I watch a lot of TV – I know, I know, this is a book blog, but if you follow me at all, you’ve probably realized that I love TV just as much as books. And, with all of those wonderful and infuriating “Best of 2016” lists coming out everywhere, I just had to do some of my own, other than the regular TTT and book survey posts that you’ll also see.
I really shouldn’t have, because this was HARD to come up with 10 of my “best” and “favorite” shows, but I made it a little easier on myself. For instance, I ignored shows that I’m behind on – so, I didn’t have to figure out if things like The Originals, From Dusk Till Dawn, or The 100 deserved to make it on this list or not. I also wanted to highlight wonderfully diverse shows. At first I was afraid that would make me seem really pretentious and fake – like I was ignoring the “guilty pleasures” and making it seem like I only watch the good shows that have racial and queer representation, when of course that’s not true. There are plenty of shows that are being praised as extremely diverse, though, that aren’t on this list because I don’t have HBO or Netflix or anything nice like that, so I have no idea if shows like Atlanta and Insecure are my cup of tea or not. And, as for the diverse shows I do watch, I based my list on wonderful shows that I actually enjoy and are hopefully diverse as well. As a result, I focused more on divers shows, but not because I was trying to seem better than I am, but simply because I enjoy them and find myself really looking forward to seeing them every week.
While I was compiling this list, I was initially surprised with how many comedies were on it, but then I wasn’t. I mean, which would you rather watch on a regular basis, drama with people dying and being horribly emotional or happy stories that also deal with real issues but in funnier ways? I love dramas, of course, especially “teen” dramas that are looked down upon way too much, but comedies are what I need sometimes when life is already dramatic enough.
Anyway, on with the list! And I put them in alphabetical order, because there is no way I’m going to figure out the order of these ten fabulous shows. Also, I love way more shows then this, but at the moment, this is my top ten – it’ll probably change tomorrow or next week or something.
Let’s start off with the “controversial” one – a show that’s gotten plenty of flack for its reliance on fat jokes. That’s certainly a problem with this show, but I think it’s gotten better at using them less and less as the show has found its footing. What I enjoy about this show is the youngest daughter, Anna Kat, who is likely somewhere on the spectrum and definitely has anxiety issues. We rarely get to see children who deal with mental health issues, and even if it’s never outright stated, I really like its inclusion. And I just generally find this show funny and entertaining, especially as its gone on, as long as it doesn’t harp on the fact that the titular housewife isn’t a size 2. I want to see more characters who are the same size as protagonist Katie Otto, not less, and certainly not called out and alienated. I hope this show sticks around so that it can continue growing and talking less about weight as a punchline.
You might have heard about this show’s Black Lives Matter episode, “Hope” – it landed on Entertainment Weekly’s 10 Best Episodes of 2016, and I’m sure it’s been mentioned on some similar lists, but there’s so much more to this show than its water cooler moments. This show blends difficult issues like police brutality, guns, and the prejudice that biracial people like the superb Rainbow Johnson (Tracee Ellis Ross) face, as well as lighter things like late-in-life pregnancies and scheming, adorable, and hilarious children. The whole cast is pretty awesome, from the regular Dre, Bow, & kids to Dre’s parents, who recur often, and the newly introduced brother of Bow, Johan. This show deftly balances heavy and light topics from the perspective of many minority views, which is something we sorely need in these turbulent times.
Look, a show about New York that actually looks like New York! Well, I assume so – I’ve never actually been to New York, but a common complaint I see about shows set in it is that they’re always way too white. This show does a good job of having a very diverse workforce – and by that, I mean there aren’t simply token people, but a variety. We have two Latina women, for example, but Amy and Rosa are very different people because not all Latina women are alike, just like not all Asian, black, white, queer, trans, etc. people are alike. This show takes a workplace that can be quite depressing and dark (ie, a police station), especially these days, and finds the humor in it while still taking things seriously. This is very much an ensemble show – you need everyone, not just one or two good characters.
I’m actually a little behind on this show *bows head in shame*, but I’m including it anyway because we need more shows that feature so many issues, especially mental health-focused, head-on. This show is a delight on paper – a dramedy that has two or three songs performed each episode – and that’s all before you know that it includes a protagonist who struggles with mental health issues, is a bit larger than your average TV main character, a bisexual middle-aged man dating a younger gay or bi man, a Filipino love interest, and so many, many tropes that are either skewered or deconstructed. I need to catch up this season for sure. I already listened to some of the songs from episodes I haven’t seen, like a Spice Girls-esque song that’s all about friendship between protagonist Rebecca, her neighbor Heather, and former romantic rival Valencia, so that just gets me more excited.
All hail Queen Jessica – but she’s not the only reason this show is great. I just love the whole family dynamic, from the oldest, Eddie, who’s obsessed with rap and all of that and is the “main” character” to his younger brothers who started out as adorable little kids but are growing into their identity with each passing episode. The crowning jewel is mama Jessica, though, from the way she rules her household with an iron fist to her loving relationships with her everyone, despite that tough exterior. I kind of want to learn Mandarin just so that I can understand this show without any of the subtitles, but that’s just failure on my part, not this great show.
I was going to include This Is Us instead of this one, but I’m not caught up on that show either and I felt like I was giving into End of the Year list pressure since it’s popped up on a bunch (for a good reason, but that’s not the important thing here), so I went with this after being reminded of how delightful it is. This family right here is the main reason this show is amazing – the spectacular Villanueva women (and one boy, but he’s a baby, he’s excused), but there are plenty of other great things. This show has an amazing emotional center as well as fantastical elements that come in the form of a pitch perfect Sexy Latin Narrator who’s just as entertaining as the show itself and some magical realism to make everything that much more delightful. It also did a great job of depicting female sexuality, specifically Jane dealing with her titular virginity and why she shouldn’t feel like she can “lose” it.
We don’t see a lot of disabled characters take center stage on TV, so this was definitely a breath of fresh air in that regard – but, even better than that is that it’s not totally focused on JJ, the titular speechless character who has very severe cerebral palsy (there’s a whole spectrum for this disease – my mom was born with it because she was roughly two or three months premature, but it just messed with one side of her body so that one of her legs is just a tiny bit shorter than the other, so I still don’t know much about this disease despite that fact that she has it) and therefore is nonverbal and doesn’t have control of his limbs. This is a story about a whole family dealing with a disability, though, and that’s something we need to see just as much. This show focuses on the fact that people come first, not the disability, but it also reminds us that people with disabilities aren’t alone in the world and need an incredible support system like the one JJ has, from his overly supportive mother to his slightly jealous (and, best of all, this isn’t shamed or supported, it’s simply there) but still loving siblings.
Confession: I didn’t really watch this show during its first season on CBS. I watched it on and off, but not religiously, so I missed a lot. When it made its move to the CW, though, and there wasn’t anything interfering with it that I wanted to watch more, my mom and I started watching this all the time, and I became hooked. Supergirl Kara is both adorable and badass, and I love her relationship with her adopted sister, Alex – it gives me life. Real life sister, watch these two and became them with me. Anyway, there are plenty of other great characters as well, including Morgana! (I watched the first couple seasons of Merlin, back when Morgana, aka Katie McGrath was good and awesome and I loved her), and of course Alex has been going through a great coming out storyline, but there’s so much more to this show than simply that and superhero hijinks.
I can’t believe it, but this is technically a new show in 2016 since it was a midseason show. Like many shows on this list, it has a killer ensemble cast, which is definitely one of my favorite aspects of it. My beloved America Ferrera of Ugly Betty fame is arguably one of the main characters, but there are plenty of great regulars on this show. I want it to continue growing so that the remaining characters who are still a little 2D get the chance to expand and develop even more, and I want more amazing storylines that cover things like unions and the difficulty of selling things you don’t believe in, such as birth control or guns. But mainly, I’m glad that America is back on my TV and being awesome.
Is this the only drama on this list? *scans the other shows* OK, I said that Supergirl was a drama and there are a couple dramedies on this list, but this is definitely one of the few. This is a pretty fun show on its own, with a growing group dynamic that is pretty darn awesome, but one of the best things about this show, and the reason I decided to put it on this list, is that it focuses on some people who don’t get their due from history, namely women and minorities. We’ve met people like Judith Campbell (political mistress), members of the Black Liberation Army (group largely made up of former Black Panthers), Nonhelema (Shawnee chieftess), and Katherine Johnson (she of the upcoming Hidden Figures movie about NASA female mathematician), and I hope to meet plenty, plenty more in the future.