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The Best TV of 2016

JR. counts down his favorite television shows of 2016.

The Golden Age of Television shows no signs of slowing down. This year has brought so many new buzzy shows I can’t keep up (I haven’t seen a single episode of Blankets or Search Party, and I still never started The Good Wife or The Americans). And I should go ahead and warn you that Game of Thrones didn’t make the list.

10. Black Mirror

Netflix brought Black Mirror back from the dead with six new episodes of technological terror. This new collection of stories features some of the tightest world-building and creepiest gonna-be-real-tomorrow technology. If you’ve never seen Black Mirror, season 3 is a good place to begin.

9. The Good Place

I was very skeptical about The Good Place. Kristen Bell plays Elanor, who dies and ends up in Heaven (aka The Good Place) by mistake. Since she’s in the wrong place, chaos ensues. The real reason this show works (in addition to the stellar chemistry among the cast), is the ongoing commentary on morality and ethics. The midseason finale found the show just getting good, exploring the nooks and crannies of the universe that had only been hinted at to that point (i.e., The Bad Place). I was skeptical that the show could keep up the show’s high-concept conceit, but they have done admirably so far. I can’t wait for it to come back.

8. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

This show manages to be the best, most-consistent comedy on television. This season has upped the ante by switching up the show’s tried-and-true formula. First, Holt and Peralta had to survive Witness Protection in Florida, and then the gang ended up on the night shift. Each episode paired up different characters in surprising and fun ways, utilizing two seasons of character development to hilarious effect. Not many episodes failed to leave me in tears.

7. Stranger Things

What if Stephen King and Steven Spielberg had collaborated back in the 80s? We might have gotten something very much like Stranger Things. Plus, I dare you to find another show that made you care about a minor character as much as we all became obsessed with the ultimate fate of Barb. The show was a great character study that combined sci-fi and horror and Christmas lights to leave us racing from episode to episode. Here’s hoping season 2 builds on the mystery.

Listen to Don’t Split Up! dissect Stranger Things!

6. Ash vs. Evil Dead and Z-Nation

B-horror doesn’t get better than The Evil Dead franchise, and Season 2 of Ash vs. the Evil Dead pays off all the promises of the first season finale. It’s gorier, sillier and cooler than ever. And as the Walking Dead slogs further into nihilistic oblivion, Z-Nation throws caution to the wind and gets zanier and more exciting than ever. One thing is for sure: on Z-Nation, the only constant is change. In the best way.

5. Pitch

You know how every baseball movie ends with that amazing feel-good moment? Well Pitch is that every week. Plus, it’s about the first female Major League baseball player. So think female Jackie Robinson. Plus the business stuff – owners, managers and trade deals. The show uses sports to address issues of celebrity and feminism. It’s interesting, fun, funny and great, week after week.

4. Luke Cage

Marvel keeps the hits coming in the Defenders universe. Luke Cage is a powerful meditation on race, masculinity and identity. In the age of Black Lives Matter, a bullet-proof, hoodie-wearing black man is a powerful symbol. Plus, there’s loads of Jesus-imagery and biblical allusion to keep us debating for days. Though the various villains in the show are not equally thrilling, the show keeps Luke’s story moving and compelling.

Listen to the Sweet Christmas! episode of the StoryMen, all about Luke Cage!

3. Westworld

When everything was said and done, Westworld turned out to be a meditation on consciousness and humanity. Plus, you wanted to start rewatching the whole thing immediately. The production values couldn’t be higher, the acting is top-notch and there aren’t too many plot holes. The finale promised even bigger things for Season 2. Bring ‘em on!

Listen to the StoryMen review of Westworld!

2. Atlanta

Donald Glover’s new TV show is about underground hip hop. But even more, it’s about race and identity in contemporary America. It’s strange, awkward and very funny. And if you haven’t heard about Episode 7, “B.A.N.”, you’re missing one of the greatest single episodes of television this year.

1. The Exorcist

The Exorcist turned out to be a direct sequel to the 1974 classic. It reproduced enough beats from the original film (two priests!) to feel like an Exorcist story while also widening the scope to tell a story worthy of 400+ minutes of television. It’s theologically rich, deeply Catholic and scary as hell. I was transfixed in each episode, and I’m praying it gets picked up for season 2.

Listen to the Don’t Split Up!/StoryMen crossover review of The Exorcist Season 1

Honorable Mention

The Night Of: The pilot is the best episode of the series by far, but the whole thing is a great commentary on our justice system and how we treat immigrants and children of immigrants.

Silicon Valley: Still very, very funny.

Lethal Weapon: This franchise should have been too old for this TV show. But it’s fresh, fun and action-packed.

BrainDead: For everyone who’s convinced we’re living in the darkest timeline, Amazon has a series that suggests the political dumpsterfire that was 2016 is due to aliens living in politicians brains. Plus Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

YOUR TURN: What was your favorite TV this year?

By JR. Forasteros

JR. lives in Dallas, TX with his wife Amanda. In addition to exploring the wonders that are the Lone Star state, JR. is the teaching pastor at Catalyst Community Church, a writer and blogger. His book, Empathy for the Devil, is available from InterVarsity Press. He's haunted by the Batman, who is in turn haunted by the myth of redemptive violence.