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Best TV Shows of 2016

Which show came out on top?

Alexander Zalben

Blah, blah, blah, peak TV, there's a lot of shows on, etc, etc, you know the drill. Except, it's also true: there wasn't just more TV on the air in 2016, there was better TV on the air. TV Guide's Editors have watched a ton of it, though, and worked out our picks for the 10 best shows of 2016.

And if you disagree? Don't worry, you can vote for your own top shows of the year, here.

10. This is Us


Mandy Moore as Rebecca, Mackenzie Hancsicsak as Kate, Milo Ventimiglia as Jack, Parker Bates as Kevin, Lonnie Chavis as Randall

NBC, Ron Batzdorff/NBC

NBC's family drama from Crazy Stupid Love writer Dan Fogelman is the breakout hit of the Fall. This Is Us has managed to tap into hearts nationwide and endear them to the Pearson family, spearheaded by Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore). The show flips between Jack and Rebecca raising their three children in the past, and the present where the three kids are adults with families and careers of their own. Each week is a tender look at what makes and breaks a family, both with heart wrenching confessions, touching speeches and well-crafted humor. While This Is Us may have drawn people in with a huge plot twist in its pilot, the real strength of this drama is that it can be endearing and captivating without having to rely on fancy plot devices like time travel or super powers. The show thrives on relationships, and its well-rounded extremely talented cast keep you coming back every week. -- Megan Vick

9. Westworld

​Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld

Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld

John P. Johnson/HBO

HBO's sci-fi puzzle box isn't without its flaws, but they're easy to overlook because Westworld is asking all the right questions about artificial intelligence and technology -- questions that will become science fact in no time. The series has also rallied the internet hive-mind to examine every frame for clues about the show's myriad secrets, the likes of which we haven't seen since Lost. But what's really made the show pop is its juxtaposition of heavy science-fiction themes with the classic western genre, combining immediate physical threats of classic cinema with timeless existential dilemmas to make a show that attacks your intelligence from multiple angles. And with so many directions the show can go in further seasons, there's no telling where it will take us. -- Tim Surette

8. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Rachel Bloom as Rebecca, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Rachel Bloom as Rebecca, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Scott Everett White/The CW

Even if it wasn't the only hour-long comedy-musical with a radically feminist message on TV, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend would be delightfully unique. Creator and star Rachel Bloom takes full advantage of the show's musical format, taking serious topics -- such as alcoholism, depression and coming out as bisexual -- to theatrical and often cringe-worthy new levels. But the destructive behavior of the main characters isn't just included for easy laughs or drama. Instead, the show forces its characters to face their issues head-on and -- in its own, often comical, way -- allows them to grow. -- Sadie Gennis

7. The Good Place


Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, The Good Place

Justin Lubin/NBC

It's rare to need a "previously on" for a sitcom, but The Good Place is serialized in a way that's never quite been seen in a show this funny before. And its big question -- "what does it mean to be a good person?" -- is more like something from a heavy drama, too. It's by far the most creative and unique network comedy of the year. But all of that wouldn't matter much if it wasn't also laugh-out-loud hilarious; but a writing staff heavy on Parks and Rec alumni and an ensemble cast anchored by immensely likable performances by Kristen Bell and Ted Danson keep the laughs coming while the plot unfolds. -- Liam Mathews

6. Rectify


Aden Young, Rectify

Curtis Baker / SundanceTV

In its fourth and final season, Sundance's Southern drama Rectify continues to be a quiet revelation that stands out from its louder, more obvious peers through a subtle, award-worthy performance by star Aden Young and the beautiful character work detailing the human condition that's made possible by the careful direction of series creator Ray McKinnon. Though it remains as slow-moving as ever, the truth about what happened to Hanna all those years ago is bubbling near the surface, and as climactic as the reveal may be, the series' exploration of the effects of trauma on one man, his family and the town it ripped apart two decades prior remain the highlight of what has become a masterclass in storytelling. It's a shame more people haven't watched the show over its run, but don't be surprised if Rectify lives on long after the series finale airs and we bid goodbye to the haunted world of Daniel Holden. It's that good. -- Kaitlin Thomas

5. Atlanta


Keith Standfield as Darius, Donald Glover as Earnest Marks, Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred Miles, Atlanta


Donald Glover's surrealist rap music dramedy -- the hip-hop Twin Peaks, as he called it when debuting it to the press in January -- had a simple premise: a man-child bumbling through life in Atlanta begins managing his cousin rap career. But it became clear from the very first frame that Atlanta was so much more than that: social commentary; a love letter to black culture; and a critique of it, too. Wildly unpredictable -- going from scary violence, to dark humor, to weighty emotional scenes in a flash -- Atlanta became an instant favorite of critics and viewers, becoming the most-watched comedy debut on basic cable since Inside Amy Schumer in 2013. Yes, it's that good.-- Malcolm Venable

4. The Night Of

John Turturro, Riz Ahmed, The Night Of

John Turturro, Riz Ahmed, The Night Of

HBO's long-gestating limited crime series proved to be worth the wait. Over the course of eight episodes, the show crafted a compelling whodunit whose twists and turns pointed to a different conclusion at the end of each installment. But viewers soon realized the question of Naz's (Riz Ahmed) guilt or innocence was beside the point. Though The Night Of drew to a satisfying conclusion and cleared up the central mystery, the questions it raised still loom large when all was said and done: questions about the validity of the criminal justice system; rampant Islamophobia; and socioeconomic tensions that pervade New York, and the rest of the country. The night might be over, but its impact is extended way beyond the case itself. -- Liz Raftery

3. Better Call Saul


Better Call Saul


Vince Gilligan is a storytelling master. The second season of Better Call Saul, his and Peter Gould's prequel to Breaking Bad, is vastly different than its predecessor. Where every moment of Breaking Bad was white-knuckle tense, Better Call Saul is slow-paced and purposefully, misleadingly meandering: a season's worth of set-up, turns out to be as detailed and deliberate as calligraphy. Every piece, from writing to acting to color scheme, is executed with unparalleled proficiency.-- Liam Mathews

2. Stranger Things

​Winona Ryder, Charlie Heaton and Natalia Dyer, Stranger Things

Winona Ryder, Charlie Heaton and Natalia Dyer, Stranger Things

Curtis Baker/Netflix

Who would have predicted at the beginning of the year that a weird, '80s throwback Netflix sci-fi series starring Winona Ryder and a cast of unknown kids would go on to become the obsession of millions? But with pitch perfect casting, intricate production design that made the show seem like it was lifted out of the Reagan era, and a simple, scary, and fun mythology, Stranger Things was a refreshing change from the grim reality that's gripped most of modern television. It helps that new stars like Millie Bobby Brown and the rest of the cast were as engaging -- if not more so -- than the rest of the adult cast. We won't forget Eleven, the Upside Down, or even poor Barb any time soon. 2017, and the second season, can't get here quickly enough. -- Alex Zalben

1. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Twenty years after his real-life murder trial, O.J. Simpson once again captivated television viewers in this addictive miniseries from Ryan Murphy, which was really about so much more than Simpson and his (alleged) victims. Addressing topics like racism, sexism and the injustices of the criminal justice system, The People v. O.J. Simpson felt more relevant than ever in 2016, and featured standout, award-winning (and in some cases, career-defining) performances from Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown and Courtney B. Vance, among many others in a star-studded cast. If nothing else, the fact that we're still thinking about and talking about The People v. O.J. Simpson, even though it premiered way back in February, makes it our clear pick for number one show of 2016. -- Liz Raftery

Check out the rest of our Best of 2016:

Best TV Performances of 2016

Best TV Episodes of 2016

...And vote for your own Best of 2016:

Your Best TV Shows of 2016

Your Best TV Performances of 2016

Your Best TV Episodes of 2016