Yes, we are officially in “Peak TV.” According to data shared by FX, there were a staggering 455 scripted original series that aired in 2016, across broadcast, cable and streaming services. With this many options and opportunities, there were many shows that rose to the top. That said, here are my picks for the 5 Best New Series from a very healthy 2016.
‘American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson’ (FX)
Prolific uber-producer Ryan Murphy has left his mark on TV in the last decade-plus, that is for sure (‘Popular,’ ‘Glee,’ ‘American Horror Story,’ ‘Nip/Tuck’) but it’s this limited series about a 20-year-old murder case that riveted the nation that is his finest work yet. A chilling and at times hard-to-believe retelling of the infamous O.J. Simpson murder case, ‘American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson’ focused on two larger than life characters – Marcia Clark (played by Emmy winner Sarah Paulson) and Johnnie Cochran (Emmy nominee Courtney B. Vance). Watching these two duel in and out of the courtroom, plus the staggering true life twists made this the TV event you had to see, even if you thought you remembered every lurid detail from the past.
Damian Lewis triumphantly returned to his old stomping ground on Showtime, but this time as mercurial billionaire Bobby “Axe” Axelrod in ‘Billions,’ putting to rest the ghost of Brody from ‘Homeland’ quite easily in this addictive new cat-and-mouse drama. Instead of Claire Danes for a foil, this time Lewis face off against Paul Giamatti and Maggie Siff. This show is all about power, twists, unbelievable turns, and the clash between Axe and his arch-nemesis, U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoads (Giamatti). They lay traps for each other throughout the magnificent first season, as Wendy Rhoads (Siff), Chuck’s wife and Axe’s employee/shrink/confidant gets pulled back and forth between the two men in her life. This show keeps you on the edge of your seat.
‘The Magicians’ (Syfy)
The new fantasy drama ‘The Magicians‘ is based on the best-selling books by Lev Grossman and focuses on students at Brakebill University, as they learn more about the use of magic and their place in the world. Just don’t call this “Harry Potter for Grown Ups.” It’s much more than that. Much darker. Much deeper. Just when you think you know where the story is going, an episode pops up that has you gasping for air and curious as to the true scope of the series. Quentin Coldwater is not your typical alpha male character to build a show around, but its his faults and quirks that have you rooting for him to succeed in his quest to find out if the mythical Fillory from his childhood is indeed real or not.
‘This Is Us’ (NBC)
For all of you that have been missing ‘Parenthood,’ and a good healthy cry every week, ‘This Is Us‘ is the one for you. It’s also more than that however. A multi-generational look at a family that was formed by choice and fate, this new series from Dan Fogelman started off with a very twisty pilot that seemed as if it’d be hard to duplicate and live up to. But quite simply, it has. But the twists aren’t what make this show. It’s the genuine, heart-felt moments between the adult siblings, or the parents, or the grandfather/granddaughter moments that are so relatable on a deeply human level.
With ‘Game of Thrones’ nearing its end, HBO is on the hunt for its next signature series. And with JJ Abrams’ ‘Westworld,’ it looks like it’s found it. Picking up speed as it sped its way through its 10-episode Season 1, this show wasn’t really about which characters are Hosts/Robots and which are humans, but it was truly about what it means to be human. What traits, what desires, what makes us feel? The stellar cast, led by Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Netwton, Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright enabled us to get into this world smoothly and inspired ‘Lost’-like devotion among its fans as astute viewers analyzed every symbol, every phrase and found hidden meanings that foretold future plot points and secrets. Where will Season 2 takes us? Who knows, although Samurai World sounds very intriguing. We are definitely all in and along for the ride.