2016. What a year. What a year in TV.
At Screener, we’re passionate about TV, that’s the whole of our mission—and while we love giving readers the scoop and great writing on the shows they enjoy most, it’s also part of the job to spend some time talking up the great shows that get a little less attention—2016 was all about hidden gems, especially in streaming, and we work tirelessly to find the best stuff for you.
With that, our all-encompassing 2016 TV Year In Review, captured in these 10 lists…
10 shows we love
Check out our in-depth coverage of 2016’s hits:
- This Is Us
- Pretty Little Liars
- The Flash
- Teen Wolf
- Falling Water
- Good Behavior
9 things we learned
We take our motto — Watch Better — very seriously. The best storytelling is only ever enhanced by information and though we’re pretty spoiler-averse, we love getting the inside scoop on our favorite shows. The more you know about how things are made and what goes on behind the scenes, the more you’re able to immerse and engage. TV is a full-contact sport.
In 2016, we learned a lot that changed our perspective—answers to our lingering questions, hard facts on how the sausage gets made: The stories behind the stories.
- The Cancel Bear is an old favorite—his clever analysis of data and trends has been a hallmark of our success since long before Screener was born. Looking at TV by the Numbers, we can often see why certain shows thrive and others are left behind: Here’s the running list for 2016.
- Though of course we love Riz Ahmed for his scene-stealing performances in “The OA” and “Jason Bourne,” we still had one question about his breakout role: How is the late James Gandolfini an Executive Producer on HBO’s “The Night Of”?
- It’s a question that comes up at Screener HQ at least once a week: What is actually going on with professional wrestling? Luckily, we have a local expert, in staff editor Chris Hayner.
- One thing you may have noticed about “Game of Thrones” over the years is the naked people — and so when Emilia Clarke decided to go on the record about her own nudity clause, we found ourselves pretty curious about the details.
- “The Bachelor”/”Bachelorette” series is somewhat impenetrable — while it seems fairly straightforward, it’s also way more interesting than it usually has the right to be. Even for those of us who came to the real-life reality franchise backward—through obsessing about #UnREAL, of course—we find ourselves bewildered by the details… And Emily Bicks provides the answers.
- We love all things “Star Wars” so much that we got obsessed with the Disney XD’s “Star Wars: Rebels“— and even went back to watch Cartoon Network’s 2008 series, “Clone Wars.” When we heard Forrest Whitaker was bringing his “Rogue One” character to the cartoon, we knew all those intra-franchise connections deserved a closer look.
- “Good Girls Revolt” was a missed opportunity for Amazon — but the story and performances are still worth talking about. We sent Alexis Gunderson to NPR’s panel in DC with the people behind the show—in the aftermath of what turned out to be an historic week for American women, the 2016 Presidential Election.
- Our Managing Editor Eric Anderson has a deep and personal connection to his Netflix queue–no surprise that his deep-dive on the company’s recent move into downloadable content told us all we need to know. Chris Hayner’s follow-up, on the bizarre implications of the Netflix algorithm, is also a great read.
- If it seems like there is no end to the Dolly Parton specials, tours, presentations and general embodiment of the holidays, you may be surprised to learn that’s actually true. As Tracie “Potes ” Potochnik revealed in December, there is no end to Dolly Parton’s holiday output: It is infinite, for the power of Dolly is inside me and inside you; she is everywhere and nowhere. And for this, we give year-end thanks.
8 Ways to Look Back at 2016
What would a list of lists be, without a list of lists inside that list? As our thoughts have turned to the holidays and beyond the past few weeks, we’ve spent a long time analyzing the data and doing some deep soul-searching. Here’s the most important 2016 info we can possibly relate to you…
- 2016 Thanksgiving: TV moments for which we are genuinely grateful
- The Year in Late-Night: 2016’s biggest moments, from Biden to the Brexit
- Shoutout to all the ladies kicking butt in an extreme way in 2016, the year of that
- 2016 TV Deaths: The most insane and noteworthy goodbyes from the year
- 2016 TV Mothers: The Year in Moms—a crucial, mom-related list
- Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah“: A television retrospective of the late icon’s most well-known musical gift
- The most epic TV moments in 2016—spoiler: Marcia Clark’s hair appears in this list
- Your 2016 dream holiday: The TV families we’d most like to spend some downtime with
- Bonus: Our most important interview in all 2016, thanks to some fast feet and even faster talk.
7 Things We Require From 2017
As you can see from our 2017 TV Preview , we’re just as much about looking forward as looking back. The new paradigm, in which everything is available all the time, has rewritten the foundations of every aspect of entertainment, from production and security to outlets and the news cycle—and Screener’s proud to be writing to you from the very forward edge. We’ve chosen a few of our favorite seeds planted throughout the past year that we’d like to see bear fruit in 2017.
- While diversity remains a watchword, both before and behind the camera, we want to single out for applause those shows and creators who are dedicated to making the world on our screens look more like the world we see out here, in the real world. From “Supergirl’s” nuanced portrayals of the lives of women, to the mindful creative process and access behind “Marvel’s Jessica Jones,” “Jane the Virgin” and “Queen Sugar,” we’re impressed by the work we’ve seen this year, and passionate about the effect moving forward.
- Let’s keep going with the quirky relationships—love is the main deal of all drama! And 2016 was capable of stunning even our most jaded compatriots, in the game of romance.
- This is less of a trend, more a plea from a somewhat divided editorial staff: Can 2017 be the year the world recognizes Syfy’s “The Magicians” as a superior television all-star, destroying all its competitors in a great reckoning?
- One trend we are really enjoying is the step back from over the top, campy drama across much of the dial. While Ryan Murphy continues to do whatever it is that he is doing, a lot of shows formerly known for the OMG & WTF (“Empire,” for example) seem to have regained their chill. Can once-favorite shows “Scandal” and “Nashville” come back from the brink of insanity and make this next season a great one for everybody? In “Scandal’s” case it’s already been underway, and of course “Nashville” is in complete reboot on CMT…
- “SNL” must return to the forward-looking, positive and loving vibe it assumed in the months leading up to the election. While we don’t believe there are really two Americas, the show’s insistence that there is—and bogus attempts to court both — result in a mishmash goat rodeo entirely of its own design. Stick to what you know, keep the focus on the comedy, and put Kyle Mooney in every sketch: These are the requirements.
- It should not be illegal to watch “The Bachelor” but there should be clear sanctions in place for anyone who chooses to appear on any of the franchise’s programs — except “Bachelor in Paradise,” obviously. Those folks should receive a hefty stipend for life, like in “Hunger Games.”
- More of Priyanka Chopra’s hair will definitely be required. While we singled out Thanksgiving Day for its celebration, the truth is that every day is an opportunity to show your gratitude.
6 Big Surprises
We couldn’t have predicted a lot of the twists and turns of this past year—and that includes the insight our writers would bring to the table in 2016. Here are some of the breakout stories and moments from the year nobody saw coming.
- Pitched as an in-depth look at the politics, meaning and importance of television costuming, we were curious to see what this—a piece about the many outfits of “Star Trek: The Next Generation’s” resident telepath, Deanna Troi— would turn out to be. What we got was hilarious, insightful, and starkly relevant.
- This year it seemed like we said goodbye to an unprecedented number of icons and heroes in the entertainment world. I am sure there is a nitpicker out there ready to run the numbers, but here at Screener we prefer to celebrate the work of those who left us this year. To that end, we were proud to create thorough tributes to our favorite TV mom and dad, Florence Henderson and Alan Thicke, and utterly startling originals George Michael and, of course, Carrie Fisher.
- In nonfiction fare, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of NBC’s “Timeless,” Nat Geo’s docudrama “Mars” and A&E’s “Leah Remini: Scientology & the Aftermath” — and even more astounded by their ratings success. There will always be comfort in learning, whether it comes in the form of a weekly history lesson, advertisement for Elon Musk or the radical transparency of a public vendetta — anything’s on the table, as long as it opens the door to conversations we should be having.
- This year, many of those conversations often turned to violence: In a time that can feel like it’s poised on the brink of catastrophe anyway, we find more and more critics turning their eye to the narrative purpose of brutality in drama. From the non-stop shocks of “The Walking Dead” and chaos of “American Horror Story” to the timely critical questions posed by “Black Mirror” and “Westworld,” the definition of terror itself seems to be taking a crucial turn.
- Always moving forward can have its downside— there’s so much you miss, and never look back. That’s why we were grateful and surprised to launch with two powerful retrospectives on shows of the recent past. Cassie Fox’s personal account of 9/11 was prompted by a “Battlestar Galactica” binge and describes both with searing, intimate clarity, while Roger Huxley brings his own, highly relevant experience—both as a radical in exile and queer person of color—to a wildly insightful reading of the century’s greatest animated drama, “The Legend of Korra.”
- While it’s been a long time coming, the mainstream emergence of the “unfunny comedy“ is something to which we’ve been looking forward for a long time. “Transparent,” “Please Like Me,” “Younger” and “Search Party” changed the landscape forever, and even broadcast fare like “Superstore,” “The Good Place” and “The Real O’Neals” surprised us with their fresh takes and groundbreaking delights. But it was “Fleabag” and “You’re the Worst,” that particularly struck a chord this year— and we’re proud to feature such personal, passionate writing about both.
5 Revealing Interviews
One of the best things about Screener is our access to the minds and talents behind your favorite shows. There’s nothing as exciting as getting a peek behind the curtain— especially when it confirms our greatest hopes about the people bringing these wonderful stories to life. Here are some of the most interesting and unexpected encounters we’ve had this year.
- One of the most interesting writers we’ve seen in years, Blake Masters, helmed “Brotherhood” and “Rubicon” with partner Henry Bromell—this year he gave us the top-down view on his USA show with “Walking Dead’s” Gale Anne Hurd, “Falling Water.”
- We’ve loved Chris “Kai” Wood since he stole the show in the sixth season of “The Vampire Diaries”— and now that he’s proving the most dynamic addition to “Supergirl‘s” second season, we had many, many questions.
- David J. Peterson has created the languages for genre TV’s biggest hits: From “Game of Thrones” and Syfy’s ambitious “Defiance” to Screener favorites “Penny Dreadful” and “The 100.” When we asked him to give us a day in the life, he went the extra mile, producing a full week’s travel diary that we absolutely loved.
- Alyssa Sutherland plays Queen Aslaug, one of the most divisive characters on History’s “Vikings“— which is saying a lot, considering the show’s scope and frequent time-jumps. Our own Chris Hayner sat down with Alyssa for a very lengthy interview about her process, character, and the experience of leaving the show. We thought the conversation would be interesting, but it really must be read to be believed. Fascinating stuff.
- Of all the thinkpieces spawned this year by “Westworld,” here at Screener and elsewhere, one of the most fascinating was this interview with a Glasgow robotics expert—about the show’s realism, our own robotic future, and the surprising challenges in creating AI.
4 Stories This Roundup Cannot Leave Out
Four recent stories that stand out as necessities, for one reason or another.
- Fran Hoepfner is a gifted memoirist and very funny lady— we were overjoyed to get her to write something for us, and with the result: A review of her fave show, “Chef’s Table.”
- Chris Hayner has been unflagging in his support for the CW’s newest teen drama — like any right-thinking individual— but it took this “Riverdale” piece to get us all on board.
- We weren’t surprised by the traffic on this Julie Block piece about Netflix’s recent “Barry,” but we were happy to see readers enjoy it as much as we did.
- And speaking of dubious new shows… We’ve been sweating it to see whether or not it’s wise to get too excited about NBC’s “Emerald City”— but Emily Bicks came back from a lovely lunch with the creators and cast full of fascinating tidbits.
3 Times the Numbers Didn’t Lie
TV by the Numbers, home of the Cancel Bear, is a huge part of our Screener family. There’s something about the way the numbers come alive, I’m telling you. Here are the three most essential pieces.
- 2016’s highest-rated shows—Some surprises here, such as how few of them you probably personally watch. How does that work?
- Peak TV 2016—Always great, just just for the counterintuitive facts alone. Did you know there are 455 scripted dramas currently airing? Is there a way to make that sound more believable?
- 2017 premieres—A constantly updated, highly useful, and pretty thrilling list of returning and new shows comin’ down the pike.
2 Unforgettable Adventures
Screener’s gal on the scene, Emily Bicks, often finds herself in situations normal mortals might not be able to comprehend, much less crush it quite the way she does. We often get little notes from the road— “Gordan Ramsey has jumped from a helicopter, wearing a kilt” was one of the best texts I got in 2016, personally — but when we get a piece out of it— that’s dynamite. 2016’s two best ride-alongs:
- The Time Emily Went to Snoop Dogg‘s Compound & Stayed All Day
- The Time Emily & Danny Trejo Enjoyed a Delightful Meal of His Tacos
Stay tuned for more adventures with Emily. Until she finally lets us strap a GoPro directly to her, this is as close as you’re going to get. (Trigger Warning: The Danny Trejo one might make you cry.)
1 Final Thought
And my personal favorite piece of the year, this piece with Aaron Pruner about the musical interludes in “Westworld,” the poetic connections between modern-day music and the greater story in play, and the secrets the show was telling us all along. (Really, they’re all my favorite—that one was just a particular blast to work on.)
As we look forward to continuing to grow in 2017, the forecast is for deeper dives, more VIP content and interviews, a wider editorial range and a stronger focus on Screener’s unique voice. We want to thank you for your early support and express our excitement about Screener’s 2017— the best is yet to come!
There’s a lot of exciting news and developments on the horizon— some of which I can’t tell you about, other stuff you’ve probably guessed. Stay in the know by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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And as always, feel free to reach out— if you’ve got something you want to get off your chest, or want to write for Screener in the coming year, it’s an easy leap: My inbox is always open.
Click my name below to email any questions, comments, or requests. Thanks for joining us, and have a delightful 2017 — online & off.
— Jacob Clifton