I’m not particularly interested in Best Of lists. After the third list it gets stale and instead of discussing art that moved us, the discourse instead seems to focus on who wrote the best list, what rank the obviously good things appeared in. So this year I asked our writers to tell me about the shows that moved them. The ones that made them ugly laugh or ugly cry and the ones that kept them thinking for weeks after. Here’s what they said:
Note: Spoilers range from light to severe for lots of TV. Continue at your own risk.
This is exactly the show I needed this year. I watch every episode grinning (and sometimes grimacing when a skater misses his jumps). I discovered the show early on through fanart. Right after the first episode aired my Twitter timeline was full of quick sketches of protagonist Yuri and his new coach and idol Victor. It looked precious and I needed something precious just then. Like a lot of fans, I figured the show would continue hinting at a romance between Yuri and Victor but never quite get there. Will they or won’t they is one of those storytelling tricks to keep audiences hooked that I can’t stand. Not to mention when it’s used to bait queer viewers into thinking maybe this time. But Yuri!!! went there, and quickly. By the end of the first arc, when Yuri recommits to his skating career (and to keeping Victor as his coach) it was clear that the show wouldn’t be teasing us. Instead we got one of the sweetest overtly queer relationships on television, in a show that’s as much about the confidence-building power of sport as it is about romance.
This show gave me an escape from the onslaught of grim news that’s dogged 2016 and it gave me hope for the future, even as so many others in media consistently screwed up. And it got me back into watching figure skating, just in time for the 2016/2017 season to heat up.
— Megan Purdy
Bojack Horseman is one of those shows that has improved leaps and bounds from where it started, becoming one of the most honest and funny shows on television about depression and celebrity. It was probably also one of the few television shows I actually binge-watched this year as soon as Season 3 was out, and it made me even more excited by the fact that one of the animators based Jill Pill off of a friend of mine.
Season 3 saw Bojack running through the hoops of awards season, still feeling guilt from the previous season over getting Kelsey fired and what happened in New Mexico. Amidst all of this, we end up getting two of the series’ most brilliant episodes so far: the mostly silent ‘Fish Out Of Water,’ which is visually stunning on top of being the most cutting portrayal of Bojack’s depression in the series, and ‘Brrap Brrap Pew Pew,’ which tackles abortion in a hilarious and honest way that I have never seen a television show do before and might not ever again.
A lot of this particular season is about asking what comes next when it seems like your life isn’t going the direction you thought it was and the thing you hoped would solve your problems doesn’t. In a year with a lot of struggles both personally and professionally, the search for happiness that the characters go through ended up resonating super hard. To say that they’ve found it by the end of the season would be a stretch, but as Carrie Fisher was once told, “many of us only seem to be able to find Heaven by backing away from Hell.” To see the kind of Hell these characters go through in an attempt to find love and happiness makes the hope of finding Heaven that much brighter.
— Ashley Leckwold
The expectations surrounding this long awaited return to Stars Hollow and the eponymous Gilmore Girls were so high, I’m not sure anything could have lived up to them. Even this very moment, as I’m about to start writing my feelings about these episodes, I feel crushed by the responsibility to love them. So my current thoughts on the series are kind of simplistic. A Year in the Life made me cry a lot. I cried about Richard’s death, Lorelei’s loneliness, and Emily’s confusion. I laughed at Kirk’s second film, the Stars Hollow musical, and actual bullshit words coming out of Emily Gilmore’s mouth. I was repeatedly annoyed by Rory’s entitlement, how much Lane’s life/character has been shit on, and the serious lack of the standard la-la-laaaaa interludes. My major complaint is the lack of actual storylines involving Stars Hollow townspeople. I wanted less of the Gilmores and more Babette, Taylor, and Kirk. All those feelings aside, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life did finally us what we wanted most—a checkup on our town and our girls with those promised Amy Sherman-Palladino written final four words. (The show has to continue, right? RIGHT?!?)
For all its shortcomings, it is just the comfortable, mixed bag pillow, made with lumps of gazebo decorations, cheesy steampunk montages, and Paris Geller power haircuts, that I need near the end of a truly horrific year.
— Jennie Law
If 2016’s external circumstances weren’t bad enough, this year also marks the saga of my first heartbreak. In this time of coping absolutely poorly and crying on an average of 2-3 times per day, the thing that has helped me more than anything else is the subversive comedy, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
On the outside, protagonist Rebecca Bunch appears to have the dream life as a lawyer in New York City. In actuality, she is a catastrophe of a person and in a state of constant mental breakdown. The beginning of this mental breakdown marks the catalyzing event of the show when she bumps into her ex-boyfriend from summer camp and then decides that fate means them to be together.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend shows that you can be the “woman who has it all” and an empowered feminist, but when love comes along none of that matters. You will end up debasing yourself repeatedly and inventively for a man who will never return your feelings. Our society has an endless supply of songs and stories about broken hearts, but rarely ever do they provide the humor of the situation. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend depicts unrequited love without the shiny idealism and all the ugly delusional behavior that accompanies it. Its season one availability on Netflix and currently-ongoing second season has been the only way I have had the ability to laugh at myself and not feel like a pathetic failure all year.
Also, as a part-musical, it has genuinely great tunes to help me not sob at my desk during work hours.
— Ray Sonne
I am a fan of Adventure Time. I have an Adventure Time tattoo, I own most of the Adventure Time comics, I play the Adventure Time games. Like many fans of any beautiful wonderland, I am always waiting to be disappointed. Surely something this golden can’t shine forever! Yet, it seems it just might.
This year brought us such majestic pieces of television as “Beyond the Grotto,” “The Hall of Egress,” and “The Thin Yellow Line.” These segments (as well as so many others) push the limits of what it means to make a cartoon. AT isn’t afraid to touch on the dark fears that live inside all of us from a young age, and it looks great while doing it! “Beyond the Grotto” displays beautifully painted backdrops by Matt Cumming in a Wizard of Oz type plot, “The Hall of Egress” plays on fears of never moving forward, and “The Thin Yellow Line” offers Finn and Jake another stage for my favorite iteration of their personas: detectives.
If you’re not watching Adventure Time, start doing it now. Cartoons, they’re not just for kids!
— Al Rosenberg
I can’t imagine a show making me feel as included as Steven Universe does. The show defies gender roles and gives a world where being queer is perfectly normal. The animation is stunning, it has some of the best music composition ever in western animation—maybe in animation in general—and some amazing storytelling.
This year Steven Universe brought everything to a new level and set the bar not just for animation but for TV in general for me. With the story of Ruby and Sapphire’s love, the amazing moments with Stevonnie, and Pearl’s attempts at flirting I just felt so happy watching this show. It’s like amazing indie comic the TV show; it just brings the happy feels in a nice kid friendly way while being queer as hell. Stevonnie in particular really stands out to me as a non binary trans feminine person. Seeing someone who looks like maybe I can look and who gets to be really cool in action was just beyond words.
— Sergio Alexis
I know, I know, Game of Thrones deserves every bit of criticism that’s been lobbed at it. I don’t blame those who quit after D. B. Weiss and David Benioff decided to include rape as a plot line for both Cersei and Sansa. I too quit the show for a while after it happened, but wandered back out of sheer curiosity for what would happen to all the various characters. And while I’ll still continue to criticize the show and watch out for how it treats its women, season six finally put all the women front and center in ways I really appreciate.
Sansa meets up with Jon Snow and finally comes into her own as a power player, something that was incredibly satisfying to see after all these seasons of watching her just get stepped on by everyone around her. Sansa also gets to kill the man who raped her. Arya finally becomes the assassin she’d been training to be. Daenerys mounts her dragons and finally sets sail for Westeros, while Yara plans to ally herself with Daenerys. And Cersei finally takes the Iron Throne in the coldest, most baddest B move of the entire show. To put it simply, so many men have been killed on the show that now all the women are finally stepping up to the plate in major ways.
Season six also confirmed the long standing R + L = J theory, and also had the “Battle of the Bastards” episode, which was hands down the most amazing hour of television I’d ever seen. The production value was simply incredible and I don’t think I can say any TV episode has moved me the way that one did.
— Clara Mae