2016 has come and gone. Even with a contentious election and all kinds of troubles, there was still some damn fine TV to enjoy at the end of the day. Here we celebrate a few of the shows that brought us joy this year (in alphabetical order).
"Atlanta" is unapologetically black. It tackles issues of racism in such a casual way that you might miss it if you blink, but that's the best part. It doesn't explain anything, it just lets it be. Plus, there's a whole bunch of random happenstances that make it great
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"Designated Survivor" (ABC)
One of the year's best new broadcast dramas, "Designated Survivor" was a perfectly timed escapist fantasy depicting the fictional destruction of the government during an exhausting presidential campaign. Kiefer Sutherland is perfectly cast as the morally upstanding president America wishes it could have, and he's surrounded by an equally capable cast of supporting stars.
Also Read:Here’s How ‘Designated Survivor’ Dominates Ratings
"Frequency" (The CW)
Nobody was clamoring for a series adaptation of a 2001 Dennis Quaid sci-fi film, which makes the compelling nature of the 2016 "Frequency" all the more astonishing. Peyton List and Riley Smith deserve a lion's share of the credit for performing a warm, lived-in if unusual central father-daughter relationship that powers this otherwise standard police procedural.
Also Read:‘Frequency’ Showrunner Breaks Down That Ending, Raimy’s ‘Remnant Memories’
"Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" (TBS)
The only non-fiction entry on our list, Samantha Bee became the latest "Daily Show" alum to carry her biting political commentary onto her own show. In the same vein as John Oliver, Bee fearlessly tackled political hypocrisy in truly hilarious fashion
Also Read:‘Full Frontal With Samantha Bee’ Scores Season 2 Order at TBS
We can't remember the last time a network had a show about two black women who were friends and simply navigating life and relationships. This show takes on everything in a hilarious way from the microagressions black women face in the work place to real issues in relationships that no one likes to talk about.
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"Luke Cage" (Netflix)
Marvel and Netflix found themselves with another hit on their hands with the story of this bulletproof superhero. Mike Colter was all charm as the titular hero, and he was backed up by a great supporting cast that included Simone Missick, Rosario Dawson, and Alfre Woodard
Also Read:What Can Actually Kill Luke Cage?
"The Night Of" (HBO)
Reminiscent of the classic HBO series "The Wire," this show featured intricate plots and dynamic casts, but what truly sets them apart from other shows is their unquestioning look at dysfunctional bureaucratic institutions. The title of the show almost becomes ironic as we watch poor Nasir "Naz" Khan be put through the ringer of the American judicial system.
Also Read:‘The Night Of’ Review: HBO’s Brilliant Drama Highlights Flawed Justice System
Outsiders (WGN America)
This cable drama about a mountain clan living in modern-day Kentucky proved to be a major surprise this year. The show is expertly written with incredible performances by leads that include Ryan Hurst, Kyle Gallner, Christina Jackson, Thomas Wright, and Gillian Alexy.
Also Read:‘Outsiders’ Stars Break Down Shocking Season 1 Finale
The People v O.J. Simpson (FX)
FX's drama had everything: Trial gossip, politics, 90s nostalgia, and stunt casting that made a meta-point about our fixation with celebrity. The script, acting and directing were basically flawless, but that doesn't explain the adrenalized rush or crushing lows of every episode -- it felt hyper-real, even more real than the unbelievable events that inspired it. We'll go there and call it the best limited series we've ever seen.
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Stranger Things (Netflix)
For a show as drenched in ‘80s nostalgia as “Stranger Things,” wearing influences from Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Dungeons & Dragons and synth heavy new wave and post-punk music on its sleeve, it’s remarkable how fresh it feels. “Stranger Things” is scary yes, but it’s old-fashioned sci-fi suspense and horror fit for a kid in the vein of a classic like “E.T.” Kudos to the entire young cast for balancing the show’s action with a campy and cute sense of humor.
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"This Is Us" (NBC)
After record numbers of viewers watched the trailer, they were not let down by Dan Fogelman's unapologetically sentimental family drama that's also an expert at throwing in curveball twists. Can we all join the Pearson family?
Also Read:Ratings: ‘This Is Us’ Breaks Own Viewer Record vs ‘NCIS’ Rerun
The supposed successor to HBO's flagship program "Game of Thrones" took a forty year-old sci-fi classic and updated it to make it feel more relevant than ever. While plot twists and theories may dominate the news stories and social media feeds, what drives this genre hybrid is its incredibly intelligent takes on artificial intelligence, gaming's effect on humanity, and the quest to discover what truly defines a person.
Also Read:‘Westworld': Now We Know What the Maze Is
Tired of quality programming? Be sure to look at our list of the 10 worst new TV shows of the year.