Ross here, back again with my picks for the best of entertainment in 2016! If you missed yesterdays post about my favorite movies of 2016, check it out here! Today, I will be discussing my favorite TV shows, episodes, specials and small screen delights that made my year better! I watch a lot of TV, so bear with me…this is a long list. Let’s get to it!
“San Junipero” – Black Mirror
This is first on the list because it is perfect. This gift of an episode from Netflix’s anthology series Black Mirror is touching, beautiful, inventive and fun! To talk about plot details specifically would ruin the magic of letting this episode reveal itself to you, so I won’t say more, but I will gladly offer up my Netflix password to anyone who doesn’t have access to watch this episode. The other highlights from the new season was the Rashida Jones and Mike Schur-penned Nosedive which perfectly skewed the “likes” culture we are headed towards (already in?) and the super tense and almost feature-length Hated in the Nation starring Kelly Macdonald and an army of robotic bees.
I don’t think I even need to talk about this show, because everyone and their mom, sister and uncle has been talking about it since it came out on Netflix this summer. This entire show is a love letter to the 80’s and that is a beautiful thing. Plus Winona freakin Ryder! Nuff said.
Maria Bamford is a genius. She also suffers from depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder and OCD… Her comedy doesn’t shy away from what that all means and is so much better for it. Her erratic and zany sense of humor comes through wonderfully in her Netflix show which flashes back and forth between the past and present to get a better sense of who Maria is and why she is that way. It is a hilarious trip through her brain and I am thrilled it will be getting a second season, coming next year.
Continuing my love for British female comedian-led tv shows, Fleabag follows Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag (her not so kind nickname) as she attempts to navigate family drama, owning her own unfortunately-themed cafe and traversing the wonderful world of sex all while mourning her best friends death. If this sounds heavy for a comedy, you are not wrong. But the beauty of this show is how it finds the comedy in everyday life, no matter how terrible it is. The show does a great job of letting you into Fleabag’s thoughts – she talks directly to the camera, making you her (often unwilling) friend and confidant. The series’ final episode sheds light on the central heartbreak of the show and leaves you wounded, but hopeful. It is an incredibly paced and really prolific story told in only 6 episodes that I can’t recommend enough.
The Get Down
I will admit to having my issues with this show…the editing, the totally unnecessary flash-forward performances and the overall “Baz Luhrmann-ness” of it all. But that all being said, this was still one of my favorite pieces of television this year. The sheer scope of a show like this is impressive, but add on top of that the incredibly talented and beautifully diverse cast, the music and choreography and storyline, this show is an amazing example of what TV can be. The young actors on this show are some of the best I have seen and I absolutely can’t wait to see what the second part of this season brings! Catch up with the first part on Netflix before part 2 drops in 2017.
The Netflix/Marvel partnership has become my favorite pairing up in TV since Fran & Maxwell and I have loved everything they have given us so far. Daredevil gives me all of the Matt Murdock feels and Luke Cage was an insanely fun ride, but none of them could beat Jessica Jones. I mean, physically…she would kick all their asses. This show so beautifully explored the psychological fallout of what it would mean to be a superhero in 2016 New York City and Krysten Ritter could not have been more perfect as Jones. The backstory and how her PTSD comes into light via her alcoholism and general distaste for all humankind is such a fantastic reimagining of what a super hero TV show can look like. I am eagerly awaiting her appearance in future Marvel/Netflix installments all leading up to The Defenders series which just announced Sigourney Weaver as it’s main villain… Can’t. Wait.
Of course, the show can be streamed now on Netflix
This sly show popped up on TBS over Thanksgiving weekend and I binge-watched it all in one day and fell in love. It stars Alia Shawkat, John Early and Meredith Hagner and features cameos from Parker Posey, Ron Livingston, Christine Taylor, Rosie Perez, Christine Ebersole and so many more! The story revolves around Shawkat’s Dory deciding to find a girl she barely knew in college who has recently disappeared. She ropes in her unwilling boyfriend and her entirely egotistical best friends to track Chantal down and bring her back safely. This show is equal parts hilarious and a nail-biting mystery as Dory gets in way over her head in the search for the missing girl. The genius of the show is how it mixes satire with perfectly realized characters. The fact that it was renewed for a second season makes me feel better about that major cliffhanger of an ending!
Another show I don’t have to tell you about, because I am sure at least one person you know already talked your ear off about it, but here I go anyways. This show is so good you guys. There are three main reasons this show is probably my favorite of the year: Evan. Rachel. Wood. She kills it. Every episode I am more and more blown away by her work on this show. And the amazing performances by Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright and Sir Anthony Hopkins add even more talent to the roster. The first season ended on such an insane note I can’t believe we have to wait until 2018 to find out what comes next for our robotic friends, but I anticipate watching this season again (at least once) to hold me over til then…
This surprise drop from Netflix appeared with no warning or promotions last week and I spent my entire Sunday in bed glued to my TV. This sci-fi drama from frequest collaborators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij is the story of a blind girl who goes missing only to return seven years later with her sight and quite a story to tell. Marling is as fantastic as ever as Prairie/Nina/The OA and the supporting cast includes some stellar performances (plus Phyllis Smith from The Office). A lot of reviews are knocking the show for reasons I won’t spoil for you, but I felt it was a beautiful, suspenseful and throughtful show. The eiht episodes range in running times from 30 to 70 minutes giving you a feeling that you are really watching a very long movie broken into chapters. Watch this and then talk to me about it. I’ll keep this spoiler-free as that is the best way to view this show.
The second season of this hilarious Amazon Original Series picks up a few years after we last left Sharon and Rob, but also dangerously close to where we left them. She’s pregnant and they’re in a fight. This season is a hilarious look further and deeper into the lives of this couple and the family and friends around them. Creators, writers and stars Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan are perfect in this show and the supporting cast is hilarious and dysfunctional and so much fun to watch. The worst part of this show is that there are only 6 episodes per season.
The Last Man on Earth
Well, it’s been three seasons, so I feel like we are out of the Spoiler Free zone when I say that Will Forte’s Phil is not the last man on Earth… The third season of this show has been as wacky and zany as ever, but also adds a great deal of drama. We find our crew leaving the mansion in search of a new home (and an escape from the murderous and denim-decorating Pat) and forming new bonds, but breaking some old ones too. This show is deeply underrated and I recommend it to you all! Forte is so obnoxiously perfect (perfectly obnoxious?) as “Tandy” and the incomparable Kristen Schall makes me laugh with every line out of her mouth. Come for the post-apocalyptic comedy, stay for the pools filled with margaritas.
This show makes me laugh and cry with each episode and I can’t say enough about how I truly think it has assembled the best cast I have ever seen. This season follows the Pfefferman’s as they navigate relationships, religion and finding their footing (if that is something any of them can do) and was an emotional ride. This season saw a lot of changes for the family, but untimately ends with thm all together and an incredibly powerful scene for Judith Light’s Shelly. There were some really powerful things explored this season but overall there seemed to be a focus on religion and how that can be a crutch (for Sarah), a cause for argument (for Ali and Leslie) or a way to bring people together (the cruise ship Seder that was almost successful). I loved the peek back at how Maura and Shelly first meet and the early Maura flashbacks led to a very welcome reappearance of Michaela Watkins. This season left a lot in the air for the Pfefferman’s and with a season 4 renewal, I anxiously await what comes next.
Julia Louis Dreyfus as Selina Meyer is my favorite comedic TV performance of…ever? This season was the first with new showrunners, but I felt was one of the strongest yet. The season-long documentary Catherine is filming culminates in my favorite episode of the season… Well, maybe tied with “Mother” which gives us a glimpse behind Selina’s fake smile. I thought last season ended on a cliffhanger, but this one really has me scratching my head trying to figure out where season 6 is going to take us…
The second season of this massively underrated Hulu original series was even better than the first. Michaela Watkins is a gem. And honestly, Tara Lynne Barr is so incredible on this show, as is the entire supporting cast. This season ended with Valerie and Laura moving out of Alex’s house so I am excited to see what that means for their relationship and the show’s dynamic for next season. I kind of loved the relationships we saw this season, though not one of them was healthy in any way. They are definitely the most self-destructive family I have ever seen, but that’s what makes this show so entertaining? Does that make me a bad person? Oh well.
American Horror Story: Roanoke
So, I gave up on American Horror Story about 45 minutes into episode one of “Freak Show” because it was so Ryan Murphy at his worst, I couldn’t take it anymore… I said I wouldn’t return (and heard I was lucky to not have had to sit through “Hotel”) but then came season six… I told myself to just watch the first episode and see what it’s like…then I got hooked. This season was brilliant and fun and campy and stupid and gory and inventive and totally classic AHS! I loved it. I even loved it despite the gaping plot holes, dead-end mysteries and Sarah Paulson’s “British” accent. The genius of this season was that it stayed relatively simple. By simple, of course, I mean: ghosts and murderers and reality tv shows and pig-headed monsters and hillbilly pot farmers and terrible wigs, but overall it was pretty focused or AHS. I kind of lived the ride we took this season so long as I can ignore all I didn’t care for and the fact that the finale was a major letdown. And with Murphy working on a new season that sets out to connect the first (and best) season of the show, I guess I will have to tune in next season.
So, there you have it. What do you think? What were your favorite tv shows from the past year? What did I pick that you do or don’t agree with?
Tune in tomorrow when I will discuss all the music and songs I loved from 2016!