And so it begins. The end of the year "best of" lists have arrived. The real 2016 was a pretty garbage year, but it was a spectacular year for TV.
“It's always tough to narrow an entire season of a vast medium down to a Top 10 list, but for 2016 it's damn near impossible. This is, hands down, the best year for scripted television since I became a critic of film and TV 25 years ago; it might be the the best year since I started watching TV as a kid in the 1970s. The sheer variety of subjects, modes, and styles was dazzling, and it wasn't just premium cable and streaming services that delivered wild innovation and pitch-perfect classicism; the networks stepped up, too.” Matt Zoller Seitz at Vulture somehow managed to whittle the list down to 10.
TV Line has their list of the 10 best dramas from 2016, and some picks for the best comedies.
“Growing up, Houston’s cultural tentpoles for me were Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming; little did I know how much that pairing would reflect the city’s true complexion. It’s a place where a Texas twang invariably seeps into a Vietnamese inflection to create a charming patois, where Congolese migrants work as urban farmers supplying resources to local restaurants, and will soon be providing Houston with a new wave of second-generation diversity. If we want to talk about Real America, let’s add “Houston” to the syllabus. Then we can talk.” If you want to get specific, Variety, Vulture and The Ringer have their picks for the best episodes. This episode of Parts Unknown made me feel so proud of America, and then the election happened just days later. A must watch.
Rolling Stone couldn’t pick just 10, so here’s their list of the 20 best shows. FX and Netflix get the most spots, which is true of most of these lists.
“We’re past the point of debating television’s artistic validity and its cultural dominance. Now we’re also past the point of discussing television as a single medium; it’s a word that’s defined more by inclusiveness than specificity. At various points in 2016, “TV” referred to: a 10-hour filmed stage play available for purchase à la carte on a comedian’s website; a six-part short stories collection adapted from a streaming show adapted from a mom-and-pop web series; an eight-hour documentary that is also, somehow, competing for an Oscar; and the sitcoms, procedurals, and everything else that have constituted TV up until now. What they ultimately have in common is … pretty much nothing, except that they’re all capable of excellence.” The Ringer has their top 10, and their list has a shortage of hour-long dramas. Besides The Americans, my list is short on those as well.
“Season 4 showcased the series’ most complicated structure to date and never felt like it was straining to support the many moving parts. It flowed smoothly, breathed deeply, and spoke confidently — yes, this season very much felt like a living thing. Perhaps that’s because it’s one of the few shows on television to stay honest to its characters, its story, and, yes, its audience. With two seasons left, we can’t imagine what’s coming — and we wouldn’t have it any other way.” IndieWire’s top 10, which has hour-long drama The Americans at #3, should be your template for what to catch up on before the winter crop of shows arrive in January.
While a surprising number of critics love the horrible earworm that is the theme to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, there are some other surprising picks on this list of the best theme songs from 2016. My pick goes to Stranger Things, which is the only soundtrack from this year that I own on vinyl.
Indie Wire has a tribute to the shows that ended their run, by choice or by cancellation, in 2016. I am still sad about Togetherness and The Grinder.
If you want to know what to avoid, don’t worry, TV Line has their picks for the worst shows of 2016. Sorry season two of UnREAL, but you know it’s true.
People Talking About TV
“Rather than choosing a palate-cleanser of a different genre, the data suggests most people tried to keep the spirit of their binge alive. Breaking Bad and Narcos lead right into Pulp Fiction, while Gilmore Girls and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt put people in the mood for Sixteen Candles and The Princess Bride. In all, 36 percent of Netflix members demonstrate this "movie-pairing behavior"” Interesting. Fortunately, there are so many similar movie options available after watching Stranger Things.
“And, so, enter the bathroom: a place where a character can talk directly to herself, and in that, also, directly to her audience. Enter the space that tangles intimacy and voyeurism—a fictional version of the “confessional room” defining the reality TV shows that have helped to make this moment what it is.” It's The Golden Age of the TV bathroom. I can’t believe I never noticed that the Brady Bunch’s bathroom didn’t have a toilet.
What To Watch
I’ve been trying to catch up on TV this week, and having the worst cold ever sure helps, if that’s the word. Thanks to some unschedule time on the couch, I am almost caught up on Westworld. I worked my way through The Good Place, which is probably too kooky and awesome to get a second season. I finally finished The Crown, which isn’t Downton Abbey, no matter how hard you want it to be. Next up is Atlanta and People of Earth, and I keep meaning to sample Search Party.
Streaming options for this week vary, options arriving today on Netflix include Fuller House season two (ugh), Captive, a documentary series about kidnappings, and Amazon’s Mozart In the Jungle. If you like soccer, Netflix also has Club de Cuervos, which kind of looks like Empire with sports. Medici: Master of Florence, which despite starring Dustin Hoffman isn’t getting any press, also arrives on Netflix.
If you miss Mythbusters, Netflix has the White Rabbit Project, which stars what I always thought of as the show’s B team, but who apparently were quite popular. The trailer is here.
John Cena, who unlike next week’s host (Casey Affleck) seems to have a sense of humor about himself, is this week’s SNL host. And oh look, here’s the promo.
Decider points out that on December 8th, 1998 Buffy aired "The Wish," which is one of my favorite episodes. Season three was such a solid run. Though season 4 was great too, despite that apparently being an unpopular opinion.
Well that’s it for me this week. It’s finally raining here, so if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go continue to hibernate and binge watch something. See everyone on Tuesday.
Thanks for reading!
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