Countdown to 2017: 2016 TV

Disclaimer: I only rank shows that I watch and I’m not a TV critic. Also, there are some spoilers. Read at your own risk…

Just as it was last year, almost all of these shows have a woman as the main character. The ones that don’t are the family shows which have good mother and daughter characters. Also, THREE of these shows have Jewish female leads.

1. The Americans
The Americans has been my number one show for the past two years, and I’m happy it has maintained its status. The show manages to be both about the characters’ interior lives and the external events of the early 80s (now relevant again). A lot happened this season, but what sticks out is Martha, Paige and Pastor Tim, and Elizabeth and Philip’s slow descent into questioning their actions and choices. I always tell people they must watch this show, and now it’s on Amazon Prime so one can catch up. So, watch this show.

2. Agent Carter
I’m actually not sure which of Agent Carter‘s two seasons I liked better–each was so different, not only because one was set in New York and one in Los Angeles. But in season two, Peggy had already proven herself to her coworkers, so the relationships could deepen and they could all have a bit more fun. Needless to say, I was devasted when this show was cancelled. But I shouldn’t be surprised: shows with female leads don’t often last that long. But even though this was a Marvel show, Peggy didn’t have a super power. As a friend of mine said, her super power was being good at her job. And even though the love story was fun to follow, this was always a show about women in the workplace.

3. The Middle
The Middle is my favorite sitcom on television, and falls into my long-loved subcategory of family sitcom. Even in its 7th season, the series manages to explore more about the characters. I appreciate that the kids can go to college and explore that side of themselves while other sitcoms find ways to keep the children at home (it helps that they are both going to the school close enough to home that they are often there). After seven seasons most family sitcoms would have run their course, but The Middle seems like it could keep going forever, and I wouldn’t mind.

4. Jane the Virgin
In its second season and third seasons, Jane the Virgin continues to build on the telenovela-like story of a young woman accidentally inseminated. While Jane did lose her virginal identity this year, I’m glad that the show took its time getting there, whereas other shows would most likely have done it earlier (like Girls did with Shoshanna). As I said last year, many have praised the show for its accurate depiction of motherhood, but, for a show with the word “virgin” in the title, it should also be praised for being about a woman’s life and not about a woman’s sexuality. And even though they dealt with her sexuality more this season, that praise still holds true.

5. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend combines some of my favorite elements: a Jewish female lead, a woman figuring out her life, a strong female friendship (and the different ages makes it all the more interesting), and musical numbers (although the musical numbers aren’t necessary for plot, they’re fun). This show became even funnier and more poignant this year, and now that both Josh and Greg aren’t as much in the picture, I’m glad to see the show focussing on the the other relationships, especially Rebecca and Paula, Rebecca and Heather and Valencia, and Daryl and White Josh.

6. Younger
I love Sutton Foster on television, and Younger, about a 40-year-old woman passing for 26 in order to re-enter the workforce, says a lot about working mothers and how our society treats women. Even the supporting cast is both fun and grounded. This year we had both seasons 2 and 3, and while sometimes the show takes a turn for the silly, it still takes good care of its characters, especially Liza and Kelsey, whose relationship is about to take a turn.

7. Transparent
As with seasons one and two, the family’s Judaism and the overall Jewishness of the show are what makes Transparent stand out for me, along with the focus on the trans experience. I was glad Rabbi Raquel was back for a character arc and that Shelly got her moment with “To Shell and Back.” Even Josh has kind of grown on me as a character this season. I did miss Melora Hardin’s Tammy and even though her arc seems to be over, I hope she returns in the future.

8. Gilmore Girls
I didn’t particularly need more Gilmore Girls episodes, but it was really nice to have them and see how the creators had planned to end the series. I’m glad it ended that way now instead of back when the show first ended, and while it’s not necessarily the ending I would have chosen, it did get me thinking about the show and what it was trying to say. I also would have prefered hour episodes, not hour and a half episodes, but even so, I enjoyed revisiting these characters.

9. UnReal
I wasn’t as crazy about UnReal‘s second season as I was about the first. The middle of the season lost my interest, and the ending wasn’t as memorable. But I still love the show, especially the relationship between Rachel and Quinn, and the show’s commitment to female antiheroes trying to survive a male-dominated workplace.

10. Fresh off the Boat
As I mentioned above, I love family comedies, and Fresh off the Boat, about a Chinese-American family relocating to Orlando, is the perfect blend of traditional and subversiveness. Last year Emory and Evan were standouts, and they were even more fun this year. They also deepened Jessica and Louis’s relationship. And even though they are a small part of the show, I wish I saw more of Eddie’s friends because they are hilarious–right out of 90s Nickelodeon.

Runners Up:

11. The Mindy Project
While The Mindy Project can be hit or miss, I appreciated the path it took this year in breaking up Danny and Mindy. It showed who Danny really was and also showed Mindy’s struggle in leaving Danny and becoming more independent, even as a single mother. While I enjoyed the earlier seasons of Danny and Mindy getting together, this season was much more complicated and braver.

12. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
This show is wacky in all the best ways, and Kimmy’s experience as a former mole woman made for a great, albeit unlikely, comedy. Titus continued to be excellent as Kimmy’s roommate, and I love Kimmy’s attitude and positivity despite her circumstances. I wish there had been more interaction between Kimmy and Jaqueline this season–I didn’t particularly like the scenes with Kimmy’s therapist, although I’m not a fan of therapist characters in general. Still, I’m glad it culminated in Kimmy finding her mom.

Compare to Last Year’s Rankings

Other Shows I Watch(ed)
Modern Family
Once Upon a Time
Fuller House

Older Shows/Seasons I watched this year:
Dr. Who season 2
A smattering of Once Upon a Time season 2, Full House, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and GUTS



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