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The Best TV Shows of 2016


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It's been a pretty depressing year in terms of politics and celebrity deaths, but thankfully 2016 did offer us a slight reprieve in the amount of great television that has captured our attention. 

Thanks to a surge in original content from streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and more competitive efforts from the BBC and HBO, we've enjoyed several brilliant new series this year, ranging from the hilarious to the downright traumatic.

As we enter a new year, our writers have determined their picks for the top 10 shows of 2016. So without further adieu, let us begin the countdown. 

10. The Night Manager (BBC)

This slick BBC drama based on John Le Carré's novel of the same name wowed audiences in February with its sultry cinematography, intense action-thriller sequences and all-star cast. Starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman, the series followed the exploits of an ex-soldier who embarks on a vengeful undercover mission to take down a ruthless arms dealer.

A multiple nominee in the mini-series categories of 2017's Golden Globes, this series sent the nation into a frenzy as Hiddleston showed off his acting chops (and more besides) and proved his worth as a contender for Bond. Featuring tense, gritty dialogue and superb performances all round, The Night Manager serves as proof that the BBC are still more than capable of producing great British drama.

9. House of Cards (Netflix)

Though the series first debuted on Netflix in 2013, House of Cards is still a firm-favourite among bingewatchers. Entering its fourth season this year, the latest episodes saw Frank and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright) like we had never seen them before. Newly separated, the machivellian power couple were more dangerous than ever - and increasingly ruthless in their attempts to secure the presidency in a campaign not too dissimilar from the real US Election.

Speaking of why she chose this as her pick of 2016, Carly-May Kavanagh from the University of Southampton said: "Frank Underwood is a straight up villain, looking out for himself and not afraid to dispose of anyone who gets in his way. Starting with him being passed over for secretary of state, the following episodes are all focused on his revenge plan, taking out the people who wronged him until he's the one on top. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright make a devilishly good power couple, and there really is nothing like this show out there at the moment."

8. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

Another returning show that has won our hearts and fuelled our procrastination habits, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt stands apart from the more dramatic entries on this list for its fun-loving sense of humour and quirky characters. Co-created by Tina Fey, the show's second season continued to follow the misadventures of Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) as she adjusts to life outside the bunker she was held in for 15 years.

Speaking of why she chose this as her pick of 2016, Lucy Fletcher at Liverpool John Moores University said: "It's one of those shows where every line is a joke, but at the same time you always have to be paying attention otherwise you'll miss something. It's so bright and colourful and appears pretty childish (although this directly links to the storyline), and it's so over the top. Anything else as cheesy as this would think would be tacky and cheap, but Tina Fey has managed to write in so many levels to the story and create loveable and hilarious characters (See Titus - one of my favourite characters of ALL time)."

7. Black Mirror (Netflix)

The return of Charlie Brooker's dark satirical anthology series was perhaps one of the most anticipated this year. Moving over from Channel 4 to Netflix, the third series continued to look at technology and society through a sceptical lens. The latest series also saw appearances from such stars as Bryce Dallas-Howard, Wyatt Russell and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

Speaking of why she chose this as her pick of 2016, Olivia Krause from the University of Southampton said: "What's most fascinating but also most creepy about Black Mirror is that each short-film-like episode dramatises a technological development which could easily happen in the (perhaps not too distant) future. The episodes are gripping, emotional and full of twists, as well as offering a deep critique of the modern world. With excellent writing from Charlie Brooker and a cast individual to each self-enclosed drama, well-balanced between newbies and a few famous faces, Black Mirror certainly leaves a lasting impression."

6. The Missing (BBC) 

Another prime example of the BBC's competitive streak in the drama stakes, the second series of The Missing shocked viewers with the intense dual sub-plots surrounding the story of a girl who reappears 11 years after she was first declared missing. The series saw David Morrissey and Keeley Hawes take up the emotional reins of the story as the girl's parents.

Speaking of why he chose this as his pick of 2016, James Barker, also from Southampton said: "The Missing kept you on edge until its final episode, twisting and turning at break neck speed. With impeccable writing from Harry and Jack Williams, and stunning acting from Keeley Hawes and Tchéky Karyo, The Missing proves that in a year of big budget binge watches, the BBC's week by week format can still hold its own."

5. The Crown (Netflix)

Dubbed the most expensive drama Netflix has funded to date, The Crown proved to be a superb series that was every inch as regal and decadent as its £100 million budget would suggest. Created by Peter Morgan, the series follows the early life of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy), from her marriage to Prince Philip (Matt Smith) to her sudden ascent to the throne and the difficulties that come with being a young monarch. 

Wonderfully written and featuring some superb performances from Foy, Smith, John Lithgow (who plays Winston Churchill) and Vanessa Kirby (Princess Margaret), The Crown is a fitting and largely faithful tribute to the longest reigning monarch in our history, who turned 90 this year.

4. The Get Down (Netflix)

Baz Luhrmann's musical drama series The Get Down is perhaps the most underrated show on our list. The first half of the show's initial season was released this summer, introducing us to a group of aspiring teenage musicians living in the Bronx during the 70s. The second half of the season is expected to arrive in the new year.

Speaking of why she chose this as her pick of 2016, Borislava Todorova from the University of Kent said: "The Get Down is a musical adventure that follows the main characters as they try to figure out their futures, set in a New York that's alive with diverse characters and charm."

3. Westworld (HBO)

HBO have always been on the forefront of exciting new TV ventures and their latest project, Westworld, is no exception. Based on Michael Crichton's 1973 film of the same name, the series is set in a dystopian theme park wherein the android "hosts" that are designed to amuse the paying customers gradually become sentient. The series also features an all star cast including Evan Rachel-Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Speaking of why she chose this as her pick of 2016, Lisa Veiber from Southampton said: "Westworld is THE TV show of 2016. It calls upon everything from Shakespearean quotes to a decadent robotic world. You can feel the deep thought that has been put into the plot. It even has references to our musical era with great covers of 'Back to Black' and 'Black Hole Sun' on a saloon's piano."

2. Game of Thrones (HBO)

It may have started five years ago, but Game of Thrones is still going strong - and you'll be pleased to hear that Winter has finally come. The sixth season of the HBO fantasy series based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series has moved the plot along considerably, putting all the pawns in place for an epic (and still entirely unknown) climax. 

Speaking of why she chose this as her pick of 2016, Harley Rae at UCL said: "Game of Thrones is always awesome, but this season had what might be the biggest, most shocking and unexpected twist of any TV show ever - the origin of Hodor's name. It's heartbreaking, but also absolute genius, and was executed perfectly."

1. Stranger Things (Netflix)

Honestly, was our number one pick ever going to be anything else?? The series that swept the world up in it's gloriously nostalgic clutches, Stranger Things is undoubtedly THE show of 2016. Set in the 1980s in a small suburban town, the series followed a community as they attempt to come to terms with the mysterious disappearance of a local boy. The series featured some excellent performances from Winona Ryder, David Harbour and its intensely likeable young cast.

Speaking of why she chose this as her pick of 2016, Borislava Todorova said: "I liked it because it was just the right type of nostalgia flick, effortlessly combined with constructive tropes from modern TV-making, such as the tendency to create more three-dimensional characters. The cast is interesting and talented, and in a sense the show is more 80's than actual 80's movies are."

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