‘Stranger Things,’ ‘The Night Of’ And More Of 2016’s Best New TV Shows

Senior Television Writer
12.13.16 12 Comments

The exponential growth in original TV series that’s led to Peak TV has required not only a tidal wave of new shows every year, but of really good new shows. So when I assembled my overall top 20 list for the year, it not only featured five brand-new series — Horace and Pete, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Atlanta, Fleabag, and Better Things — but could have featured two or three times that amount and few would have felt out of place.

So, because everybody gets a trophy at What’s Alan Watching, I decided to expand beyond those five shows to give you 16 more I at least considered, because 2016 was just that excellent in terms of new material. Add ’em up, and you’ve got 21 promising-to-great new series of the year, and that still leaves off a lot of interesting things. (This list doesn’t even include Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, which I watched very little of in an attempt to detox from the election.)

Where I counted down to the top spot with my overall list, I’m going to go in reverse. You already know what my 5 favorite new series of the year were, so we’ll start with the 6th and move on from there.

6. Stranger Things (Netflix)

The Duffer brothers’ salute to Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, and other things awesomely ’80s could have easily felt like an empty and shameless exercise in nostalgia. Instead, their story of a group of D&D-loving middle schoolers, their telekinetic new best friend, and a monster from a dark parallel dimension called The Upside Down turned out to be so much fun — and with terrific performances from both the kids and Winona Ryder and David Harbour as the grownups on their side — that even King himself was singing the praises of this particular tribute act. And by doing only 8 hours, Stranger Things licked the problem that tends to afflict most Netflix shows (including a few others on this list) where they have more episodes to fill than story to fill them.

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