In many ways, this is a harder list to do than a list of the best TV shows of the year. Often a great TV show is filled with great performances from everyone involved. So if I have 20 great TV shows than I probably have 100 great performances.
But I can’t really do a list of 100 – although the first draft of this list had 40 performances – because who has time for that? And that kind of list is also not really about “best” so I decided to give myself an arbitrary cutoff – 15 – that I immediately cheated on.
Whatever. It’s my list.
By making this 15
(ish) I forced myself to really hone in on the performances that really moved me in a profoundly emotional way this year, rather than just pick technically great performances that left me a little cold or that I admired in an intellectual way.
But it’s worth just listing a few of the folks who missed the cut.
Runners-up (in order):
- Rutina Wesley, Queen Sugar
- Naturi Naughton, Power
- Constance Zimmer, UnReal
- Yael Groblas, Jane The Virgin
- Robert Buckley, iZombie
- Kylie Bunbury and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Pitch
- Justin Hartley and Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us
- Fred Savage, The Grinder
- Marcus Scribner, Black-ish
- Daniel Gillies, The Originals
So with that, onto the 15 (or so) performances that I personally think are the best TV performances of 2016.
I don’t know that I have much to say other than I watched a lot of TV in 2016, most of it was damn good, and increasingly this is because we are finally getting black TV that is for, by and about us.
So without wasting any more of your time, here are the 20 shows that I think are the best TV had to offer this year.
20. The Magicians – For my money, this show worked almost entirely because of Arjun Gupta as Penny.
19. Suits – The show finally made Mike pay for his crime and turned out its best season since season two.
18. Survivor’s Remorse – This show gets deeper and more slyly profound every season.
17. Fresh Off The Boat – Constance Wu, Forrest Wheeler and Ian Chen kept me in stitches.
16. UnReal – Season two was messier than season one, but it was also much more ambitious and a beautiful, brilliant indictment of white liberalism’s limited ability to address race.
15. Insecure – One of the finest first seasons of a comedy in years and the best depiction of friendship on TV.
14. The Carmichael Show – Somehow, this show manages to not feel like work despite always being about something important.
13. Luke Cage – A perfectly cast show that found a way to make Luke Cage relevant in the 21st century.
12. The Good Place – High concept, lots of laughter. You can’t really ever go wrong with Kristen Bell.
11. Pitch – Smart, fun and filled with fascinating characters that make baseball compelling.
And the 10 best TV shows of the year…