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Favorite TV Shows of 2016

Writing about my TV-viewing habits as the year winds down brings about mixed feelings for me—I love TV and I love watching it, but I do get just slightly horrified upon realizing how much of it I’ve consumed.

In 2016, I have watched/caught up on 35 TV series/miniseries (you can see my complete list here). This does not include shows I watched multiple times during the year or anything I watched during its regular airing (and honestly, this number could grow in the final days of December). This adds up to something like 735 episodes of television, which is a lot. Basically, I like TV.

Bearing that in mind, the following is a list, in alphabetical order, of my favorite shows of the year. This includes shows that I both streamed and watched in real time. You’ll also find a list of honorable mentions at the bottom.

What TV shows did you love in 2016?


Call the Midwife

I’m a sucker for a good British period piece (as you may deduce from other listings to come), and Call the Midwife is the perfect balance of wholesome, kindhearted English entertainment that feels like ideal viewing on a cold winter night. I watched the first four seasons of the show in early January and quickly came to love the women of Nonnatus House, where a group of nuns and midwives works to serve underprivileged women of 1950s London. While Call the Midwife is undeniably charming, I think the thing I love most about it is its refreshing take on a diverse group of women without the cattiness that is so often represented in working women on the screen. Also, there are cute babies, so how could you not enjoy it?

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is essentially what my entertainment life is built around (if you exclude Hamilton, of course). I watched the entirety of Game of Thrones at least twice over the past year, not to mention that I watched each episode of season 7 twice during its normal airing. It might be obsessive, but come on—Jon Snow is alive and the Battle of the Bastards was the most stressed I’ve ever been. Also, please don’t speak to me about Margaery. I’m still not ready.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

As a fan of Gilmore Girls for more than a decade, I’m a bit jaded about the immense surge in popularity it’s had in the past year or two. I love that people love the show, but I was here for a long time and I like to keep some things to myself. Because of my long love for this show, the thought of a reunion was both thrilling and terrifying, but I’m so very pleased with the result. Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop especially gave such beautiful performances in this miniseries, and I certainly hope they’re recognized after being overlooked by major awards when the show originally aired. While I’d love to see more of this revival, those last four words left me more satisfied than the entirety of season 7, and that’s more than I could ask for.

Insecure

It’s probably a little inaccurate to say that Issa Rae is basically my best friend, but that’s the kind of positive thinking I’m looking to implement in 2017. Insecure was one of the funniest shows on TV this year that also knows how to pack an emotional wallop when needed. I love a show that confidently hits its stride from the get-go, which is exactly what this show does in depicting twenty-something black women looking for love and success. Set yourself an afternoon to catch up on season 1 if you didn’t enjoy it this fall.

The Mindy Project

At the moment, I’m still making my way through The Mindy Project (though this journey has progressed at an alarmingly fast rate). I saw some of the shows first 2 seasons when they aired on Fox and never felt inclined to watch religiously, but after reading Mindy Kaling’s second book, Why Not Me?, a few weeks ago, I jumped in headfirst. Turns out, I love it. Kaling is hilarious and ridiculous as heroine Mindy Lahiri, a woman who’s smart enough to be a gynecologist but otherwise, generally an idiot. The biggest surprise for me has been how much I enjoy the supporting cast (though my crush on Chris Messina has been serious for a few years now, so everyone else should just back off). Though I’m glad this show is still in progress, I’m a little sad that I’ll soon be waiting until February for new episodes, and even then only on a weekly basis. This show has been a perfect excuse to lounge around and “accidentally” watch 7 episodes without moving.

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

There are few fictional heroines I want to be more than Miss Phryne Fisher. The girl is rich, has a great wardrobe, a generous spirit, perfect hair, a cool job, and a flirtation with a hot detective—what could be better? Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is the kind of show you hope will magically have 50 more episodes waiting for you when you finish the three seasons currently on Netflix. Phryne is an unofficial detective with a knack for solving crime in 1920s Australia. She’s basically the cool girl you’d really want to be friends with if that cool girl was also nice and smart. 2017, I’m counting on you to get season 4 in the works.

My Mad Fat Diary

One of the saddest moments for a TV lover like me is suddenly realizing you’ve come not just to the finale of a season, but of a series. This is what happened to me last week when I fell in love with the British teen dramedy My Mad Fat Diary. The show follows the life of Rae Earl, a teenager who’s just been released from a psychiatric hospital after being admitted for self-harm. Rae’s life post-hospital features a supportive and sometimes frustrated single mom, a new group of friends and potential love interests, and therapy with a kind-hearted and stern psychiatrist (spoiler: her therapist is Professor Quirrell!). MMFD is an honest and real show that I came to love in an astoundingly quick time, especially considering the entire series only lasts 16 episodes.

Outlander

It would be wrong to say I only watch Outlander for smoldering shots of Sam Heughan, but those certainly don’t hurt the show’s cause. In truth, Outlander is like my little pet show. I’ve read the first three books in Diana Gabaldon’s series (books 4 and 5 are on my shelf and ready to go for 2017) and I rewatched season 1 more often than I care to admit. Thankfully, season 2 did not disappoint. It’s still beautiful, steamy, violent, and surprisingly funny (Ryan, insert your soixante-neuf comment here). Gabaldon’s narrative goes on a surprising journey from book to book, so I’m glad to see the show successfully keeping pace. I can’t wait to follow this journey further in the new year.

Rick and Morty

Okay, Rick and Morty is the undeniable outlier on this list, but that doesn’t mean I love it any less. Who knew a bizarre little animated show about a young boy and his mad scientist/weirdo of a grandfather could be equally hilarious, insane, and heartbreaking? If you’ve never seen Rick and Morty, here are a few things to look out for: a surprising amount of burping and stuttering, lots of aliens and alternate realities, some Tiny Rick songs that you’ll want on a playlist, and a character named Mr. Poopy Butthole. This show is a national treasure.

Sex and the City

I’m pretty sure watching Sex and the City is a rite of passage for millennial women, and since I was seven when the show started on HBO in 1998, this year seemed like the time to get myself initiated. I watched Sex and the City embarrassingly quickly—seriously, I watch a lot of TV, but this was scary fast. Here are some things to know: I hated Miranda for a very long time but also I kind of am her (so I want a Steve, please), I thought Samantha Jones was too much but turns out she’s an icon and I adore her, and Mr. Big is the worst character to ever grace a TV screen and I hate him and do not comprehend why people like him. Though I’ve not yet watched the film sequels, I bought used copies this fall and look forward to a viewing party complete with drinking and lots of discussion with some people I love in the near future.

Stranger Things

I was a month or two late to the Stranger Things party because my roommate and I decided to watch together. We were both skeptical of the hype, but then the hype was correct and we loved it. We virtually adopted Dustin as our son. I generally hate child actors, but I loved this show and pretty much everything about it.


Honorable Mentions: American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, Catastrophe (season 2), The Crown, Felicity, The Girlfriend Experience, Girls, Grantchester, The Good Place, O.J.: Made in America, Pushing Daisies

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2016 Reading List #50: Sidney Chambers and the Perils of Night, by James Runcie

Sidney Chambers and the Perils of Night was probably one of the most disappointing reading projects I’ve yet had in 2016.

After falling in love with Grantchester, the TV adaptation of the book series, earlier this summer, I was excited to read the books that inspired the show. Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, the first book in the series, was a fun read that closely aligned with the series. After season 1, though, it’s clear the TV show took its own approach, borrowing only sparingly from the books, and I’m sad to say I’m much happier with the direction of the adaptation than the original.

I found many of Runcie’s stories to be underwhelming and sometimes boring. Runcie has a tendency to go into unnecessary detail about insignificant plot points (I don’t care at all about the rules of cricket, but there was an 8-page section devoted to this topic), so I often lost interest and tuned out from time to time. There’s also a pretty gigantic change in the love story from page to screen, and I much prefer what the TV series is doing with this storyline.

Though I already have a copy of the third book in the series, I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to it. I’m sad to have spent money (and time) on a series I’m likely to give up, but I’ll find more intriguing ways to spend my time reading.

2016 Reading List #33: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, by James Runcie

Last week I spent some Amazon and Barnes and Noble gift cards I’d been holding on to for a while, and I’d say my reading habit has been happily indulged because of it.

Though I’m still working through Thomas Hardy’s classic Tess of the D’Urbervilles, I’m not rushing through it, and having a handful of new reading project arrive on the doorstep was too exciting a prospect to wait for.

Of these new treasures, I started with (and unintentionally sped through) Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, the first book in the Grantchester mysteries series upon which the television series is based. My mom and I recently watched and loved the first two seasons of the TV adaptation, so I thought I’d give the books a try as well.

Luckily, the book series packs the same enjoyable punch as the TV series. This novel explores six different (but interwoven) mysteries through the eyes of Canon Sidney Chambers, an Anglican priest with a knack for crime-solving. Generally, the TV adaptation follows the book accurately, though some of the mysteries are reimagined and the supporting characters are made more dynamic on screen.

The Shadow of Death offers everything you can hope for from a British crime novel: jealousy, intrigue, a love triangle, jazz clubs, and a sweet puppy named Dickens. It was an incredibly quick read, and one that left me excited to continue through the series.

If you’re interested, give the TV series a try! It’s available on Amazon Prime (and James Norton is sure to keep your interest) and the perfect solution to a rainy summer day.

2016 Reading List #21: Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Though I definitely should’ve been spending my time more productively, I spent most of today reading the final half of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. If you can’t allow a little literary indulgence on spring break, when can you?

This book has been of interest to me for a long time, but I’ve never been able to find my own copy at a used bookstore, which is my primary resource for book-buying. My roommate brought me his copy after winter break, so I finally decided to let myself enjoy some recreational reading after feeling too committed to my thesis project to dive in earlier in the semester.

Thankfully, it was worth the wait. I saw the 2010 film adaptation and so I knew the general premise of the novel before beginning: in a reimagined late-twentieth century Britain, Kathy tells the story of her growing up with friends Ruth and Tommy. This isn’t any normal coming-of-age story, though; Kathy and her friends are clones, produced to fulfill their lives as organ donors for British citizens so terminal illness is no longer a death sentence.

Despite the sci-fi nature of a clone story, this is a very human narrative full of endearing characters. I was misty-eyed more than once throughout my reading experience, and it’s obvious why this has been such a lauded book.

This was my first time reading Ishiguro, but I’ll happily return to him soon, especially since I already have a copy of his Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The Remains of the Day. For now, I’ll probably start another reading project, though my impending thesis defense will likely slow my reading progress. A future in which I will no longer have to write research papers is sounding sweeter and sweeter…

2016 Reading List #15: Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare

Only one reread left in my oral exam preparation! We’re only four weeks into the semester but it’s flying by. I’ve got a month and three days (!) until my thesis defense/oral exam and I’m teaching 3 days a week, which didn’t seem like very much on my plate, but that was wrong.

I’m surviving, but oh goodness, will I be happy when this whole deal is over. As I have to have a play by Shakespeare on my reading list, I chose the one I saw performed at the Globe Theatre: Much Ado About Nothing, which is my favorite of the Shakespearean comedies I’ve read.

As I tend to say when writing my book reviews of Shakespeare, I don’t know that I can add anything original about a text this old. It’s funny and ridiculous and totally enjoyable, so go read/watch it!

My last bits of oral exam prep should conclude this week before I’m just in full-on study mode: rereading The Glass Menagerie and familiarizing myself with the works of John Donne and Anne Bradstreet. My brain is not entirely pleased.

2016 Reading List #13: The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde

Since I’m finishing my master’s degree this semester and have to defend my thesis and take an oral exam over everything I’ve learned in just over a month (!), I’m doing my best to reread as many of the texts on my reading list as possible. Thankfully, one of those rereads was The Importance of Being Earnest, which is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable reading experiences at your disposal.

There probably isn’t anything terribly new or unique I can say about this play, so I won’t try. It’s hilarious and ridiculous and perfectly entertaining. Go read it if you haven’t.

Before I allow myself to start any other leisure reading, I’m making myself get through the last two texts I plan to revisit for my studies: The Glass Menagerie and Much Ado About Nothing, and I’m also making my way through the poetry of the likes of John Donne, Emily Dickinson, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Oh, the life of an English student…

2016 Reading List #12: After You, by Jojo Moyes

A couple weeks ago, I decided it seemed like the kind of day when I deserved a little treat, so I bought myself After You, the sequel to Jojo Moyes’s heartbreaker, Me Before You, which I read in November.

The fact that the film trailer for Me Before You was released around the same time certainly didn’t help–have you seen how adorable Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin will be?!–so it seemed like the only possible option to buy this novel and dive right into it after finishing my last reading project.

After You made me skeptical at first–if you don’t know how Me Before You ends, I won’t spoil it, but I was afraid this book would try to change my perception of a character I’d grown to love in the first novel.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. There are two new characters of real prominence introduced in this sequel–Sam and Lily–neither of whom I really knew how to feel about early on, but I was quite happy with them in the end. After You is really more about heroine Louisa’s journey to re-find herself after suffering a loss, and she’s just as compelling as she was the first time around.

After You also isn’t quite the tearjerker that its predecessor was, but it still has a certain bittersweet conclusion that’s bound to leave you a bit misty-eyed. This was the perfect little distraction from my lesson planning and thesis writing, and also a great way to spend a snow day. 🙂

Now I’m returning to slightly more academic pursuits–in preparation for my master’s oral exam, I’m rereading The Importance of Being Earnest, The Glass Menagerie, and Much Ado About Nothing, so look for several new posts in the coming days.