Published Dec 20, 2016Just ask Billy Eichner — we've officially reached peak TV. Thanks to new distribution models, a deep talent pool and a willingness to try new things, the medium's golden age has yet to falter.
There's simply too much to wade through to make any sort of comprehensive list, so rather than discuss the minutiae of returning series like The Walking Dead or UnREAL, we decided to focus on the new class of shows gracing our screens.
Here are the 16 best new TV shows of 2016.
HBO has been floundering in the search for their next big franchise now that Game of Thrones is on its last legs. Despite some duds, they've finally found their new watercooler mainstay in Westworld.
The dystopian Michael Crichton adaptation was not without its problems — the show does, after all, rely a little too much on cornball Radiohead covers and often unnecessary plot twists.
That said, it's a compelling, well-shot thriller that begged existential questions while keeping us riveted by its visuals. Best of all, it was the sort of show that had us wrapped up in conversation every week.
15. The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth
When The Circus first began airing during the New Hampshire primaries, it's up close and personal, stylized documentary look at the U.S. presidential candidates was so candid and far-flung from most of their official campaign and public appearances, it seemed almost invasive. Political experts Mark Halperin, John Heilemann, and Mark McKinnon have been at it long enough that, as hosts of this show, they had incredible access to every key, historic scene of the campaign and everyone who caused them. Watching the show, which recapped the previous week's political news cycle with real talk and candour, felt almost like knowing too much.
Of course, it only felt really inside until the wee hours of November 9 when it became clear that even the most informed political junkies didn't know shit. Still, this totally unprecedented, high-quality blast of filmmaking featured colourful, intelligent commentary and was an ingenious concept executed beautifully. Once we crawl out of our collective fetal position, maybe we can re-watch the whole series to see if we can spot any Russian spies.
It's always interesting to see what happens when microbudget filmmakers are given money and big names to work with. While some flail and sputter under the pressure, mumblecore master Joe Swanberg has seamlessly transitioned into working with big names.
Easy, his 2016 anthology series for Netflix, is shot like a real TV show and packed with plenty of recognizable names. The show includes appearances from the likes of Aya Cash, Dave Franco, Orlando Bloom, Malin Akerman, Hannibal Buress and Kiersey Clemons, to name a few. Fortunately, Swanberg steps up to the plate, weaving his bigger budget and diverse cast into a stunning tapestry of stories about upper middle class life in Chicago.
At once laid back and emotionally fraught, Easy is one of the strongest Swanberg projects to date.
13. Jon Glaser Loves Gear
Thanks to bits on Conan, Girls and Parks & Recreation, beloved comedian Jon Glaser continues to slowly rise in the public eye. Still, to really appreciate the man, you must dive into his carefully curated comedic consciousness.
Following Delocated and Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter, Glaser took his absurdist sensibilities to the next level with Jon Glaser Loves Gear. Ostensibly an excuse for product placement, the show flips the consumer guide on its head with deeply meta story-telling, groan-worthy dad jokes and outlandish premises. Jon Glaser is a truly singular comedian, and all of his best characteristics are on display here.
12. The Crown
In a year in which Netflix's original programming got some of its biggest critical acclaim and audience accolades to date, The Crown almost slipped through the cracks when it was launched online in early November. But as the skies turn grey and more people head indoors for the winter, the British biopic about the early years of Queen Elizabeth II's reign proves to be as binge-worthy as everything else on this list.
Written and created by Peter Morgan (The Queen, The Damned United) and directed in part by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot), the ten-episode series offers a nuanced (and beautiful, considering the cinematography) look at the inner workings of life in the British monarchy.
Downton Abbey fans will be thrilled to have a whole new royal family to follow for generations (the series is set to film six seasons in total and go up to present day), but producers will probably have to cut a few costs to do so (the show's first season was rumoured to take over $100 million to make).
11. King of the Road
King of the Road isn't entirely new. The competition, which pits skateboard teams on a scavenger hunt across America, has been documented in the pages of Thrasher Magazine for over a decade, as well as on home video and YouTube. But Viceland turned it into a full-fledged reality show this year, and while that might seem like a good example of synergy at its worst, it actually ended up offering an eye-opening look into the lives of today's skaters and the subculture as a whole.
The 11-episode series was responsible for making (Aaron "Jaws" Homoki and Elijah Berle were nominated for Thrasher's "Skater of the Year" in part for their performances on the show this year) and breaking a new generation of skaters (Birdhouse rider Clint Walker, whose jock-ish shenanigans constantly infuriated viewers, many of whom now consider him an embarrassment to the art form). Here's hoping Season 2 offers similar amounts of carnage on and off the boards.