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Best of 2016: 16 Television Programs We Very Much Enjoyed

Posted by January 7th, 2017 No Comments »

Television.. it’s the drug of the nation, and Nada Contributors self-medicated heavily throughout 2016. Here are the shows that provided our favorite highs.

16. Baskets (FX)

A new dark comedy co-created by Louis C.K. and starring Zach Galifianakis as a rodeo clown? I think that’s actually the definition of “must see TV,” folks. – Matt Ashworth

15. Silicon Valley (HBO)

14. Broad City (Comedy Central) 

The funniest show on television, Broad City is doing two things staggeringly well: 1) making a post-Giuliani, post-Bloomberg, technocratic whitewashed New York City look as vital and exciting as ever and 2) executing inspired stunt casting (Alan Alda! Vanessa Williams! Tony Danza!) that feels totally natural to the world of the show. A show this smart and ambitious shouldn’t be able to pull off being so horny and stoned, and vice versa. – Jon Rooney

13. The Night Of  (HBO)

Another winner for HBO, The Night Of is an eight part mini-series that highlights the cultural and political climate around a New York City murder case. Based on Criminal Justice, a 2008–09 British television series, and starring John Turturro (“O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) and Riz Ahmed (“Nightcrawler”). – Matt Ashworth

12. The Walking Dead (AMC) 

Really great shows are never about the thing they’re supposed to be about. The Sopranos wasn’t really about the mafia. Breaking Bad wasn’t really about cooking meth. And The Walking Dead not only isn’t really about zombies, they really aren’t even that much of a threat any more, unless you’re an idiot, and most of the idiots are either zombies or passing through the digestive systems of other zombies. The zombies are a convenient plot point to get us to the real meaning of the show: that the living are way more dangerous than the dead, that since most of your actual family probably got ripped to shreds somewhere in rural Georgia you definitely need to find family wherever you can, and that zombie heads hit with blunt objects sound like watermelons at a Gallagher show. (How’s that for a dated reference?) – Andy Bookwalter

11. Atlanta (FX)

New from Donald Glover of NBC’s Community, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, FX show Atlanta is centered around a hip-hop artist trying to make a name for himself. – Matt Ashworth

10. Chewing Gum (Netflix) 

Chewing Gum shows a significant number of variations of female sexuality and the complexity of trying to separate your feelings from your hormones from what’s socially acceptable. The lead, Michaela Coel, is hysterical. Her delivery and candid reactions and expressions are hysterical and often cringe-worthy. She fully dedicates herself to her character and it’s a riot. – Lynae Cook

9. Goliath (Amazon) 

Amazon’s making strides to catch-up with Netflix in the production of original TV content thanks to great shows like Goliath, a David E. Kelly legal drama that stars Billy Bob Thornton as a heavy-drinking washed up lawyer who takes a chance at redemption with a wrongful death case. Despite a familiar plot, season one shines due to a great cast and compelling characters. – Matt Ashworth

8. American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson (FX)

7. Westworld (HBO) 

Westworld is sneaky in its intent. As is often the case with HBO’s best shows, they lure you in with sex, violence, and vulgarity, only to smash you over the head with some pretty deep philosophical questions. In Deadwood, it was order vs. chaos, society vs. anarchy. In The Sopranos, it was family vs. business, love vs. survival. In Westworld, it’s pleasure vs. compassion. And going beyond that, it’s the biggest question of all – what is consciousness, anyway? What at first you think is a show about robots’ awakening consciousness turns out to be a show about the very nature of what it means to be human. – Aaron Semer

6. Bloodline (Netflix) 

I was disappointed to see Season 1 of Bloodline end in an unnecessary cliffhanger. It felt like a blatant attempt to goad the studio, or the viewer, into wanting a second season. It was such a concisely written story, it could have been left as a one-off miniseries. So I was pleasantly surprised by the compelling storytelling and depth of emotion that followed in Season 2. With a cast and writers this talented, I should have known. Bloodline has announced that Season 3 in 2017 will be its last. I suppose I can get the well-written ending I crave at that time. Until then, I will bask in the humid southern gothic tragedy made so real by this expertly crafted show. – Aaron Semer

5. Game of Thrones (HBO) 

As Game of Thrones enters uncharted territory, that is to say beyond what has been laid out in the published books, some cracks have begun to appear in the show’s armor. Last year’s cliffhangers were largely resolved this season as one would expect, however with fairly low stakes and the show’s penchant for torturing its characters and, by proxy, its viewers is still very much a thing. But this was also the season that revealed how Hodor got his name, finally delivered some long-awaited comeuppance, and continued to destroy convention by giving us a jaw-dropping battle in the penultimate episode. Six seasons in, GOT is in a bit of a pickle, what with fewer and fewer characters to care about, but with the promise of a hard stop in just two seasons, and the promise of those dragons finally wreaking havoc in Westeros, there should be plenty to look forward to. – Adam Lawrence

4. Daredevil (Netflix) 

As someone who grew up loving Frank Miller’s essential 1979-1983 run on the Daredevil comic book, I’m pretty in the bag for the show. It gets the tone, dialogue, characterizations and settings totally right without flirting with Miller’s unsavory reactionary politics. In contrast to the shock and awe of the big screen super hero adaptations, Daredevil scales everything down to hallways, single rooms, and alleys, including the vaunted fight sequences. The second season was able to work in two massive characters from the comic mythos (Elektra and the Punisher) without either feeling forced or requiring you to have deep nerd roots like me to really get into the story. – Jon Rooney

3. Lady Dynamite (Netflix) 

Maria Bamford is a force of nature. Her comedy isn’t for everyone, but if you stick with her, she’ll take you to some very funny places. Her Netflix show, Lady Dynamite, is a bit of an acquired taste, but it unfolds into something wondrous and truthful. Bamford is a mid-level minor celebrity in Hollywood in real life, but she heightens her inertia to cartoon levels on her show and mines her illness for jokes whenever possible. Having Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz along for the ride certainly helps. Over the course of the season, you’ll find yourself in more and more of the fictionalized Bamford, but nobody screams into a towel like Maria. – Adam Lawrence

2. Stranger Things (Netflix) 

Stranger Things sits in the perfect center between the old, the new, the familiar, and the unusual. The series taps into a uniquely nostalgic consciousness by aligning with science-fiction hallmarks, but also creates enough division to render its own identity.

Everything about the story – missing kids in a sleepy town in Indiana during the 80s, the sudden appearance of a mysterious girl with a waffle fixation, a fabled beast that can strike at any moment – conveys the feel of urban legend. In fact, the “Demogorgon” is the perfect symbol of Stranger Things’ retrofitted futurism since it’s nicknamed after a Dungeons and Dragons demon that can only be unlocked with cutting-edge science.

Plus, any story benefits from having an ensemble of magically talented youths, deeply flawed adult characters (yo, I would bet five bucks Mr. Wheeler has no clue where he is most of the time), and one uncompromising breakdown from Winona Ryder, who you just want to desperately hug before offering to go door-to-door with HAVE YOU SEEN WILL? flyers. At its core, Stranger Things successfully stimulates the curiosity in people while telling a story about family and community, which comes wrapped in a luscious, spindly soundtrack that is a gift in its own right. – Cameron Deuel

1. Black Mirror (Netflix) 

Black Mirror exists on its own plane when it comes to modern-day television, offering equal parts awe and anxiety as it explores the cracks in modern society, especially as they relate to technology and hyper-normalization. The British show fascinates us because it offers a dark look at potential outcomes of our increasingly rapid adoption of technology.

The episodes, which each serve as a fully realized standalone mini-films with a different cast and setting, depict a world where even if people are aware of their flaws, most won’t stop or change their behavior… to do so would mean erasing yourself from the people around you – in both physical space and digital space.

For those without the energy or time to watch a full movie during the week, an episode of Black Mirror offers the same high quality acting, plot lines, and shivers. This is both convenient – Black Mirror can be watched without the continuity (pressure) of a TV show or the (sometimes obnoxious) possibility of cliff hangers – and perhaps necessary; the best episodes sometimes impact the viewer so deeply it takes a couple weeks to recover. – Aino Vaino

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