“Stranger Things” is on almost all of the “best TV shows of 2016” lists.
And rightly so.
The same holds true for “Westworld” “Atlanta” and “Game of Thrones.” “The Americans” “Veep” “Silicon Valley” all had solid seasons as well, while “The Walking Dead” was hit or miss (see what I did there).
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Other critics can’t stop talking up “O.J.: Made In America” “Marvel’s Luke Cage” and “Search Party.” “The Night Of” also has a vocal fan base, so no need to add my voice (but I would).
“The Expanse” was the best drama on TV this year for Sci-Fi fans while I think “Fear the Walking Dead” is now superior to its older sibling.
Sadly, the show I most anticipated, “Preacher” turned out to much about nothing except for one epic fight scene. (Fans of the show — I hate to say it but I’m blaming “Tulip” on bringing down this show, just not good casting there.)
Some shows clearly lost a step over the past 12 months. “Mr. Robot” “Orange is the New Black” “Last Man On Earth” “Archer” and “The Affair” all cooled off from previously scorching seasons. There were also flat out duds like HBO’s “Vinyl” and “Feed the Beast.”
There are a ton of shows I’ve missed, and I’m not alone. You would need to spend 24/7 around the TV to watch all the compelling content out there. So I’ll trust other critics that, “Halt and Catch Fire” turned into something watchable, and that “Lady Dynamite” and BoJack Horseman” are that good.
Here are the great TV shows of 2016, that you may know nothing about or simply missed for some reason. Now’s the time to fix that mistake.
- Masters of Sex — This is Season 4 for the Showtime drama about real life sex pioneers Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson, and it is by far the best. Yes, you probably have to watch the previous seasons to grasp how great this particular season is. Still, Libby Masters (Caitlin FitzGerald) talking down a twenty something from a LSD bad trip and then heading to Woodstock in the episode titled, “Night and Day” is so earth shattering in terms of character growth it really is why television was invented. That’s not hyperbole. The show is so nuanced this season that the actors have set up permanent base camps inside these characters on their way to climb Everest. Emmys are bull**** if this show doesn’t garner nods.
- The Good Place — Ted Danson is the king of comedy to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ queen. They can do no wrong. Danson’s work in “Cheers” “Bored to Death” and now “The Good Place” is brilliant. Star Kristen Bell is great, but so is the rest of the cast. (IMDB them and watch the hell out of this show!) You think it’s going to be silly, or sappy, or even get too philosophical. Like any great philosophy teacher, “The Good Place” never preaches. It invites exploration and, in this case, also makes you laugh along the way.
- Black Mirror — How can a great show get better? Follow “Black Mirror’s” lead would be my advice. You start with mind-boggling storytelling. I actually brought the first episode of this season into my classroom and 90 percent of the class got hooked on the show. Watch it and you’ll see what I mean. I honestly think about this show more frequently than any other show I watch. Even “Westworld,” and that’s saying something.
- Billions — Showtime’s new drama about a billionaire hedge fund manager and a NY State’s Attorneys General is not devoted entirely to taking Wall Street to the woodshed. It’s focused on how two powerful people, with very different kinds of power, tussle for supremacy. It has the same kind of edge that, “Better Call Saul” does but for some reason neither show has found the audience it deserves.
- Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency — This show also deserves more recognition from critics and audiences. I love Douglas Adams, and this “Agency” has given me hope that not only could “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” be done right in my lifetime but that all the great things from the ’80s that deserved better spinoffs/sequels (“Dune” “Alien” “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”) can be done right.
- People of Earth — This silly show about a group of people “abducted by aliens” who meet in a “12 Step” like program shouldn’t be this funny. Yes, Wyatt Cenac is a very funny dude, yet when the show shifted focus away from him being a reporter, he lost all his funny lines. It’s Ken Hall as “Jeff the Grey” that has me cracking up. If only more of the whole show were set on the spaceship it would be like “The Office” in the best way possible.