Top 5 TV Shows of 2016 So Far

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TV isn’t like the movies where the best the year has to offer are all stacked in the last three or so months. Networks and streaming services like FX, HBO, and Netflix spread out their hits throughout the year, meaning that, unlike dry seasons for film, there’s usually something great on TV all year. 2016 has been no different. With some old favorites and striking newcomers, this year is already one to remember. Here are our different takes on the best five shows of 2016 so far.

Matt’s Take:

5. Better Call Saul

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill - Better Call Saul _ Season 2, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

The Breaking Bad spinoff’s sophomore season was an improvement on an already strong formula. But more focused on its characters and subtler in their growths, Better Call Saul rivaled its parent series at times throughout season two. The loving dynamic between Jimmy and Kim perfectly contrasted Mike’s darker work down a path he and Jimmy eventually both go down. But the series has shown incredible restraint in just giving Breaking Bad lovers the fan service they are clamoring for, instead focusing on the small ways these characters seal their fates.

 

4. Game of Thrones

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No longer adapting the series of novels that inspired the series, Game of Thrones found itself in a sixth season where it was actually able to move things forward. The first five episodes are a rollercoaster of long-coming payoffs and surprisingly important character moves. Just when you think things are slowing down in the back half, we get “Battle of the Bastards,” one of the best episodes of television ever created. It’s then followed by “The Winds of Winter,” a finale that impossibly stands next to the previous episode and just as tall. Westeros will never be the same and that’s the most exciting Thrones has possibly ever been.

 

3. Veep

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Has a showrunner switch ever gone so well? Taking over for Armondo Iannucci, David Mandel didn’t hold back for Veep‘s fifth and potentially best season. Episode after episode just worked, the best being “Mother” and the formula-breaking “Kissing Your Sister.” The show still keeps finding ways to shock us with how blatantly hilarious it can be. The ensemble, led by the legendary Julia Louis-Dreyfus, remained on the top of their game for a season that would test their comedic chops in new and exciting ways. With the game-changer of the finale, Veep will be very different next year. But Mendal has my trust that he’s taking the show exactly where he thinks it needs to go.

 

2. Horace and Pete

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Louie may be on an indefinite hiatus over at FX, by Louis CK’s own choice mind you, but that doesn’t mean the veteran comedian is finished artistically. Horace and Pete is something of a tragic experiment that could really only happen in the times of our technological boom. An artist sharing his work directly with his audience didn’t quite garner the attention CK hoped. But as the season went on, Horace and Pete more than spoke for itself. Acting like a two-set play, CK starred alongside Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco, and Alan Alda in this poignant exploration of, well, whatever CK wanted to that week. The show may have been cancelled by CK himself, but it should live on as one of the most important and well-made web series of all time.

 

1. American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson

THE PEOPLE v. O.J. SIMPSON: AMERICAN CRIME STORY "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" Episode 106 (Airs Tuesday, March 8, 10:00 pm/ep) -- Pictured: (l-r) Sarah Paulson a Marcia Clark, Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden. CR: Ray Mickshaw/FX

For many Americans, the O.J. Simpson trial is as cut and dry as they come. He killed them, the jury f*cked up. And maybe that’s how it should have been. But the social climate at the time, especially in a Los Angeles where the police force exhibited the true definition of police brutality, complicated matters. The first season of FX’s new anthology series takes a story the history books have over simplified and stretches it over this magnificent 10-episode season. American Crime Story is an impeccably made dramatization of the events that highlight discussions of race and feminism that populate the social climate today. Then there’s the cast, who nail every single scene they have, especially Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clarke. But the show’s secret weapon is its eye on the future. From the inappropriate tabloid coverage of Marcia hair to the knowing winks at who the Kardashians would become to the parallels of the tragic deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, The People vs. O.J. Simpson is a fascinating, fun, and important dissection and sometimes satirization of American culture. It’s also one of the best seasons of television ever produced.

 

Mike’s Take:

5. Younger

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Darren Star’s latest dishy drama requires a bit of suspension of disbelief. Broadway star Sutton Foster plays 40-year-old Liza Miller who, in an attempt to revitalize her career after her marriage ends and her child goes off to college, poses as a 26-year-old and lands an assistant job at a major publishing company. The premise may be ridiculous, but don’t let that keep you from watching one of the most charming, enjoyable shows on TV right now. Season 2 continued to bring the fun, while simultaneously making some sharp observations about female friendship, sexuality, ageism in the workplace, and the difficulties of transitioning into adulthood. Foster might not look 26, but her bubbly performance—along with the engaging performances of her fellow castmembers Nico Tortorella, Hilary Duff, and Debi Mazar—make the point completely moot.

4. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

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In a late-night landscape that’s, quite frankly, become a sausage fest, former Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee’s TBS talk show is a breath of fresh air. Yet, Full Frontal isn’t on this list just because Bee is a woman. It’s on this list because of how both incredibly informative and entertaining it is. From the engaging and original investigative journalism pieces, to the highly inventive, and hilarious, nicknames hurled at various public officials, Bee and her team of writers are able to expertly navigate what is perhaps the most turbulent political climate we’ve seen in years. This show has covered every major news issue with aplomb—Bee’s response to the Orlando nightclub shooting was arguably one of the best on TV—and enlightened us on issues we might not have fully understood before. In an election year that’s fraught with a dangerous amount of uncertainty, one thing is certain: Bee and her team will cut through the sh*t, and help us make sense of it all.

 

3. Veep

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Speaking of politics, is there a better satire of Capitol Hill culture on TV right now than Veep? Handling the switch of their showrunner from series creator Armando Iannucci to David Mandel seamlessly, this show has seen its best season yet. With its signature rapidfire sense of humor still intact, Veep went on to tackle Selina’s difficult few months fighting to keep her presidency intact. The show’s usual political screwups are still there, but this season also saw the addition of some truly wonderful character-based episodes like “Mother,” and showcases for the ensemble cast like “Kissing Your Sister.” The final episode may have taken Selina’s career in a surprising new direction, but with writing this strong, there’s no doubt that next season will continue to feature some truly fantastic work.

 

2. Lady Dynamite

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Maria Bamford’s new Netflix series, with it’s blaring color scheme, absurdist fantasy sequences, and constantly-shifting timeline, isn’t for everyone. For those who are willing to embrace the weirdness, however, Lady Dynamite is an absolute gem from one of comedy’s brightest stars. A semi-autobiographical account of Bamford’s own life, this show follows her attempts to navigate love, friendship, and Hollywood following a mental breakdown and being diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder. Like any great auteur project, Dynamite expertly explores the universal through Bamford’s unique experiences. Even more exciting is the show’s willingness to completely abandon genre conventions—Bamford gleefully breaks the fourth wall within the first few minutes of the premiere—and create something wholly original. At the very least, this show is worth watching for a chance to peak inside Bamford’s manic and ingenious imagination. As the world of comedian-fronted TV shows becomes more and more crowded, her voice effortlessly breaks through.

 

1. American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson

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It’s a testament to the brilliant execution of The People vs. O.J. that, despite knowing the outcome of the case, I was glued to the edge of my seat during the trials final moments. FX’s latest anthology series from producer Ryan Murphy (who directed a few episodes as well) spent its first season delving into one of this country’s most famous court cases like never before. Yes, the trial’s most memorable moments were re-enacted—sometimes shot-for-shot—but the real meat of the story came from the behind-the-scenes battle of OJ’s lawyers, the intense relationship of the prosecution, and the minutiae of the salacious media circus that surrounded the entire thing. Based on Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Run of His Life, The People vs. O.J. took a magnifying glass to every aspect of the trial and unearthed the humanity behind the headlines. Boasting an all-star cast that all turn in fantastic performances, and making some important parallels to the racial hurdles we still have to cross in this country today, The People vs. OJ. is prestige TV at its finest. Even if you think you know the trial inside and out, I recommend watching this show. You’re guaranteed to be mesmerized.

 

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