Television in 2016 has already been kicked off to a great start. As such, we have decided to bring back our top 10 list feature series, Top 10 Tuesday, this week, in order to celebrate the best new offerings that television has gifted us so far this year. This week’s Top 10 Tuesday is ranking the best new shows from the first half of 2016. For some perspective, here is our list for the first half of 2015.
10. The Path
We at TVEnthusiast were mostly excited about The Path due to its cast. In particular, we were excited to see Hugh Dancy (Hannibal) and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) working together. While the series didn’t entirely live up to our hype, and its exceptional trailer, it is hard to deny the phenomenal performances that flow like water from nearly every scene of the Hulu streaming series.
BrainDead deserved a spot on our list on premise alone. Using the sheer insanity of the current American political environment as the backdrop for a story about brain eating alien bugs, is, quite frankly, a thing of genius. Unfortunately, the series has been hampered by the slower pace of a typical political drama series, which can be hard to endure when you have so much potential for alien shenanigans. That being said, the series is still a great addition to our weekly television viewing experience.
08. The Shannara Chronicles
Game of Thrones brought fantasy back to TV in a big way. Even MTV got in on the action with The Shannara Chronicles, based on the books by Terry Brooks. Though Shannara isn’t going to dethrone HBO’s epic, it is a good bit of fun in its own right. Most notably, Shannara is an opportunity to behold the greatness that is Manu Bennett (Spartacus), who continues to be a lightning rod for our attention.
Cinemax recently lost 2 of its big drivers in original content, the British import Strike Back, and the cult favorite Banshee. To recover from such heavy losses the network turned right towards the creator of the biggest property on cable television, The Walking Dead‘s Robert Kirkman. Based on Kirkman’s comic book series of the same name, Outcast is a demon possession story that draws upon the same small southern town atmosphere that helps drive the emotional conflicts in The Walking Dead. So far so good.
Insanely prolific Showrunner Carlton Cuse (The Strain) teams up with one of his most notable LOST stars, Josh Holloway, to bring us an alien occupation series, the likes of which we have never seen before. We do not even see the aliens of the story until the end of the season, and even then it is only in full cover gear hiding all trace of their countenance. Are they even aliens? We do not know. We only know that they were able to quickly dominate most of the world. “So with the aliens in the backseat, what drives the show?” You might ask. The collaborators, would be my answer. This is an alien occupation story that feels closer to cold war era Berlin, than Independence Day.
Louis CK (Louie) produced this Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) oddity about a failed Clown who has to move back home to his dysfunctional family. Though CK and and Galifianakis bring us in the door, the real star of the show is mostly forgotten Comedian Louie Anderson, who masterfully, and heartbreakingly, portrays the mother of our Clown protagonist. As the obese matriarch of an eccentrically absurd family, Anderson helps transform comedic cues into tragic observations. All while performing as his opposite gender.
04. Hap and Leonard
This fun, pulpy, adventure series stars James Purefoy (Rome) and Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire) as childhood friends, bound by a shared tragedy, who just want to earn a living. The chemistry between the Actors portraying 2 such characters is essential. Thankfully, Purefoy and Williams have it in spades. Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) also shines as Purefoy’s romantic interest, who has been a consistently disastrous influence on his life. Aside from the chemistry, and overall strong performances, Hap and Leonard thrives on its pulpy atmosphere and larger than life adventures. A truly fun series, with an exceptional cast.
03. The Detour
Fans of National Lampoon’s Vacation take note, a true spiritual successor has arrived at last. Consistently laugh out loud funny, genuinely surprising (including a great cliffhanger to shape a second season), and expertly executed, The Detour has been one of the biggest surprises I have had this year, so far. As an increasingly troubled family embarks on a monumental disastrous road trip, we learn about the build and origin of the family, how little they seemingly know about each other, and how much they can grow together through shared hardships.
This adaptation of the Garth Ennis comic of the same name comes to us, as add as it may seem, from superfans Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (This is the End). Thankfully, the 2 busy filmmakers have enlisted the efforts of Sam Catlin (Breaking Bad) as Showrunner. The comic book series is notoriously wild, dark, and controversial, and while the series has, so far, shied away from some of this, it has also added the element of a slow burn character drama which grounds the series as something potentially superior to its source material. The 3 leads of the series, Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger) as the titular Preacher Jesse Custer, Ruth Negga (Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD) as his wild-hearted “girlfriend” Tulip O’Hare, and Joe Gilgun (Misfits) as the wisecracking Irish Vampire Cassidy, all shine with great chemistry.
01. The Magicians
Though the pilot episode technically aired in 2015, I left it off of the 2015 lists because that broadcast was intended as a preview event. The series didn’t truly debut until 2016. The trailers for the series sparked our interest early on, but it was the last scene of the pilot episode that truly showed us the greatness the series would be capable of. The Magicians, alongside The Expanse, serves as a staggering example of why we all need to be paying attention to SyFy right now, after years of easily dismiss-able content. Based on the books of the same name by Lev Grossman, The Magicians, is, effectively, an adult Harry Potter. Thankfully, it wears that influence on its sleeve, while drawing from many other sources, including a disturbing dark take on the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series. The Magicians stands as a must watch series for adult fans of contemporary fantasy, and as our top pic for the first half of 2016.
As always, this list represents the opinions of TVEnthusiast, and, as such, may not reflect your own favorites. If you agree or disagree with our list, tell us in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast for more coverage of all of your favorite shows.