Favorite TV Shows of 2016

30 Dec

The year 2016 saw the end of my favorite TV show for the past seven years, the renewal of my now current favorite TV show, the discovery of two shows nowhere near my radar but loved them, and a television event for the ages.

CASTLE

For eight seasons, this show ruled Monday nights at 9pm. Yeah, I’m still an appointment television viewer. From the initial trailer for the show, Castle had me. The show was right up my alley. Geeky writer solving crimes with beautiful woman detective and her squad. That they successfully kept the Will They/Won’t They chemistry going for four seasons, then successfully together for the next three. Yes, there was an eighth season, and I’m mostly glad for it, but the writer messed with the chemistry and the show wasn’t the same after that. There’s a part of me that still latches on to the finale of Season Seven as the true series finale. Be that as it may, Castle was cancelled and that was that. Still one of my favorite all-time TV shows.

THE FLASH

This is the show that replaced Castle as my favorite. Its second season coincided with Castle’s eighth and I realized I often smiled more, laughed more, and cried more watching The Flash than any other show. Greg Berlanti, the creator and executive producer, grew up immersed in DC Comics lore and it plays out remarkably well in The Flash. He has a saying on set that each episode needs Heart, Humor, and Spectacle. This show has it in spades. When you have a villain like King Shark—humanoid with a shark’s head—on network television, something is going great. And Flash’s guest appearance on “Supergirl” this past spring (back when Supergirl was on CBS) was probably the most charming thing on TV all year. Absolutely love this show.

ELEMENTARY

Yes, the fourth “season” of Sherlock is about to air Sunday night, but I’ve already got over 100 episodes and into the fifth season of what many consider the other Sherlock Holmes TV show. What makes this show shine is the chemistry between Sherlock’s Johnny Lee Miller and Watson’s Lucy Liu. Because they have had over five years together on screen, the subtlety and nuances of their performances have evolved into a deep and rich relationship that is based on friendship, respect, and agape love, but not romantic. (Well, I’m a few episodes behind since the show kept getting pushed later into the nights because of football, but I don’t think the writers changed anything.) Miller’s version of Sherlock is brilliant, modern, flawed, but capable of change. He still has one of my all-time favorite Sherlock Holmes scenes from any medium. It’s from 2015 and an old flame has asked Sherlock to be the father to her child. For the entire episode, he contemplates her request. Finally, he gives her his answer. That part starts at the 28:33 mark of this video.

STRANGER THINGS

Sometimes, the images you see in a trailer, the sounds, too, latch onto you in such a way that you are compelled to watch. That’s what the trailer to summer’s biggest TV hit did. Like the DC Comics, Marvel movies, and the newest Star Wars films, the folks behind Stranger Things have grown up and turned around and made a TV in which everything they loved as kids now shows up in their work. Stranger Things pays homage to Spielberg films, John Carpenter scores, and the rest of the early 80s in such a way that it’s a love letter to childhood without being hampered by nostalgia. The story, the writing, made sure of that, and I eagerly await the next season. Here’s what I wrote back in the summer.

BLOODLINE

The out-of-left-field show that completely blew me away this past week. I even named it the most compelling thing I watched on TV in 2016. Read my complete review here.

DARK MATTER

Again, I watched this on Netflix so I consumed seasons 1 and 2 in short order. The story of six people who awake from stasis on a spaceship with no memory of how they got there or who they are. They assume names based on the order in which they awoke, thus One, Two, etc. The gradual peeling away of the mysteries surrounding their predicament easily propels the show forward—each character gets an episode or two to focus on their past like any good ensemble show does—but it is the seventh individual on the ship that is my favorite. It’s an android, named Android, and she’s female. Frankly, I’m not aware of another example of an android, played by an actress, in the mold of Star Trek’s Data, that is, an artificial life form who longs to be more human. Zoie Palmer plays Android (far right in the image) with so many nuances that I started to zero in on her scenes most of all. One of the great things she does is with her eyes as Android processes information or executes orders from the crew. Her voice is like that of a questioning child, trying to learn about human behavior and all of its inconsistencies. Her facial expressions show the conflicting of emotions even though, in reality, the Android is only processing information. Android may not be the lead in this show, but she is my favorite. Oh, and when she has to fight, she kicks serious ass without so much as batting an eyelash. Of the humans, Three is tops for me (second from the left in the image). His story arc is fantastic, especially considering his character type. Heck, they’re all great characters, and I’m eagerly awaiting season three…which I’ll be watching in real time!

SCRUBS

Rarely watching this show when on the air, but I have been watching the various seasons on DVD. I always liked the occasional daydreams of lead character, Zach Braff’s JD, especially considering it was farcical and what he was really thinking. Even when the show was airing, I knew about that. But long-term viewing of this show revealed it to be not only a laugh-out-loud show, but one that could turn on a dime and sting your eyes with tears. The family typically watched the show during dinner, and there were a few times when my wife and I would be wiping away tears with the napkins we had just used to wipe our mouths. Two runs stand out. One is with Brendon Frasier and series regular—and funniest guy on the show?—John C. McGinley. Another is with JD and Kathryn Joosten (Mrs. Landingham from “The West Wing”) when she chooses death over dialysis. That this episode was the fourth of season 1 and that the producers played Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” over the final scenes ripped my heart out and prepared me for…well, anything from this wonderful show.

SUPERGIRL

Few shows consistently put a big goofy grin on my face quite like Supergirl. Taking the Super-family mythos and bringing it to network television is a feat in and of itself, but that they do it with such a charming actress like Melissa Benoist makes it all the better. She’s got just the right amount of learning about the world through the eyes of her alter ego, Kara Danvers, as well the fierce determination it takes to kick the butts of the bad guys. That John Jones, the Martian Manhunter, is a character is such a great thing and draws deep from the well. But the coup de grace has got to be the second season’s premiere where we get to see the Berlanti-verse’s version of Superman. Gone is the grimdark visage from the modern DC movies. Here, we get Superman, frankly, like he’s supposed to be: charming, happy, but still strong enough to defeat the enemy or help land a damaged plane. This episode is my happiest hour hour of superhero television in 2016.

TELEVISION EVENT: The DC Comics TV Crossover

Like what I wrote about The Flash, Greg Berlanti and crew now have four TV shows, 7pm CST, Monday through Thursday. I don’t watch Arrow on Wednesday, but I watch Supergirl on Mondays and Legends of Tomorrow on Thursdays along with The Flash on Tuesdays. As soon as Supergirl landed on The CW, everyone was wondering if all four shows would crossover. They did. And it was so good. Heck, the Arrow episode might have been the best, and the Flash episode really brought home the damage Barry Allen’s choices made on other people. The Legends hour, however, had the burden of finishing up the story, but it also had the images of all those heroes fighting aliens. That Berlanti was confident enough to have the heroes’s training facility resemble the Hall of Justice from the old “Super Friends” TV show will give you a taste of how he and his team are honoring the legacy of DC Comics. I’m just so happy we live in an age where this kind of thing is a reality on television.

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