The 15 best TV shows of 2016

This year has had so much good TV we’re actually still trying to get caught up on it all. From returning favourites like Game of Thrones and Daredevil, to new obsessions like Westworld and Stranger Things, there’s really no excuse to sit inside and watch reruns of Friends anymore. Some of this year’s best TV shows will sadly be the last we see of them - Agent Carter - while others have a promising future ahead of them - The Expanse - but whatever the case, they’ve all helped make 2016 a brilliant year for TV. Below is GR+’s ranked list of all the best TV shows of 2016 and trust me, it was a tough decision who got the top spot. Do you agree? Maybe not, but read on to find out and let us know who were your TV heroes of the year in the comments below. 

15. Supergirl season 2

After a slow burn in the first season on CBS, Supergirl has really started to come into its own. The show moved onto the CW for its second season, and it feels like a much better fit for the young superhero. Kara and her friends have been working hard to keep National City safe, all while crusading for alien rights here on earth. Melissa Benoist is charming as the young hero and her earnest performance provides a strong emotional center for the show. Even though Tyler Hoechlin is around (bringing some much-needed cheer to the Superman/Clark Kent role), this is still very much Supergirl’s story. Even with all the superhero iterations now finding their homes on TV, Supergirl’s second season continues to stand out for its warmth and optimism. Anna Washenko

14. The Night Of season 1

If you’re partial to a slice of crime, this HBO co-produced show is definitely for you. At first glance it threatens to play out as a slick courtroom drama... but it’s something altogether more unique. The first episode sees gawky student Nazir Khan ‘borrowing’ his father’s taxi to attend a party in Manhattan. Things get way out of hand and he ends up picking up a random girl, doing drugs, and eventually getting arrested for her murder. The rest of the season focuses less on his guilt or innocence, more on the process of the US criminal justice system and the awful impact it has on those caught in its vortex. It chews up Naz and spits him, his family, and his friends out as deeply changed people. As you’d expect from an HBO production everything is slickly made, but you never lose a sense of the darkness and grit at the heart of this unusual, utterly compelling drama. Andy Hartup

13. Black Sails season 3

The prequel to Treasure Island, Black Sails is turning into a kraken of almost equal fame. Set during the Golden Age of Piracy, New Providence island (a sanctuary for pirates) has attracted the attention of England. The tea-drinking redcoats have decided they want to reclaim the island, which pushes the indomitable Captain Flint into full-blown anti-colonial fervour. Character arcs abound, as those around the captain are either swept up in his fury or question how far his passion can be controlled. Inevitably his vigour begins to affect his compatriots, especially John Silver. When you throw the addition of Edward Teach - better known as Blackbeard - into the mix, there’s even more reason to watch. In Black Sails you get the sense that one way or another most of the characters know each other, as despite it being the Golden Age of Piracy it’s still a relatively small world. And in Black Sails, it’s full of danger. Zoe Delahunty-Light 

12. Agent Carter season 2

Add Agent Carter to the list of TV shows that should never have been cancelled. While the change of location in season 2 (New York City was swapped for Hollywood) threw some fans, Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter kept the show strong with her tough, no nonsense attitude towards world crime and workplace sexism. If you’re looking for MCU references and TV crossovers, they’re thin on the ground here, but what Agent Carter lacks in big budget influences, it more than makes up for in old fashioned espionage. The second season gives Agent Carter an adversary worthy of the show’s star in the form of Whitney Frost, played by Wynn Everett. A highly intelligent but undervalued former actress, she comes into contact with an unstable substance called zero matter and suddenly becomes a lot more powerful… and dangerous. Lauren O’Callaghan

11. The Expanse season 1

Based on the series of novels by James S. A. Corey (who is actually two guys named Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), The Expanse is a sharply written, well acted series that embraces the reality of humanity without relying on tired dystopian tropes. It begins simply, with a burned out cop named Miller asked to locate a rich guy’s missing daughter. As the search for Julie continues, we learn more about the tensions between Earth, the colonists on Mars, and the Belters - the working class who mine asteroids and live their entire lives on space stations. Someone is pulling strings to try and draw the Earth and Mars into a war, but who? Exceptional performances from Shohreh Aghdashloo, Thomas Jane, and Steven Strait keep the intersecting storylines from feeling too convoluted or fussy, but this is one show that demands your attention and assumes you’re smart enough to keep up. Susan Arendt

10. Marvel’s Luke Cage season 1

Given its luke (sorry) warm reception when it hit Netflix, you’d be forgiven for thinking Marvel’s Luke Cage isn’t up to the standard of it’s sibling shows, Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Well, that’s just not true. Unfortunately, one of the reasons it’s so good is probably why it will never be that popular. Luke Cage is a slow burner and it deals with some incredibly complex issues about race, class, feminism, and more. Let me put it this way, it’s not a show you can binge in one night. But if you do give it the time it deserves, you’ll be rewarded with a rich and seminal series which is tragically undervalued. The cast are just incredible across the board, the story is complex but easy to follow, and it has a depth which it’s Netflix-Marvel counterparts lack. If you haven’t watched Luke Cage yet, make time for it before the end of the year. You won’t regret it. Lauren O’Callaghan

9. Penny Dreadful season 3

The final season of the glorious literary horrorfest wrapped things up in a beautifully grim, not to mention exceptionally bloody, bow this year. Another dripping offering of the monsters that lurk in Victorian London, Penny Dreadful season 3 manages to effortlessly entwine even more of the horrors that lurk in the words of Shelley, Stoker and Stevenson. None other than Dracula himself arrives to tempt Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives into the darkness. In many ways the season shouldn’t work as the characters strike out on their own miserable quests, but sprinkle in the madness of Doctor Frankenstein and twisted feminism of his reanimated Lily (Billie Piper) and Penny Dreadful somehow juggles humanity and monsters with aplomb.  Finish and you’ll immediately want to go back to the start just to find out again how showrunner John Logan managed to get away with filling our screens with such intelligent horror for so long. Louise Blain

8. Black Mirror season 3

With all the changes Black Mirror season 3 made behind the scenes, it could have easily shattered. Jumping from the UK's Channel 4 to Netflix meant a bigger budget and more international (read: American) talent both in front of and behind the camera. Presenting six new episodes all at once nearly doubled Black Mirror's existing body of work. And while the show's identity has clearly shifted a bit during the transition - emerging as a bit less bleak, a (tiny) bit more silly - creator Charlie Brooker and that same ‘what if technology but too much’ connective tissue managed to keep it all together. Whichever episode emerges as your favorite will probably say more about you that it will about the show, though the late '80s pastiche of San Junipero is a clear contender for the top. Connor Sheridan

7. Mr. Robot season 2

Mr. Robot made a serious impression with its debut season, but season 2 has only continued to build on its successes; it's still one of the most beautifully-filmed shows on television, with its almost Blade Runner-esque portrayal of New York. It's also still incredibly contemporary and relevant, tapping into themes of economic anxiety, power struggles between the working and ruling class, and cybersecurity. Rami Malek continues to inspire, delight, and at times depress us with his portrayal of the complicated character that is our hero Elliot, while Christian Slater takes charge as the Tyler Durden-ish Mr. Robot. Even the sociopathic Tyrell Wellick, played by Martin Wellstrom, has inspired a sort of affection (at least as far as we're willing to cheer on bad guys). Nothing is as it seems in the world of Mr. Robot, and I can't wait to see what mysteries will be unearthed in season 3. Sam Prell

6. Orphan Black season 4

Orphan Black continued its superb season run with a fourth installment on Netflix this year. While it might not be as good as the first three - now hitting the difficult point that every successful series does where it needs to move forward without becoming confusing - it’s still one of the best TV shows of the year. It follows a group of clones (all played by the incredible Tatiana Maslany who finally won an Emmy earlier this year) as they try to survive the evil intentions of the organisation who created them. It’s just the right balance of sci-fi and drama as they all juggle finding out about a new set of clones, as well as trying to keep their non-clone families safe. Oh, and let’s not forget about the disease built into their DNA which threatens to kill them all. Lauren O’Callaghan

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