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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of four posts from the site’s television writers detailing their top shows of 2016. In order to qualify for the list, a show had to air original episodes in the United States during the 2016 calendar year.
It’s that time of year again: Time to reflect on the best shows of the year. Each year this gets more and more challenging as more and more television shows hit the small screen (and streaming services). I definitely didn’t watch EVERY show out there, but these are the ten that really stood out to me this year (in no particular order).
There are a few duplicates from last year on this list, but you can’t fault them for continuing to be the best shows on television. One of these shows is You’re the Worst. I don’t know how they are doing it, but it just gets better and better each year. The standout episode this season was definitely the Edgar-focused episode, “Twenty-Two.” This one blew me away and I was thinking about it long after it aired. This show managed to be laugh-out-loud funny while covering serious topics like PTSD, depression, grief, abortion, and more.
Another returning favorite this year was Jane the Virgin. This shows continues to be a breath of fresh air. It covers serious topics, while not taking itself too seriously. Just about every episode includes laughable moments as well as tear-jerking scenes. I’m always worried about a show when a major character gets married or has a baby, but Jane the Virgin handles it with grace and proves that there is life and drama even after a love-triangle is broken.
New to my list this year is NBC’s The Good Place. I went into this show with low expectations, because the premise was so odd, but it’s been one of the shows I look forward to most each week. Kristen Bell lights up the screen with her portrayal as out-of-place Eleanor. Everyone in the cast shines, including Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), Jianyu (Manny Jacinto), Michael (Ted Danson), and of course, the scene-stealing Janet (D’Arcy Carden). Each episode ends with a jaw-dropping revelation that rivals This is Us.
Orange is the New Black had another outstanding season this year. I don’t think I’ve cried more watching a show. Every episode was filled with more drama and emotion than previous seasons and it has proven that this show has so much story to tell. I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.
This is another new show to my list, one that not many people are watching. It only has aired five episodes so far, but they are great. The whole premise of the show was made for me. It’s about two female vigilantes taking on rapists on a college campus. It has badass female characters, realistic portrayal of PTSD from rape, and well-written diverse characters who are witty and relateable. I’m so excited to see where this show goes.
The People vs O.J Simpson: American Crime Story really surprised me this year. I didn’t think I would like it, but each week it aired I was excited to see what would happen next. I’m too young to remember the case so it was interesting to see it unfold in this series. The acting was the most impressive part. Each week I was blown away by the performances, particularly Sarah Paulson (Marcia Clark) and Sterling K. Brown (Christopher Darden).
This was the year I watched every episode of The Americans just in time to watch the new season and I’m so glad I did. This show is just the historical fiction drama I was looking for in my life. Every episode had me on the edge of my seat. It also made me more interested in this time period in history than I ever thought possible. If you need a thrilling family spy drama in your life, this is the one to watch.
Terrace House is definitely my wildcard pick. It probably won’t be on anyone else’s top ten list, but it should be. This show had a few seasons that were only available in Japan, but this year it was acquired by Netflix, opening it up to an even wider audience. The simplest way to describe it is Real World in Tokyo, but it’s so much better and more complex than that. If you love reality shows, but are sick of drunk yelling and fist fights, this is for you. Another great aspect of this show is that it is paired with commentary between scenes. It’s like watching it with a group of friends. If reality TV is your jam, Terrace House is must see.