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The 20 Best (And 5 Worst!) TV Shows of 2016

ET – From the birth of consciousness to the afterlife, find out what made EW TV Critic Jeff Jensen’s top 20 list of shows to watch and the top five that aren’t worth your time (or space on your DVR).

 

 

BEST: 7. Rectify (Sundance)

There might have been no better scene on TV this year than the sequence in Rectify’s season 4 premiere when ex-con Daniel Holden (Aden Young) speaks of guilt, loneliness, and an alienation so great he’s forgotten what’s real and can’t decide if he even deserves his existence. “This may sound hokey as s—,” his new mentor tells him, “but you got to figure out some way to love yourself.” In the quiet, precise poetry of creator Ray McKinnon’s mystery of character, there’s no BS — only a thoughtful pursuit of truth, even as “truth” remains elusive and fogged. I could linger forever in its ambiguities, but that might be missing McKinnon’s concluding points. An increasingly wrenching final season has dialed down the surrealism as Daniel’s hazy-headed journey approaches hard revelations. Watching Daniel and his family try to divorce themselves from what’s obsolete — pain, careers, each other — and step into the future as new creations has been a teary, bittersweet joy. By the finale, I might be borrowing against next year’s Kleenex budget.

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Rectify Series Finale Promo and Sneak Peaks!

Tomorrow wraps up our four year journey with the Talbot and Holden Families. I really hope that we see that them finding a little peace and resolution so they can move on!

 

RECTIFY Episode 408 Sneak Peek: All I’m Sayin’

Daniel begins to appreciate his progress as he realizes what his new life may look like, while the old life is quickly disappearing for Teddy. Jon debriefs Janet and Amantha on what he has learned about Daniel’s case.

 

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Gallery: Lethal Weapon 1×09 and Rectify 4×07 & 4×08 Photos


  
 

 

 

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The 10 Best TV Shows of 2016

VULTURE – Over the next few weeks, Vulture will be publishing our critics’ year-end lists. Today, we’re looking at the best TV shows and episodes.

 

It’s always tough to narrow an entire season of a vast medium down to a Top 10 list, but for 2016 it’s damn near impossible. This is, hands down, the best year for scripted television since I became a critic of film and TV 25 years ago; it might be the the best year since I started watching TV as a kid in the 1970s. The sheer variety of subjects, modes, and styles was dazzling, and it wasn’t just premium cable and streaming services that delivered wild innovation and pitch-perfect classicism; the networks stepped up, too. My initial Top 10 list had nearly 30 titles on it, and the longer I sat with it, the more I added. Some notable programs that didn’t make my Top 10 list — such as USA’s Mr. Robot and HBO’s Westworld — were so formally ambitious that they deserve respect, too; their failures are more interesting than most other shows’ successes. So it might be best to think of this list not as the cream of the crop, but as the tip of the iceberg.

 

8. Rectify (Sundance)

The fourth and final season of Ray McKinnon’s series about a newly released death-row inmate took the show in an even more unabashedly New Testament direction, stressing healing, forgiveness, and transformation. Along with Atlanta, OWN’s Queen Sugar, and Cinemax’s 1970s drama Quarry, it was also part of a great wave of new Southern fiction that counteracted many of the stereotypes that still fuel too much of American TV.

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Episode Photos: Lethal Weapon 1.08 and Rectify 4.05, 4.06, and 4.07


  
 

 

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“Rectify” Is a Quiet Marvel

THE NEW YORKER – In the first episode of “Rectify,” Daniel Holden (Aden Young) is released from death row, and he gives a speech to journalists and protesters gathered outside the prison. Rather than assert his innocence or talk about justice, he offers a zigzagging meditation on the nature of fatalism. “I had convinced myself that kind of optimism served no useful purpose in the world where I existed,” he explains, in an underwater monotone, as the protesters look on, baffled. “Obviously, this radical belief system was flawed and was, ironically, a kind of fantasy itself.” Humbly, as if ending a philosophy seminar, he concludes, “I will seriously need to reconsider my world view.”

 

For three years, “Rectify” has been a small marvel, an eccentric independent drama, filmed in Griffin, Georgia, and airing off the beaten track as well, on Sundance. With its skewed insights into carceral cruelty, “Rectify” took the slot that “The Wire” used to occupy: it’s the smart crime drama whose fans have trouble persuading others to watch, because it sounds too grim—or maybe too good for you. It’s a frustrating dynamic that has haunted other dramas without cowboys or zombies—“The Leftovers” and “The Americans” come to mind—but “Rectify” ’s reputation for difficulty is misleading. The show’s dreamy pace makes it a satisfying high, like a bourbon-soaked bob down a river on a humid day. It’s a show about the way that time gets distorted; it’s one that distorts time, too. As with many structurally daring series, it’s joyful, because its insides match its outsides.

 

It’s also, more straightforwardly, a gothic mystery about small-town secrets. When Daniel was in his late teens, he was convicted of the rape and murder of his sixteen-year-old girlfriend, Hanna. He served nineteen years, most of them in solitary confinement. The crime itself was a foggy, ambiguous incident that involved psychedelic drugs; two boys testified against him, and, under pressure, Daniel confessed. DNA cleared him of the rape but not of the murder, so plenty of locals—and, at times, Daniel himself—suspect that he did it, because he was found cradling Hanna’s naked corpse, which he’d decorated with flowers. But Daniel’s younger sister, Amantha (Abigail Spencer), never lost faith in his innocence, and she’s been sleeping with the liberal Jewish lawyer she lobbied to work on his behalf—the big-city Reuben to her Norma Rae. Everyone involved wants clarity, now that Amantha’s faith has paid off.

 

No one gets it. The murder case is reopened and leads down alarming paths. Few people want to face the uglier facts, including the knowledge that Daniel was raped in prison, multiple times. While he was on death row, his father died and his mother remarried, so he has two new stepbrothers, Ted, Jr., and Jared, who is still in his teens. In some ways, Daniel is himself an adolescent, prone to self-indulgent, self-destructive whims. In isolated Paulie, Georgia, he’s a distinctly odd figure, a socially awkward autodidact who meditated and read obsessively in his cell. He speaks in an off-kilter, whispery style, making even sympathetic neighbors uncomfortable. His mannered intellectualism marks him as an outsider, queer in several senses, as much as any suspicions of criminal guilt do.

 

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Gallery Update: Upcoming Rectify & Lethal Weapon Episodes

 

 

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