BEST OF 2016
Top 10 Television Series of 2016

2016 was a horrible year, everyplace but in our television (or phone or iPad, or whatever) screens. Again, television far outpaced film for engrossing narratives with novelty, charm, and gravitas. And, yet again, streaming outlets Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu led the way, but the networks showed signs of life, with NBC in particular offering up The Good Place, Superstore, and the tear-jerker This is Us and the CW giving us the returning favorites Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and the only DC superhero team-up worth mentioning in 2016.

But, of course, it was also on our television screens that the most horrid reality television series in American history, Citizen Trump, played out. And while we all wondered whether we were watching a comedy or tragedy, we stayed glued to the cable news networks (who, in turn, chased the record ratings that their Trump coverage received), and to comedic voices of reason from Stephen Colbert to John Oliver to a resurgent Saturday Night Live.

So with 2016 a horrorshow and 2017 a giant question mark, we look back on the TV shows that both reflected and gave us relief from our times. Here, based on votes compiled by our writers and editors, is our list of the Top 10 Television Series of 2016.

THE DRUNK MONKEYS

TOP 10 TELEVISION SERIES OF 2016

10. GAME OF THRONES

Image © HBO

Image © HBO

For the first time, Game of Thrones had none of George R. R. Martin’s novels to go on as it entered its new season. After exiting the previous year with the death of Jon Snow, the same place where Martin’s last novel ended, the show had more hype than ever surrounding the season. The show managed not to struggle without a complete novel to go on, and it was certainly better than the show’s previous shaky season. Of particular highlight was “The Door,” a midseason episode that reinvented the rules while also delivering an ending both heartbreaking and inspiring. At its worst, Game of Thrones will feel like its pacing is off and the writers cannot manage the mix of themes, characters, and plots. In its sixth season, Game of Thrones occasionally fumbled, but it managed to deliver a stellar finale, along with two other classic episodes along the way. Not bad for a drama that had suddenly lost a lifeline.

Donald McCarthy, staff writer
 

9. CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND

Image © The CW

Image © The CW

Something as ambitious as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which features several original musical numbers in every episode, has only been attempted a few times in television history, and the results have been, to say the least, a mixed bag (a lot of you aren’t old enough to remember Cop Rock. I am old enough to remember Cop Rock). So why does CxG soar past those pretenders? It begins with the stellar cast, led by world-beater talent Rachel Bloom, but it doesn’t end there. In its second season, the series has widened its focus to the rest of the (equally crazy) inhabitants of West Covina (if you watch the show, you read that as West Coviiiina, Califoooooornia), and is a stronger, better series for it.

Matthew Guerruckey, Film Editor
 

8. ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK

Image © Netflix

Image © Netflix

Let’s get this straight: Orange is the New Black didn’t have to change anything up, they didn’t have to take any major risks. Jenji Kohan’s prison drama, a hit, critically and commercially, for Netflix, could have coasted through another quasi-comedic set of episodes, as it did with last year’s underwhelming third season. But instead, OitNB brought the trauma of the streets into the walls of Litchfield, exploring issues of racial profiling, police violence, consent, and white privilege with its typically brash viewpoint, with the season culminating in the most heartbreaking, inevitable character death since Radio Raheem. More than any other series this year, Orange is the New Black challenged its audience with the very reality that they may have been turning to the series to escape from.

Matthew Guerruckey, Film Editor
 

7. LUKE CAGE

Image © Netflix

Image © Netflix

Taste is subjective, and nobody likes all the same things. However, if you don't like a Marvel TV show that takes all the good of everything that came before it, adds amazing acting and the best soundtrack since ever, I have to question your tastes.

Taras D. Butrej, Film Critic

First place votes: Taras D. Butrej
 

6. BOJACK HORSEMAN

Image © Netflix

Image © Netflix

Bojack Horseman is probably one of the realest shows out there. Bojack, a horse who once had a popular tv show in the 80’s, floats through his days in a fog of ennui and general apathy, never quite finding fulfillment. Brilliantly funny and devastating, this is the best show about the human condition out there right now, except instead of a human, it's a horse. With a mansion in Hollywood Hills. Also, I'm pretty sure Dianne is based on me, and I demand royalties.

Kolleen Carney, Editor-in-chief
 

5. BETTER CALL SAUL

Image © AMC

Image © AMC

I watch this show with the sinking suspicion that sooner or later something horrible is going to happen. As a huge fan of Breaking Bad, I delight in the adventures of Saul Goodman pre-Saul, and who doesn't love more time spent with Mike Ehrmantraut? Better Call Saul is a show I thought would be stupid, only to find it's anything but. 

Kolleen Carney, Editor-in-chief

4. THE NIGHT OF

Image © HBO

Image © HBO

The Night Of is HBO's apology for the second season of True Detective. “Flat circles” and pagan semiotics are replaced by an exploration of race and class in post 9/11 NYC. John Turturro as the protagonist is the model for continuance. His arc demonstrates that all of us are waiting tor the right moment to find heroism within the confines of an uncertain, normative existence.

William Lessard, poet

First place votes: William Lessard

3. THE PEOPLE VS. OJ SIMPSON

Image © FX

Image © FX

When the trailer for The People vs. OJ Simpson hit the internet, it was meet with hoots of disdain, and it’s easy to see why. John Travolta? Cuba Gooding, Jr.? David fucking Schwimmer? Starring in one of the best-known, and trashiest tabloid stories of the past century? And given to us by, of all people, Ryan Murphy, of the intentionally campy Glee and American Horror Story? How could this be anything but terrible? But when America tuned in and settled in for a good hate-watch, they were met with a tough, brilliantly acted exploration of race, domestic abuse, and wealth, with career-best performances from Sarah Paulson and Courtney B. Vance. Even the supposedly washed-up Travolta, Gooding, and Schwimmer brought pathos and intensity to their roles, breathing life into these people, proving that we only ever had half the story, and somehow lending suspense in a story whose ending we all know.

Matthew Guerruckey, Film Editor
 

2. STRANGER THINGS

Image © Netflix

Image © Netflix

Made up of all of the best parts of the 1980’s and starring the most talented group of child actors since Stand by Me, a movie that acts as its emotional template, Stranger Things burst onto the internet as a force earlier this year, and entered into the cultural lexicon in the way that things used to back when there were only four networks you had to keep track of. Do you know what I mean when I talk about “The Demogorgon” and “The Upside-Down”? Sure you do. In this age of streaming release, when you have literally all of time to watch any television series you wish, Stranger Things suddenly became the show that you had to watch right away, and once you started it, right away became right now. It was the series that Netflix had in mind when it created the “advance to next episode” feature. “Are you still watching Stranger Things?” YES! 

Matthew Guerruckey, Film Editor

1. WESTWORLD

Image © HBO

Image © HBO

Are you a robot? Am I? Is Anthony Hopkins?  Delores? Well yes, she is. Westworld is a shockingly solid show, with slow burning plot points that will excite even the most causal viewer. Can you handle Jimmi Simpson as William, and not as Liam McPoyle from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia? I couldn't, but Westworld is a fantastic show regardless.

Kolleen Carney, Editor-in-chief

First place votes: Kolleen Carney, Dani Neiley

LISTS OF NOTE

Ryan Roach, Drunk Monkeys Radio Filmcast

  1. The Americans

  2. Game of Thrones

  3. Please Like Me

  4. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

  5. Animal Kingdom

  6. Westworld

  7. Transparent

  8. Bojack Horseman

  9. Better Call Saul

  10. Orange is the New Black

Taras D. Butrej, Film Critic

  1. Luke Cage

  2. Stranger Things

  3. The Night Of

  4. Game of Thrones

  5. Westworld

  6. Daredevil

  7. Ash vs. Evil Dead

  8. Outcast

  9. Last Week Tonight

Matthew Guerruckey, Film Editor

  1. The People vs. OJ Simpson

  2. Orange is the New Black

  3. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

  4. This is Us

  5. Stranger Things

  6. Supergirl

  7. Superstore

  8. Saturday Night Live

  9. The Good Place

  10. Lady Dynamite