10. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life - After all the crappy remakes and horrible reboots of television shows or movies turned into crappy television shows, I was worried about the reboot of one of my favorite television shows of all time: Gilmore Girls. There is a lot of the four-episode Year in the Life reboot that didn't work. I'm not such a fan that I can't realize that fact. Hell, the original series was not a perfect show. It was a weird, often frivolous show that succeeded if you were willing to suspend disbelief and embrace the wacky, and yet somehow honesty of these lovable characters. I did, and I was rewarded for the journey. Except for that seven season. Without showrunner Amy Sherman-Palladino, the seven season just left us fans feeling like we had missed something. So while this new Netflix reboot had its issues, it felt like the old days. The razor-sharp wit, the lovable characters, the family tension. Everything we loved about Gilmore Girls was back, and it was so nice to revisit Stars Hollow. And if this really is the finale of Gilmore Girls, I'm glad Sherman-Palladino, and this amazing cast, got to end it their way.
9. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee - This 2016 election was an absolute disaster. In fact 2016 in general has felt like a disaster. Through it all a new voice on the late-night spectrum expressed just how we were feeling. After The Daily Show and The Colbert Report left the air, it felt like there was a void. Then came the magnificent Samantha Bee. Her humor was infectious, her energy was undeniable. But what sets her apart from so many others is that for all her humor, it was her anger that was the most endearing. This was a year for anger. We, as liberals, as Americans, deserve to be angry at our new political reality. She knew that, she expressed that at just the right moments. The moment I knew I loved Full Frontal, was the episode after the Orlando nightclub shootings. It was not a particular humorous episode, but it was just the anger, and the emotion that all of us were feeling. It was one of the most brilliant moments on television this year, and proved that Samantha Bee is the voice we all need, and the one we will cling to for hope the next four years.
8. (TIE) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Hairspray Live! - In an article for Indiewire talking about Cameron Crowe's failed Roadies (a show that had some of the highest and lowest moments on television all year), Ben Travers wrote a beautiful piece defending the show for one important reason: it was sincere. His basic point was that in a time when even the funniest comedies on television are dark, that despite its flaws, it was nice to have a show on television that actually had uplifting moments and a bit of hope and joy. While I think Roadies had too many flaws to make this list, I agree with Travers' sentiment (here is the link to that article: http://www.indiewire.com/2016/08/roadies-finale-review-cameron-crowe-showtime-defense-1201720541/). There were two programs that came to mind when re-reading this article recently. The first was the Emmy-nominated Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Led by an incredible quartet of Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Carl Kane, and Jane Krakowski, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a cheerful, fun, goofy, yet endearing series that makes the viewer end every episode with a goofy grin on their face. The other joyful addition to television this year was NBC's Hairspray Live! Now television critics, in their supposed infinite wisdom were not terribly kind to this production. They lamented Harvey's voice despite its endearing quality, they rolled their eyes at mistakes in the live production, as if any mistake is not allowed. Seriously this was not a television show, this was a Broadway production that happened to be filmed. And it was a hell of a lot better than the boring Grease Live! which these same critics could not get enough of. Most horribly, they lamented the fact that this version of the well-worn story of Hairspray wasn't a revolutionary or groundbreaking adaptation. Are these sullen, pretentious critics so stuck up their own asses that everything they watch must be The Sopranos or Breaking Bad to warrant any positive attention? This production was not meant to be a revolution in the musical genre or television genre. It was meant to be a fun, lighthearted production that leaves you humming and tapping your toes. In that sense it was incredibly successful. And with with all the darkness that 2016 brought us, this was a welcomed exuberant, and yes sincere, three hours that left me filled with nothing but joy.
7. Insecure - Issa Rae has proven herself to be an hilarious comedian, and her book The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl proved she is an amazing writer. Well in 2016, all of her talent came to fruition with her new HBO series Insecure. HBO wanted their Sarah Jessica Parker return Divorce to be their big hit, and maybe in terms of viewers it is. But in terms of quality, it is Rae's first venture into television that is cracking top ten lists, earning raves from critics, and growing a passionate following. That is because Insecure is wildly funny, led by Rae's fantastic Golden Globe-nominated performance, it is brutally honest, and shows us both the struggle and fun, of finding your place in the world. A triumph I cannot wait to continue to watch.
6. Veep - Veep had a lot going against it in 2016. It was starting to enter what will probably be its later seasons, usually when a show starts to dip. It's showrunner had moved on, and it had just come off a killer fourth season that felt like it was going to be hard to top. Well, Veep just kept proving why its one of the best comedies on television, as its fifth season might have actually been its best. As Selina sought to continue her presidency, we saw the madness that politics can develop. Upon her loss, I think we saw Julia Louis-Dreyfus have some of her best episodes of a role that has earned her four straight Emmy Awards. Her anger, her shock, her nastiness, and yet the realization that despite her being awful, you were kind of rooting for her all resonated, particularly this year. The audience felt it because Selina and her staff felt it. It was such a brilliantly wrought season. I don't know what Veep's next move is, but I can't wait to find out.
5. black-ish - In its second season, black-ish only improved upon its great first outing, proving itself to be enormously funny, an excellent ensemble piece, and culturally relevant. Its third season seemed to take a few episodes to get back into the groove. But the last five or so of 2016 once again saw black-ish returning to its comedic heights, and hopefully has set up a great second half of the season. Finally black-ish is starting to rack up award nominations doing well at the Critics Choice, Golden Globes, and SAG Nominations. Apparently these groups are starting to realize just how damn good this show is. Also on a personal not, this is the official start of the 2017 Emmy Campaign to get Jenifer Lewis an Emmy nomination.
4. This is Us - In this day and age, it is hard to have the kind of success that This is Us is having for NBC. A lot of folks credit its success to its Voice lead in, or the fact that it had some recognizable stars from across the television spectrum. But the real reason that This is Us is resonating so much is that it is just a hell of a show. It is so well-written, realistically painting these characters that are actual humans, and intertwining humor and heartbreak beautifully together. I also think that in the horror show that seemed to be 2016 socially, culturally, and politically, that something like This is Us, which at its core is about hope, struck a chord with viewers who were looking for something to hope for.
3. (TIE) Atlanta and Better Things - FX already had success with comedies like Louie, You're the Worst (which had another great season), and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. This year, FX added to already impressive repertoire with two hot new comedies that are some of the year's best. Atlanta is a quirky, authentic dramedy, starring the great Donald Glover that drew me in immediately. Better Things, from Pamela Adlon, a frequent Louis C.K. collaborator, was a show I just absolutely loved. It was what Louie wanted to be, but never managed to be. Louie seemed great at the time, but Better Things proves that you can have that same quirky comedy, but actually care about the characters. And Sam is a much more endearing character than poor Louie ever thought about being.
2. (TIE) O.J.: Made in America and The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story - 22 years ago, O.J. Simpson was arrested for the killing of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. In the last 22 years, the myth, the legend, and the controversy of O.J. Simpson have been ingrained into the national culture. In 2016, a year that saw more violence, more racial issues, and the election of a man who surrounds himself with white supremacists, suddenly O.J. Simpson came roaring back. Ryan Murphy's miniseries beautifully reconstructs the drama surrounding the trial and the failure to convict. Ezra Edleman's Oscar-bound O.J.: Made in America provides not only a documentary of the events, but builds around the O.J. trial the tensions in L.A., the history of O.J.'s life and career, and the resonance that this time period still has today. These two shows brilliant captured the Simpson era, and most importantly, made this decades-old story feel relevant and managed to re-capture the attention of a nation whose wounds may never heal.
1. The Americans - The Americans finally got some Emmy love this year, and all I have to say is: it's about damn time! This season of The Americans continue to build on its own greatness, as it dove to new dramatic dark depths, expanded its characters, and continued, despite its many opportunities to do the opposite, to maintain its quiet, resolute, and subtle mood. Simply put: The Americans was the best show on television this year.