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.