While it hasn’t been a great year for – well, a lot of things, thankfully the same can’t be said for the genre TV offerings of 2016.
We’ve had surprise hits, old greats making a creative resurgence, and big-budget blockbusters doing the business.
But what were the best TV shows of 2016? We, the writers of SciFiNow, got together to discuss this very conundrum. The results? Well, read on below to find out…
20) The Exorcist
We admit to being sceptical about this. You can’t just do a TV version of The Exorcist and expect it to work, but, luckily for us, the team behind FX’s adaptation knew that too. It’s moody, it’s intense, it’s genuinely scary, and there are sterling performances from Ben Daniels and Alfonso Herrera as the two padres tasked with tackling evil, not to mention the awesome Geena Davis. Of all the TV series arriving this year, this was perhaps the one we were most wary of, and it turned out to be one of our favourites.
19) Ash Vs Evil Dead
After a ridiculously entertaining first season, Ash Vs Evil Dead somehow managed to up the ante in its second year as it brought Bruce Campbell’s idiot saviour back home. There were sensible decisions made, like making Lucy Lawless’ demon Ruby a key member of the team, there were slightly outlandish ones, like casting Lee Majors as Ash’s horndog dad, and frankly outrageous ones, like that absolutely revolting and totally hilarious sequence in the hospital…Jesus, we’re still thinking about that. Campbell’s Ash is one of the most watchable characters on TV right now and he’s got great support from Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago, and they’re still finding a way to bring that high-octane gory madness to our screens on a weekly basis. Hail to the King.
18) Agent Carter
1940s Hollywood is the epitome of glamour, and Agent Peggy Carter is the epitome of badassery. The two together are almost overwhelming. Carter continued to wow this year in her second and (very sadly) last season as she tried to get to the bottom of a mystery involving actresses, scientists and an alien substance known as Zero Matter. We’re starting a campaign for an Agent Carter solo movie.
Following on from the brilliant first series, Humans continues the upwards momentum with a storyline that simultaneously raises the stakes while retaining the down-to-earth tone. A perfect counterpart to HBO’s mammoth Westworld, people have been talking less about it, but don’t let that put you off.
16) Neil Gaiman’s Likely Stories
Directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard and writer Kevin Lehane brought four of Neil Gaiman’s dark, twisted tales to life in this criminally underseen miniseries and we can’t stop talking about it. These tales are so atmospheric, so beautifully made and wonderfully acted by its ensemble cast (many of whom appear in most, if not all, of the episodes) that it does feel like you’re stepping into another world. There are some playfully idiosyncratic touches to add a bit of light to the darkness, and, like the stories, there’s a real sensitivity, too. We really think you need to watch this as soon as possible.
15) Orphan Black
The clone mystery got weirder and a lot more complicated when Orphan Black Season 4 hit Netflix last summer. As always, the story was solid but Tatiana Maslany’s performances as Sarah Manning, Cosima Niehaus, Alison Hendrix, Helena, Rachel Duncan, the deceased Beth Childs, Krystal Goderitch and, show’s latest clone addition, conspiracy theorist MK are what we’re mainly coming back for when the concluding season airs next year.
If the Preacher TV series wasn’t necessarily what we were expecting, it damn sure was something we loved. Sam Catlin, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg made the ballsy decision to root the first season in Jesse’s horrible hometown of Annville and went for a slow-burn approach that paid off brilliantly, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t full of mad, weird brilliance. We’re still giggling about the plane fight, the church dismemberment, and the motel room angel scrap, and we’re still amazed by that Saint Of Killers set-piece. We loved the jobsworth angels DeBlanc and Fiore, and the increasingly conflicted Sheriff Root and Emily. Most of all, we loved the pure gifts of Ruth Negga as Tulip and Joseph Gilgun as Cassidy. The second season looks set to take things in a different direction, and we can’t wait.
13) The Expanse
We had to wait a while for The Expanse here in the UK, but the TV adaptation of the James SA Corey novels finally hit Netflix this year and we’re absolutely thrilled that it did. The Syfy show does a great job of wrangling the complexity of the gritty space opera, creating a fully-realised future society that’s riddled with flawed people, corruption and rebellion, as well as all the dangers that come from being in, you know, in space. The strong cast is led by an excellent performance from Thomas Jane as Joe Miller, and while it might be a little early (or unwise) to start making Battlestar comparisons, we’re very excited that the second season isn’t far away.
12) American Horror Story
After three great seasons, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have arguably faltered of late with Freak Show and Hotel. Luckily, My Roanoke Nightmare proves to be a return to form, constantly flipping audiences’ expectations on their heads while returning to the approach that characterised its earlier years. Harnessing an excellent cast to great effect (Kathy Bates is especially brilliant), this is one nightmare you’ll want to revisit.
11) The Walking Dead
AMC’s undead needed something different, and it definitely got that in the form of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan. By shades, charming, chilling and ultimately psychotic, The Walking Dead is a better show every moment he’s on screen. You can dislike the way they handled some major character deaths, but at least it’s got people talking again.
10) Penny Dreadful
Frankly, none of us were expecting the third season of John Logan’s gorgeous period Gothic to be the last, and we’re still quite upset about it. However, the series brought the story of the tortured Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and her also-tortured companions to a wonderful close. Although the second season remains Penny Dreadful‘s high point, the third introduced some wonderful new foes with Brian Cox as Ethan’s (Josh Hartnett) father and a great turn from Christian Carmago as…well, that’d be telling. We’re really going to miss Green’s incredible leading turn, and we’re going on record as saying that Rory Kinnear’s performance as Frankenstein’s Monster is one of the very best.
9) The Flash
While Season 3’s ‘Flashpoint’ storyline has had a mixed reception, that shouldn’t detract from the brilliant second season. Characterising Barry Allen as a well-meaning soul who can’t help but screw things up, this boasts a harmonious core cast (with Danielle Panabaker and Tom Cavanagh quickly becoming standouts) and some great villain cameos (Trickster! Captain Cold!), and makes for a great contrast
If any show has upped its game this year, it’s Supergirl. Don’t get us wrong, the first season was fun, but the latest (which admittedly hasn’t finished airing yet) just keeps getting better and better. We’ve had action (best demonstrated by Kara teaming up with her cousin, Kal-El), comedy (Mon-El’s whole storyline), drama (Alex exploring her identity and subsequently coming out to her family), and more. Season 2 has been absolute treat.
Marvel’s Netflix output continued to go from strength to strength in 2017, as highlighted by the second season of Daredevil, which in addition to expanding upon the Man Without Fear’s mythos, introduced us to the best on-screen portrayal of the Punisher to date via Jon Bernthal. The introduction of Elektra and the numerous ninjas wasn’t its strongest suit, but that wasn’t enough to blot its copy book.
6) Luke Cage
Following on from his starring role in Jessica Jones, Mike Colter returned to make Harlem shake in Luke Cage, quite possibly Marvel’s best Netflix series to date. Simply put, Colter is Cage – stoic, strong and self-assured, while retaining his roving eye from the comics. If not for the introduction of one of the worst supervillains we’ve seen to date in the latter part of the season, this would have been nigh-on perfect.
Around 80 percent of the SciFiNow team binged iZombie over Easter weekend when the first two seasons finally found their way onto Netflix UK. We’re addicted to it like Liv Moore is to brains. The combination of drama, comedy gore, zombie action and Liv and Ravi’s relentless lab bantz is hard not to love. And with a cliffhanger like the one we were confronted with at the end of Season 2, we’d be fools not to waste another bank holiday weekend on the show.
4) Black Mirror
It may be composed of six different narrative strands, but Black Mirror‘s common theme – technology bringing out the extremes (usually the worst) of human nature – is given a sparkly sheen thanks to the swelling budget and Charlie Brooker’s increasingly assured writing. Everyone has a favourite, whether it’s the eerie future world of ‘Nosedive’, the trope-baiting delight of ‘San Jumipero’ or the truly horrifying ‘Shut Up And Dance’, with their strengths more than compensating for even the anthology’s lowest points.
3) Game Of Thrones
Post Season 5, Game Of Thrones had a lot to prove – and boy did it. As winter draws closer, and with it the end of the show, all the signs are pointing to a truly glorious demise. Any previous complaints about lack of payoff were well and truly dispelled, with the likes of Kit Harington, Sophie Turner and Lena Headey delivering the kinds of performances you always knew they were capable of. Roll on Season 7. Valar Morghulis indeed.
Another new series that arrived with a weight of expectation, Westworld got everyone talking in a way that few shows manage. Whether or not you guessed what the show had in store for us (we didn’t), you surely can’t help but have been ensnared by the intriguing backdrop, oh-so-deep themes and game performances (most notably from Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright). With a big change in store for Season 2, a solid foundation has been established.
1) Stranger Things
We bet Netflix wished all of their shows delivered like this. Stranger Things became a phenomenon almost instantly, and it’s easy to see why. The Duffer Brothers created a show that was a love-letter to all of our favourite horror and fantasy films and books from the 80s (hands up who started re-reading Stephen King’s IT after finishing the last episode), while remaining thrilling, scary and accessible to a wider audience. It’s perfectly paced (going for eight episodes instead of 13 was a great decision), it’s both sharp and sensitive, and it is perfectly cast. There’s a reason why everyone went nuts over the Stranger Things kids, and why we were just as invested in Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) as we were in Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). There’s no weak link in the ensemble, and there is nothing about the show that lets it down. From the awesome opening credits to the teasers for the second season, we love everything about this show.
Keep up with all the latest genre TV news with every issue of SciFiNow.