Whether it’s streaming, binging, or whatever, television shows are the best form of art right now. While everything at the megaplex is basically a superhero story, a young adult book adaption, or a remake, things on television are completely fresh. Here are 25 shows from this year you need to catch up on now. Spoiler alert: no Game of Thrones because I’m the only person in the world who hasn’t seen it. I do it to just infuriate my friends.
American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson – FX
Get ready for a lot of FX on this list. The OJ show proved that it doesn’t matter if you think you know the story of a famous event. What matters is the depths the characters can reach in the unseen moments. Sarah Paulson was the best thing on television this year. Get ready to rewatch this soon, because it’s golden.
The Americans – FX
This is the show about Cold War Soviet spies you’ve been meaning to watch, but haven’t. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell’s chemistry is only one of the many reasons this is peak TV. The rest of the show is filled with subtle nuance that allows the viewer to breathe and discover things on their own.
Atlanta – FX
Donald Glover says this is Twin Peaks with rappers. It’s an existential comment on who we are and what we do. Don’t go into it thinking it’s a laugh out loud comedy. Glover created a world that is so intriguing that what they don’t show is better than what half of the shows on TV do show.
Baskets – FX
Absurd is the best single word to describe this show. The deadpan approach from Zach Galifinakas and company deliver their lines and jokes won’t be for everybody. Sometimes it isn’t even for me, but it has an undeniable quality to it that makes it worth being apart of the conversation.
Better Things – FX
Slice of live dramadies are so hot right now. Pamela Adlon teamed up with Louis CK to produce a semi-autobiographical program about a single mom voice actor. It has been a standout year for complex women on television (more on that in a moment), and this was a personal favorite of the bunch.
Catastrophe – Amazon
This technically didn’t air new episodes in 2016, but it did air its second season in America in April for the first time, so that counts. Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan – the actors/writers/creators of the show – know who each other are and play so well off of one another. Delaney, in particular, was stellar this season.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – The CW
This isn’t the type of show that is supposed to be prestige, but is anyway. By now you should this black comedy musical was developed for a premium cable channel, but found a cozy home at the CW. Underneath all of the dazzling moments is a strong comentary on the romantic mythos we have all created for ourselves.
Fleabag – Amazon
Phoebe Waller-Bridge created this for Amazon and a show for Netflix called Crashing. She has an immensely creative mind and it shows in this series about a woman navigating grief, sex, and anything else life throws her way. It’s only six episodes long, so you should be able to get it done in one sitting.
The Good Place – NBC
It is the type of show that a lot of people won’t like. They type of people who only like peak, realistic dramas or perhaps even like the baddie of the week criminal procedures. However, people need to give this one a chance because it follows in the absurdist comedy footsteps of shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but takes it a step further.
Happy Valley – Netflix
Those Brits know how to make a gritty police drama. This one is the grittiest. While it doesn’t have the flashiness and high-powered names like The Fall, it has been consistent for a few seasons now and is as tightly written now as it was the first episode.
Horace and Pete – LouisCK.net
The ten episode series is filmed like a stage play where actors had two days to rehearse each episode and two days to film it. Then Louis CK edited and cut it before releasing it. He did this for ten weeks and produced a truly one of a kind creative project. And it’s still better than shows that take (ahem) two years to make a pilot.
Insecure – HBO
That Awkward Black Girl from the internet grew up when Issa Rae adapted her webseries for HBO. Though partially inspired by that series, the new version is different in all of the right ways, and stays consistent with the past.
Mr. Robot – USA
While not as memorable as the first season, the second season of Mr. Robot proved that it still had a few tricks up its sleeves. Sure, some of them were predictable, but the aspirations of this show are so great that even when it falls a little flat, it still rides higher than safe shows scattering cable.
The Night Of – HBO
Maybe the ending didn’t know how to handle itself, but this adaptation dominated conversations for two months. It fell into the pitfalls of a whodunnit every now and then, but the overarching whole forced us to view characters in different lights week after week.
One Mississippi – Amazon
Tig Notaro is one of the best voices in comedy. She also knows how to create weighty dramatic moments. The show uses cancer as the backdrop as way for Notaro to explore so much of the world from her unique perspective.
Rectify – Sundance
Sadly, this is the last time Rectify can be on the end of a year list because the southern drama is wrapping up its run. You probably haven’t heard much about the show so let me just tell you that you need to marathon this sooner rather than later.
Search Party – TBS
This show is… different. It comments on our obsession with true crime, but is also about a young woman trying to find herself. The first episode was recently released on regular ol’ TBS, but then the network released all of it on demand a la binge-style. It’s quirky, fun, and original. Who says all comedies need to be so somber now. This one will make you laugh.
Silicon Valley – HBO
This series grew on me. Season after season the comedy proved how smart it was without shoving it down our throats. The fringe characters are much more interesting than the central figure, which creates a problem from time to time, but never enough to deter me from watching.
Stranger Things – Netflix
Nostalgia helped catapult this to the best show of the year, but that’s not the only reason. Everything from the young actors shooting to stardom, to the slight mystery of the who took Will Byers, to the audacity of creating something so similar that it was different. It was the only series this year that I re-watched twice. I might be due for a third time.
This Is Us – NBC
NBC’s breakout sure does like to manipulate its viewers. Some hate it, some love it, but it would be silly to overlook the dramatic effect it has on all of us. Family dramas have really fallen off in years, but This Is Us gladly takes the mantle from the likes of Parenthood. The diverse cast all pulls their own weight week after week.
Transparent – Amazon
The cultural impact of this show will be looked back on as hugly significant. Who cares about the amount of viewers. What this show about a transgendered woman and her family does – other than provide amazing episodes of television – is opens the conversation about sexuality in 2016 and beyond.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Netflix
Everything in this season is too something: too smart, too funny, too cute. That’s what makes it so worthy to be considered one of the best comedies out right now. Not one of those “real life and dramatic” comedies. But a true, hilarious comedy.
Veep – HBO
Julia Louis-Dreyfus: the queen of comedy. It’s undeniable that she absolutely stunts on everyone in the world right now. Her time as a veep-turned president-turned loser has lasted half a decade, but it still feels as fresh as ever. The show hasn’t missed a single step and has produced quality stories with hilarious characters year after year.
Westworld – HBO
As frustrating this show could be at times, it was probably the most vital show of the end of 2016. Reddit ran rampant trying to figure out this western/sci-fi, which may or may not be a good thing. Who really knows? What I do know is that this was a powder keg of explosive performances that will garner numerous award nominations.
You’re the Worst – FX
It would be sad to call this a romantic comedy, which I’ve seen some people describe it as. It’s as far from the shininess of HIMYM. The show pushes the comfort level of an ensemble comedy week after week by allowing these characters to be real with numerous dimensions.