Wednesday 28 December 2016

Top 10 TV Shows of 2016

I spent a lot of 2016 watching a variety of TV shows from a broad range of genres and in my need to always finish what I start, I never "quit" a TV show until I finished its entire season - regardless of how bad it is or how much I hate it. But with the bad comes some utterly brilliant ones, so I decided to list my top ten TV shows of 2016, based purely on their most recent season.

If you're not up to date with the season, read with caution as some spoilers may be revealed.

1. American Crime - season 2

This anthology series drew me in from the very first episode. Felicity Huffman is in top form as the principal of an elite high school whose job becomes very difficult when a student on a scholarship accuses the basketball team star players of rape.
Connor Jessup is a phenomenal find, so much of the season rests on his shoulders and in being able to show the conflicting emotions of his character, Taylor, in dealing with the the ramifications of his accusation.
The story is told through various perspectives and therefore you're never quite sure as to what the truth actually is. While dealing with the alleged rape, American Crime is a nuanced look at race, class and privilege and what happens when the status quo is threatened.

While we live in the era of binge watching, the themes that are explored here are quite heavy and emotive, so a weekly episode was perfect with this (and also gets you excited about what happens next - none of this instant gratification stuff!)
The beauty of anthology series' is that you don't need to watch season one first, and while the first season is brilliant, there is so much more to admire about season two, and reflect on as well.

2. Wentworth - season 4

This Prisoner re-imagining has consistently produced some strong performances, characters and absorbing storylines, which given the restrictions of the characters' lives, is something pretty damn amazing.
While The Freak storyline's involving her manoeuvring back into Wentworth and watching her plans slowly develop were a little far-fetched, when you have someone like Pamela Rabe giving her all to a character, you just accept it.
And the final episode was just one gasp after another and still find it hard to believe that the final scene occurred. It's a very brave move but if any show can survive that, it's Wentworth.

3. You're The Worst - season 3

While not as strong a season as season two with its exploration of Gretchen's depression, there were still plenty of moments that made this TV series shine.
The Edgar focused episode was a touching one that gave him his moment in the sun and took a deeper look at how his PTSD is impacting his life through his own eyes rather than through the groups.

Beyond the amazing performances from its four leads - Chris Geere, Desmin Borges, Kether Donohue and the utterly brilliant Aya Cash - the presence of Samira Wiley was a big fat tick of approval.
The writing on this show is so slick and is a perfect balance of comedy and tragedy and the kick in the teeth finale is a great example of how this show looks at the long game and how things progressively build right up until everything just explodes.
With the season ending with all the main character at major life points it will be interesting to see what direction this show takes in season four.

4. The Crown - season 1

I just finished watching this series on Christmas Day and while nothing much really happens, it is another instance where great writing and excellent casting can really draw in an audience.
Claire Foy as The Queen and John Lithgow as Winston Churchill could not be any better. Apparently after season two, the entire cast will be recast with "older" versions of their characters, which is understandable but whoever ends up playing The Queen will definitely have a big crown to fill. The support cast - particularly Vanessa Kirby - are also quite remarkable in their resemblance and depictions of these royals (as far as I remember).
The writing is well-paced to really draw you into every storyline without having you feeling bored or a feeling of repetitiveness and the entire series is gorgeously shot with great detail to every scene being played out.

5. Survivor - season 32/33

I have been watching this show since its first season except for the few years I was living overseas before internet was readily available everywhere (showing my age now).
While season 32 was great, it was season 33 that I really adored as despite still having its usual drama and backstabbing, there was no nastiness from any of the players and I would have been happy for any of them to win (except for Bret, because there still has to be a "villain" and Figgy and Taylor because they were incredibly annoying and have no idea why they were even cast).
Some brilliant moments of the season were Michaela's blindside, Jessica's snuffing after going to rocks, Hannah's kick ass final tribal performance and watching Zeke and David battle off against each other.

While there are some dubious contestants in the next season of "game changers", the inclusion of Zeke and Michaela is definitely something to look forward to.

6. Game of Thrones - season 6

Such an explosive season, and literally in the finale in which we said goodbye to most of the supporting cast, including Margaery, which was extremely disappointing as Natalie Dormer is pretty wonderful in everything she does. Hopefully Diana Rigg remains a presence as her scenes (and lines) are just gold.
This was also a strong season for my favourite character, Sanza. Was great to see her not suffering anymore, and starting to become more like her mum by taking control and making decisions for herself.
With Cersei having killed most of her enemies (and family), and Daenerys now on her way to Westeros, the end seems nigh for Cersei but can't wait to see how her ultimate demise actually plays out.
Also, the White Walkers.

7. This Is Us - season 1 (part 1)

What I absolutely love about This Is Us is its simplicity. There is no murder, backstabbing, government conspiracy, kidnappings, love triangles or anything like that. It is a bout a group of people just trying to make sense of the world.
The entire cast are highly talented - and it's always a pleasure to see Mandy Moore on the screen.
The way the flashbacks work are clever and add more to the stories that develop in the current time and the child actors in the flashbacks bring a lot of complexity, humanity and warmth to their characters, something that many TV series don't do too well with their child actors.
The second half of the season returns mid-January so plenty of time to still catch up!

8. The Americans - season 4

This is a series where I turned it off after the first episode because I was utterly bored.However, three years later, I returned and ended up binging my way through the four seasons and so glad I did.
The storylines are so gripping and meticulous in their detail and seeing how what happened in one episode of season two has huge ramifications in season four is exciting to see play out.
There's only so much luck Elizabeth and Philip can have though, and with only two seasons left, it will be interesting to see not only what happens to them but how Paige's storyline plays out, again, with a knockout performance by child actor Holly Taylor.

9. Younger - season 3

While the premise of this show is a little dumb - a 40 year old pretends to be a 26 year old to get a job at a publishing house - the performances by Sutton Foster and Hilary Duff are incredibly warm and engaging, the writing is sharp and it's simply a fun 22 minutes-a-week series to watch.
With only 12 episode seasons, the writers have known exactly when Liza's secret should be exposed and who should know it. The gradual reveals continue to build the tension around this and after this season's finale, the stakes are most likely going to be even higher in both Liza's professional and personal life.
Also, Nico Tortorella has got to be the most attractive man on TV at the moment. (don't @ me).

10. Search Party - season 1

While I still have two episodes left to go in this satire/comedy/mystery series, I am completely hooked and drawn into the disappearance of Chantal Witherbottom almost as much as Dory is. 
Every episode I have been trying to figure out how everything ties in and while I am aware there is some big twist coming in the finale, I have no idea what it's going to be.
Again, great cast (and some hilarious supporting cast) but I have really enjoyed seeing Meredith Hanger have the opportunity to show a more emotional side to Portia in the last few episodes. 
Highlight of the season so far is Chantal's friends singing an a capella version of "Since You've Been Gone" at her vigil. 

And just because I watch so much TV, here's five that just didn't quite make it:

11.  Broad City (season 3)
12. Transparent (season 3)
13. Good Behavior (season 1)
14. Crazyhead (season 1)
15.  The Walking Dead (season 7 - part 1)

And if you're interested, here's my Top 10 TV shows of 2014 (skipped last year).

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