My 2016 series would run through the whole week, so be sure to check back every day as I reveal my lists of favorite things. Emphasis on the word favorite, as my lists are comprised of things I personally found praiseworthy, not necessarily what was universally loved or considered to be the best.
To kick things off, today I'll be revealing my favorite TV shows that ran during the year. There are some returning champions from last year, as well as revivals of some of my all-time favorites, so let the rundown begin!
The first season of Daredevil basically raised the bar for all superhero TV shows (and to an extent, movies as well). And the folks at Marvel and Netflix have followed up that seminal effort's success with a second season that is packed with even more tightly-choreographed fight scenes, awesome camerawork and an amazing cast that help bring the beloved comic-book characters to life like never before.
Better Call Saul
The Breaking Bad spinoff was back for a second season this year, in which it further established its identity as a standalone series, even as we watched title character Saul Goodman still struggling to find an identity of his own. And while it is quite clear that the show may never reach the same heights as the critically-acclaimed hit series that spawned it, it is also clear that Better Call Saul is its own kind of special.
Game of Thrones
The biggest show on television got even bigger this year, as it went beyond its source material by showing what happened after the fifth book in the series, A Dance with Dragons. The sixth season was ripe with twists and turns, all of which culminated in two of the strongest episodes we've gotten till date; I am still reeling from the sheer brilliance of Battle of the Bastards, and the revelations at the end of The Winds of Winter has fans the world over waiting in anticipation of what comes next.
The Night Of
Based on the first season of the British crime drama, Criminal Minds, The Night Of was an eight-part miniseries that aired on HBO this year. It explored the effects of the criminal justice system on a college student (Riz Ahmed), when he becomes the main suspect in the murder of a young woman after they have a drug-induced one night stand. It also stars John Turturo as the student's self-appointed lawyer, and Bill Camp as the detective trying to make sense of the whole thing.
Voltron: Legendary Defender
Voltron was one of those cartoon shows that effectively shaped my childhood. So you can imagine the joy (and to an extent, dread) I felt when I learnt that it was being rebooted for a new generation of kids. Thankfully, the reboot has been handled with enough care that it doesn't offend those like me who still have fond memories of the original series, while still feeling fresh and relevant for the kids that enjoy these kinds of shows today.
What would you get if you took E.T., The Thing, and It, and you tossed them in a blender? Stranger Things. The show nails the look and feel of said works, while telling a multilayered story centered around a group of likeable kids.This is hardly the first time a work of art is drawing inspiration from the decade that brought big hair and spandex pants into the mainstream. But what stands out here is how much attention to detail the Duffer Brothers have put into the eight episodes of this must-see miniseries.
Easily one of the most ambitious TV shows in recent years, Westworld is a science-fiction drama/western based on the 1973 Michael Crichton movie of the same name. It centers upon the day-to-day operations of a theme park modeled after the American wild west, where guests can interact with lifelike robots called hosts. The production values are through the roof, and it features an ensemble cast that includes Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins.
Ash vs Evil Dead
Ash William was back for another season of demon slaying this year in the horror-comedy series, Ash vs Evil Dead. The second season took basically everything we loved about the first, and cranked it up to full blast, so that we had more laughs, more blood and guts, and more evil creatures than you can shake a stick at. It's hard to imagine how the showrunners plan on topping any of this in the forthcoming third season, but I'm pretty sure they already have more than enough tricks up their sleeve.
Luke Cage marks Marvel's latest entry in its build up to its upcoming superhero ensemble series, The Defenders. First featured in last year's Netflix original series, Jessica Jones, the show continues Luke's journey as he struggles between a desire to keep his abilities hidden from those who'd wish to exploit it, and a need to protect the people of his Harlem neighborhood from the criminals who run the city.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
As much as I hate to admit it, Gilmore Girls was one of my all-time favorite TV shows. There's just something about the fast-talking mother and daughter and their small-town shenanigans that kept me coming back week after week during the show's 7-year run. And the recent Netflix revival does an admirable job of capturing most of that magic.
And the winner is...
What more can I say about Stranger Things that I haven't already said in my glowing review of the show from back when it was released? Not much, only to add that if you were born in the 80s like I was, or grew up watching movies and TV shows from that era, then you'd be doing yourself a great disservice by skipping out on this one. And with a second season already in the works and set to debut next year, there is no better time to take a dose of some sweet 80s nostalgia.