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.
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.