Screen Scholars’ Top 20 Shows of 2016 … So Far!

We’re halfway through 2016, and Screen Scholars looked around and saw that there’s just not enough TV content – certainly never enough lists. So, we’re doing our part. Here’s our crazy mix of a list of our favorites for the first six months of this madcap year. I’m pretty sure Andy Daly plays an oblivious doctor on at least half of these shows.

20. The Carmichael Show [NBC]

Jerrod Carmichael seriously stepped up his game in his namesake series’ second season with a barrage of mini-plays which tackled everything from police brutality to porn addiction to the Idol of Trump. Most refreshingly, Carmichael, while effortlessly genial, is the sort of comic who finds special insight in pushing limits and expectations – in poking the often ornery bear. The Carmichael Show thrives on the genuine chemistry of its cast – especially between the couples Jerrod and Maxine (Amber Stephens West) and parents Joe (David Allen Grier) and Cynthia (Loretta Devine).
– Jason Thurston

19. Bob’s Burgers [FOX]

Bob’s Burgers was, again, exceptional this season, getting funnier each week our Sunday nights were graced with its presence. There were tween conspiracies, a very serious war over a moonbounce, a realization that sometimes the reality of one’s dreams is a mean, old nag, and a musical partially sung while glued to a toilet. When has whacky been so heartfelt as it was this year?
– Katherine M. Hill

18. Marvel’s Daredevil [Netflix]

This is the Daredevil that fans have been aching for since they hated Ben Affleck in the film. The second season took the revolutionary combat choreography and upped the ante. Charlie Cox brings a warmth to blind lawyer and cutumed vigilante Matt Murdock, but it was Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle/ Punisher who stole the show.
– Brad Filicky

17. Jane the Virgin [The CW]

So thrilled this show got a chance to continue. This season there is more telenovela style drama within the storylines but smartly toned them down a notch. Otherwise, it just gets to be too much shock value. There were twists and turns but the core of what makes Jane a great show stayed true: her earnest attempt at being a person that does the right thing, one serious love triangle, Jane’s awesome BFF and her abuelita’s witty Spanish banter.
– Navani Otero

16. The Grinder [FOX]

FOX did the groundbreaking meta-heavy The Grinder no favors when it marketed it as if it were its show-within-a-show. Inner The Grinder was a broad sitcom which hit all the obvious notes, and made The Grinder, the actual show, look like either a lazy Rob Lowe vehicle, or a silly legal farce. In truth, the program was a parody of every TV trope in the book, not to mention a well-crafted family drama anchored by a neurotically charming Fred Savage as Stu Sanderson, real-life lawyer to Lowe’s TV lawyer Dean. The brothers, and a surrounding cast that included Mary Elizabeth Ellis (Happy Endings), Natalie Morales (Parks & Rec), and William Devane (everything), bantered effortlessly and with ping-pong pacing, no odd or overblown comment or flourish of Dean going unremarked upon.
– Jason Thurston

15. New Girl [FOX]

Jess is back! Jess is back! This season viewers get everything they want – our doe-eyed protagonist returns just in time to help plan the wedding we’ve all been waiting for between CeCe and Schmidt. Schmidt over-enunciates lots of words to our utter glee. Nick is still a mess when it comes to communicating with the opposite sex. Nick and Schmidt make up new phrases that we can’t wait to use in everyday life (see “goosebumps walkaway”). And Winston actually becomes a more integral character navigating a relationship that isn’t his cat for once. Plus, there is also hope that Nick and Jess can one-day get back together. Seriously, it’s a win-win this year.
– Navani Otero

14. Preacher [AMC]

Like many fans (including famous producers Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg) I’ve been waiting for this since I first discovered the Preacher comic in ’97. I wasn’t disappointed. The irreverent tone and violence of the comic about a man of God with unique powers is here on grand display. Now that the show has been renewed for an expanded 2nd season, the sky’s the limit.
– Brad Filicky

13. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver [HBO]

Jon Oliver has been killin’ it, again. When he hasn’t been yelling about Making Trump Drumpf Again (and he’s been yelling about Drumpf a lot), he’s been yelling about Puerto Rico, your 401(k) fees, and the astounding barbarism of the world we live in. This year Jon Oliver’s incisive takedowns and brilliance have outshone his long tenure as a comedian and a Daily Show alum.
– Katherine M. Hill

12. Veep [HBO]

In Veep‘s fifth season, Selina Meyer tries to stay Prez through lots of work and expletive-filled jokes and yelling. And, as always, Jonas AKA Jonad AKA Congressman Jonah Ryan (wha!?!)  will give plenty of opportunity for that, and Julia’s comedic timing never misses a beat. By the end of the season Selina has her whole crew back with her to count missing votes and figure out ways for her to get a Nobel Peace Prize. She even has some time for a few rendezvouses. But she soon learns those close to her are constantly trying to screw her over, in every figurative sense of the word. Thank goodness Gary is there at every turn with the right type of tea for such occasions.
– Navani Otero

11. Better Call Saul [AMC]

We’re a season closer to Jimmy’s transition into the Saul Goodman we came to know and to love it when he’d steal a scene from Walter White, et al, on Breaking Bad, and of course everyone’s further in the muck. Jimmy was never going to fit in at Davis & Main, nor would his brother ever fully accept him, but who could foretell the absolute brutality of the final standoff between Jimmy and Chuck – or how naturally Jimmy’s erstwhile girlfriend Kim would take to the game. Mike sinks further into his role as underworld fixer. And is that Gus Fring lurking in the wings, leaving mash notes on cars?
– Jason Thurston

10. Brooklyn Nine-Nine [FOX]

Brooklyn Nine-Nine hasn’t been on forever, but it sometimes plays like it is, like a show with a wide, weird, comfort zone, which is a great benefit to its audience – the show has a distinct voice, and it’s settled into a groove (but never a rut), allowing the show to comfrotably get wild with its cast.
– Katherine M. Hill

9. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend [The CW]

One needn’t like musicals to succumb to the charms of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. For one thing, Rachel Bloom is more “Weird Al” Yankovic than Andrew Lloyd Webber. This deftly written show about Rachel’s Rebecca Bunch’s neurotic insanity trip after she runs into her childhood camp crush Josh on the streets of NYC and stalks – or follows – him to the strip mall Mecca of West Covina, California. In the second half of its debut season, Crazy ExGirlfriend built up its deep bench of supporting characters with an emotional depth to rival Parks and Recreation – from bi-curious middle aged boss Daryl, needy partner-in-stalking Paula, and, of course, Grocery Clerk with Half an Eyelid.
– Jason Thurston

8. American Crime Story [FX]

If you can get past some of the casting (Cuba Gooding as the Juice?), American Crime Story lives as a surprisingly amazing dramatic portrayal of one of the biggest murder trials of this country. This behind-the-scenes reenactment of all the maneuvering and strategizing in the courtroom bringing up everything from race to the LAPD relationship with African-Americans to the shrewdness of the defense to prove there was reasonable doubt will leave your head spinning. Hell, they even bought up my girl Marcia Clark’s hair style! You’ll never look at our legal system the same.
– Navani Otero

7. Lady Dynamite [Netflix]

A giant robotic Maria Bamford controlled by three type-A women named Karen Grisham (Ana Gasteyer, June Diane Raphael, Jenny Slate) does battle with a giant robot Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath – made of actual sugarcubes, because of course; that IS the debut season of Bamford’s brilliant and only semi-structured comedic thesis on mental illness, and its ten episodes’ worth of inspired madness. Drawn from Bamford’s actual public struggles, the series opens on a perfect replication of sexy 1970s easy, breezy beauty product ads that sets the tone as it becomes more and more demented until Party Over Here‘s Nicole Byer reminds Maria she’s got a show to do. While it may be too much meta (is there such a thing?) for some, those open to its charms are certain to fall in love with its absurdist embrace of our darkest regions.
– Jason Thurston

6. Game of Thrones [HBO]

The show has finally caught up with and surpassed the books. I thought it may suffer because of it, but boy was I wrong. One of the strongest seasons of TV I have ever seen. We all know by now that Jon Snow isn’t dead, but that doesn’t even scratch the surface.
– Brad Filicky

5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt [Netflix]

While it still suffers from patches of problematic – particularly in a third episode where Tina Fey clumsily addresses charges of racism through Titus’ bizarre kabuki play – for the most part it skirts free of the controversy and continues to bring its unique brand of referential hilarity. Kimmy searches for her roller-coaster loving mom, Jacqueline seeks her truth, Lillian runs around with ex-boyfriend Robert Durst (Fred Armisen) while trying to save the hood, Titus remains Titus, Fey herself unveils drunken Uber passenger/psychiatrist Andrea, and the world is all the more wonderful thanks to the cassette tape “NOW! That Sounds Like Music!” with almost hits like “Brother Baptist” by Dusk Mountie and “I’m Convinced I Can Swim” by Art Smelly (from the movie Earth Jelly)
– Jason Thurston

4. Silicon Valley [HBO]

It was all smooth sailing when this season began, Pied Piper was fully backed and moving into their snazzy new offices complete with pool tables and an on-site chef. But this is Silicon Valley so it couldn’t last as new challenges arise at every corner that leaves poor Richard in an anxiety-ridden panic attack by the end of every episode. From giving up his CEO title to shifting focus to appease the sales team, nothing will ever go according to plan. Although, in the end the team ends up kind of back where they started – in the Erlich Bachman lair beginning again. And how about Bachman’s growth? This season, he went from bong-inhaling landlord (ok, there’s still definitely a lot of that – and some superb prank calling) to someone that wants to be included, taken seriously and through all the weed smoke, someone who cares. This year SV not only went for laughs but gave some serious feels, too.
– Navani Otero

3. Love [Netflix]

Netflix has had a banner year for groundbreaking comedy shows. My particular favorite was Love. Very few shows capture the awkwardness, sadness and pure humanity that comes with romantic relationships with the honesty that Love does. Gillian Jacob’s Mickey Dobbs is one the most realistically flawed characters to hit the television screen.
– Brad Filicky

2. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee [TBS]

Bless Samantha Bee And Keep Her Safe, for her blind anger is all we have. Sure, we have The Daily Show, The Nightly Show, and Last Week Tonight but no one – no one – has the grace and refined rage of Samantha Bee, a soothing balm in this violent, frustrating, and seemingly right wing-dominated world. Samantha Bee is more than we deserve, and lo, may she never learn it.
– Katherine M. Hill

1. Broad City [Comedy Central]


Who among us is surprised that Broad City took our No 1. spot? The show is also our No. 1 show of 2015 and our March Madness winner. The praise is deserved. This season Broad City diverged from its usual antics, allowing the women to grow and make mistakes, without losing its edge, its cool, its sense of humor, or sense of self. Where Broad City will go now has us on the edge of our seats with anticipation.
– Katherine M. Hill

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s