New seasons of what we already enjoy watching come out each year, even as new series hit out TV screens. So here at What’s A Geek, we’re counting down the Top 10 TV Shows of 2016 for a few of our members!
10 – White Rabbit Project
(New Series, December 2016)
When Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters ended its 15-season run, we thought we’d never get to watch our favorite experts debunk popular myths again. In the The White Rabbit Project, though, we’ve seen the return of the “Build Team” comprised of Kari Byron, Toriy Belleci and Grant Imahara.
Netflix has helped this trio change things up a bit. They’re set on ranking outrageous scientific projects from the past. Some samples of these were the origins of the Selfie-stick (which was apparently first done in the 1800’s), and the best prison break ever made.
The White Rabbit Project‘s initial season aired this December 2016. It’s available for streaming via Netflix.
9 – How to Get Away with Murder
(Ongoing Series, Season 3)
Admit it: even if How to Get Away With Murder can get too cliche, you can’t bring yourself to stop watching. Season 2 ended with knowing who really killed who and who gets to have more sex. Then Season 3 just started, it gave the audience a peek of a death of someone close to Annalise Keating (Viola Davis). That someone just happens to be one of the characters who has stayed with us since the beginning. To make matters worse, the Winter Finale was a MAJOR cliffhanger.
The third season continues this month of January. The cliffhanger from that last episode sure made a lot of viewers want for more. Shonda Rhimes, still knows how to bring in some lip-biting suspense!
8 – Black Mirror
(Ongoing Series, Season 3)
Netflix’s expansion of Black Mirror from three to six episodes per season has led to noticeable dips in quality. Season 3 had a strong start with Nosedive, while Playtest became my least favorite episode of the series. (I feel that one overreached with its twists on top of twists.)
Shut Up and Dance, with its relentless deconstruction of human society, led me to a breaking point. I was tired of seeing Black Mirror make the same (edgy) point over and over again. Humanity is terrible, and whatever advantages technology can give us, we’ll just use it to debase and terrorize our fellow man.
This is why San Junipero was a breath of fresh air. It was an uplifting story (for Black Mirror standards, anyway) in which none of the primary characters were terrible people. Also: technology actually enabled everyone to do something wonderful for a change. Of course, Men Against Fire and Hated In The Nation went back to the same old “Technology and/or social media exposes our most terrible selves, eh? Fascism/anarchy/sadism, amirite?” wink-and-nod routine. I never would have been able to go on without San Junipero.
Heaven Is A Place On Earth is now one of my favorite 80’s songs, by the way. Thanks, Black Mirror.
7 – Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
(Mini-series, November 2016)
It’s hard to talk about this one without spoiling anyone. Essentially, A Year in the Life is really just Gilmore Girls, only much older. They kept the same mom-daughter banter for Emily-Lorelei and Lorelei-Rory, which is the real highlight of the show. It’s also easier for me to point out the flaws in each character now, considering that I’ve matured myself.
They kept the inn, the coffee (Luke’s Diner is still on my list of fictional places to eat at), and the quirky townspeople. Emotions also ran high at one point because they sure did a proper and Gilmore-appropriate send-off for Richard. He’s going to be missed.
6 – Game of Thrones
(Ongoing Series, Season 6)
Oh yeah, Game of Thrones is still a thing.
We’ve finally reached a point where the show’s plot lines are finally leaving George R.R. Martin’s books behind. The years-long cliffhanger that book readers have been pondering have been resolved. Yes: after that fatal stabbing, Jon Snow has been resurrected. Yes, he went off to fight Ramsay Bolton. The two Bastards of the North faced off in the legendary Bastardbowl, with Jon Snow’s victory and installation as the new King in the
Norf North. But that’s not all – there was Hodor’s heartbreaking (and totally unexpected) death, which rivals the Red Wedding as one of the best tragedies this show has to offer. I doubt the books can even match whatever fate GRRM has for our favorite lumbering simple-minded part-giant.
It was hard to get shocked by Season 6 because it was such an efficient killing machine (read: that Red Keep scene). The reveal of L+R=J – the biggest fan theory – wasn’t much of a surprise either. In fact, it just felt like the reveal was a point that the show had to get past before concluding the story.
Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely enjoyed all of the payoffs. Game of Thrones has earned each and every single one of them.
5 – Designated Survivor
(New Series, September 2016)
You’d think, given how exhaustive politics were in 2016, that the last thing I’d want to get into was a political drama. All it took was the first ten minutes of Designated Survivor to get me hooked. The show’s premise imagines the devastating fallout following a terrorist attack on Washington. It features familiar names such as Keifer Sutherland (24), Maggie Q (Nikita), Natascha McElhone (The Truman Show, Solaris), and Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar). There are, as well, some new faces like Adan Canto and Italia Ricci.
I’m probably enjoying Designated Survivor as much as I am because it’s reminiscent of a Tom Clancy book. You’ve got an unlikely hero stepping in to fill some frighteningly big shoes that he never had designs on to begin with. TV Insider summed up the show really well when they said that Designated Survivor “has West Wing idealism, Homeland suspense and House of Cards political intrigue”.
It’s also timely, when you consider what’s been going on in the US in the past decade. 9/11 has had a huge impact on things, particularly on how attitudes have been influenced. One of the things that jumped right out at me is how the show decided to address a subject like Islamophobia. The show has crafted it’s plot around it with sensitivity.
Interested now? Good. Now’s actually the best time to catch up. Designated Survivor returns on March 8, 2017.
4 – Supergirl
(Ongoing Series, Season 2)
Supergirl has managed to carve out a place for itself alongside the veteran shows of DCTV since its debut under CBS in 2015. The impact of the show moving from one network to another did worry me, though. I thought that it might mean an awkward transition and too many changes. I’m now happy to report that while there are changes, the quality doesn’t suffer at all.
Season 2 picks up with a lovely two-episode cameo from Superman/Clark Kent. Last season, we only ever saw Supes in last-minute interventions and cute chat messages. In terms of meeting expectations, the cousin reunion did just that. The Man of Steel is usually center stage, so seeing Clark serve as foil to showcase Kara was refreshing.
Other big changes include Cat Grant’s gracefully understated exit. There was just the right amount of feels for the proverbial “passing of the baton” – not just for Kara, but for James as well. The introduction of Mon-El, Detective Maggie Sawyer, and M’gann M’orzz has also shaken things up for the DEO. Winn is still amazing as expected. I’m really loving his budding broship with James, just as I’m enjoying his chemistry with Mon-El.
The season’s honorable mention, though, goes to Alex Danvers. I know a bunch of you might know what I’m talking about, but I want to avoid spoilers for those who don’t. Overall, this season’s looking really good! If it’s not on your weekly Must Watch List, you might want to include it.
3 – Luke Cage
(New Series, September 2016)
Sweet Christmas! Was this show great, or was it great? The Netflix Original series Luke Cage successfully brought one of the most badass motherf*ckers of Marvel’s Street Warriors to life. Daredevil’s running two seasons strong already, and Jessica Jones set the tone for the kind of heroine we need today. This time, however, viewers were taken down to the streets of Harlem, and given a bit of Black American History 101 wrapped up in a soulful, gangster drama package. It seems as though the team behind Luke Cage took it upon themselves to make everything about the season feel like an 80s film, complete with the grit and the camp. They sure out did themselves there.
While it’s easy to appreciate Luke Cage as an adaptation, it might be a little harder for a general audience – especially the general Pinoy audience – to understand just how significant the existence of this show is. Diversity’s been a hot button topic for the past few years now. The increase in venues that prioritize artistic expression over traditional (read: “white American”) market value and the constant rise of social media has done nothing but expose just how bigoted Hollywood is. Fiction’s supposed to be able to give a voice to stories that would otherwise remain untold. The story of America’s black and Latino communities is one of the biggest ones out there. Luke Cage is absolutely unapologetic about showcasing Harlem’s “sacred tradition”, and showing how each of the characters try, sometimes in terrible ways, to preserve it.
Smart stuff aside, though, seriously: Luke Cage was a goddamned breath of fresh air. Few things top the simple joys of watching a bulletproof Everyman take back what’s his.
2 – Stranger Things
(New Series, July 2016)
This one took a lot of people by surprise, and made a lot of geeks very happy with its Dungeons & Dragons references. Heck, the entire premise of Netflix’s Stranger Things feels like they took a page straight out of a tabletop campaign. That’s absolute perfection, if you ask me.
Stranger Things takes us back in time to America in the 1980s, a decade of bad haircuts, one hit wonders, and disappearing children. Its story – a missing boy and mysterious disappearances set off a whole messed up chain of events – was brought to life through a deft combination of old stars from our yesteryears (hello, Winona Ryder!) and a host of new faces (like Millie Bobby Brown, everyone’s new queen). If that didn’t already drive the point home, there is the fact that not a single element in the show was anachronistic. Everything from the music to the gadgets to the cars fit right within the setting. Such attention to detail in film is rarer than you think.
Let’s set the small stuff aside, though, and talk about what this show has done for slipstream TV shows. Good horror isn’t that hard to find, but it’s difficult to pull off something eerie without making it corny. That Stranger Things explains pretty much NONE of its otherworldly elements without making its audience feel gipped is great. Technically speaking, they’ve classified the show as “science fiction”, but it’s did a lovely job of toeing some lines in that direction too.
The “season arc” of its first run wrapped up nicely, making it easy for its producers to take or leave Stranger Things as they will. Fortunately, it’s been green-lit for a second season, and things might just be bigger and darker than ever in it.
1 – Westworld
(New Series, October 2016)
Westworld, also known as “the Greatest Mindfuck of 2016”. Westworld, also known as “I have so many questions???” Westworld, also known as “WHERE IS THE NEXT SEASON?!” The list goes on and on, so let’s break it down for you: we all needed this show in our lives yesterday. It’s hard to go into exactly what makes this show amazing without spoiling things, but I’ll give it a shot!
HBO called this show “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin, exploring a world in which every human appetite, no matter how noble or depraved, can be indulged”. That summary is simultaneously illuminating and misleading. Few things will prepare you for just how completely messed up everything about Westworld is. The execution of the show – from the acting to the soundtrack, the cinematography to the clever use of the medium of a TV show in building the narrative – was pretty much perfect. It wasn’t just a fresh take on an old cult classic: it’s release is eerily in step with today’s audience. Scientific advances in artificial intelligence and cybernetics have always led to cautionary tales in fiction. Westworld isn’t a cautionary tale. It’s a blunt “Well, here you go. This is what humans are gonna do.”
The greatest science fiction ought to ask one question and spend the entirety of its narrative showing us the answer. Perhaps Westworld‘s question is “What does it mean to be ‘human’?” We’re then presented with shades upon shades of possibilities in the faces of the denizens of the Park, the Newcomers, the team that runs the place, and the creators – the “gods” – who started it all. It’s disturbing and wonderful to watch, because it leaves you with the uncomfortable realization that this could be OUR future. What happens when people have the means to disregard social conventions in the name of pleasure? Will we REALLY equate “fun” with maiming/raping/killing our own without consequence? Westworld assures us that all violent delights have violent ends, but one does wonder.
This is, of course, our personal take on the Top 10 Shows of 2016! Tell us what you think.