This list is entirely subjective to my own opinion of the television I enjoyed the most this year. It was a great year for books and film, but I think it was actually really disappointing in terms of television. So at some point I reconfigured all my expectations and focused on the shows that really made me happy, and got rid of all the shows that frustrated me. I'll actually talk about these shows because many of them will probably end up on other people's Top 10s.
Letdowns and disappointments: Peaky Blinders Series 3, Daredevil Season 2, Gilmore Girls Revival, Outlander Season 2, Westworld Season 1, The Man in the High Castle Season 1, The Night Manager, UnREAL Season 2, Poldark Season 2 (I could go on, this year in television was a mess and that's not counting shows I don't watch.)
The biggest disappointments were definitely Peaky Blinders Series 3, which I couldn't bring myself to even finish, the Gilmore Girls revival and Westworld. I dropped Peaky Blinders the moment Grace died because she was so obviously fridged for manpain and I was not having that. Westworld was by far the biggest letdown of the year. I was rooting for it in the pilot, despite all my misgivings of HBO letting Jonathan Nolan run round with a blockbuster television sized budget. All throughout the season, it was evident that the show had some major problems at its very core--- the story and characters, but everyone, including me, was willing to overlook it for the potential of what the characters could be and the exceptional production values, with hope that all flaws would be cleaned up by the time we got to the finale. It didn't happen. The finale was, yes, gripping, but underneath all of its plot twists was a story with very little substance, and characters you wished you cared more about.
FAVORITE TV EPISODE OF 2016- BLACK MIRROR 'SAN JUNIPERO'
Black Mirror has built its reputation on being cynical and full of warning and doom and gloom about technology and the future. That is, to the point where its cynicism can become downright nasty, like in Shut Up and Dance. But for the most part, it works in serving as a cautionary tale for audiences.
But San Junipero rolled around and it was the one episode the collective masses agreed on, that it was the best Black Mirror episode, and probably one of the best things anyone had seen all year. The story follows Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis) in 1987 (indicated by the poster of The Lost Boys) as she wanders into a dance club in the scenic California beach resort town of San Junipero. She meets Kelly (the dazzling Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and they form a connection. As the weeks go on and Kelly disappears, Yorkie goes in search of her, and this is where we learn about the technological element of the story. This time, writer/creator Charlie Brooker defied all expectations (of his audiences) by giving humanity hope through technology. While he sets up some warnings about the misuse of this technology, ultimately San Junipero is the love story between Yorkie and Kelly and how they find a new lease of life through the technology of San Junipero in this near future and with the love for each other.
San Junipero is emotional, heartfelt but never overly sentimental or manipulative. The characters confront and communicate with each other and they resonate individually and as a couple. Only the hardest of hearts would find themselves shedding naught a tear while watching this episode.
FAVORITE TV SHOW OF 2016 - YURI!!! ON ICE
I did say this list was going to be focused on my enjoyment, and you can't get more joyful than this show. I watched this because it was a show about figure ice-skating and having once figure-skated and being a huge fan of the sport, I was on board. Never in my wildest imagination did I think that this show would be one of the biggest highlights of my year and bring so much joy to my life--- and many others.
The story follows 23 year old Katsuki Yuri, a men's singles figure skater from Japan who suffers from crippling anxiety and self-doubt. After a disastrous season the previous year following the death of his dog, Yuri returns to his hometown to try and rediscover his spark in life. When a viral video of him skating to his idol (and skating legend) Victor Nikiforov's program, Victor makes his way to Yuri's hometown and offers to coach him to gold medal success. Without giving too much away, this story is the classic sports story of an underdog, but it reveals itself slowly to be a romantic comedy as well. This is the story of the relationship between Victor and Yuri, and how much they fill in each other's flaws and make each other better. And as much as it is a story about the relationship between two characters, it is also a story about self-love, coping with self-doubt, low self-esteem and anxiety, and the mental complexity and resilience needed in a sport as demanding as figure skating.
Yuri!!! On Ice starts out as a light, fun sports comedy, but as the weeks have gone, it is the details in the world building and characters that have really made the storytelling sing. The characters may be anime characters and have over the top reactions, but their struggles are so deeply rooted in reality: the self doubt, the ambition, the pressure, the loneliness that all the skaters struggle with are things we can identify with. These problems and the characters they plague feel honest and compelling. Furthermore, the core relationship between Victor and Yuri is even highlighted to be more than just romantic, but rather, the coming together of two persons that support, care, believe, trust and love each other. With the supporting characters and skaters, it is all about where they find their passion and convey it through their sport.
Yuri!!! On Ice is ultimately a story about life and love, in all shapes and forms. I have never seen a more pure rendition of such a story, completely free of cynicism. Furthermore, the number of queer fans it has reached and touched through its sheer joy and positivity is overwhelming. As a community so used to getting less than the bare minimum, queer audiences have been blown away week by week by how much the show has exceeded expectations. This is the kind of story we need all the more now in such uncertain times.
THE REST OF THE LIST
Edited on December 24th to include Sense8's Christmas Special
2. THE CROWN Season 1 (Netflix)
3. STRANGER THINGS (Netflix)
4. SENSE8- Christmas Special (Netflix)
5. BLACK MIRROR Season 3 (Netflix)
6. PENNY DREADFUL Season 3 (Showtime)
7. BLACK SAILS Season 3 (Starz)
8. VICTORIA Season 1 (ITV)
9. THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE Season 1 (Starz)
10. MOZART IN THE JUNGLE Season 3 (Amazon)
Honorable Mentions: AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (miniseries, BBC), LONDON SPY (miniseries, BBC), GAME OF THRONES (Season 6, HBO), HUMANS (Season 2, Channel 4)