I sincerely believe we are in the golden age of television. Thanks to shows like The Sopranos, The West Wing, The Wire, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, main characters are no longer portrayed as flawless or with minimal moral deficiency.
Up to the late 1990s, the problems faced by most of our favorite TV characters could be solved in a mere 30 or 60 minutes. Now, those problems are seasons long and sometimes left completely unresolved.
The best TV characters of the 21st century are deeply human, blurring the lines of right and wrong, thus becoming increasingly more complex and relatable.
2016 was a great year for television, especially comedy – a genre I naturally gravitate to. I think it’s the genre that’s going to get us through the next four years in America (God bless Alec Baldwin).
So here it is: my top 10 TV shows of 2016…
1. Girls (Season 5) – HBO
This might be one of the best seasons of any show I’ve ever seen. It’s certainly the best season of Girls, which will be ending after Season 6. It’s a show I’ll miss, but most series start overstaying their welcome after 4-6 seasons, so it’s probably a good thing. Creator/writer/producer/director/star Lena Dunham is growing up and her art is reflecting it, especially in this season. Thank God producer Judd Apatow found Dunham and, with HBO’s help, got this series off the ground.
2. Love (Season 1) – Netflix
Speaking of Judd Apatow, here comes Love, the first single-camera series he’s created since the unbelievably underrated Undeclared in 2001. This idea had been rattling around Apatow’s head for years and the original title was Trainwreck – a title he gave instead to his latest directorial effort starring Amy Schumer. The series tells the tale of Mickey and Gus (played by the flawless Gillian Jacobs and the hilarious Paul Rust), whose worlds collide in the last scene of Episode 1. The series chronicles the ups and downs of a modern, 30-something relationship and does so with charm, honesty, thoughtfulness and hilarity. I can’t wait for Season 2.
3. Saturday Night Live (Season 41) – NBC
Saturday Night Live is my favorite show of all time. Creator/producer Lorne Michaels is a hard-ass, but a genius who has brought us some of the best comedians of all time. The writing and cast is the best it’s been in years. Players like Vanessa Bayer, Michael Che, Pete Davidson, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon and Kyle Mooney will, I believe, have long successful comedy careers. Here’s to 41 more seasons!
4. House Of Cards (Season 4) – Netflix
Kevin Spacey was born to play Frank Underwood – it’s just that simple. This is one of the most rich and high quality television series in recent history. Each installment feels more like a big-budget short film rather than a television episode. The writing, direction, cinematography and acting are impeccable. It’s dark, daring, bold and terrifying – much like our current political situation.
5. Veep (Season 5) – HBO
Just like Kevin Spacey was born to play POTUS from a dramatic angle, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was born to play POTUS from a comedic one. Rarely does an actor or actress have the opportunity to play two career defining TV characters, but Dreyfus has done just that. She’s absolutely brilliant and so is the supporting cast/writers of this original series. Honestly, if you took Spacey’s POTUS and mixed it with Dreyfus’ POTUS…you get Trump’s POTUS. Sad!
6. Orange Is The New Black (Season 4) – Netflix
Is Netflix on a roll or what?! Apparently OITNB is renewed through Season 7 and if it continues the way it has, it just might end up being one of those rare series that doesn’t lose it’s charm. Set in a women’s prison; this show is devastating, provocative and hilarious. The diverse cast brings their a-game every episode and you can never just watch one at a time.
7. Stranger Things (Season 1) – Netflix
No show that debuted in 2016 has had more impact on culture than Stranger Things. Set in 1983, this series pays homage to 80s classics like E.T., The Goonies and Stand By Me. It truly is a love letter to Steven Spielberg. Addictive, exciting, tragic and scary; you’ll be impressed by everything about this new Netflix series. The writing, direction, production design, music and acting are all a match made in TV heaven. It’s perfect.
8. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (Season 3) – HBO
God, I love John Oliver. Like I said, comedy is the genre that’s going to get us through the next four years in America. And while Oliver isn’t American, he sure understands America and he’s just as brilliant as he is hilarious. Oliver does what every great comedian does: he softens our hearts with humor to prepare our brains for the truth.
9. The Daily Show With Trevor Noah – Comedy Central
Trevor Noah had humongous shoes to fill when Jon Stewart left The Daily Show two years ago. There was definitely an adjustment period, but the shoes fit just fine and it’s been refreshing to see someone with Noah’s experience and background take the helm. He has a softness, innocence and charm that’s lacking in late-night tv and he has an important voice.
10. Late Night With Seth Meyers (Season 3) – NBC
As bummed as I was when Seth Meyers left SNL, I was ecstatic to hear he was re-teaming with Lorne Michaels for Late Night. Just like Jimmy Fallon, Meyers got off to a rocky start and it took him a while to find his groove. But he found it and when he did, the show took off in a whole new unique direction. Unlike Fallon, Meyers plays it less safe and isn’t afraid of confrontation, still maintaining a sensitive outlook. This late-night show is just going to keep getting better and better.