2016 Gifted Us With These Amazing TV Shows

While 2016 might have been a difficult time for many, in terms of entertainment, television lovers were given a strong slate of shows to choose from. 

There’s nothing quite like finding a show that resonates with you and keeps you coming back for more. Certain series have a way of creeping into your everyday life, from crying on your couch to obsessing over all your favorite fan theories on Reddit. And this year, we were gifted with a handful of knockouts.

Below, HuffPost Entertainment editors share their favorite shows of 2016: 

  • “Westworld” (HBO)
    HBO
    A criticism of Westworld could be that its just Jurassic Park with robots. It is. But what about that doesnt sound awesome? The show, based on the 1973 movie from Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton, tells the story of a theme park where the attractions (humanistic robots) go awry. Life finds a way, right? There are striking visuals, deep moral questions and plenty of scenes with Anthony Hopkins being scary as heck. If you thought Jurassic Park was great, hold on to your butts. — Bill Bradley
  • “High Maintenance” (HBO)
    HBO
    “High Maintenance” began as a web series byhusband-and-wife team Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, revolving around a weed dealer known as “the guy” who delivers goods to his New York clientele. In each episode, “the guy” enters the home — and thus the world — of a different character, a fully-fleshed out human being who hardly conforms to the stereotypical stoners who normally get TV air time. Instead, viewers fall in love with a middle-aged cancer survivor looking to ease her stomach and perhaps fall in love, a struggling author who pushes off the writing process by getting high and dressing up in his wife’s clothes, and a dude who obsessively ensures he will be prepared when the apocalypse inevitably hits. This year, the web series got picked up by HBO, filling devoted disciples with glee and anxiety — will some of the show’s charm be lost?

    Thankfully, Blichfeld and Sinclair keep to their original recipe of short and self-contained episodes that occasionally overlap and enmesh, combining two or three “deals” into a single 30-minute slot. The show masterfully depicts New Yorkers in all their quiet and beautiful strangeness, consistently yielding brief and punchy performances that feel more authentic than most anything on television, despite their almost magical aftertaste. Not to mention, the show does its part to destigmatize weed and the people who smoke it. — Priscilla Frank

  • “This Is Us” (NBC)
    NBC
    I can’t give “This Is Us” enough praise. The show, which premiered in September, follows the paths of a few characters who happen to share the same birthday. But, as it turns out, they’reconnectedin ways you would never imagine.

    Ithad me hooked since thepilot episode, mostly because the characters and storylines are unlike anything I’ve seen on TV as of late. Each episode hasyou wanting more — and leaves you wanting to analyze your own upbringing, too.

    In an age where binge-watching is the new norm, it’s nice to know there’s still a new show out there that viewerswill return to week after week. There’s something to be said about “This Is Us” and the way it brings people together bybeing different. — Leigh Blickley

  • “The Crown” (Netflix)
    Netflix
    Watching The Crown, its hard not to imagine the show was created in some sort of cynical Netflix laboratory. Created by Peter Morgan, The Crown combines a historical topic of (perhapsbizarrely) high contemporary interest — the Royal Family — with the sort of stunningly beautiful, meticulously detailed and obviously expensive Game of Thrones-like aesthetic so en vogue on television right now. The result is a portrait of a complex family simultaneously tied together by and fighting their long-held traditions as the British empire declines around them. Claire Foy is masterful as Queen Elizabeth, as is Vanessa Kirby, who plays Princess Margaret. And in a year in which Westworld beat us over the head with its heavy hand one Anthony Hopkins monologue at a time, The Crown offers a welcome counterpunch: Here, on The Crown, as in England as a whole, what is not said is just as important as what is. — Maxwell Strachan
  • “Atlanta” (FX)
    FX
    In a necessary but also humble-bragging disclosure, Donald Glover once asked me to marry him. Back in college, I volunteered at the student-run organization in charge of throwing big events using a portion of students’ tuition money. This group brought in Glover to perform and he gave us all his autograph — with mine being the only one to also include a marriage proposal.

    I don’t remember if I brought up my pre-existing love for his former comedy group, Derrick Comedy, and their movie, “Mystery Team.” I’m fairly sure all of the students in this club told him he was great on “Community.” Regardless, I was a huge fan and I’ve cherished his unconventional, but surely still binding proposal ever since. And clearly, I was then predisposed to really like “Atlanta.”

    The show has now arguably become the most critically adored show of 2016, but even from the very first dual-episode release, I was shouting praises at overly loud bars to friends who would at least pretend to listen. I’m not sure if any of my friends ended up checking out this amazing new show, and I should probably circle back on that to find out, but in the meantime,youshould definitely heed my verbal shouting and stream “Atlanta” on the FX site right now.

    This show is strange and magical and funny and ultimately important. As long as Glover actually ends up making new episodes, it’s the kind of show we might still be talking about decades from now. — Todd Van Luling

  • “Fleabag” (Amazon)
    Amazon
    Fleabag!” What a revelation! In 2016, we probably shouldnt still be trumpeting the need for TV shows, movies and books with flawed — that is, human, rather than, yknow, robotic, in a sexy, servile kind of way — female leads. But, due to the serious dearth of stories like that, it would seem that the argument is still worth making.Fleabag starts out as a show that seems similar in many ways to Girls and other representations of brazen, slacker-y women. Thatd be enough to grant it value; men have been starring in portrayals of messy youth for decades. But over the course of its (lamentably short) season, the show veers into brand-new territory. “Fleabag” isnt an empowering, chicks before dicks anthem to singlehood. Its also the story of a flawed woman whose need to be desired interferes with even her closest friendships. In that way, its a tragicomedy — hilarious, complex, touching, tear-inducing. Its hard not to straight-up binge-watch, but if you can, savor it. Theres nothing else like it. — Maddie Crum
  • “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (TBS)
    Maarten de Boer via Getty Images
    Most years, my favorite new show is a sitcom — not even necessarily a cutting-edge, outstanding sitcom. I love “The Mindy Project,” “Superstore,” “New Girl” and Bravo’s “Odd Mom Out” as much as “Broad City,” “You’re the Worst” and “Veep,”just differently. That’s my genre, and I’m mostly loyal.This year, the historical moment had me hungering for something heartier, something with facts and figures and a straight-to-the-camera approach, and “Full Frontal” was the answer. “Daily Show” vet Bee didn’t just fill the entertainment void left by perpetually exasperated Jon Stewart, she staked out a bolder, more explosive niche. Gone are the self-deprecating impressions and the pleasant, agreeable interviews that take up a third of “The Daily Show”; “Full Frontal” is all razor-sharp monologue and correspondent packages, which, as they did on “The Daily Show,” specialize in purposefully awkward interviews with problematic subjects. Maybe it’s because Bee and her writing staff — which, after a blind hiring process, ended up being very diverse — have real personal stakes in social justice issues they cover. It’s definitely because she and her team are very talented; after years as a correspondent on “The Daily Show,” Beestepped into herhosting sneakers without even a slight stumble, and the writing is consistently funny and on point. But each Monday night, I find myself turning “Full Frontal” on with a sigh of relief that I can unclench for just half an hour and let someone else turn all the rage I feel around me into caustic, belly-laugh-provoking humor. — Claire Fallon
  • “Insecure” (HBO)
    HBO
    In 2016, Issa Rae, the brilliant woman behind the “Awkward Black Girl” web series, brought us “Insecure,” an HBO show centered around a character who is also named Issa and is also very awkward. With equal parts comedy and sincerity, we watch Issa navigate her nonprofit job (where she’s one of the only employees who’s a women of color), her best friendship with a woman who makes way more money than her, her sort-of-secret love to perform (she raps), her tiring relationship with a boyfriend who may or may not fulfill her, the resurfacing of a childhood crush. It’s achingly relatable — and it should be noted that Issa’s wardrobe is amazing. — Katherine Brooks
  • “The Night Of” (HBO)
    HBO
    After “The Night Of” premiered in June, I immediately heard from one of my closest friends. “You need to see this show!” she told me, noting how it had a lot of elements that I like in a series: suspense, thrill, grit, mystery, culture and politics. Not to mention the Manhattan backdrop.

    The Golden-Globe-nominated HBO miniseries follows the police investigation and legal proceedings of a fictitious New York City murder. Through it all, “The Night Of” explores racism, bias and the justice system. Starring John Turturro and Riz Ahmed, the show is based on the British TV series “Criminal Justice,” which aired over two seasons in 2008 and 2009. With only eight episodes clocking in at an hour each, “The Night Of” is easy to watch in a couple of sittings. If you enjoyed the real-life stories in the podcast “Serial” or Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” you’ll likely appreciate this fictional crime thriller. — Lauren Moraski

  • “Queen Sugar” (OWN)
    OWN
    Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey are becoming Hollywood’s primo collaborators, first with the 2014 movie “Selma” and now with “Queen Sugar.” The Louisiana-set OWN series — created and co-directed by DuVernay — follows three siblings determining how to manage the family sugarcane farm in the wake of their father’s death. Based on Natalie Baszile’s novel of the same name, the debut season finds each contending with setbacks: a single father’s unemployment, a journalist towing ethical lines with her sources, and a sports manager whose famous husband has been accused of rape. The clan’s economic history blends with just the right amount of soap opera for “Queen Sugar” to become a rich drama about the trials of sweeping change and the complications of family dynamics. — Matthew Jacobs
  • “Lady Dynamite” (Netflix)
    Netflix
    Maria Bamford’s wild ride of a Netflix show offers the same heady feelings as a first love: You’re a little unsure, kind of lost, but totally enamored. The show is a rollicking tour of life as a comedian rebuilds herself and her careerafter a mental health crisis, a premise as unexpected and magical as Bamford’s stand-up with an extra sprinkle of hilarity from supporting stars like Ana Gasteyer and Fred Melamed. We don’t know how Bamford turns difficult-to-broach topics such as her experience with bipolar disorder into warm, hilarious episodes, but we love to watch along. — Jill Capewell
  • “Stranger Things” (Netflix)
    Netflix
    Having been born in the early ’80s, “Stranger Things” felt like my childhood: riding bikes to and from friends’ houses in Anytown, USA, remnants of ’70s decor still dotting our living rooms, passing the time by using our imagination.

    Movies of the ’80s had a way of scaring you without showing you the monster in plots that weren’t swimming in exposition. That’s something that’s been lost a bit today, where everything needs to be explained and the science behind it all needs to be believable. Sometimes caring about the characters and fearing for their safety is enough. That minimalist approach made this show what it is.

    People often urge you to stick with a show for a few episodes to give it a chance, and I would argue that a sweet intro theme encourages viewers to keep going.(The “Stranger Things” dark ’80s synth opening had me starting “just one more episode” every time.)
    “Stranger Things” worked because it had great characters, a great story to tell, and a taste of the ’80s that was sprinkled on, not poured. — Andy McDonald

  • “Search Party” (TBS)
    TBS
    We’d follow Alia Shawkat of “Arrested Development” anywhere, but we never would have guessed that she’d fully come into her own as a performer on a TBS series about the disappearance of a girl she kinda-sorta knew in college. All 10 episodes of “Search Party” were released online in November, just in time for a post-Thanksgiving binge-watching session. Equal parts Brooklyn hipster comedy and “Veronica Mars”-style mystery, “Search Party” works because it refuses to adhere to genre conventions that have become increasingly irrelevant to the TV tastes of seasoned viewers. Also, keep an eye out for the supporting cast members, like the hilariousJohn Early, because if we have any say, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of them in the future. — Cole Delbyck
  • “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (FX)
    FX
    It’s hard to call “The People v. O.J. Simpson” a “gift” since its source material is the brutal 1994 murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Examined through the lens of race, class and gender, the 10-part miniseries is a fascinating look at what was dubbed the “trial of the century.” Regardless of whether you can remember where you were when the verdict was read in 1995, or if you are discovering the case for the first time, “American Crime Story” breathes new life and relevancy into one of the most-documented stories in recent history. Also, all the awards should continue to go to Sarah Paulson and Sterling K. Brown for their respective performances as Los Angeles prosectors Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden. — Stephanie Marcus
  • “Good Girls Revolt” (Amazon)
    Amazon
    Why didn’t Amazon pick up “Good Girls Revolt” for another season? I have no idea. The cast is incredible (Anna Camp was made for this role) and the plot is fresh — it’s based on the true story of a group of women researchers who demanded to be afforded the same opportunities for career advancement as their male counterparts at Newsweek in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The wayDana Calvo was able to reflect on both the bombastic and banal nature of sexism just a few decades ago puts today’s reality in sharp relief — women are still fighting for equal pay at work. If you haven’t binged this show yet, you should. — Katherine Brooks
  • “Luke Cage” (Netflix)
    Netflix
    While 2015 gifted us Jessica Jones, a Marvel superhero show with a lady in the front seat, 2016 dished out another great Marvel star who isnt a white dude: Luke Cage. Which is great, but thats not even the best reason to watch it. (Hint: It’s good TV.)

    Against an electric Harlem backdrop, “Luke Cage”introduces us toseedy local politicians in a community that has the simple goal of any wholesome group of people in a comic book universe: to live their lives peacefully. With all the action and drama of any good Marvel flick, itmay or may not have crashed Netflixs servers the weekend it premiered. Luke’s superpowers — hisskin is impermeable, and his strength inhuman makes you wonder what life would be like if you constantly needed new clothes to replace the ones ridden with bullet holes. In a year that continued to provide us with headlines about violence against people of color at the hands of police, however, the fact that Cage is a black man with that particular superpower (and one who prefers hoodies) is particularly moving for viewers across the skin-tone spectrum. Plus, he gets to break out the catchphrase. — Sara Boboltz

  • “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” (Netflix)
    Netflix
    2016 blessed us with the return of “Gilmore Girls,” and man, did it make Thanksgiving weekend that much better.

    Netflix’s “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” brought fast-talking mother-daughter duo Lorelai and Rory back into our lives right when we needed it most. In four feature-length episodes, we relived the “Gilmore” glory days, catching up with our favorite characters and basking in the light that is Stars Hollow. We got to watch Emily tackle grief, Lorelai and Luke figure out theirfuture, and Roryutter some wordsthat call for more episodes, because we must know: Logan or Jess?!

    Although reboots have been all-too-prevalent as of late, this one was more than welcome. — Leigh Blickley

  • BONUS: “The OA” (Netflix)
    Netflix
    Netflix released this unexpected sci-fi thriller last Friday, packed with a low-key cast of fairly unknown actors. (If you spotted indie darling Sharon Van Etten, you win 10,000 points.) Essentially, it follows a blind woman — born in Russia to some unique circumstances — who recently escaped years of brutal captivity only to find herself on house arrest, clinging to a reality she’s quickly losing a grip on, subsequently relying on a ragtag group of teens who seem eerily captivated by her near-death story. Oh, and she suddenly has her sight back. If you’re looking for a “Leftovers”-esque show that manages to produce plot twists you can’t possibly predict, here’s your new addiction. — Katherine Brooks

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