It's been a rough year. There's no question that 2016 will go down as one of the strangest years in a generation. It's the year Prince and David Bowie died -- just to name a few of many. It's the year of perhaps the most contentious presidential election of all time. Honestly, it's the year we needed a lot of cheering up.
That's where TV comes in. When things are at their worst, luckily TV can usually find a way to make you smile -- or cry. With Thanksgiving underway, we thought it would be a good time to look back on the year in TV and find the moments we're truly thankful for.
"The Goldbergs" channels "Dirty Dancing"
The '80s mishmash of "The Goldbergs" can be frustrating for continuity-minded viewers, but its homages to pop-culture highlights of the decade are usually spot-on. Take the "Dirty Dancing" episode, which was loving in its re-creation of key moments but even better for establishing that Erica maybe really did have some feelings for Geoff Schwartz -- a story that's still playing out on the show.
Edith finally calls Mary a bitch on "Downton Abbey"
For years, Lady Mary pretty much did whatever she wanted, consequence be damned. So it was incredibly satisfying to watch her younger, plainer, forgotten sister Edith finally call Mary on her B.S.
Claire sings "Faith" on "Outlander"
This entire episode was a gut-punch, but Claire singing through her tears to the tiny body of the baby she lost ... we're getting teary-eyed just thinking about it. How Caitriona Balfe didn't get an Emmy nomination is beyond us, but we're thankful for her work nonetheless.
Dave Chappelle returns to TV with "Saturday Night Live"
It has taken almost ten years for the majority of America to understand the pressures that took Chappelle off the cultural map -- and for a time, out of the country -- on the eve of his greatest success. But just as fans and armchair theorists were finally making peace with the demands we make on exemplary minorities, Chappelle came roaring back in our hour of need, his clever balance of pragmatic irony and uncompromising honesty very much intact. As a statesman and huge part of a lot of the current generation's comic upbringing, Chappelle could easily have let the "SNL" team do the heavy lifting -- instead, he leaned in hardcore, becoming one of the most engaged hosts of the last five years.
"The Exorcist" reveals its real purpose
When it was originally announced that FOX was making an "Exorcist" TV series, we were hesitant: A new story, unconnected to the iconic film? But boy, once Episode 5 aired, we realized the network had successfully pulled the wool over our eyes. The series is the continuing story of Regan MacNeil -- and could be the sequel fans have been waiting over four decades to receive.
The Ghost Riders come to town on "Teen Wolf"
“Teen Wolf” is seriously upping its game with the villains for its final season. The Ghost Riders are terrifying, and as sad as were were to see Stiles get kidnapped, we're still seriously thankful for his final scene with Lydia. Watching them frantically cling to each other before Stiles was erased from everyone's memory was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking.
"Big Brother: Over The Top" houseguests move in
"Big Brother" fans have never been able to watch the houseguests move in and spend their first week together, because the feeds always come on after they've been in the house a while. "BBOTT" gave the fans a chance to see how it all goes down -- and it did not disappoint.
"Supergirl" gets a visit from Superman
With its move to The CW, "Supergirl" needed to make a splash -- and it did just that. Tyler Hoechlin joined as the Man of Steel and showed viewers how good and positive Superman could be. What's even better is he didn't steal Supergirl's spotlight, but instead played backup for Kara. Mission accomplished, "Supergirl"!
John Oliver buys and forgives $15 million in medical debt
"Last Week Tonight" created a debt-acquisition company in Mississippi for fifty bucks called "Central Asset Recovery Professionals," which was soon offered a portfolio of medical debt worth $14,922,261.76 at a cost of less than $60,000 total -- then forgave it completely. For 9,000 people, it was a gift out of the blue -- but for our country, it was a dramatic demonstration of just how illusory and predatory debt trading and acquisition can be. The act was inspired by the Occupy offshoot Rolling Jubilee, which to date has bought up and forgiven almost $32MM in college and medical debt, bought with just a little over $710,000 in donations.
Maria Bamford shows why she is "Lady Dynamite"
For those of us who've watched Maria Bamford's journey -- from working road comic to pop culture Zen priestess to overwhelmingly honest individual and beyond -- the dual timelines of "Lady Dynamite" provided both a painfully funny visit back to some very dark times and a comforting roadmap for the future. Watching "Maria" create a new life for herself in the impressive wreckage of the old is inspiring at the least, and transcendent at its best. You'll have to watch the Netflix series to see the Target-related meltdown that divides the story in half, but this clip of the first few minutes is a perfect introduction to the deeply lovable -- and loving -- anarchy that Maria's always brought to the table.
"Fresh Off the Boat" gives Jessica a "Melrose Place" obsession
"Fresh Off the Boat" doesn't often go too hard at '90s nostalgia -- which made the revelation that Jessica is a "Melrose Place" superfan in "Jessica Place" all the more satisfying. The episode allowed Constance Wu a novel situation in which to showcase her ample comedic gifts, which is something to be thankful for regardless of the setup.
Tatiana Maslany finally gets an Emmy for "Orphan Black"
While the campaign to honor Tatiana Maslany with mainstream awards kicked in seemingly overnight, thanks to the brilliant and buzzy "Orphan Black," her eventual win was a sign of something bigger: Maslany, Rami Malek and Kate McKinnon all won Emmys this year, signaling a sea change in the way voters watch, think, and care about our entertainment. For those inspired by the new, interesting and relevant work these actors ae doing, it also signaled a reason to start paying attention to awards again.
"San Junipero" blows "Black Mirror" fans away
There is a bright acidity to the final moments of "Black Mirror's" instant-classic episode "San Junipero" that, after an hour piecing together its powerful story implication by implication, is easy to miss: A happy ending of sorts, and a powerful summation of the many themes and emotions woven through the hour that preceded it, there's also a very "Black Mirror" tension and cruel satire under the surface. As full of darkness, and hope, as any Charlie Brooker story could want to be, repeat viewings may lend a little salt to those tears of joy -- just as Brooker would want it. One hopes the intense reaction to this one will inspire a few more "Black Mirror" stories with such a tender approach to world building, humanity, and above all romance.
"Black-ish" reminds us not give up on "Hope"
"Black-ish" creator Kenya Barris has often said he's inspired by Norman Lear's body of work -- and that's readily apparent in "Hope," an episode that largely dropped jokes in favor of a heartfelt, no-easy-answers episode about what being black in America means. It was tough to watch at times, but it was also great television.
"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" viewers got to see Rosa's apartment
Rosa Diaz is easily the most mysterious character on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" -- that might not even be her real name. So it was awesome to see the Diaz Batcave, even if she immediately moved out once her co-workers knew where she lived.
Chuck betrays Jimmy on "Better Call Saul"
Season 2 of "Better Call Saul" made the leap from solid "Breaking Bad" spinoff to excellent show in its own right. The deepening and fracturing of the relationship between Jimmy and his older brother Chuck was a central part of that, and the finale scene with Chuck secretly recording Jimmy's confession of his misdeeds was a devastating way to end.
Noel Kahn loses his head on "Pretty Little Liars"
Not only was this easily the best death "Pretty Little Liars" has ever done, but it was a pretty fitting ending for such a dastardly character. Heads up!
"This is Us" knocks us for a loop
We’re especially thankful for the twist ending in the “This Is Us” premiere, since it turned what would have been a heartfelt -- but mostly unoriginal -- show into the most talked about TV moment of the fall. We don’t think we’ll ever get enough of the sad/happy/angry tears “This is Us” makes us cry on a regular basis.
Jon and Sansa reunite on "Game of Thrones"
For six freaking years, “Game of Thrones” fans have patiently waited for literally any of the Stark siblings to reunite. When Sansa finally joined Jon at the Wall, their reunion didn't disappoint -- who knew two siblings who'd never shared a scene together could make us all feel so many emotions?
The "Vampire Diaries" engagement we deserve
Steroline fans got the shock of their lives when Stefan proposed to Caroline at the beginning of “The Vampire Diaries” final season, and June wedding bells started ringing. With so many couples facing tough times on the show, it’s nice to know that at least one of these ‘ships is sailing smoothly...
From our family to yours, Screener thanks you for a fantastic launch -- and an exciting year to come. Have a great holiday.