Normally, if a full year went by and we’d missed some shows, we’d assume they simply weren’t worth our attention and there was a reason they never came up. Now, there’s just too much good TV out there for us to keep up with. Great seasons of shows come and go and we didn’t watch because we were watching great seasons of other shows. Networks we didn’t even know or care about are putting out excellent work in every genre. The traditional ways of making TV are starting to fade, meaning we’re getting more stuff from more places.
For now, with most of what we’ve been watching on break, we have some TV time to fill. Luckily, we just spent a paragraph talking about how there was a ton of great stuff we didn’t get to watch because we were watching other great stuff. Now, after a truly great holiday binge, we’re here to tell you about all the shows you should have watched in 2016, but didn’t.
Horace and Pete
Horace and Pete is definitely the most unconventional show on this list. It’s a show that takes place almost entirely inside Horace and Pete’s, a New York City bar run by Horace Wittel VIII (Louis C.K.) and Pete Wittel (Steve Buscemi). It paints a wonderfully vivid picture of the kind of New York City neighborhood that’s rapidly disappearing, full of the kind of people who society seems to purposefully leave behind. It was shot like a live TV drama, giving it a sense of immediacy, like you were watching all these things, good and bad, happen to real people in real time. Also giving it a sense of immediacy was how quickly the crew was able to make each episode. They were all made in a few short weeks, allowing the scripts to reflect the world as it would have really affected a place like Horace and Pete’s. There are only ten episodes (and probably will only ever be ten episodes) and they’re all available on Louis C.K.’s website. You’ll have to pay for them, but do the internet a favor and show that you’re willing to do that.
Preacher quickly became one of our favorite shows this year, thanks mostly to how difficult it can be to follow and its off-the-wall humor and premise. The show’s first season is a great starting point too, because where the original comic ramps up the weirdness right from the beginning, the show eases the audience into it. There are definitely supernatural aspects to every episode, but after an insane opening minute or so, the show takes some baby steps before it gets to dealing with God, angels, demons, and saints. By the time it does, you’re invested in the characters, understand the world, and are ready to go wherever Jesse Custer and his compatriots are going to take you. The best part is, this isn’t a show that’s likely to jump the shark. If it holds close to the comics, which it seems to be doing, at least in spirit, then there’s an endpoint in sight. One that promises a nice tight arc for all characters. The first season was the second most watched new cable show, so while it had a strong start , it didn’t have numbers like The Walking Dead. Luckily, AMC didn’t pay too close attention to the numbers and confirmed it for a second season anyway.
Now that The Office has been done for a few years, there’s a bit of an awkward humor gap that could stand filling. It’s part of the reason we’re thankful for Superstore. The show jumps right on the borderline cringe humor that we expected from Michael Scott’s band of paper company employees, but does so in a way that doesn’t feel like an Office sequel and instead sets its own tone. Superstore contains clever writing and fully formed characters, and does well balancing workable cliches with startling originality. It also captures and expertly satirizes the corporate retail environment, particularly in the episode where the characters accidentally make Cloud 9’s headquarters think their branch is unionizing. The end result is a quality workplace comedy that feels like an accurate representation of who’s working at these big box stores and the more exasperating part of being a Target or Wal-Mart employee. There’s also a People of Wal-Mart thing going on inside the show, because instead of simply cutting from scene to scene, they’ll often insert a vignette about individual customers between beats. They almost never have dialogue, but they tell complete, funny stories nonetheless.
We’ve previously talked about the original novel for 11.22.63, so we were excited to see there was a miniseries adaptation waiting for us after we’d finished the book. We were also excited by the miniseries aspect. A movie would have been serviceable, but a miniseries really gives you more time to explore the world Stephen King created in the book, while also allowing the showrunners to experiment a bit. This is also one of the first shows on Hulu to have some real star power behind it, since James Franco and Chris Cooper play the two main characters. We had to jump through some hoops to actually get access to Hulu, but if you’re willing to do the same, this might be the show to make Hulu a viable option besides Netflix and Amazon.
The Night Manager
In one of our first Amazon Prime Video posts, we featured The Night Manager, and our recommendation hasn’t faltered. This is a show you should be watching. Like we said before, this is a show in the same vein as Luther and Sherlock, so if you like either of those, it’s highly likely that you’ll enjoy this series. Basically, Tom Hiddleston has to infiltrate an arms dealer’s operation as a part of an MI-6 sting, and things, predictably, get intense. Our favorite way to watch shows like this is to treat them like movies. We make it one of the last things we do in the day so we’re not tempted to binge away the series. It gives us more time to dissect and appreciate the show, instead of watching the whole thing and not being able to tell you anything about it. If you have Amazon Prime, that’s probably the easiest way to watch it, so go ahead and treat yourself to another shining example of British television.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
Douglas Adams is most often and readily associated with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and for good reason. It’s one of the best sci-fi series ever produced and cemented Adams as one of our favorite authors. But Hitchhiker’s wasn’t the only thing he wrote. He also had a few books about Dirk Gently and his holistic detective agency. The books follow the same otherworldly, absurdist thread as Hitchhiker’s, where Dirk investigates fate and supernatural connection rather than using “evidence” and “clues.” The show brings out the atmosphere of the novels pretty well, with the initial meeting between Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) and Todd Brotzman (Elijah Wood), with Dirk climbing through a window in order to administer Todd a holistic job interview. From there, the two of them investigate a murder at Todd’s most recent place of employment, while Todd is simultaneously investigated for the murder.
People of Earth
It’s a shame we haven’t heard a lot from Wyatt Cenac since he left The Daily Show. He was one of their stronger correspondents and had a comedic sensibility that no one else on the show was ever able to replicate. Finally, he’s back on TV with People of Earth, a show that follows Cenac as a journalist investigating an alien abduction support group. There’s a lot to like about the show, not least of which is the way the wildly different personalities of the people in the group. Each character has their own unique view of what the aliens want with us, what species the aliens are, and how to react to their own abduction. Plus there’s the bureaucratic mess that is the aliens’ relationship with each other, because, yes, on this show, aliens are real and abducting people. Ultimately, we’re happy to see Cenac back on TV, and on a show that suits his talents so well.