Games of Thrones
Everyone۪s favorite show reminded us of why we feel obligated to spoil it on Facebook. Games of Thrones gave us first season greatness in a riveting season six: Jon Snow came back to life, Sansa and Arya Stark were the ultimate badasses, Daenerys Targaryen proved that if you shoot at the queen you better not miss, and there was an epic battle scene. You probably also still need a moment to collect yourself when you hear someone say, Hold the door. The memes wrote themselves after this season.
Atlanta will end up on a lot of best TV shows lists this year, and it will be unequivocally well-deserved. The story of three guys trying to find their way in the music industry was unlike anything else we saw on TV this year. Donald Glover as creator, writer, and executive producer gave us an honest look at what it means to chase dreams when you don۪t have much. The characters were authentic in a way that a lot of other series could learn from. Atlanta showed that comedy doesn۪t have to come from over-the-top situations, and is often best when the scenario is normal and relatable.
A lot of us probably tuned in to Westworld to deal with our Game of Thrones withdrawal, and then were surprised that we got hooked on the futuristic drama about a western theme park where wealthy people come to live out their usually fucked-up desires with realistic robots. The mysterious plot was addictive and often stopped just short of being too convoluted to follow, but a lot of the entertainment value was in figuring out what the writers were up to. Hopefully, it won۪t fall prey to the curse of second seasons, where ambitious shows go completely off the rails because all the good storylines got used up. For better or worse, we۪ll have to wait until 2018 to find out.
OJ Simpson TV: Made in America and The People vs. O.J. Simpson
It۪s been more than twenty years since the O.J. Simpson verdict, but everyone was ferociously interested in the man and the case again this year. The trial was the story of the first season of FX۪s new series American Crime Story, and this astounding drama (along with the aforementioned Atlanta) helped cement FX as the new leader in TV (more on that later). Then there was OJ: Made in America, the five-part documentary chronicling Simpson۪s life that aired on ESPN and garnered a ton of well-deserved acclaim. Thanks to these programs, a whole new generation got introduced to the trial that is largely blamed for the rise of reality TV.
An unexpectedly massive hit and arguably the talk of this summer۪s tv highlights, Netflix۪s latest hit was just the fun, binge-worthy delight we needed this summer. Blending a creepy sci-fi premise, 80۪s nostalgia, amazing kid actors, and a remarkable soundtrack, this homage to childhood adventure came out of nowhere to win our hearts. If you haven۪t joined the kids and Seven as they search for their lost pal in the upside down you۪re seriously missing out.
Channel Of The Year: FX
Almost singlehandedly rescuing traditional cable from the depths of awful sitcoms and SVU re-runs, FX absolutely crushed the cable boxes this year with a run of incredibly compelling and successful shows. By revamping the OJ story into a can۪t-miss weekly drama (and winning every award under the sun along with it) and taking bold chances with it۪s comedic offerings (Atlanta, You۪re The Worst, Better Things) FX is now the new leader in cable television.
Studio Of The Year: Netflix
We۪re probably piling on, but you can۪t deny that Netflix seriously dominated 2016۪s small screen like nobody else. With other networks and movie studios struggling to play catch up, Netflix simply kicked back, cracked a beer, and dropped massive hit after massive hit. From proven commodities like House of Cards to gritty comics fare like Daredevil and Luke Cage to dramas like Narcos, Netflix has become unstoppable. Just wait though, they۪re really just getting started.
Captain America: Civil War
Marvel gave us the third Captain America movie this year, and forced us to pick sides as the Avengers divided over whether they should be subjected to international oversight. Captain America, Hawkeye, Ant-Man, and Scarlet Witch battled Iron Man, Natasha Romanoff, War Machine, Black Panther, Vision, and Spiderman. While the Marvel films are always good fun, this one thoughtfully examined a question that hangs over all superhero movies: when they are watching over us, who the hell is watching over them?
In a year of comic blockbusters, Don't Breathe was a scary-as-hell breath of fresh air. There have been a lot of home invasion thrillersa favorite formula of Hollywoodbut it۪s been a long time since one took us on a ride as relentless and suspenseful as Don۪t Breathe. It turned the typical hero/villain narrative on its head as three young thieves suddenly realized that the blind Army vet they chose as their next target isn۪t quite the easy mark they expected. With well-timed scares and excellent camerawork, Don۪t Breathe made us feel like we were confined in that house, too, hiding with our hands over our mouths, just trying to survive the night.
Deadpool could۪ve been a complete disaster. It۪s hard to compete with the world Marvel has built, it was a spin-off from the X-Men series instead of a sequel and really was not necessary viewing, and superhero fatigue is real. Somehow, though, it managed to carve out memorable space for itself. Wade Wilson۪s quest wasn۪t tied to some grandiose vision of saving the world; he was just out to protect the person he loved and get some payback. Deadpool also went the R-rated route, embracing the profane, which was a welcome change from the PG-13 standard of most superhero films.
2016۪s third massive comic movie was a bold new step for Marvel Studios, in the same way 2014۪s Guardians Of The Galaxy was. Exploring the more mystical side of the comics, Benedict Cumberbatch starred as the titular doctor and took us on a trippy, exciting, and mind-bending new Marvel ride. It gave us the origin story of one of comicdom۪s most unique characters as he battles to save the world from mystical evil۪s from the great beyond. It also served to set up the magic-based side of the Marvel backdrop which is sure to play into future movies as the studio wraps up it۪s massive multi-movie story arc in the next few years.
Star Wars: Rogue One
Arguably more well-received than last year۪s Star Wars return, The Force Awakens, Rogue One is the first in the upcoming series of films called Star Wars Stories (aka cash machines). This smash holiday hit introduced memorable characters and upped the ante of space and laser action to a whole new level. By taking a more hardcore approach, the movie more than held it۪s own among this legendary series.
Trend Of The Year: Comics Still Rule
Amongst the sea of weak-ass sequels, animated animal movies, and forgettable comedies, comics-based movies still dominated the box offices, both in quality and dollars. All three primary releases were excellent, Captain America, Dr. Strange, and the unlikely Deadpool, with the latter changing the game in terms of what we can expect or even want from a comic book movie. And while there were several notable duds, Suicide Squad and Batman vs Superman (both from the flagging D.C. ironically), this year proved again that comics still rule.