4. ATLANTA (FX)
I’m doing shorter blurbs for Atlanta and Game Of Thrones because I’ve written about both shows' seasons extensively and recently. So I’ll just link to that Atlanta piece and add that it’s so fucking unfair that Donald Glover is one person and not, like, six. Dude is the handsomest, and a great actor to boot. He was a writer on 30 Rock, which is maybe the funniest television comedy of all time, when he was in his 20s. Then he was a breakout star on Community, which is maybe the most brilliant television comedy of all time. Then he turned out to be an extremely talented rapper, and now he just released a soul album because fuck it, why not? And he’s been cast to play a young Lando Calrissian. That’s the closest thing we have to the UN Security Council and Nobel committee officially labeling someone Coolest Motherfucker On The Planet.
And he created Atlanta, which is just fuck-off brilliant, and which he somehow writes and stars in without making it feel like a vanity project. No one crushed 2016 harder than Donald Glover, not even the Chicago Cubs or Vladimir Putin. This year, he pretty much was what Kanye West sees when he looks in the mirror. He may need to be destroyed, frankly. But let’s see what the second season looks like first.
Watch It For: The most unexpected take on Justin Bieber.
3. GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
For a show 6 years into its lifespan, Game Of Thrones had a year unusually full of growing pains, as it outpaced the source material and had to move forward with only an outline, rather than a detailed blueprint. For the first time, the show’s scope seemed to contract rather than expand, with the only new character to make an impression being the fierce lil’ lady of Bear Island (what an impression, though!) and a cavalcade of old characters coming back from the dead, narratively or literally. The abundance of these returns had a diminishing effect that cost GOT the top spot on this list – when much of the series’ gripping allure had been based on being the one fantasy epic that truly played for keeps, diluting the life-and-death stakes is a real issue. But it didn’t slip too far, because as the end comes into sight, the payoffs only got more satisfying and grandiose, with the 1-2 punch of “The Battle Of The Bastards” and “The Winds Of Winter” working to best any 2 hour movie I saw this year in terms of suspense, satisfaction, and drama, not to mention sheer filmmaking verve. I may have had some issues with how this character or that returned, or how the timelines got fuzzier than ever, but the spectacle and satisfaction of Jon, Sansa, and Cersei enacting their vengeances, and Dany finally setting sail surrounded by a cast of established Westerosi allies, would’ve been worth ten times the fuckery to get to.
Watch It For: Spectacle. Heartbreak. Payoffs and payback that have been simmering for years, in cable’s lushest, cruelest crockpot.