The Best TV of 2016 To Catch Up on Now

Much has been written about the demands Peak TV has put upon us poor consumers: Appreciating the wealth of great shows is easy, but keeping up with them is hard. Sure, you heard Atlanta is great, you heard good things about Search Party, but who has the time to watch all this stuff?

The good news is, TV goes on vacation around the holidays just like the rest of us. So while all the shows you already love are on a break, now’s the time to catch up on some of the shows you’ve been missing on-demand with Sling TV!

OJ: Made in America (ESPN)

“As across-the-board excellent as FX’s American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson was as a piece of socially relevant entertainment, ESPN managed to one-up it with this five-part documentary series. Where the FX series was a showcase of great dramatic writing and acting, laser-focused on various aspects of the case, Made in America doesn’t even get to Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder until its fourth hour, delicately putting the crime and the media’s reaction to it in the context of Simpson’s spectacular NFL career, his seamless transition into Hollywood, his relationship with both his first wife and Nicole (which neatly parallels his abandonment of the African-American community), and race relations in Los Angeles over the 30-year span leading up to June 12, 1994. When it does get to the murders and the trial, it goes in deep, and as someone who closely followed the case at the time it was going on and read several books about it after, there were still a few fascinating new details. But maybe the most interesting episode was the last one, detailing Simpson’s surreal post-trial life leading up to his incarceration for armed robbery in 2008, as those were all new details to me (did you know he did a prank show called Juiced? Me neither!)” -Alex

Westworld (HBO)

“2016 might have been a wash in the real world, but at least TV reached its full potential with HBO’s sci-fi masterpiece. What better time for a series centered on seemingly perfect escapism from a (presumably) horrible future? The level of detail and foreshadowing necessary to pull off a show of this scale… It’s absolutely astounding, and yet it’s clear that this is what HBO has been building toward all along, unthinkable as it may be that any show could top Game of Thrones in complexity or long-range plotting. There are so many ways to interpret the story – humanities professors in liberal arts colleges across America are busy creating syllabi for courses on this show. Because Westworld won’t be back for season two until at least 2018, there’s plenty of time to overanalyze every expertly-crafted clue.” -Oliver

The Good Place (NBC)

“It doesn’t take much convincing to get me to watch Kristen Bell (to put it mildly I love her). Couple her with the creator of Parks and Recreation and Ted Danson and you’ve got the comedic genius NBC has been looking for since the end of Parks and Rec. Kristen Bell’s character, Eleanor, finds herself in “the good place” after suffering an accident at a grocery store leading to her untimely death. Upon arrival, Eleanor immediately realizes there’s been some sort of mistake and she should’ve gone to “the bad place”. Instead of coming clean, she lies to everyone about who she is, except for her supposed soulmate, Chidi (William Jackson Harper), who does belong in “the good place”. Being an ethics professor and a genuinely good person in his past life, Chidi decides to help Eleanor change for the better to earn her right to stay in “the good place”. Like Parks and Rec and The Office, it’s a comedy for when you need something nice and easy to occupy yourself from the horrors outside your front door.” -Sarah

Atlanta (FX)
“As any creator of filmed entertainment can tell you, tone is everything. The mood, the feel, the vibe of a piece dictates what kind of stories you can tell, what kind of actors you can use, what kind of jokes will land and what kind will fall flat. A consistent tone is just about the hardest thing to get right, which is why it’s such a marvel that Donald Glover’s love letter to his hometown absolutely nails it from the first episode, establishing a world that is at once totally clear-eyed about the lives of unfamous hip-hop musicians and the people around them, and yet able to include off-the-wall details like an invisible car, or casting a black guy to play Justin Bieber. Glover is unsurprisingly terrific as Earn, a struggling Columbia dropout who can’t hold up his end of co-parenting an infant daughter with his ex-girlfriend, but the supporting players, all of whom are new to me, are uniformly excellent: Brian Tyree Henry as Earn’s low-key aspiring rapper Alfred; Zazie Beets as Vanessa, Earn’s frustrated ex, torn between the urge to provide a traditional upbringing to their daughter and her affection for the decidedly untraditional Earn; and most especially Lakeith Stanfield as Darius, the most indelible new comic character of 2016. (Check out the fourth episode, “The Streisand Effect,” where Darius tries to help Earn make some quick money if you don’t believe me.)” -Alex

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee/Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (TBS/HBO)

“Trevor Noah may have inherited The Daily Show from Jon Stewart, but longtime correspondents Samantha Bee and John Oliver have clearly inherited Stewart’s mantle with two distinct approaches: Oliver begins each episode by touching briefly on the news of the day, the meat of each half-hour is a thoughtful deep dive on a particular political topic, rich with context and perspective (and jokes, lots of jokes), delivered with a unique combination of patience and urgency. And though the title of Bee’s show may appear to reference her status as the lone female late-night host, you don’t have to watch for long to understand that she’s staging a full frontal assault, training a righteous anger on her targets that she wasn’t able to use as a Daily Show correspondent, and sending her own stable of correspondents out into the world, most memorably during this summer’s party conventions. Both shows have wisely eschewed guest interviews – seldom the best part of The Daily Show – and both have managed to carry on Stewart’s legacy without directly aping it.” -Alex

This Is Us (NBC)

“The trailer for this freshman dramedy racked up tens of millions of views in advance of the series premiere, thanks in part to a stellar cameo by Milo Ventimiglia’s side-ass. What really drew in the viewers week after week, though, was the show’s genuine heart and startling cliffhangers, from multiple timelines to unexpected main character(s’?) death(s?). This Is Us was essentially 2016’s squeaky clean, network TV -friendly version of Westworld, and it helped fill the void left by Parenthood.” -Oliver

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Quarry (Cinemax)

“By far the biggest surprise of the year, this Southern crime drama, set in 1973 Memphis, landed on Cinemax seemingly out of nowhere, based on a series of pulp novels by Max Allan Collins. Focused on the return of Vietnam veteran Mac Conway (Logan Marshall Green) to his wife Joni (Jodi Balfour) after his second tour of duty and his slow recruitment into service as a contract killer, the series is an 8-episode marvel of casting, atmosphere, plotting, and direction, with arguably the strongest season finale of any series this year. All I want for Christmas is a second season!” -Alex

Animal Kingdom (TNT)

“TNT began quietly raising the bar for its original dramas in 2016, moving away from formulaic fare like The Closer and Rizzoli & Isles and toward the kind of thing you’d see on AMC, FX, or HBO, starting with this sun-soaked crime drama. Based on a 2010 Australian film of the same name, the series begins with 17-year-old Josh “J” Cody finding his mother dead from an overdose, leaving him nowhere to go but to his grandmother, Janine “Smurf” Cody (Ellen Barkin). J soon learns why his mother and grandmother were estranged: Smurf is the ringleader of a gang of armed bandits, who just so happen to be her adult sons. Initially resistant to join the party, J soon finds his uncles’ spendthrift Southern California lifestyle, complete with jet skis, dirt bikes, and anything else a boy could ask for seductive, even as he realizes that if he wants a seat at the table, he’s going to have to fight for it. Though the show is well acted across the board, the standouts are Barkin, whose Smurf has gracefully aged from using her feminine wiles to manipulate me into using her motherly wiles to manipulate her sons, and Shawn Hatosy as unstable ex-con eldest son Pope.” -Alex

Search Party (TBS)

“As part of TBS’ effort to rebrand itself from the Friends and Big Bang Theory re-run mecca to a network with edgy and provocative programming (see: Wrecked and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee), their newest smash hit Search Party has found a place among the best of 2016. We follow Dory (Alia Shawkat), a twentysomething young woman living in New York City obsessed with finding an old college acquaintance who has disappeared. Dory is a lot like most recent college graduates: unsure what to do next, feeling vulnerable and alone while her tight-knit group of friends seemingly have it figured out. As she digs her claws into Chantal’s (Clare McNulty) disappearance, she finds her life having purpose and meaning, again, drawing her deeper and deeper into the mystery of a girl she didn’t really even know. Much like FX’s recent critical darling Atlanta and HBO’s sunsetting slice of zeitgeist Girls, Search Party is, at its core, a story about a normal person lost in feeling important and relevant while dragging those closest with them along for the ride to provide dark comedic relief. I was quickly drawn into Dory’s fantastical journey, and loved it all the way to its perfectly timed crash back into real life.” -Sarah

South Park (Comedy Central)

“A freshly minted member of the 20th season club, South Park is as sharp and biting as ever. What was once considered by some a show anchored on simple crass potty humor (there is still plenty of potty humor even though it has been awhile since Mr. Hanky The Christmas Poo’s last appearance) has over the years become a significant commentator on society, current affairs and pop culture much like SNL or The Daily Show. South Park continued its recent trend of serialized season story arcs as we saw Mr. Garrison channel his inner Donald Trump as he ran for president, Cartman’s apparent epiphany that women can be funny AND smart, and Kyle’s dad’s descent to web trolldom. Far and away, this was the season of ’Member Berries. These adorable grape-like creatures offer a welcomed nostalgic escape from life in 2016, perfectly encapsulating our intense focus on the past, be it the latest movie remake or certain political sentiments. I’ll let the ’Member Berries sum things up: “’Member South Park season 20?” “Oooh, I ‘memba! It was fantaaaastic!” -Ben

VEEP (HBO)

“Like many Americans, I fell in love with Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the ever endearing Elaine inSeinfeld, but my obsession with her truly began when she took on the role as fictional Vice-President of The United States Selina Meyer. Over the last five seasons – with a sixth on its way – we’ve watched Selina Meyer go from Veep to POTUS to potentially nothing, all while being surrounded by the most hilarious and incompetent gaggle of goons on The Hill. With 12 Emmys under its belt along with several nominations as well as nominations at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Golden Globes (including this year), it’s clear you can count on Veep to bring the laughs season after season (the insults hurled around the White House are some I can guarantee you’ve never heard before). Season six will premiere in Spring 2017, so that’s plenty of time to catch-up, or to wash away the foul political taste 2016 has left with all of us. “ – Sarah

Good Behavior (TNT)

“Michelle Dockery certainly wasn’t typecast in TNT’s newest drama – there are zero traces ofDownton Abbey’s Lady Mary in her lead role as Letty Dobesh, smalltime thief and con-artist out on parole in North Carolina who unexpectedly gets caught up an a suave assassin’s (played by Juan Diego Botto) world. It’s a gritty adaptation of a novella series by Blake Crouch, and it pairs nicely with another of this year’s standouts, Quarry.” -Oliver

Game of Thrones (HBO)

“It’s fair to say 2016 has brought a haboob of crap to most of us in one way or another, but for those who are Game of Thrones fans there is one thing we can tally in the “good” column this year: After years of theorizing and speculating, we now know who Jon Snow really is, though he doesn’t even know it himself. That alone is a big enough payout to feel like sticking through every book and every season was worth it. We’re finally beginning our descent into discovering who is and will be the rightful heir to the throne (or realizing everyone is literally going to die and Little Finger will be king). Season 7 (!!!) is coming and since it won’t premiere until Summer 2017 (and will be a couple of episodes shorter), there is plenty of time to re-watch the entire series and pick up on all the subtle hints and information we were given along our journey to the throne. Hey, maybe with the strength of the old Gods and the new, you’ll discover a glaring sign pointing to who will be king or queen of the Seven Kingdoms.” -Sarah

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Pitch (FOX)

“I’ve longed for a show where a woman’s role in a predominately male industry is challenged and the conversation around her meaningfully mirrors real life and I’ve finally found that in FOX’s newest sports drama Pitch. Kylie Bunbury stars as Ginny Baker, the first woman in MLB history to make it to the major leagues – as a pitcher no less. There’s no making light of what it means to the world of sports to finally have a woman break into what is traditionally seen as a man’s game. What keeps me in my seat every week is the writing and the very real approach taken to a (soon to be, I’m sure) very real circumstances. Ginny Baker is beautiful and has a bangin’ bod but that’s far from being a cornerstone of the show. To its core, it’s a story about a 23 year-old who has worked their whole life to achieve their dream and when it happens, there is a huge gear shift that throws their life into overdrive and we watch how someone goes from a nobody to one of the most famous people in the country (maybe even the world) very quickly. And, Paul-Mark Gosselaar has found his acting stride, for which many Saved By The Bell fans have been waiting.” -Sarah

High Maintenance (HBO)

“Though fans of Vimeo’s quirky anthology of shorts might have worried that the transition to full-fledged television series could rob it of its charm, the story of a Brooklyn bicycle pot dealer (‘the guy’) and his assorted clients fit perfectly into HBO’s lineup without losing the oddness and astounding character development that first earned it a cult following. To function as a half-hour comedy, the series paired its short vignettes, offering two complementary perspectives on the lives of the guy’s customers in each episode. It might take new viewers a moment to adjust to the non-linear form (since the show favors emotional depth over overarching plot), and many episodes call back to the early shorts with several fan-favorites making welcome returns. Despite the absence of a traditional narrative, the lives of each of these characters are delicately connected to one another through their shared acquaintance and in subtle ways apparent only to the audience. It’s basically the Love Actually of Brooklyn hipster comedy.” -Oliver

Billy on the Street (truTV)

“For the uninitiated, truTV’s Billy on the Street is comedian Billy Eichner’s guerrilla game show/yell-fest filmed entirely on the streets of Manhattan. Celebrity and pedestrian “contestants” alike join Billy on his quest to give away a dollar at a time while answering burning questions of our day such as “Where did all of the Gleeks go?” Highlights of the current fifth season include ‘Death Rogen’ in which a disguised Seth Rogen witnesses civilian reactions after being told he suddenly died, Jon Hamm and Billy’s indecent proposal, and Lupita Nyong’o performing the comedy of Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay, Louis CK, Bob Saget and more. Perhaps the most pleasurable aspect of the show is Billy’s quick wit and ability to interact with/react to his unsuspecting contestants. Take the five minute rant to a gentleman about the merits of Pretty Woman or Billy’s throw-away inquiry ‘What’s this?!’ after encountering what many might consider a mismatched couple. Billy on the Street is the perfect hilarious balance to a TV year defined by season-long binges, weekly can’t miss dramas, and relentless politics.” -Ben

The Girlfriend Experience (Starz)

“Steven Soderbergh brought his 2009 movie to Starz this year in a sexually charged 13-episode exploration of Christine Reade, who is a young woman who finds herself leading a double life as young soon-to-be attorney at a high profile internship and a girlfriend-for-hire sex worker. Riley Keough brings a certain stillness to Christine that provides an acceptance for what she does in her spare time – there’s very little of which she’s ashamed or embarrassed, which makes moments of panic even more impactful and suspenseful. Word of advice: NSFW even if part of your job is watching TV.” -Sarah

Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath (A&E)

“There is little more in this world that confuses me more than the religion of Scientology. It’s a belief system that is so clearly cut out of a science-fiction novel (quite literally, actually) that it leaves me baffled people fall into its sticky, sticky web. My eyes were first truly opened to the strict and bizarre life of a Scientologist when HBO released the 2015 documentary Going Clear. It sort of became like a drug and I needed to know more! That’s when recently defected life-long Scientologist Leah Remini announced her new docu-series on A&E Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. It’s as though Xenu opened up his spaceships doors and personally invited me on a magical quest through the peculiar ways of the Church of Scientology. This docu-series, in short, is one of the greatest gifts to TV in 2016. Not only is Leah Remini’s no-bull attitude (something that makes you wonder how she was hoodwinked her whole life into giving millions of dollars to a “church”) and honesty something I look forward to bathing in every week but the sheer information from former high-level people who have decided to disconnect from the church as well as their families. The moment I heard the father of the captain of Scientology’s spaceship, David Miscavige, was going to be on the show, I knew I had no other choice but to go along for the ride.” -Sarah

The Leftovers (HBO)

“It truly pains me to say the third and final season of The Leftovers is set to air in April 2017 , bringing an early end to a thinker of a show, something HBO found success in with Westworldmaking me believe The Leftovers was just a tad before its time. Justin Theroux, Liv Tyler, Amy Brenneman and the incredible Carrie Coon star in a world that had 2% of its population vanish into thin air. With no clear reason why some people vanished and others didn’t – geographical and rapture-like cherry picking has been debunked, and creator Damon Lindelof (Lost) has said we’ll never know where they went – we watch a small group of people struggle to carry on their lives in a normal way when normal no longer exists.” -Sarah

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