FearlessRiOT’s Year-End Top 10: Favorite TV Shows of 2016

This is the list I was dreading making the most. As much as I wish this wasn’t the case, I’m kind of limited in my television options due to the fact that I don’t have any premium cable subscriptions; economy is rough, y’all. Therefore, I don’t have shows on networks like HBO, Starz, or Showtime, where shows like Ash vs. Evil Dead, Power, and Games of Thrones play. And since I can’t watch those shows, they’re not even considered for the list, and in the case of the latter show, that’s probably a huge blow to my list’s credibility. So does the fact that I haven’t watched some of the most talked about shows of the year, like The People vs. OJ Simpson and The Walking Dead, so even though I’m proud that my list is an alternative from the norm, I also fear my list will be shunned because of it. But since I promised to tackle these categories, I’ve decided to gather up the shows I have watched, either on network television, basic cable, or streaming services, and reflect back upon my personal favorites.

#10. Marvel’s Luke Cage 10

Last year, Jessica Jones hit NetFlix as became a smash hit. Even I enjoyed it so much that it made my Year-End shows list last year. Well, one of the characters from that show got what you could probably call a spin-off, but I’m not sure those exist in the huge universe Marvel has built. Luke Cage has a superpower that I’m kind of envious of: he’s literally bulletproof. His body is literally David Guetta’s “Titanium” song. It’s not so much like the story of Luke Cage is anything new, to comic book lore or even to the screen. The tale of someone looking to secant their shady past only to be pulled back into it is something that even WWE Films has done. Twice. With the same actor. But what makes this particular show so fascinating is how unapologetically black the show is in spirit, and how it gets that across  it just with characters, but with style and look. It was really cool to see legit R&B and hip-hop artists come in for musical cameos, for example. Also worth mentioning is how the show is a hotbed for mind-blowing scenes, especially any time we get to see Cage in action. Tell me you didn’t crack a smile when his face damn near broke a guy’s fist in half.

#9. Black-ish9

If you’re racist, first of all, dismiss yourself from this blog; I don’t tolerate that mindset. But if you are are, either consciously or not, I doubt you’re too happy with ABC as their prime time lineup features diversity across the board. While this list does not include any of Shonda Rhimes‘ prime time dramas due to me not really watching them this year, and Fresh Off The Boat just missed the cut, my list managed to get a dose of Black-ish. It only ranks low on the list because I can admit that I have had to miss out on certain episodes due to it sharing a timeslot with other TV shows on Wednesday nights, but I have to give it credit as a socially conscious black sitcom. In a time where police brutality is a huge problem in America (and might get worse considering the government we’re about to be stuck with), this show had the guts to take a break from the comedy to tackle it head-on. They can still get some laughs and Anthony Anderson has great chemistry with Tracee Ellis Ross. Also, I hear Yara Shahidi is becoming a beloved young actress, so her profile is being greatly raised.

#8. The 1008

Oh, boy, the backlash this show got in 2016. Last year, I placed this as my #1 favorite TV show of the entire year due to an exciting second season that concluded with Clarke Griffin making a tough sacrifice to save her own people. It was a thrilling adventure, had some shocking twist and turns, compelling character relationships, and was praised for being both LGBTQ-positive and empowering for women. The third season saw them retain most of these elements, but kind of felt like a step down overall. They still had an interesting story based on power struggles and Octavia‘s character development continues to be one of my favorite things on television. Sadly, they killed out her POC boyfriend to further her arc, only a couple weeks after killing off LGBTQ fan favorite Lexa and sending most viewers into a seething rage which is still on-going. Moreover, I can’t be the only one who feels like Bellamy’s character got a bit of a downgrade, right? But for all it’s flaws, I’m still interested in where everyone goes from here, and based on the trailer, things may be about to get nuclear.

#7. TNA Impact Wrestling7

Yes, this show and company is till around, surviving yet another year of rumors predicting their inevitable demise. They’re like the Cliff Hanger skit from Between The Lions; always looking to be in the verge of death, finding their way out at the last minute, then ending up back in the cliff again. But despite the behind the scenes struggles, their on-screen product has received a shot in the arm due mainly to the character work of the likes of Decay, Allie, Eli Drake, and especially the Hardy Boys. Via one becoming broken and the other becoming obsolete, Matt and Brother Nero have been at the forefront of TNA’s revival in relevance. There are still plenty of flaws there, including the women’s, tag team, and X-Divisions seeming more thin in depth than ever. But entertainment-wise, there’s actually plenty to be found throughout the year. They now have another year to make some bank from their improved product before the bankruptcy rumors flair up again.

#6. Empire6

The drama in the Lyon Family seems to go round and round in a circle, doesn’t it? Though they keep advancing storyline-wise, with the latest season following Luscious trying anything he can to make his streaming service a success, it all comes back down to one underlying truth: the Lyon Family can’t get along to save their life lives. And how could they when the patriarch’s top concern is money, even at the detriment of one son’s well-being. I always knew Luscious was kind of savage, but this year, I saw it even more in almost every manipulative decision he made. But do I buy that it’s how the music industry actually works? Kind of. And the world he’s surrounded with has been really chaotic lately: one of his sons was racially profiled after his wife was brutally murdered, another of his sons is afraid to perform after nearly dying himself, his third son is beefing with Lil’ Romeo, who’s apparently a gangster now. Not to mention his technology being hacked, including Cookie‘s nudes. Shoot, if I can keep naming moments like this, Empire could be on this list as long as it’s on the air.

#5. iZombie5

She finally told him; she finally told him. Liv Moore (never to be confused with NXT’s Liv Morgan) finally revealed to partner-in-anti-crime Clive that she’s a zombie, and it was done in a perfect way. I’m still not much of a zombie person, in all honesty. It would take a pretty interesting concept and idea to get me into watching something centered around zombies, and last year, I mentioned how iZombie succeeded in doing just that. A half-zombie who used her supernatural abilities for good, stopping criminals? That’s a hell of a lot better to me than just leaving a graphic undead body count episode after episode. I mean, there have been deaths, obviously, but they’re not the biggest focus. Since this is a CW show, there also needs to be the romance element for the tween viewers and shippers of the world. And it is there, but we also have the acting ability of Rose McIver on display, her character taking on different personas with every brain she eats, from stripper to superhero. The side characters lie Ravi, Peyton, and Cliver also make this worth a watch.

#4. SuperGirl4

DC, how is it that you can succeed so well in one medium and constantly be bombarded with criticism in another. Batman v. Superman wasn’t a very well received flick and Suicide Squad received an even bigger critical thrashing, proving that they have a long way to go before being considered even a fraction of a threat to the MCU. That or they can focus specifically on their television properties, because that’s where they shine brightest. They were able to turn a superhero with a flop 80s movie into an entertaining character with a highly praised TV show. This is legitimately my favorite thing to come out of the Superman mythos probably ever. It’s not too dark; on the contrary, it’s actually one of the more light-hearted shows in DC’s television canon, with lead character Kara being able to be silly and fun just as much as she’s able to throw a punch. It’s also an LGBTQ-friendly show with the moment where Alex comes out to Kara. Let’s hope they don’t flush that down the drain like The 100 did. Plus, any show that gets an Eve Torres cameo gets a thumbs up from me.

#3. WWE Smackdown3

Monday Night RAW is officially WWE’s A-show in claim only. Maybe it started 2016 as it’s A-show (and that’s only if you’re being generous and excluding NXT since that’s still supposed to be developmental), but due to lackluster writing, and a tendency to be repetitive without raising or altering the bar much at all, it’s come out of the other side of the brand split as a usually unwatchable mess. The 3-hour runtime certainly doesn’t help. Because of this, and a few other reasons, Smackdown has greatly passed it up despite being a borderline unwatchable filler show at the start of the year. Sure, there’s the occasional hokey moment like Randy Orton‘s eyes glowing or anything involving James Ellsworth, but even those are better than Enzo Amore flirting with Lana while naked or Mick Foley‘s overdone screaming. The matches are decent and logical, stars like AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose have been able to prove their worth, and authority figures don’t hog the show. I hope Smackdown is remains this way; don’t fall off in the next twelve months.

#2. Liv & Maddie2

It’s tradition at the Disney Channel that if one of their live-action sitcoms is popular enough to get multiple seasons on the air that they’re going to be cut off at four and everyone can move on to other things. Austin & Ally only got four seasons. That’s So Raven only got four seasons. Hannah Montana only got four seasons, and the latter show obviously inspired the fourth and final season of Liv & Maddie somewhat. The final season of the show that features Dove Cameron playing a set of twins with contrasting personalities added “Cali Style” to their name and set the show in a completely new location. Just like the show that made Miley famous did for their final season. Is the final season the best yet? I wouldn’t go that far, but the past year did see Jillow prevail (even if not permanently) and the sisterly bond of the twins growing stronger, through every argument or turmoil.  On a channel that also airs ridiculous shows like Bizaardvark and Bunk’d, it’s awesome to have a show that has a heart and can be genuinely funny.

#1. Atlanta1

If you were expecting a comedy similar to the previous TV show featuring Donald Glover, I doubt you’ll be that disappointed because right from the advertising, this felt like it’d be a different project for Glover. The world already knew he was a good rapper, but this year, along with discovering that he can get soulful and funky 10x more convincingly than DNCE, we found out that  he could carry a show as well. Atlanta isn’t the most laugh-out loud gut-buster on television, but there have still been many laughs to be found over the course of the first season, in-between all the hilarious social satire. What other comedy on TV do you know makes fun of ignorant white privilege, social justice gone-awry, and Justin Bieber‘s desire to be black? And it’s all presented in a not-so over-the-top setting. I’ve never been to Atlanta, but this show makes it seem kind of fascinating. How fascinating? They did an episode that was 90% fake commercials and it was hilarious. Not the Tropic Thunder writers; Donald Glover and co. did that.

Honorable Mentions:

+ Stranger Things – I admit, of all the shows that were highly praised by critics and audiences alike that I wasn’t watching, this is the one that interested me the most. The only reason it’s not on the list is because I’m only a couple of episodes in so far. I like it’s cinematic vibe and sci-fi elements, but I’ll get back to y’all when I’m deeper into the show.

+ Fresh Off The Boat – This is another one of those shows giving ABC a boost in diversity; the very first family sitcom I’ve ever seen with an Asian main cast, as it’s very much welcomed, especially due to the performance of Constance Wu as the matriarch. She receives a lot of praise and rightfully so.

+ Star vs. The Forces of Evil – I haven’t stayed up on animated kids shows lately because the basic and bright animation kind of hurts my eyes. But I kind of like Star vs. The Forces of Evil though. Beware the theme song, however; it’s catchy and will stick in your mind like bubble gum.

+ South Park – I miss the South Park of old. You know, the ones who’s humor came at you fast and it didn’t need a point in order to be hilariously bizarre? I like that South Park is still kicking society in the balls with their over-the-top takes on real life events, but the episodes, while still mostly good, don’t seem as classic as the classic do.

+ WWE NXT – WWE’s developmental brand is in a transitional period, with so many people who made the show special heading up to the main roster and them having to build up new stars to take their place. I believe they’ll be able to craft more big stars; it’ll just take some time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

+ 2 Broke Girls – I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that while I do enjoy the show, I understand why most people don’t. It’s not high-quality storytelling and it’s humor is incredibly low-brow for the sake of being low-brow. But I’ve enjoyed these actors and the main characters so much since it’s start that I can’t stay away from it.

+ Fuller House – I didn’t realize until recently that a lot of people really hate Full House and think that it’s spin-off series on NetFlix is just as bad. But I personally grew up with Full House and I thought the spin-off was OK. And I give the wrestling episode a full thumbs-up, because of course I do.

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