Alibi V.25 No.52 • Dec 29-Jan 4, 2016 

Idiot Box

Show Offs!

The Best TV of 2016

Atlanta (FX)—Most of us were aware of Donald Glover’s sneaky comic talent from “Community.” But very little could have prepared us for this cerebral, streetwise and occasionally surreal sitcom about the broke-ass manager of a low-rent rap star and his Sisyphean quest for fame and fortune. By ignoring all the rules of TV sitcoms, writer-creator-producer-star Glover delivers a trope-free delight that isn’t afraid to juggle ridiculous satire, bittersweet drama, empathetic characters and the occasional David Lynch level oddness (often in the same episode).

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (HBO)/“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (TBS)—Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. How would we have gotten through this rough political season without satirical political comedy shows like “The Daily Show” and “Saturday Night Live”? But the cream of the crop—delivering hard-hitting exposés of political hypocrisy, corporate arrogance and willful plebeian ignorance in addition to some truly hilarious punchlines—are these shows from two former “Daily Show” correspondents. Keep up the good work, guys. We’re gonna need it.

“The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” (FX)/ O.J. Made in America (ESPN)—FX’s damnably entertaining miniseries and ESPN’s revelatory documentary were two sides of the exact same coin. But in very different ways, they resurrected the decades-old “Crime of the Century” and made it feel hyper-relevant to today’s racially tense America. As time goes on, it’s less about the crime and more about our country’s divided reaction to it. Sadly, the same could not be said of this year’s other big unsolved crime anniversary, the murder of JonBenét Ramsey—which was resurrected in countless, trashy whodunits.

“Stranger Things” (Netflix)—Were there more dramatic, better acted, more skillfully written shows on TV this year? Undoubtedly. But none of them were as flat-out fun as this throwback thriller in the Stephen King/Steven Spielberg mold. More than simply a nostalgic recreation of ’80s entertainment, this breakout hit—about small-town kids battling government-manufactured monsters—captured all the things that made childhood faves like The Goonies, Stand By Me and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial so beloved. Scary, exciting, funny and emotional, in near-equal measure, “Stranger Things” is like a plus-sized bag of your favorite potato chips—good luck not devouring it all in one sitting.

“Westworld” (HBO)—Still flush with the success of “Game of Thrones,” HBO decided to deliver another genre obsession. Who would have expected a reboot of Michael Crichton’s 1973 robots-gone-wild flick to offer up some of this year’s most cerebral thrills? From its decortication of the modern video game industry (what is Westworld, after all, but Grand Theft Auto sprung spectacularly and violently to life?) to its ongoing debate about human consciousness, this high-tech puzzle box keeps us thinking, speculating and second-guessing.

The Worst TV of 2016: No contest here. “Fuller House” (Netflix) tries to traffic in some wan nostalgia for ABC’s TGIF programming block. Newsflash, thirtysomethings: “Full House” was awful. “Fuller House” is worse. Unless you’re a irredeemable fan of canned laughter, time-wasting musical montages and cute kids mugging for the camera, this brainless, mawkish, self-congratulatory sequel qualifies as full-fledged torture under the Geneva Convention.