This year has seen a steady stream of great new television shows across all platforms, including plenty of great streaming originals, as well as offering up some of the best seasons of long-running series. Orange is the New Black took a darker turn in its fourth season this year, while Better Call Saul really ramped up the storyline for season two.
Which shows are deemed “the best” is really a subjective thing. But it would be tough to dispute that some shows are simply fantastic, whether you watch them or not. Through a combination of great acting, attention-grabbing storylines, amazing cinematography, and more, there was plenty of amazing TV this year. Here are our top 18 picks, in no particular order, for television series that had great seasons in 2016.
Warning: some spoilers ahead.
It’s fresh, it’s new (well, the interpretation, anyway), and it depicts an eye-opening, futuristic reality that paints a dark picture of technological development. In this sci-fi western thriller based on the classic Michael Crichton film, synthetic androids or “hosts” run an amusement park where anything goes. It stars big names like Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, and James Marsden, and it ended with a serious bang. The good news is that Westworld has been renewed for a second season already. The bad news: we won’t see it until 2018. Judging from the first season, however, it’ll be worth the wait.
Game of Thrones, HBO
This fantasy drama continues to be HBO’s anchor, even in its sixth season. With a talented ensemble cast and plot that entangles betrayal, power struggles, and the odd incestuous relationship, the TV interpretation of George R.R. Martin’s opus has kept viewers gripped through its entire 60-episode run thus far. With season seven scheduled to debut in mid-2017, chances are GoT will comfortably make this list again next year.
The Walking Dead, AMC
It’s easy to argue that TWD‘s popularity was damaged thanks to its frustrating cliffhanger ending in March, followed by the brutal killings in the October season premiere. But there’s no denying that the show remains a well-acted, beautifully crafted series with mind-blowing practical effects and attention to detail that arguably doesn’t really get the credit it deserves come awards season. Beyond the cinematic eye candy, Walking Dead remains a riveting glimpse into human nature, what lengths people will go to for survival, and how dire straits can turn anyone into a stone-cold killer. In 2016 we got to see the group deal with tremendous tragedy, and a formidable villain like they’ve never seen.