CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

This ranking was originally posted on News Cult in December 2016.

We are at the point in history when we must accept that even those whose job it is to watch TV cannot possibly keep up with all that the medium has to offer. The same thing happened long ago with literature, and we have made our peace with it in such a way that we are still able to make year-end best-of lists of books. Thus the value in continuing to do the same for the boob tube remains.

When other lists feature shows I haven’t been watching, I do not despair over the impossibility of watching everything. Instead, I express gratitude that I will never be bored. And when I include my own obscure and underappreciated selections, I treat those decisions with the utmost responsibility.

10. Rectify (Sundance)
Perhaps the most patient series of the 21st century, Rectify came to an end in 2016. Its conclusion is satisfying, which is unsurprising because it has always been consistently satisfying. The central question of former death row inmate Daniel Holden’s innocence or guilt is basically answered, even though the matter is not directly addressed, because this series is more about examining humanity than anything so simple as “answers.”

9. Documentary Now! (IFC)
Some say that great parodies come from a place of love. I would amend that slightly to say that they come from a place of great knowledge. And there are few more knowledgeable about the documentary genre, or more able to inhabit its tropes, than Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and their team of writers.

8. Atlanta (FX)
Earn (Donald Glover) is just trying to hustle his cousin Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) into a legit rap career. That’s hard enough to do in the real ATL, but in the fictional version, it is plain confounding, what with the invisible cars, Justin Bieber being black, and cereal commercials capitalizing on police brutality.

7. The Eric Andre Show (Adult Swim)
Eric Andre’s brand of comedy, in which he destroys all social niceties and his own body, is more relevant than ever in 2016. Time to deliver a pizza ball!

6. The Grinder (FOX)
Rob Lowe’s star vehicle about a former TV legal eagle who thinks he can be a real lawyer never quite caught on to be the hit it deserved to be, but it now stands as a one-season wonder testifying to the gut-busting power of a relentlessly meta deconstruction of the crossroads of media and real life.

5. Better Call Saul (AMC)
Slippin’ Jimmy tries to go straight but buckles under the confines of a system that rains fury down upon him when he tries to bend the rules. Bob Odenkirk continues to do career-best dramatic work that is of a piece with his comedic persona. Rhea Seehorn and Michael McKean are on hand to represent the divergent paths he can aspire towards or fight against.

4. Man Seeking Woman (FXX)
One of the hidden gems of Peak TV is this fantastical sitcom about unlucky-in-love Josh Greenberg (Jay Baruchel). In Season 2, its adventurous premise reaches its full potential. The metaphors of dating are literalized, rendering a world in which emotional truth is unavoidable and delicious.

3. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX)
One of the best NFL players of all time stands accused of murder in a true-life story that compelled a nation in the nineties and continues to do so twenty years later. A team of all-star writers, directors, and actors illuminate a saga that touches upon themes of celebrity, race, class, and gender that are very much a part of the American Story.

2. BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
BoJack sets out on his Oscar campaign for Secretariat, and things become weird(er than normal). Along the way, he gets lost at an underwater film festival, a pop star dolphin has a hit song about abortion, and Candice Bergen makes sure that BoJack keeps his newspaper subscription. Hollywoo is where dreams go to be endlessly fussed over.

1. Baskets (FX)
Aspiring clown Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis) returns home to Bakersfield, CA after failing to crack the big leagues of Paris. Louie Anderson plays Chip’s mom in a drag performance that is never anything less than a poignant tribute to motherhood in general. Martha Kelly breaks through as a put-upon character who is always ready with a dry observation. Chip’s brother Dale (Galifianakis) is a ridiculous fop with bizarre depths. Appreciating Basketsrequires being on a very specific wavelength. If you can find it, you will be rewarded with visionary hilarity and an oddly comforting meditation on life’s purpose.