In This Is Us, it’s Sterling K. Brown as Randall who steals the show—much as he did in American Crime Story.
1. This Is Us (NBC)
Wow. The press outlets announcing This Is Us as the new Parenthood were spot on. I love all of these characters, even the egotistical Kevin. But it’s Sterling K. Brown as Randall who steals the show—much as he did in American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson (see below). Amazing acting, heartfelt stories, and a clever trick of time jumping. It might put you on emotion overload at times, but it’s well worth feeling everything the Pearson family feels.
2. Limitless (CBS) (canceled)
I only recently learned Limitless hadn’t been renewed, and I’m both shocked and saddened. It was a truly sharp, unique show with lovable characters, especially Jake Dorman as Brian Finch and Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter as FBI agent Rebecca Harris. I’m still missing it.
3. New Girl (FOX)
Now in its sixth season, New Girl is as fresh, funny, and witty as ever. The sometimes kiss of death—two characters getting married—hasn’t slowed down the jokes.
4. American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson (USA)
There was absolutely nothing about season one of this true crime anthology that wasn’t brilliant. The performances were top-notch, and the all-too-familiar story was presented in a fresh way, with O. J. a character who both demanded your sympathies and raised your hackles. Although the entire cast was stellar, Sterling K. Brown deserves the Golden Globe for his portrayal of Christopher Darden.
5. BrainDead (NBC) (canceled)
BrainDead was one of the weirdest, smartest, most relevant shows of the year—prescient, too, heading into the insanity of this year’s presidential election. I hate to label the majority of Americans as non-thinking and drawn to pabulum, but watching BrainDead, you just knew it wouldn’t see another season: It made you think. In an extremely weird way, of course—bugs eating politicians’ brains?—but there was a raw, frightening honesty beneath the oddity and the laughs. That, and Tony Shalhoub as a nefarious, bug-infested senator stole the show every time he was on screen.
6. The Goldbergs (ABC)
Like New Girl, The Goldbergs remains sharp heading into its fourth season. I’m a bit leery as to what the future holds, what with Erica graduating high school in the spring, but I love these lovable goofballs and enjoy spending time with them each week.
7. American Crime (ABC)
This is another one of those weird, anthology-type series, and it doesn’t help that American Crime Story practically stole its name. (American Crime came first.) John Ridley’s serious, unflinching look at race, sexual orientation, and keeping up appearances wasn’t quite as good as the first year, but it still gave us stark, painful, unflinching looks—often in the way of extreme facial close-ups—of rich, textured, deeply flawed characters. It’s not a feel-good show by any means, but it’s real. Season three returns in the spring.
8. The Family (ABC) (canceled)
The final episode of this spring-run series set up the second season perfectly—yet the show’s cancelation was announced before that episode even aired. The Family was a dirty mix of politics, family secrets, and deep-seated loss. It began with the return of Adam Warren to his family, a boy who’d disappeared 10 years prior. This occurs as Adam’s mom is announcing her run for mayor—and keeping up appearances becomes crucial.
9. Atlanta (FX)
The show was 10 weeks in before I watched it. Although I’m definitely late to the viewing party, this enabled us to binge watch what took everyone else two and a half months to consume. It took a bit for me to get the “language” of the world, one completely alien to me, but now that I’ve got it down, I’m ready for more.
10. Search Party (TBS)
TBS burned off this quirky series in five days over Thanksgiving week. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad sign, but Search Party made an impression on viewers and critics alike. The characters were types, yet well rounded enough that you fell easily into their group of friends. Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) as Dory led the crew through a sometimes weak mystery that, when solved, wasn’t as satisfying as I had hoped. Still, it was a quick and fun watch, a show I’d be happy to see renewed. | Laura Hamlett