We are still in list season, so it seems fit that today I present you with another list summing up 2016 in the world of film and TV. Today I will be looking at my top 10 TV shows of the year to follow my top 10 most anticipated films of next year earlier this month. I do think we are still in the golden age of television, even though most of the excellent shows that I will be discussing today were featured solely on streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. I also think that, like with my list from a couple of weeks ago, my picks have become slightly more diverse as my preferences have changed, so don't be upset if your favourites don't make it on here. Remember that this list is entirely a sharing of my personal opinions, and not based on ratings, reviews or popularity, so it shouldn't surprise you that certain shows aren't on here.
Now lets get right into this, as there were were a lot of acclaimed shows that I was sad to leave off the list. Firstly, the two I am saddest to leave in this honourable mentions section have to be Narcos and Stranger Things; two Netflix shows. Narcos was an excellent follow up to the first series, despite being not quite as excellent in my opinion. I thought the building of tension was gripping and Wagner Moura's return as Escobar was just terrific. On the other side of things, I thought Netflix's big hitter of the year, Stranger Things, was a nostalgic and very well made sci-fi/ horror show in which the story was wonderfully structured, the characters were rich and the performances, especially those of the child actors, were exemplary. I was thoroughly engaged throughout, but it unfortunately just missed my list. Now whilst I did watch quite a few shows in 2016, there were some I missed. I started watching the latest season of The Walking Dead, but gave up as it is incredibly dull to me at this point, and whilst I do think it's a good show, I haven't watched Game of Thrones since the end of season 3, so that won't be making an appearance on the list. One that it pained me to miss though was Westworld. I thought that whilst the first episode did feel like it was cramming a lot in, it also was starting some deeply intriguing character arcs and storylines, and some of the science fiction concepts were thoughtfully fleshed out and interesting, so I was sad that I didn't get to watch on from that first episode. Some comedy shows I would have to mention include both Archer and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which both returned with some of their most hilarious and original episodes yet, and I also have to give a mention to both Preacher and The People Vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, both of which had me engaged and told stories that people were already aware of in a fresh and unique way. But with that, I have to stop talking about the shows that I had to miss off and get right into the good stuff.
10) Better Call Saul: Season 2
Appearing on this annual list for the second time in a row, Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul is not to be missed. What was so impressive about this series was how it kept the dark and off the wall comedy of the first series, whilst amping up the drama and flawed humanity in a way that was quite remarkable. I think that watching Jimmy McGill transition into the corrupt Saul Goodman is often funny, occasionally dark and consistently thrilling. I also have to give the show props for how it remains to be so different to Breaking Bad, yet still feel as if it is in that same vein, and somehow I feel like that's being overlooked. Whilst the show does garner critical acclaim, I feel like I hear tons of people saying that its just too different to Breaking Bad. I would personally say that that's a good thing, as Gilligan and co have managed to make a show that stands purely on its own whilst still making excitable references to its blood relative, and if you stopped watching this for whatever reason, I would suggest you pick it up again, as I think it's terrific.
9) Deutschland 83: Season 1
This taut German spy thriller premiered on British television at the very start of 2016, and I became hooked from the first episode. It's fantastically cinematic, yet it never fails to lose its sense of intimate realism or its brief elements of noir, which are blended seamlessly in to the series. The historic aspect of it is politically aware and powerful, as it explores the corruption of both the left and right wing, all seen through the eyes of a young man caught in the middle. It presents the struggles of youth and becoming an adult, whilst also looking at war and its many issues. It even looks as identity, sexuality and similar social issues in a way that seems to fit in effortlessly with the narrative. But on top of that, it's just a really intense and gripping spy thriller series that is superbly made and if you want some foreign television in your life, I would suggest that you watch this.
8) House of Cards: Season 4
I know there are some that think that this Netflix hit has gotten too ridiculous, and weirdly I think I agree with that to a certain extent, but I somehow still absolutely love it. Maybe its the masterful performances of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, both managing to be wildly convincing, as well as intimidating and sinister. Or maybe it's the perfect development of its characters from one series to the next, and the fact that we can find ourselves identifying with some elements of these horrible people. Or maybe it's how visually sublime the show is, with every frame feeling like a still and civilised yet internally chaotic display of a world where Frank Underwood is president. Either way, I was absorbed by season 4 of House of Cards, and actually preferred it to the previous series. As we watch the presidential race unfold, we feel like some of the shows events feel incredibly close to reality, and I can't wait to see where things go with the next series.
7) Daredevil: Season 2
I know that the popular opinion is that Daredevil season 2 is not as good as season 1 was, but I personally thought it was better. I loved this new season for the simple reason that I didn't think there was a dull note in it. I was so consistently excited and engaged by what was happening that I didn't feel a moment of boredom. Firstly, we have some truly brilliant and layered performances from the cast. Charlie Cox is once again fantastic as Matt Murdock/ Daredevil, brilliantly capturing the character's inner conflict, and Elodie Yung's Elektra proved a worthy addition to the show, but the standout for me would have to be (surprise surprise) Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle, otherwise known as The Punisher. He perfectly captured what makes this character so fascinating, providing us with an honest portrayal of his morals and thought process. As the show transitioned from one story to the next, I couldn't help but be increasingly engrossed, and I was incredibly impressed because of it.
6) BoJack Horseman: Season 3
When this show first came out a couple of years ago on Netflix I had no idea of how much I would adore what it would become, and here we are at season 3 of BoJack and it's better than it ever has been. What's amazing about this is that it manages to be both the absurdist comedy it was in it's first episodes, as well as one of the most poignant and human shows of today. Somehow a show that features a cast of crude talking animals is one of the most impactful and honest things I've seen in a long time. And it gets dark. Trust me, it goes to some deeply depressing places, yet it can always bounce back with a hilarious joke or skit. Every single character feels wonderfully off the wall, yet remarkably believable, and when you're talking about an animated TV show, that means a lot.
5) Black Mirror: Season 3
It came back! Yes, Charlie Brooker's extraordinarily intelligent and sinister show that looks at the terrifying reflections of what our world could become got a new series in 2016, and it was possibly the best yet. These 6 separate stories all had one thing in common; they showed us a glimpse of what our world could look like in the next 10 years. And honestly, it looks like it's going to be a scary place indeed. Whilst I didn't love the first episode, entitled Nosedive, I was hooked on the next five, with each of them daring me to think and take a look at the horrors of modern society, technology and politics, as the topics range from illegal surveillance, to the corruption of the military, to virtual reality and gaming. None of them feel in any way watered down or as if they're trying to hide something, and the show's daring truth and edginess works to make something that still remains to be one of the most fresh and unique shows out there.
4) Peaky Blinders: Season 3
I know it's stylised, and I know it's maybe a little too cool, but I can't get enough of it. It's just so clever. Everything from the way the story plays out, to the way characters develop is undeniably smart, and although there is almost a sense of style over substance in places, the style is just so slick. And even then, it's not like the substance is lost. The portrait of Tommy Shelby continues to be gorgeously fleshed out and emotional, as we watch his family and his dreams fall apart. And this portrayed terrifically by Cillian Murphy, as well as those around him. Murphy is not only staggeringly convincing in the role, but also manages to be admirably cool and collected whilst doing so, showing the inner breakdown of the character trying not to effect the exterior. But on top of that, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson, Joe Cole, Finn Cole and especially newcomer Paddy Considine (who is wholly intimidating) are fantastic, making this one of the best British shows there is.
3) Flowers: Season 1
It will have you indulging in it's surrealism in the first episode and reaching for the tissues by the last, and through all that, it will win you over. Flowers is a show that appeared on British television in early 2016 and was wildly overlooked, and I happen to think that it gave me of the most profoundly emotional things a TV show has made me feel in a long time. It's directed and written by Will Sharpe, who also stars as Shun, the moronic but delightful assistant to Julian Barratt's Maurice Flower, and in just 6 episodes, Sharpe paints a beautiful picture of a family falling apart. A family that is played gloriously by Julian Barratt, Olivia Colman, Sophia Di Martino and Daniel Rigby, who all capture the madness, as well as the human struggle of the Flowers. By the end of the first episode you will question what it is you are watching but by the last, you will be wishing there were more, and that's why Flowers is my third favourite TV show of 2016.
2) Atlanta: Season 1
If you let this show give you one thing, let it be the revelation of Donald Glover's creativity. Before this, I don't think we had seen a project from Glover that was truly genius, whether it be a music project or a stand up gig, but with Atlanta he gave us something masterful. It's a show that feels incredibly grounded in reality, but has seamlessly blended in moments of utter surrealism that hint at elements of the fantastical and extraordinary, and that's almost as impressive as how he seamlessly blends side-splitting satire with extreme political and social awareness, and how he further blends that in with legitimate human emotion and personal problems. Top that off with some excellent performances from the likes of Glover himself, the stunning Zazie Beetz, the puzzlingly underrated Keith Stanfield, and the talented and funny Brian Tyree Henry, aswell as some ambitious and outstanding direction from Glover's frequent collaborator Hiro Murai, and you have yourself a show that genuinely sticks out from the rest.
1) Mr Robot: Season 2
I'm sure it will come as no surprise to those who know me that this has topped my list for the second time in a row, but at the same time I feel as if the second season of Mr Robot was not as talked about as the first. I personally thought it was just as good, full of unpredictability, perfectly crafted tension and all the same character depth and political weight that the first season had. It continues to be masterfully shot, filmed and edited, showing all the same cinematic flare, and the performances continue to be gripping and layered, with Christian Slater and Rami Malek having sheer dynamic intensity, and the likes of Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday and series newcomer Craig Robinson showing absolute acting skill. It's full of twists and turns, but all of them seem to be so thought out and make perfect sense when you look back at what's happened before, and it does the rare thing of entirely changing your perspective each time you watch the series, and that's why I think it's definitely my favourite show on television.
So what do you think? What was your favourite show of 2016? Do you agree with the list? Were there any I missed out? Make sure to let me know down in the comments and if you liked this and want to see more go to creators.co/@garwoodreviews for more.