* I Will Try My Very Best To Avoid Spoilers But Be Warned Anyway!
I know that I’m a month behind but here is my definitive Top 10 Show’s of 2016 list! As you might be able to tell, I watched a lot of TV last year and being a HUGE science fiction kind of guy, that’s what tended to end up on my list. However, there are a few entries that even surprised myself. But before we get to the list I must first present:
The “WHAT THE HELL?” Show of 2016
Penny Dreadful (The Third and Final Season)
What the hell? That ending really let me down! It’s that simple. Although John Logan and the Showtime execs have explained that the series was always planned for three seasons; that doesn’t really make much sense. Season 3 was firing pretty hard all year long, for the most part, and the storyline was building and building to something amazing! Fans knew that season 4 was going to be breathtaking. Instead, what happened was the entire series was wrapped up all in one episode. All the storylines came to a close in all sorts of random coincidences and out of character decisions. But in the end we got a darkly wonderful series full of the adventures of Josh Hartnett’s Wolfman, Harry Treadaway’s Dr. Frankenstein, Rory Kinnear’s Frankenstein’s Monster, Reeve Carney’s Dorian Gray, Timothy Dalton’s Sir Malcolm and Billie Piper’s Bride of Frankenstein. But Logan and the Showtime execs agree that the show was always about Vanessa Ives and her constant battle with her inner demons (literal). Eva Green’s portrayal of Vanessa as a tortured soul is equal parts terrifying and beautifully tragic. So why was Vanessa missing for the majority of the final two episodes? The season was still good and the series was so close to going down in history as great but the ending was obviously rushed and I can’t for the life of me understand why…
The 100 (Season 3)
I can easily say that season 2 of The 100 was in my top five shows of 2015 and I compare it to the best of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. However, although season 3 did have some MAJOR low points, you can see how the writer’s have learned and grown and how they’ve added many more layers to this already complex world. Lindsey Morgan, who plays badass mechanic Raven Reyes, has never had it easy and is constantly the most challenged actor on the show and she never disappoints. It was a cruel, dark season with some of the series worst moments. However, it also had some of the best episodes the show has ever produced. In fact, writers and directors should watch the two-part season finale to see how a season finale should be properly constructed. Even Stephen King tweeted:
Now, to the main list!
MATT’s Top 10 Shows of 2016!!!
10.) Black Sails (Season 3)
The death of a major character, Ray Stevenson’s portrayal of the feared Blackbeard, the rise of lowly John Silver to legend, and the astonishing production values were only some of the many highlights of the season. Midway through I found my mouth on the floor in shock after realizing that this was a feature film quality production. 2016 should be used as a lesson for young filmmakers and writers because I lost count of how many great season finales hit the air this year, including Black Sails. The overall scope of the season’s final episode and the quality of action and stunts was on par with Game of Thrones, if not better. Because let’s be honest, Game of Thrones has never had a good boat battle. And boat battles, is what Black Sails is all about! Well, not really, but if it’s a show about pirates, then it better have the best pirate ship battles on television and trust me, it does.
9.) Killjoys (Season 2)
If I had to give you just one reason to watch Killjoys it would be for Dutch. Hannah John-Kamen is a powerhouse as the leader of this rag tag cast of misfits and I can easily say that there is no one more kickass on TV right now than her. But what I love most about this show is that no matter what happens, no matter how dark the storylines get, you will never stop having fun! However, on the flip side, no matter how fun and silly the plot might be, when the drama kicks in, it kicks in hard. Now, season 1 was full of moments that would give you goosebumps, or maybe even make you teary eyed, but season 2 had the higher stakes. The second season introduced audiences to an even bigger world and a deeper understanding of the show’s mythology. Although there were plenty of storylines that wrapped up way too easily, this season was more consistent with the quality of storytelling. Not to mention that the soundtrack used is phenomenal! When watching the show it feels like you are actually listening to some kickass music from the future. In fact, the soundtrack perfectly sums up what the show is: Fun, Sexy and Punk.
Westworld. Where do I even begin? The entire show is a riddle wrapped, soaked and baked in another riddle. Or is it? Not since Lost, have I felt this curious about the inner workings and mysteries of a show. However, where Lost was never a show that promised answers, Westworld kind of did. Because every single character’s storyline was somehow wrapped in one of the mysteries that drives the show. By the end of the first season, even though we still didn’t have a lot of answers, what was answered seemed almost too simple for what the show had set up. However, the music, the acting and even the action scenes were spectacular once the pacing started to pick up. No matter how you feel about this show, it would be wise to come back when season 2 finally airs to see how this mystery plays out. HBO is certainly hoping that this is the next Game of Thrones, which it very well might be, but it’s going to have to earn that title first. I feel that much like Game of Thrones’ first season, Westworld’s first season is merely a prologue to the actual story that the creators wanted to tell. But I’m hoping that the second season adds another layer that will help us better appreciate the first.
7.) Blunt Talk (Second and Final Season)
Where the first season focused on Walter’s battle with his own personal demons, season two was more of a redemption story. The plot focused on Walter fighting a corrupt system and the businesses that benefit from the California drought. There were plenty of classic noir elements that were fresh and made Patrick Stewart solving mysteries a must see television event! But deep down, it was a story about growing older, fighting loneliness and trying to make a lasting difference. There were several romantic relationships that drove this season and each one, although extremely hilarious, felt real. Each cast member had more time to shine and shine they did. Everyone on this show was a quirky cartoonish character but after watching a few episodes I realized that in our own way, we are all quirky cartoonish characters. However, no relationship was explored deeper than the lifelong friendship between Walter and his valet, Harry. This relationship was the driving force of season 1 but this time around there were plenty of rifts that drove the two men apart. What made this show great was not only the comedy, but the heart. When Walter or Harry would analyze a situation and then start reciting poetry or classic literature I could not help but get teary eyed. This was a show about two best friends, experiencing the ups, downs, fears and joys of aging; two souls who without each other are bound to be alone forever. It may sound like I’m getting real sentimental about this show, but that’s because I am. As funny and ridiculous as this show can be, I dare you to listen to Patrick Stewart read Oscar Wilde or Jules Verne and not become a shapeless puddle of emotions. It’s sad to see Walter and Harry leave our screens so soon, but at least they went out with style and heart.
6.) Game of Thrones (Season 6)
After six years, GOT is picking up the pace, killing off more people than usual and even providing us a tad bit of justice and a giant slice of hope pie! It was recently announced that the show would come to an end after a shortened 7th and 8th season. Judging by the sixth season, I’d say that this was the plan all along. This season had the best action out of the entire series so far. The characters have finally started to have some kind of arc to their stories and those who were always destined for power finally have some. But now the show runners are really showing off their storytelling chops. Seeing that this was the first season not to be based on any of George R. R. Martin’s source material the writers have clearly decided how they want to end their series and are making a mad dash towards the finish line.
The premise is simple; there are rips in space and time, which allow aliens from across the universe to slip into our world. These rips just happened to surround Coal Hill Academy (a recurring school from Doctor Who) and five teenagers (one is an alien) must band together to stop the threats from killing their families and other schoolish type people. Let me first mention something, as dark and serious as Doctor Who can get, in the end it’s still a family show. Class is not. There is sex, aliens, gore and tons of emotional teenage baggage. Now most television writers don’t know how to write storylines or dialogue for teenagers that feels and sounds real. So it helps that Young Adult author Patrick Ness is show runner because the success of this series lies entirely on the teenage characters. You get pissed when they fight, cry when they cry, and fear when someone close to them dies. Trust me, ALOT of people die in this show. Speaking of fear, there is something that I have not yet mentioned. That is Katherine Kelly as Miss Quill, a war-mongering alien on babysitting duty for the kids. She is nothing short of terrifying, sexy and strangely hilarious all at once. When she gets her solo episode late in the season, Kelly truly shines. Each episode of the series gets better and better and I cannot wait to see what comes next and rumor has it that Class will crossover with Doctor Who sometime this year. All I know is that this is a science fiction show that I look forward to watching for the next several years.
4.) Downton Abbey (Sixth and Final Season)
The show begins in April 1912, immediately after the sinking of the Titanic. This sets off a chain of events that brings the new heir to Downton Abbey, Matthew Crawley. Thus begins six seasons of “will they/won’t they” love affairs, lies, death, murderous death, dancing, car racing, horseback riding, scandalous death, suicide attempts, revolutions, out of wedlock births, disease, blackmail, interracial dating, World War I, death by World War I, and the list goes on… For a show that is entirely people sitting and talking, or standing and talking or walking and talking…there sure is a lot of death. One day I will write a Downton Abbey retrospective and I will tally just how many characters were killed off. I think Downton might even give Game of Thrones a run for its money!
What made Downton great was the extra care and attention to detail. The fictional town of Downton was set in a very real and very exciting time. New and wondrous inventions were being created everyday like light bulbs, toasters and even the radio. Just as much detail was put into the characters. This show has made stars out of the much deserving cast and each actor had plenty of time to shine. Dan Stevens, Michelle Dockery, Lily James and Joanna Froggatt came out of their tenure on Downton with A-list star power! And let us not forget, Dame Maggie Smith. This might be her greatest role of all time as Dowager Countess Violet Crawley. If you needed only one reason to watch this show it would be for Cousin Violet. Maggie Smith steals almost every single episode. But what made Downton so accessible to the masses was that it was a show that constantly adapted. Wither it was during the war or after a death of a major character, the wheels of Downton Abbey never stopped spinning. The past six seasons were a glimpse into life in the 1910’s through the 20’s and the Crawley family and staff felt just like our own. Through all the good times and the bad, the show was always about one thing. Helping people. Every single episode had people helping each other. Despite being set in the past our weekly visits to Lord Grantham and his family constantly inspired us for today and the world we will face tomorrow. But as for the last six years, Downton Abbey was our home.
3.) Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
Without a doubt, this was the weirdest show on TV in 2016. It’s the story of Todd, a 33-year-old bellhop who finds himself a suspect in a grisly murder. However, he soon finds himself paired up with Dirk Gently, a detective who solves murders merely by coincidence (or is it?). Together the two men, along with an odd assortment of supporting characters, embark on the most mysterious/coincidental scavenger hunt of all time! Creator Max Landis has written a richly detailed world where every single thing is connected. I mean that. Literally. This isn’t LOST, you won’t be dragged along for answers only to realize that the answers were never important. No, Landis has written a show where every single detail and plot hole has an answer. This has to be one of the best mysteries on television. However, the show can’t really be labeled as a mystery show, it would probably fit better under the category of science fiction, although, it doesn’t really feel like sci-fi most of the time. That is because this show is so unique and original it doesn’t really fit into any genre. Just know that if you sit down and become confused by the overly complicated plot, that’s okay, that’s how you’re supposed to feel. The ultimate payoff, being the last two episodes of the season, is well worth the ride. And remember, Everything Is Connected.
2.) Stranger Things
Ah, who didn’t love the eighties!?! Great movies! Great music! Great action figures!! Stranger Things speaks to the inner dork in all of us. Or at least mine. The show is about three young friends who take in a mysterious girl while trying to find their missing best friend. The heart of the story is about how anything is possible with a little help from your friends. Of course, there is also a monster running around killing people. But you know…that just raises the stakes a bit. The casting of the kids was perfection. If there is an award for casting directors, then someone needs to win it for this ensemble! Winona Ryder and David Harbour are great but the younger actors steal the show and your hearts! The effects and prosthetics are on point as is the 80’s synth sci-fi horror themed score. I don’t think anyone could have predicted how huge of a cultural phenomenon this show would become but one thing is clear, this show will be around for a very long while.
1.) The Expanse
Critics have been calling The Expanse “Game of Thrones in Space”. Which is understandable but at the same time unfair. The truth is that you can’t really compare The Expanse to anything because there is no other show like it. The setup is simple: 200 years in the future and humanity is out exploring the stars. But not in a utopian Star Trek way. No, The Expanse is much darker and honestly feels more real. The show follows three storylines. First off, after tragedy strikes, Jim Holden and his crew discover something that shouldn’t have been discovered which paints a giant target on their backs. The second storyline follows Detective Miller, played perfectly by Thomas Jane. Miller is a hard-nosed corrupt cop who takes on a simple Missing Persons case. But as each episode progresses the audience can see that Miller’s case is leading him dangerously close to Holden and his reluctant crew. The third storyline belongs to Chrisjen Avasarala, an Earth diplomat who will do anything and everything to protect her people.
Now this is what makes the show interesting. The show is one giant mystery told through three different perspectives, none of which have all the answers. Now where Game of Thrones took a few seasons for characters to meet up or have direct influence on each other’s storylines, The Expanse starts swinging right out of the gate. The events that occur in the first episode effect every single character for the rest of the series and by the time their storylines start converging your mind will be blown!
Now, I cannot discuss The Expanse without at least mentioning actress Florence Faivre. Never have I seen an actor do so much through so little. Faivre portrays Julie Mao, the missing heiress that Miller is hired to find. The majority of the first season revolves around Julie in one way or another and it doesn’t take long for us, as an audience, to figure out that if we want answers then our lead characters need to find her. Most of the time Julie pops up in photos, security footage, video diaries and the occasional flashback. But by the time her backstory is finally revealed, Faivre had already portrayed a character that had been built up so much that we already felt like she were one of the main crew.
This show has it all! Scary sci-fi stuff, crazy realistic spaceships, terrifyingly real space battles, zero-g sex, Tyrese from The Walking Dead, and awesome mohawks (spacehawks?)! The Expanse isn’t just a fun space opera; it is science fiction in its truest form. This is easily the best sci-fi show in a very long time and I cannot wait to see where the story leads us!