These are TV shows that made the year 2016 rock compiled by the guys at Empire and we totally agree with them.
HBO (and Sky Atlantic) know that “Valar morghulis” (“all men must die”, in case you don’t speak High Valyrian) applies to TV shows too, so it must be happy to see Westworld ride in as a buzzy, complicated and beautifully shot potential replacement for when its biggest gun (Game Of Thrones) heads into the sunset. The show, based — well, the concept and setting at least — on Michael Crichton’s 1973 techno-fear thriller of a theme park loaded with robots that starts to go badly wrong, the story here evolves into a meditation of human consciousness, ethics and what depths humans can plumb when given free rein. But it’s not the lofty, chilly drama some have accused it of being: you will root for the “hosts” to find their place in the world, and when you have people such as Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright in the cast, even exposition becomes worth hearing.
4. The Night Manager
Viewed by many as Tom Hiddleston’s Bond audition, David Farr’s adaptation of the John Le Carré novel has so much more to offer – like Olivia Colman brandishing a gun, for instance. The BBC miniseries saw Hiddleston play ex-soldier Jonathan Pine, recruited by Colman’s gender-flipped Burr to infiltrate the arms trade. Hugh Lauriegives great bad guy as Roper, but it’s Elizabeth Debicki who really left a mark as his long-suffering trophy girlfriend, Jed. Explosive and full of twists and turns, this is an incredibly worthy addition to the Le Carré canon.
3. Stranger Things
Another under-the-radar Netflix success, Stranger Things slipped onto the streaming platform with a neon-tinged bang. When young Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) mysteriously vanishes, his bike-riding best friends pal up with the telekinetic Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) to get to the crux of their town’s supernatural secrets. A love letter to ‘80s cinema and Stephen King (which sees Winona Ryder racking up quite the electricity bill as Will’s desperate mother, Joyce), we won’t blame you for devouring its eight episodes in one eager sitting.
2. The Night Of
An American remake of Peter Moffat’s BBC drama Criminal Justice, The Night Of comes filtered through the not inconsiderable minds of Richard Price and Steve Zaillian. The night in question remains one of sex, drugs and violence, with Riz Ahmed the apparent killer who remembers nothing of the brutal murder he’s supposed to have committed. The ever-reliable John Turturro is the lawyer representing him. Part procedural, part prison drama and part courtroom grandstand, its eight tense HBO episodes were over far too quickly. Zaillian has said that this was always conceived as a standalone series; that a second season is possible but not confirmed; and that if it happens it will forge its own path rather than continuing to adapt the BBC original.
1. Game Of Thrones
Winter finally came to Westeros this year – and Seven hells, what a season. After last year’s slow-build, the latest run of HBO’s fantasy hit found a renewed sense of purpose and vigour, bolstered by booming budgets and fever-pitch buzz. In such an eventful ten hours, it’s hard to pick a highlight: the Hodor reveal was heartbreakingly constructed; the finale had more deaths than a Riverlands wedding reception; the Battle of the Bastards rivals any cinematic battle; and frankly the whole thing boasts such rich attention-to-detail, such clever long-game plotting and such richly textured characters that very little recently seen on the big or small screen even comes close. We can only pray to the Seven that the final two seasons delivers the payoff this show deserves.
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