Making a Best of TV list in 2016 feels weird. If you and I made a list of our favorite TV shows—maybe even a list of TV shows we watched this year—it’s entirely possible that there wouldn’t be any overlap. We’ve been approaching this fracture point for years. Each year, the number of scripted television shows increases as Netflix et al bulk up their programming and more traditional outlets respond in kind, and more than ever, we’re at the point where watching TV is an entirely subjective experience. There’s so much TV—and more importantly, so much good TV—that you can, and only have time to, watch what really speaks to you. Picking out your favorite TV shows has become like listening to music—and no one’s playlists are ever identical. There are some shows that spoke to a larger amount of people though, that transcended this culture of curation to become universal favorites.
Aside from 2016 being the year that TV fractured pop culture, it was also a year defined by noticeable progress in terms of inclusion and representation. More voices than ever were heard on TV, from the astonishing recontextualizing done by The People v. O.J. to the harsh meta-comedy of Britain’s Fleabag to Donald Glover’s surrealist view on hip-hop dreams and the black experience in Atlanta. The small screen this year was pleasingly rich and diverse. That made assembling this list damn near impossible—but that’s a problem we’ll always be happy to have.