual caught in a nightmare scenario.

  1. Stranger Things

In what was a fruitful year of original programming for the streaming behemoth, simplicity was the key for one of Netflix’s standout moments. Featuring alternate dimensions, the nostalgia fuelled Stranger Things could have come across as being too confusing and complex, but the use of children as the main characters allowed the Duffer Brothers to adhere to the storytelling maxim of show don’t tell.

  1. OJ Simpson: Made In America

Not to be confused with the FX series The People Vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, OJ Simpson: Made in America is an ESPN documentary series. Consisting of 5 90 minute episodes and directed by Ezra Edelman, Made in America examines the phenomenon of OJ Simpson and its wider implications on factors such as Celebrity culture and race relations in America. Naturally most of the series focuses on his infamous 1994 court case. This exhaustively researched series emphasised how this trial stopped being about OJ and became driven along racial lines, essentially becoming a trial of the LAPD after incidents such as the police beating of Rodney King. Ironically “the Juice” himself generally tried to avoid the issue of race in his life before the trial “I’m not black, I’m OJ”.

  1. Game of Thrones

Season Six of the Fantasy epic matched the series’ usual high standard as we reach the beginning of the end of “the great game” as character Tyrion Lannister calls it. Game of Thrones was probably the only show in 2016 where watching each episode felt like a social occasion akin to watching a sporting event. The stunningly executed battle scene in “Battle of the Bastards” was not only a highlight in the season but arguably one of the best moments of the entire show.

  1. Black Mirror

If you need cheering up after the year of 2016 then watching Black Mirror would probably be the last thing I would recommend doing. Nonetheless, the return of Charlie Brooker’s bleak anthology series on Netflix which is examines the pitfalls of our relationship with technology produces six excellent episodes. The episode “Playtest” is classic Black Mirror where everything is taken one step further than expected. However, unlike in previous seasons of the show when it was on Channel 4, there is some light to be found amongst the darkness provided by the Lesbian love story “San Junipero”.

  1. Atlanta

Atlanta is an FX comedy-drama from the freakishly talented Donald Glover which chooses quality over quantity with only 10 25 minute episodes in its first season. It follows the fortunes of Earn, a college dropout who leaves his job to become the manager of his cousin Paper Boi, a rapper who has gained some traction in the Atlanta hip hop scene. Often episodes feel almost like their own short films, separate from the rest of the series (such as mid-season standout “B.A.N”). The show is strikingly realistic one moment before delving into surrealism the next with black Justin Biebers and invisible cars. It also often combines the two like when it uses a cartoon advert for cereal to make a point about police brutality. No other show I’ve seen in 2016 can match Atlanta for innovation, unpredictability and sheer entertainment.

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