Best New TV Shows of 2016
The breakout hit from 2016 was the Netflix science fiction horror series Stranger Things. Simply put it's a story of a kid 12-year-old Will (Noah Schnapp), who goes missing from the small town of Hawkins, Indiana in the 1980's and there are strange things surrounding his disappearance but this Netflix show is more than that. Written and directed by the Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things is an homage the works of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg among others recapturing and 80's feeling without being overly nostalgic. They go away from the violence and gore that many horror stories use, instead opting for atmosphere, mood, and suspense to build tension. Everything meshes building atmosphere and adding tone to the series all the way down to the soundtrack. Stranger Things is also extremely well-paced and addictive, perfect for bingeing, with fully developed characters in a town encapsulated in mystery.
Stranger Things season 1 was like a perfect album it wasn’t one note and managed to combine style and substance for eight 50ish minute episodes. The problem of season 2, which will premiere October 31, will be trying to live up to or even top the spectacular first season.
Millie Bobby Brown gave a great performance as Eleven the psychokinetic young girl who escaped from Hawkins Laboratory where experiments were being done to her. In fact, the breakout stars of the series were the kids. Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) did phenomenal jobs playing the friends of Will. Stranger Things also star Winona Ryder as Will’s mother, Charlie Heaton as Jonathan (Will's older brother) and Natalie Dyer as Nancy (sister of Will's best friend Mike), and David Harbour as Jim the chief of Hawkins Police Department. Stranger Things is like a hotchpotch of E.T, Super 8, Goonies, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind rolled into one. 10 out of 10 stars
From the creative mind of actor, writer, stand-up comic, rapper, singer, Donald Glover Atlanta tells the story of Alfred Miles who goes by the rap name Paper Boi played by Brian Tyree Henry and his come-up in the rap game. Ernest "Earn" Miles (Glover) his cousin is looking for something that would allow him to provide for his daughter and sees managing Paper Boi as a way to do that while at the same helping his cousin get the most out of his music career.
In its first season, Atlanta delivers on a smart and witty comedy while also offering commentary on race that looks and sounds like the ATL. Atlanta is somewhat of paradox being thoughtful and complex while at the same time remaining simplistic in its execution. The dialogue is calculated and purposeful and though the characters backstories are only eluded to their motives and actions are understandable and the mystery is something that can be explored in later seasons. The season has an over-arcing plot but can have loosely stand alone episodes like episode 7 B.A.N. which was like a satirical sketch comedy episode where Paper Boi goes on a late night talk show and the commercial breaks are parodies.
Zazie Beetz gives a great performance as Van Earn's girlfriend? and mother of his child and Lakeith Stanfield as Darius, Paper Boi"s friend is off the wall and eccentric, to say the least. The problem with Atlanta is we won't get a season 2 until 2018
Gaining popularity from her web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl Issa Rae is the mastermind behind one of the funniest shows to debut in 2016. Insecure is a show about Issa played by Issa Rae and her struggles in life. As a look into the female black experience insecure is a fitting name. The show deals with Issa and her friends' insecurities about themselves as well as how they are in relationships and the issues that arise in them like commitment and fidelity. Issa also struggles to be accepted and respected by her co-workers seeing herself initially as a token that her bosses and fellow employees don't take seriously. These are serious issues that the writers of Insecure make funny in a raw and unfiltered way.
Insecure is not punchline funny. Though there are punchlines the comedy of this half-hour HBO show is more seamless and entwined into the dialogue and actions of the characters. Similar to Atlanta it doesn't seem like they're just saying lines to setup jokes but rather just experiencing life and the things that happen to characters you know are just funny and relatable.
As a show centered around black female leads with a majority black cast Insecure is more than a great show it is an important one. In recent years more diversity has been seen on tv with shows like Atlanta, Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, Empire, and many others shows that are developed by and starring minorities.
Created by Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers, and Michael Showalter search party is a comedy about Dory(Alia Shawkat) who becomes obsessed with finding Chantal (Claire McNulty) a missing woman who goes to college with her. Dory makes finding Chantal an obsession getting her boyfriend and friends involved it the search. As a truly dark comedy, Search Party is thoughtful, sometimes silly, and funny while also having heavy intense moments and with how the season finale ended season 2 could go in an interesting direction.
Search party explores the question of if you were to go missing would anyone care and if they did how far would they go. Would you just get a retweet or Facebook post would people who didn't know you that well even care? In the show, Dory goes above and beyond for a woman it would be a stretch to call an acquaintance. She sees this mission as a something to give her a sense of purpose though the journey could lead her to believe she's going insane.
As with most shows, the main character has to hold your interest and be captivating for it to be a good show. In Search Party Shawkat is terrific as Dory. For me, this is Alia Shawkat's best all-around performance to date. Also giving good performances are Portia (Meredith Hagner) Dory's whimsical effervescent actress friend and Elliott (John Early) Dory's gay self-proclaimed narcissistic and pathological liar friend both of whom are self-absorbed and insufferable but somehow manage to be compelling and enjoyable to watch. John Reynolds as Dory's often timid boyfriend Drew was also good particularly for me during the last half of the season.
Search Party was interestingly released. The ten episode first season was aired over five consecutive days with TBS airing two episodes a night. If you like dark comedy with an element of mystery highly recommend Search Party. The entire first season can currently be streamed on TBS.Com
The OA is a science fiction mystery about a blind woman, Prairie Johnson (Brit Marling) who disappears. After seven years she returns being able to see and insisting her name is OA. She keeps what happened a secret to most of the town and the F.B.I. as well. She eventually teams up with four high schoolers and a teacher, the five, whom of which she reveals some information to as they work together to find other missing people.
The OA is an amalgam of genres having elements of science fiction, drama, and mystery. The show was met with mixed reviews partially I think from the high expectations set by transcendent series Stranger Things also released on Netflix as well as the absurdity of some of the scenes. The OA premiered months after Stranger Things which debuted to wide critical acclaim and high praise. It is a love it or hate it series I was particularly fond of it for its style, story and many of the acting performance but I can see how some dislike it.
The characters around the OA are incredible and maybe even overshadow Marling's performance though it is understandable because she has a heavy burden as the show's creator and writer of the majority of the episodes along with Zal Batmanglij. Two actors especially stood out for me, Betty the school teacher played by Phyllis Smith and Steve played by Patrick Gibson one of the students, who both help OA as part of the five find the missing people. If you can get into the show and look past the "Movements" of the season finale it is an addictive watch and I'm interested in seeing how they continue the story season two.
Based on the 1973 movie of the same name by novelist Michael Crichton Westworld was a breakout hit for HBO in 2016. In the technologically advanced Wild West-themed amusement park androids known a host cater to high paying customers known as guests allowing them to experience how life was over 100 years ago.
Like another show Humans, Westworld asks the question what make something human. Westworld is well crafted as a sci-fi western that questions society looking into our fear in AI artificial intelligence. The aesthetics are on point. There are mysteries underlying plots and things that may not be what they seem, abound in this show. that make for interest and tense storytelling
Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve (Thandie Newton) play hosts who are starting to become sentient. AI programmer Bernard is played by Jeffery Wright, Ed Harris portrays the Man in Black a twisted, rich, frequent patron of the park, and Anthony Hopkins is Robert Ford the founder of the park. All are phenomenal in roles and if I said anything more I would be in spoiler territory. So if you're afraid of the robot apocalypse or want to see a well-executed sci-fi I recommend Westworld on HBO.