Evan Griffin’s Top 10 TV Shows of 2016
10. Something DC Related Because I Watch Those Every Week
I watch four DC shows every week… I review two of them. They all are blending together. Not just the seasons, but the four individual programs. Flashpoint. GUH.
9. Stranger Things
While it didn’t grasp me in the same way it phenomenally blew up in the web-culture this summer, I massively appreciate the nodding it did towards the 80’s films and culture it was influenced by, but not winking too hard in it’s general direction. I appreciate Stranger Things as a prime example in discussing how entertainment can achieve being derivative without trying so hard it becomes a cheap imitation. Plus, it’s short and sweet, and I think that the shot episode orders should be taken note of from Stranger Thing’s success (meaning, you, Marvel).
8. Daredevil (Season 2)
Despite that snide comment at Marvel’s streaming TV series being too long per season, I still find that this season’s Daredevil entries were some of the most enthralling moments of building the Marvel Universe so far with a finally good introduction of Elektra, a conflict both with fists and ideals between Matt Murdock and The Punisher, and a believable inclusion of The Hand.
7. Luke Cage
On that same note, Luke Cage, the first lead person of color for a Marvel Studios franchise is played by Mike Colter as the returning power man that made his introduction in last fall’s Jessica Jones. Because the man with unbreakable skin has an entirely different set of motives and way of seeking out justice in New York, the show he stars in is wholly different in tone in contrast to Daredevil’s grimdark story plodding. Luke Cage is a superhero character that, much like Captain America, feels more uplifting in his day to day heroics and in his larger efforts to remove the corruption from Harlem. Also, Mahershala Ali as Cottonmouth was easily one of the most compelling villain characters for Marvel since Loki.
6. Better Call Saul (Season 2)
The story about the evolution of Jimmy McGill into the scammin’ lawyer we already knew becomes a bit more recognizable in its second season to it’s predecessor series, and yet feels like a piece entirely its own as Jimmy’s encounters vary from personal to extraneous, and characters like Mike, Tuco and the rest of the Salamanca family provide roles in the chess game throughout Better Call Saul’s second season.
The fever dream, existentially strange comedy by Donald Glover, entirely inspired by the local rap scene in the city of Atlanta, Georgia. The tone of the show, described by some as a Twin Peaks for Rappers garners a weird sense of style from Glover’s comedy routines but also from his own experiences on the music scene in the city. Atlanta has moments of tackling issues of racism, all the while it can be telling zany and eccentric plots in the same episode, and I believe the balance found between the two is what has garnered so much adoration for the show from audiences this year.
First Jurassic Park, now this. Michael Crichton must hate amusement parks. Westworld borrows those ideas struck open by Philip K Dick and Isaac Asimov, but now hit a little too close to home in the advent of smart homes and lifelike sex robots, and Westworld twists those ideas of existential crises in sci-fi and in virtual reality with an “amusing twist” by keeping the focus on certain characters as opposed to any singular overarching plot through its pilot season. Audiences find themselves caring just as much for android characters played by the likes of James Marsden and Evan Rachel Wood as they do the goings on of Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins. This show contains a level of talent that it’s shocking how it’s accumulated here despite being hosted by HBO.
3. Terrace House (Netflix Series 2)
On my list last year, I got some flack for including a reality show like the Great British Bake Off as one of 2015’s crowning jewels of television. I can guarantee you, I hate reality television. But for a second year in a row, a non-american reality tv show has enamored me, and this time it’s one that aired in Japan that was saved for another installment by Netflix. Terrace House is a japanese take on Real World and Big Brother where several strangers in their 20’s of varying personality live in an unnecessarily gorgeous apartment together, and that’s about it. There is very little to no drama in this show, but it’s more a window into a culture, and they were open enough to show the world how they can grow as a human being in such scenarios. It’s not edited to be wildly frustrating or agonizing or awkward. Just simple, relaxing, sometimes it’s even enlightening, and that puts it on par with the Great British Bake Off in the spectrum of quality reality tv.
2. Black Mirror (Season 3)
Sure, it’s not for everybody, but I personally welcome our robot overlords. Well, maybe not welcome, but in the same way that people watched Twilight Zone for insight into human psyche and fear, I watch Black Mirror to feel strangely guilty that the awful habits I take part in assist our technologically driven culture knee deep into cold, lonely insanity.
1. Mr Robot (Season 2)
I knew that Sam Esmail was going to take his time to tell a story throughout Season 2 of Mr. Robot, but I didn’t realize how much time he actually meant. This truly was a character driven season of USA’s new flagship drama, and it had much less to do with hacking and social engineering as it did the way this culture, and a metaphorically atomic reset of America’s debt crisis, would affect this cast of characters. The controlled doses of Eliot’s struggle after the 5/9 attack was well rendered, Darleen’s attempt to seize command of FSociety was strenuous, and Angel quickly became a favorite in a cast of characters, a few of whom we lost very early on in some surprising turns of events. Mr. Robot, I can foresee, will be the best show on TV every summer it airs unless something else truly masterful comes along.