The Golden Age of Television lives on, even after Walter White and Don Draper. Storytellers and innovators are finding new and exciting ways to keep us at the edge of our seats, wanting more after the closing credits of every episode. Sometimes we have to wait a week. Sometimes we just hit “next episode” until we’re met with the disappointment of the season being over.
I listed out every TV show I watched in the last year and it came out to being upwards of 50 (yes I watch a lot of television). It wasn’t easy cutting the list to only 35. I also say “Favorite” instead of “Top” because I’m just not that full of myself…I
t also may come as a surprise, but I haven’t watched EVERY TV show that aired this past year. So recommendations are more than welcome on the Facebooks or Twitters.
35. The OA
Netflix – Brit Marling, Emory Cohen and Jason Isaacs
The OA is a very weird show. It’s complicated, hard to follow, strange, and sometimes fights you when you want to keep spending time on it. Somehow, someway though, every episode gives you a reason to continue binge-watching. The last 5 minutes of the first season make it all worth it, on an emotional level. Emory Cohen also gives a performance that makes you wonder why he wasn’t chosen to be “Young Han Solo”, with an excellent follow up to his part in Brooklyn.
Cinemax – Antony Starr, Ivana Milicevic and Ulrich Thomsen
I have to admit, I was pretty late to Banshee but I did binge watch the entire series in nearly a month’s time. I wouldn’t call it a “good show” but it’s so absurd that you can’t look away. Banshee is like a lovechild of True Blood and Into The Badlands, and it’s supremely more fun than both.
33. Orange is the New Black
Netflix – Uzo Aduba, Kate Mulgrew and Taylor Schilling
So far I’ve felt that OITNB’s best season was their 2nd, but their latest certainly knew how to throw the haymakers to your emotions. Some of your favorite characters became easy to turn on. Others became more important than the original stars, including Piper. And then there was the one that completely tore your heart out…
32. Ash vs. Evil Dead
STARZ – Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless and Ray Santiago
This show is gross, cheesy, and kinda REALLY dumb…but that’s also why it’s so much fun. It’s hard to deny that when Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi team up on either big or small screen. Warning: There is blood…LOTS OF BLOOD (That’s for the kids who didn’t like how gory The Walking Dead premiere was).
The CW – Melissa Benoist, David Harewood and Mehcad Brooks
If there was a Most Improved Player category for TV shows, Supergirl could be at the top of the list. The move from CBS to CW was more than necessary for its tone and overall quality. The show hasn’t held back on it’s commentary of topical social issues and it did something that the DC films have failed to as of late…make Superman likable.
30. Vice Principals
HBO – Danny McBride, Walton Goggins and Kimberly Hebert Gregory
It should be noted that our two stars play absolutely terrible people on this show. Danny McBride is an expert at making bad guys almost worth rooting for (i.e. Kenny Powers) and Walton Goggins is simply one of the best actors in television today (watch Justified, if you don’t believe me). The under-the-radar sweetness of Shea Whigham, which is a complete opposite of McBride’s character, is reason enough alone to watch this show.
29. House of Cards
Netflix – Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and Michael Kelly
House of Cards lost a bit of mojo once Frank Underwood made it to the oval office. Once he became president, he was no longer hunter but rather playing survivor instead. Robin Wright carries the 4th season much more than her male counterpart and Joel Kinnaman makes for an awesome heel as the adversary candidate in their race for reelection. What makes me hopeful for the 5th season is how scary both Francis and Claire are by the end of 4th.
AMC – Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga and Jackie Earle Haley
Preacher had of the best pilots of the year, written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. It matched the crazy and action that’s packed in the comic series, and set the tone for what should be a wild ride of a series. The season itself had its ups and downs, sometimes standing in place and other times with the pedal to metal. It never lacked suspense or humor though, due to the unpredictable nature and writing of the characters.
27. The Crown
Netflix – Claire Foy, Matt Smith and John Lithgow
The Crown is absolutely stunning. The cinematography, the costumes, the pageantry, and the acting are all top notch. The real life story of Queen Elizabeth and her royal family are fascinating too but there was a disconnect for me…It’s hard to be emotionally invested and sympathetic in the problems of British Hierarchy. But Lithgow as Winston Churchill is inspiring.
26. Black Mirror
Netflix – Bryce Dallas Howard and Michael Kelly
This British anthology series is the modern Twilight Zone, with technology, and it’s terrifying. Excellent and recognizable actors in each story/episode and themes that make you question your own behavior when it comes to, well, everything…
25. The Flash
The CW – Grant Gustin, Candice Patton and Tom Cavanaugh
Everyday I wonder why Warner Bros. doesn’t just let the TV DC universe carry over to their film universe…Grant Gustin belongs there and they are making a big mistake by not capitalizing on the charm, fun and popularity he has brought with Barry Allen.
HBO – Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji and Jay Ellis
Issa Rae is awesome. The show is comfortable and honest. It doesn’t try hard to speak on behalf of its audience yet is still relatable. It was also refreshing after every half hour following Westworld episode trying to blow your mind.
23. Grace and Frankie
Netflix – Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterson and Martin Sheen
I love Grace and Frankie. Ever since Sam Waterson and Martin Sheen chose to come out to their wives (Fonda and Tomlin) in the show’s first episode, it’s been an absolute delight. Can’t wait for the third season.
HBO – Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale and Anna Chlumsky
It shouldn’t be news to anyone at this point that Veep is really good, and will probably be especially relevant in the next couple years. When you have Gary Cole, Kevin Dunn, Diedrich Bader and HUGH LAURIE as recurring supporting characters, what’s not to love?
21. BoJack Horseman
Netflix – Will Arnett, Alison Brie and Aaron Paul
BoJack is Netflix’s best comedy and that’s really saying a lot. All I have to do is point to the episode that was set in 2007 (WOW, TEN YEARS AGO NOW) and how effective every episode specific to that year was.
20. Last Chance U
It’s the one docu-series that I have listed here but it’s a great one. Following a junior college school of student athletes trying to overcome their personal and academic issues and catch the eye of D1 programs (while also dealing with their egotistical head coach) is some of the most compelling television you’ll find in the last year.
Amazon – Titus Welliver, Jamie Hector and Lance Reddick
Related to the Lincoln Lawyer universe of novels, Bosch is an adapted Michael Connelly detective series that plays like a modern noir. Titus Welliver has always been “that guy” on TV shows, usually a supporting or guest villain, but shines when given the spotlight as the title character. If you were a fan of The Wire, then you are going to LOVE all the alums who star and appear on the show.
18. Mozart in the Jungle
Amazon – Gael Garcia Bernal, Malcolm McDowell and Lola Kirke
How this series hasn’t received love from the Emmys is beyond me (at least on thing the Golden Globes gets right). One of the easiest binge watches you could ask for, with great writing and soul-searching music. Bernal is also one of the best actors you’ll find on television today and makes you feel as romantic the maestro he portrays.
17. Ray Donovan
Showtime – Liev Schreiber, John Voight and Steven Bauer
Now that we’re moved on from Bryan Cranston’s Walter White and Jon Hamm’s Don Draper, it’s time to start recognizing Liev Schreiber’s Ray Donovan as one of the most complex and well-acted characters on current running series. It took a few years, but the show is now hitting its stride in writing, acting, and casting…while the soundtrack to Season 4 could be pound-for-pound as good as any.
Showtime – Damian Lewis, Paul Giamati and Maggie Siff
Maggie Siff is the x-factor to a show that already features two heavyweight lead actors. Don’t get me wrong, Lewis and Giamati definitely fit the bill. But Siff goes well beyond what we remember from her character, Tara, on Sons of Anarchy, and deserves as many nominations as she can get. The show itself is like if The Big Short didn’t treat its audience like a bunch of idiots and faster paced. Great Metallica appearance too.
15. The Americans
FX – Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Noah Emmerich
I’ll be honest, I’m still catching up on The Americans. It’s well-regarded as being one of the best shows today, if not THEE BEST, but it took me a while to get interested enough to check it out. I’m sure by next year it will be significantly higher on the list.
14. Silicon Valley
HBO – Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller and Kumail Nanjiani
I don’t know if there is a show that has a better sense of humor than Silicon Valley. Every episode oozes with Mike Judge’s cynicism, nature and experience in the industry and it’s fantastic. Is it a little exhausting that guys of Pied Piper continue to get crapped on after they find success? Yes…but that’s the heart of its story: overcoming the continuous struggle.
13. The People vs. OJ Simpson
FX – Cuba Gooding Jr., John Travolta and Courtney B. Vance
The very first episode of American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson reminded us how great Ryan Murphy can be as a director and storyteller. You knew what was going to happen, but the suspense was absolutely killer and he let the evidence tell the story. The acting was superb by a great cast, but then Murphy couldn’t get out of his own way. Yes, Robert Kardashian’s friendship was significant to Simpson, but did they have to be so gratuitous with the attention to his ex wife and daughters? And why was every extra or background actor more annoying and awful than the next? Courtney B. Vance, Sterling K. Brown and John Travolta made the miniseries every bit as compelling as it was though.
Netflix – Charlie Cox, Jon Bernthal and Deborah Ann Woll
Season 1 of Daredevil was an absolute adrenaline rush that was capable of doing what the Marvel Cinematic Universe hadn’t accomplished yet: like give us a memorable and even sympathetic villain (Vincent D’onofrio). This time, it was an antihero that took The Defenders series to the next level…Jon Bernthal’s variation of The Punisher is dark, brooding, heartbreaking, badass, and even more interesting than the title character.
11. This Is Us
NBC – Sterling K. Brown, Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia
One of the best new shows on television, This Is Us has this uncanny ability to make you laugh, cry and repeat over and over every episode. It’s honest, it’s smart, and it’s one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. The show also never ceases to keep you on your toes.
10. The Night Manager
AMC – Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Elizabeth Debicki
Sexy, suspenseful and super unpredictable, The Night Manager was unbelievably good, even by AMC’s standards. If it was an audition for Tom Hiddleston to play James Bond, he passed. If Hugh Laurie was trying out to be a Bond villain, he’d be way better than most…Rather than go with the obvious Bond girl comp, I’ll just say Elizabeth Debicki is my new TV crush and I feared for her life the entire miniseries.
Netflix – Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook and Pedro Pascal
The best way I can describe how good Narcos S2 was, I literally couldn’t close my laptop while streaming it…I actually let it play on top of my washer while I did my laundry because I couldn’t hit pause on the action that was cranked to 11, compared to season 1. Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar is more than award worthy as well.
FX – Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry and Keith Stanfield
Donald Glover is making a really strong case for coolest dude on the planet. Even cooler might be Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12, Straight Outta Compton) and everything his character does on Atlanta. Every episode is different in its own way but they are all consistently real and also surreal at the same time.
7. Better Call Saul
AMC – Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks and Michael McKean
Better Call Saul is proof of 2 things: Vince Gilligan is a genius and comedic actors are brilliant in dramatic settings. It’s incredible to see how enthralling the stories can be of Breaking Bad’s supporting characters. The shows are very different in tone, but the suspense, cinematography and classic Gilligan wit are all there…sometimes better. Oh, and it look’s like Gus is coming next season.
6. Luke Cage
Netflix – Mike Colter, Rosario Dawson and Theo Rossi
While watching Luke Cage, I couldn’t help but think it was my favorite of The Defenders series. Mike Colter’s Luke Cage isn’t afraid to be the hero, nor does he hide behind an alias and that avoids the unnecessary drama that you find in Daredevil. The show doesn’t hold back on facing social issues and the women on the show are all complete badasses in their own way. Also love the music and how Harlem is treated like a character itself.
HBO – Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins
The mystery of Westworld’s end game throughout the first season was so enthralling that you couldn’t help but keep watching until it came to fruition. Every twist kept you on your toes, the setting was gorgeous, and the music was haunting. Almost every character was dynamic, man or machine, and whom you were rooting for was entirely up to you.
4. Stranger Things
Netflix – David Harbour, Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown
Stranger Things was the new show that many of us geeks needed over the summer. Sci-fi, horror, 80’s references, adventure, action and all the wonderment through the eyes of kids of that era made this show worth binge watching over an entire weekend.
3. Game of Thrones
HBO – Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke and Lena Headey
Television’s most talked about show gave us its biggest payoff of a season. Every episode gave fans a win, whether it was characters being reunited, the advancement of a few others, or the death of a few hated ones…Don’t forget, I had Power Rankings for the entire season too.
2. The Night Of
HBO – Riz Ahmed, John Turturro and Bill Camp
After every episode, week to week, I couldn’t help but say that The Night Of was the best show of the summer. It was. From the premiere, which made you scream “NO NO NO NO NO!” with everything Riz Ahmed did, to John Turturro’s amazing performance, to the back-and-forth “Serial Podcast” style guessing of who-done-it…every episode was worth the wait. Would have loved to see what the first one would have been like with James Gandolfini in Turturro’s role.
Amazon – Billy Bob Thornton, William Hurt and Maria Bello
I haven’t seen it on many year-end lists, but here I have it as my #1. Why? If you’re a Billy Bob Thornton fan, everything you like about him is on display in Goliath. He’s funny, commanding, and unbelievably easy to root for. The battle between a giant corporation and the “little guy” victims was too good to pause during a weekend to myself. It was also the most fulfilling of any series I have listed above. It’s the first thing I suggest to anyone who asks for a recommendation too.