I love serials. I won’t lie and say the words “To be continued”, whether written onscreen or implied, haven’t ever infuriated me–the end of the first season of Sherlock comes to mind. But there’s something I relish about the wait between episodes, between seasons, even between projects. Given how dense and complex some series are now, I appreciate the week or two break to digest what’s just transpired and speculate as to what might come next. Which is why you will never find me bingeing on more than two episodes a night. To watch a TV show all at once is, in my opinion, something of a waste. A good story, well-told, should be savored. The angsting is part of the fun.
Here are the ten fictional TV series that I watched in 2016 that gave me the most enjoyment (with bonus one-shots at the end), in no particular order.
The Americans (season 4)-You all better start watching this criminally underrated series about Russian spies hiding in plain sight at the height of the Cold War. It’s become a lot more timely. This season in particular was outstanding. Television is so often about avoiding consequences and maintaining status quo. Not on this show.
Game of Thrones (season 6)-This wasn’t its strongest season, but it will always have a place on this list. “Battle of the Bastards” is possibly one of the best episodes of television of all time.
The Night Manager (one and done)-More spy games, in picturesque European locations with a stellar cast and an exceptional director. Come for Hiddles, stay for Hugh Laurie and Olivia Coleman–I would say career-best performances, but they are always this good.
The People vs. OJ Simpson (anthology series)-Recontextualizing one of the most misunderstood trials and periods in US history. I lived through this, but I didn’t really understand it until I watched this show.
The Path (season 1)-I’ve always been a little obsessed with cult-like religions, and this fictional series about a very Scientology/Mormon-like religious cult is both fascinating and deeply emotional. An underrated gem.
Mr. Robot (season 2)-People were hypercritical of this season, but to me it was just as good as the first. Sam Esmail is doing things that will only be understood by media scholars 50 years from now. One of the most topical shows on TV.
And Then There Were None (one and done)-Exceptional adaptation of one of Agatha Christie’s best books. Made something I’ve read and re-read a dozen times scary all over again. Best Christie adaptation, period. Also, Aiden Turner in a towel.
Gilmore Girls (event series)-Loved every single second of being back with my girls, Lorelai, Emily, and Rory. Good for the heart, mind, soul, and funny bone. Perfect ending to a groundbreaking series.
iZombie (season 2)-This fun, riveting series really hit its stride in a brilliant second season. Rob Thomas has the knack for writing flawed but endearing characters that just get under your skin. Also, Ravi is the best!
Orphan Black (season 4)-My beautiful sestras! Loved how this season turned inward, revisiting its own origins while mining the core relationships for absolute gold. You cannot miss the magic trick of Tatiana Maslany’s performance as all five lead roles, and a few supporting characters along the way.
Westworld (season 1), Victoria (season 1), American Crime (season 2), Transparent (season 2), Marvel’s Luke Cage (season 1), London Spy (one and done), Search Party (season 1), Eyewitness (season 1), Black Mirror’s “San Junipero” and “Nosedive” episodes
Biggest belly-flop: UnReal (season 2)
This is why I never read the book: War & Peace (one and done)
Show is good, costumes are exquisite: Outlander (season 2)
No, but seriously, that can’t be the end: Penny Dreadful (season 3-final season)
Most improved: Arrow (season five)
Most in need of improvement: The Flash (season 3)
Biggest disappointment: Daredevil (season 2)
It’s really fun, but I’m not sure if it’s any good: The Get Down (first half of season 1)
Hall of Fame: This is the first year Mad Men is not eligible to be on this list, and that makes me more than a little sad.