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Episodes: 5 shows I love that (probably) won't be on my year-end best TV list


Emily VanDerWerff

Dec 08 2016

5 min read



It's "best of" season, and you know what that means: Lots and lots of exasperated groans from TV critics about how there's too much good TV on.

And it's true! There's a lot of good TV right now, so much so that when I unveil my list of the top 18 shows in a couple of weeks, I'm going to be leaving a lot of things off of it, things that I love and like and wish I could squeeze on there. But, alas, we live in a terrible world where math has limits, and I refuse to expand my list to 60-some shows again, because really. (Also, because 2016, good as it was, was a marked step down for me from 2015.)

Anyway, here are five shows I love -- all shows that have featured on my lists in the past -- that probably won't be in my top 18. (I say probably because I could still, conceivably, change my mind. But I won't.)

The 100 (The CW): I wanted to love this show's third season -- even with that hugely controversial story decision in its middle -- because the first two seasons were such surprising pleasures. But the deeper and deeper we got into that season, the more it became clear that this was the latest show to fall victim to a very common TV curse: the one where you think that because you became known for dark story turns, you have to keep making as many of them as possible. There were great moments and episodes in The 100, but as a whole, it just didn't hold together in season three like it has in the past.

Broad City (Comedy Central): This is still one of the shows on TV that makes me laugh the most, but I -- and many other critics, I've found -- have this thing in my brain where if the changes made in the story are evolutionary, rather than grandly revolutionary, I struggle to recall it when list-making time comes. Weirdly, consistency is a detriment when I'm drawing these things up, because consistency often ends up causing it to fall down the list in my brain. Maybe that's a failing of me, not the show, but when you have a season where it's too easy to say, "Good, but I liked the other seasons better" (as was true for me of season three of this show), the brain ultimately has a tendency to underrate it after that point, especially as it's drawn to newer shows.

Game of Thrones (HBO): A mainstay of my list for its first three seasons, before dropping off in seasons four and five as I grew frustrated with the show's continued embrace of storytelling as pointillism, I really did end up enjoying the sixth season of the series. Was it perfect? Not at all -- it still couldn't figure out what to do with Ramsay Bolton beyond turn him into the man who made the plot go by committing murders. But there were great scenes and moments galore, and I think if I were to make a top 18 for even the first nine months of the year, it would probably be on there. But the calendar has more than nine months, and so it has fallen. It's bold and bloody and fun -- but I'm increasingly frustrated that that's all it is.

Mom (CBS): This is just gonna get squeezed out, which is one of those things that happens. I don't know that the show has changed anything remarkably (see also: Broad City), and I'm still enjoying it, but the deeper I get into its run, the more I can't shake the idea that it views poverty less as a condition the characters live in and more as a story engine, when it should ideally be both. The economic struggles of the show sometimes feel a little too much like a makeup job applied at the very last minute, rather than central to its core. That wasn't true in seasons two and three, but I feel it more and more in season four.

You're the Worst (FXX): A lot of these are comedies, which makes sense in a way. When a comedy falters, it's easier to be harsher on it, because the comedy automatically has lower dramatic stakes. I loved a lot of individual episodes of the third season of this show (including the already underrated Sunday Funday episode), while feeling as if the whole never quite clicked. Trying to get us to dislike Jimmy and Gretchen even more in the early going, to underline Edgar's pain, was a bold storytelling move, but then it felt like the show forgot about it a little bit. As a collection of individual episodes, season three was often quite good. But it was clear it wanted to also be another cohesive overall story, and it didn't manage that trick as well. I'm still devouring season four screeners when I get them.

Sorry, shows. If it's any consolation, I kept watching you, which is more than I can say for a lot of things.


Episodes is published three-ish times per week, and more if I feel like it. It is mostly about television, except when it's not. Suggest topics for future installments via email or on Twitter. Read more of my work at Vox Dot Com.

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