The most underappreciated TV shows of 2016
2016 was a great year for TV shows. From Netflix to the major networks the once-beleaguered SyFy Channel, there were a lot of amazing programs. Sadly, with so many good shows to choose from, some of them flew under the radar.
This could also double for our best TV shows of 2016 lists (which is coming later this week), but these picks are a little more specific. These are our favorite, most underappreciated TV shows of 2016, the ones that put in the work but didn’t get the love that others did for one reason or another.
Some will seem obvious to you, but all were fairly low in terms of ratings. Thankfully, most will get another chance to win people over, but not all. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the commetns below.
Marvel has been on a roll lately, but its one stumble was the short-lived Agent Carter. And given how good it was, that’s a real shame.
The series only lasted 18 episodes split over two seasons, with each season containing a complete story arc. It was a true Marvel show, with characters taken from the comics and storylines that fit right with the tone. It was tightly scripted and well planned, and yet it failed to attract enough viewers to earn it a third season. Part of that was due to how much the show cost to make, a familiar story with network shows.
While Marvel and ABC may have made a mistake in not continuing Agent Carter, there’s no point in focusing on that. Instead, it’s best to focus on the two seasons we did get. They are part of the Marvel canon now, and a must watch for fans of the movies and other TV shows.
Watch both seasons of Agent Carter and if you are stuck on the lack of a third season, watch Captain America: Civil War for an epilogue to Peggy Carter’s story and be glad for what we did get.
Based on the series of books by James S.A. Corey, The Expanse earned a lot of attention from sites that cover sci-fi shows, but the ratings didn’t reflect the fascination many had with it. And that’s too bad, given that it is one of the most original and interesting shows on TV, made even more enticing by the talented cast.
Set in a future where humanity has colonized part of the asteroid belt to mine it for resources, the people of the Belt are caught in the middle of a cold war between Earth and Mars. It’s an unforgiving life, and when a mysterious group works to escalate tensions, things get even worse.
Part of what makes The Expanse so compelling is that space is depicted as a brutal and unforgiving place. It isn’t the romantic and bold void seen in shows like Star Trek or the space between worlds like in Star Wars. The people are constantly fighting for survival, and the world built on that philosophy is a dark reflection of a very realistic potential future.
The 10-episode first season ended on something of a cliffhanger. The 13-episode second season picks up where it left off on February 1, where it will hopefully continue to build the audience it deserves.
Halt and Catch Fire
There’s an easy case to be made that Halt and Catch Fire is AMC’s best show right now, even if it is far from its most popular.
Despite critical success and a loyal (but small) fanbase, AMC has announced that the coming fourth season will be the show’s final. That’s borderline criminal, but at least the network is giving the showrunners a chance to wind down the story on their own terms when it returns this summer.
Set during the early days of the computer revolution, Halt and Catch Fire began in the Silicon Prairie as the PC market was still in its infancy, showing off Dallas of 1983, eventually jumping several years and moving to San Francisco. While the initial focus was on the PC revolution, it went on to touch on the early days of broadband, online gaming, anti-virus software, and more.
The new season will tackle the rise of the internet, but at its core the show has always been about the characters and their interactions. There are no zombies or alcoholic ad execs, but at least AMC is giving it four seasons.
Horace and Pete
Louis C.K.’s web series certainly isn’t for everyone, but it deserves a lot of attention for the way it was created if nothing else. It also helps to be a fan of Louis C.K., who created, wrote, directed, starred, and even funded the project.
Horace and Pete is unusual for several reasons. To begin with, it appeared without warning or promotion on Louis C.K.’s website, and it featured an amazing cast that was willing to work secretly to produce the 10-episode series. The comedian paid for many of the episodes himself, with the plan to self-finance the first four episodes and then rely on crowd support to fund the remaining six.
The series was a passion project for Louis C.K., and one that ended up putting him deep into debt. It also earned him a few Emmy nominations and possibly a second season (although it will probably have to find another form of funding).
It’s tough to explain exactly what Horace and Pete is. It has an overarching story, but it also featured several standalone episodes. It was a comedy, it was a drama. Louis C.K. even described it as a “tragedy,” and that’s as fair as anything. It’s heading to Hulu soon, so it’s worth checking out.
SyFy Channel’s show, based on the book by Lev Grossman, got a lot of attention but not a lot of ratings. Still, the show earned a second season, so you have another chance to give it a try.
Part of the confusion may be in the misunderstanding of what the show is. Many have called it a grown up Harry Potter, but that’s not accurate. It’s not even close to accurate. The Magicians is a dark and mature show that features a school for people that use magic. That may seem like a Harry Potter clone, but beyond that, Harry Potter never really dabbled in things like rape, orgies, and accidental murder.
The show is also another indication that the SyFy Channel actually cares about its programs. At the very least it seems to be moving away from the formulaic shows of its past where each episode was predictable to a fault. That didn’t make them bad, but it made them timid.
Not everyone will appreciate the very adult storyline of The Magicians, but if nothing else, you should be able to appreciate that it is a bold show.
Despite critical praise and decent ratings, the third season of Penny Dreadful was the last due to one specific and obvious reason: money.
The Victorian setting was simply too expensive to continue without huge rating numbers – not just good, but huge. Thankfully, the showrunners saw the writing on the wall and gave viewers an ending. It may not have been the ending that they hoped for, but it was ultimately a satisfying and logical conclusion to a show steeped in horror and monster mythology.
The good news is that you can watch all 27 episodes and get the complete story without having to wait for another season. There were a few dangling plotlines that will be addressed in an upcoming series of comics, but the opulent and visceral world of monsters will be missed.
It’s tough to know exactly how popular the Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski’s original series is given that Netflix doesn’t release rating information. It was pirated half a million times, so that’s a good sign, but exact numbers remain a mystery and the show has gained a lot of attention – but not all of it for the right reasons.
Critics have been mixed on the show, with some praising its global setting and original characters. Others have negatively focused on the amount of sex. Take a spin around Reddit and look up Sense8, and it won’t be long until you find a lot of people hating on the gay and transsexual character, but to be fair, you’ll also find plenty of people criticizing the slow pacing.
If you can get past that, Sense8 is one of the most original and groundbreaking shows on TV. A second season has been approved, with the first taste of it coming as a two-part Christmas special with 10 more episodes coming in May.
The show is stacked with talent and has a little something for everyone thanks to eight wildly different characters living completely different lives. It has a few rough edges, but it’s worth watching.
Although Vikings continues to spread throughout pop culture, with series stars like Travis Fimmel and Katheryn Winnick poised for breakout stardom, the show’s ratings continue to remain low. The History Channel hasn’t made a decision on whether or not to renew the show for a fifth season, although the fourth only just completed.
The History Channel isn’t known for its original programming, but Vikings is a good sign that the network knows what it is doing. Sure, the show isn’t exactly historically accurate, but it is more or less accurate to the era, if not the exact people. It gives a look at the way things were, even if it is heavily dramatized.
It’s not a show for people that don’t like a little bit of violence in their programming. It also isn’t for people that like their protagonists to be morally unblemished. For everyone else, however, the characters offer enough ethical complexity that you might be hooked.
You’re the Worst
FXX’s comedy about two somewhat vicious, dysfunctional people that have a relationship is something of an acquired taste. It can be brutal and unrelenting, with moments that make you laugh, and others that make you hate all of the characters. It’s also completely original and uncompromising.
If you like dark comedy, You’re the Worst is one of the best on TV. It also delves into more than just comedy, occasionally teetering on the verge of being poignant. Not everyone will appreciate the often unrelenting negativity the main characters wrap themselves in, but the wit is undeniable.
Like many of the others show on this list, the series is critically acclaimed but the ratings don’t reflect that. The network has confidence, however, and a fourth season has been confirmed for later this year.