The common refrain is that 2016 was a long string of misery broken up by frequent side quests into the truly absurd. In fact, this mock trailer depicting 2016 as a horror movie is perfect and truly captures the spirit of the year we experienced through the news and online.
Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that 2016 is the year that I joined the amazing BGN team, returned to DragonCon after a 9 year hiatus, and enjoyed so many hours laughing, loving, and growing with various circles of friends and family. It is my hope and intention that 2017 will be even better.
Another great thing about 2016 was the TV & streaming shows I discovered (then immediately devoured). Here is a sampling of my best finds.
5 – Crazyhead – Netflix | 6 episodes
This is the story of Amy and Raquel, two misfits that find each other by chance and join forces to fight evil. It’s originally from Britain and has elements of Buffy mixed with Doctor Who. Funny, vulgar, and thrilling in parts, this show has a lot of heart. It’s great seeing Chewing Gum‘s Susie Wokoma in such a vastly different role. And Tony Curran always gets it right.
4 – Stranger Things – Netflix | 8 episodes
What more can be said about this 80s-reviving horror-thriller that took the geek world by storm in late August? A town is rocked by the disappearance of a little boy named Will Byers and that sets off multiple methods of rescue ranging from the mundane to the magical. If you’ve been holding off on watching it, just do it already! The concept, the performances (especially from the preteen leads), the art direction, and suspenseful story are well worth an 8-hour binge.
3 – Cleverman – Netflix | 6 episodes
This is another import that can be viewed in America on Netflix. This Australian show allegorizes white settler oppression of Aboriginal people using their rich and ancient lore, collectively known as The Dreaming. Set in modern day, against an urban fantasy backdrop, we follow an ensemble of diverse characters all connected through the Cleverman, ruler of The Dreaming and bridge between that world and ours.
The show does explain things explicitly in parts but most of the time, the story unfolds without too much hand-holding for those of us that exist outside of the culture. I love that. I also loved the complicated, often frustrating, and morally compromised characters. Lastly – and this is embarrassing to admit – I didn’t know until now that Aboriginal people call themselves Black too. Sixty-thousand years of unbroken history on a continent outside of Africa and we’re still connected in our Blackness. Gives me happy chills to think about it.
2 – Black Mirror – Netflix | 3 Seasons, 13 episodes total
This anthology series is a mind-fucking masterpiece. I’ve only ever been able to watch 3 at a time, and my dreams are a labyrinth of weird afterward. Charlie Brooker has created worlds that are at turns squeamish and insightful, hilarious and horrifying. It’s like Twilight Zone for this generation, but it’s its own thing as well.
Season 3 Highlights: Playtest and San Junipero
1 – Queen Sugar – OWN | 13 episodes
This is the lone entry that was not streaming on Netflix. It’s also the only one without any supernatural or sci-fi elements. I don’t even care that much about family drama as a genre. I’ve certainly seen good ones over the years, but I don’t seek them out. Sugar is different. The film making is tremendous with a range of well crafted, important stories that don’t often get told about us on television. Add to that, Ava DuVernay’s point of hiring all women directors, and it was almost like a Movement unfolding before my eyes rather than a TV show. Like Cleverman, it doesn’t over explain to those outside of the culture and it’s better for it.
I look forward to the future set up by the season finale. It looks like it’s going to be a philosophical and emotional roller coaster just like season 1.
Honorable Mention: The 100 | The CW
I was not super jazzed about all the death and fatalism this season nor was I pleased by the post-apocalyptic Christopher Columbus figure being a Black man, but Michael Beach played the hell out of Pike. And I know how controversial Lexa’s death was – hell, I went from squeeing into my fists with joy to crying with rage over the senselessness of it all. But the way the writers crafted the theology and political structure of the grounders around the Flame/Heda/ALLIE was enthralling and stoked my imagination.
So there it is. All of my picks, save for #1 are streaming on Netflix so if you haven’t already, start your year with a comforting binge. I vouch for them all. What’s your list? Leave it in the comments!