Year in Review

2016 in Review: The 10 Best Dramas

As TVLine launches its annual review of the year in television, we will not be saving the best for last.

Rather, we’re kicking things off with no less than a countdown of the 10 best dramas to cross our screens, large or laptop, during 2016 — no easy feat, given the hundreds of options available across broadcast, network, streaming and whatever Louis CK decides to finance with his own checkbook.

How high did this fall’s freshman hit, This Is Us, rank? Where be Stranger Things among the 10 finalists? Was Westworld able to best sister series Game of Thrones? And did last year’s No. 1-ranked drama, Penny Dreadful, make the cut this time around, with what would be its farewell run?

Our staff reflected on the last 12 months, and then went through the painful process of whittling it down to the most innovative, most moving and most gasp-inducing of the bunch.

Check out the gallery above for our picks — or click here for direct access — then tell us where you think we got it right, which shows we snubbed, and what drama you’d put at No. 1.

Coming up soon, in the Year in Review: Best Comedies, Worst Shows, Sexiest Scenes, Grossest Moments, the Quotes of the Year and much, much more!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. spindae2 says:

    All very valid picks, except I would only put American crime on fiest place and remove GoT, always thought it was highly overrated.

    • Thithya says:

      Completely agree about GoT. I watch it and I really love it but, it is so overrated!
      There are ton of shows out there, better than GoT.

      • There is nothing overrated about GoT! It’s the best show on TV and i love that Season 6 got so much praise and so many awards! Just look at the Emmys. GoT won pretty much everything, it was the big winner! The show has stellar performances, and episodes that will live in everyone’s memory! Just because you don’t like it, it doesn’t make overrated! And GoT is on the first place because it’s the best, end of story!

    • GoT is the BEST drama on TV, so the list is very right!

  2. Shatta Wale says:

    My best is game of thrones.

  3. Brian says:

    Great seeing Bates Motel getting some love. Such an underrated show.

    • Angela says:

      Agreed. This past season of the show was brilliant.
      I’ll agree with the mention of “American Crime”, too. The storyline with the boys was indeed movingly acted, and I love how Felicity Huffman can play characters that set my teeth on edge while simultaneously making me still get invested in them and their stories.

    • JMark (formerly JM) says:

      I love this show, and this it makes it all the more painful that it got no recognition by the Emmys.

  4. Guy says:

    This list loses credibility by leaving off The Americans.

  5. Missy Kelly says:

    OMG! Ten great dramas and I didn’t watch a single one!

  6. NO THE AMERICANS??? #bitchplease

  7. Joey says:

    Game of Thrones has been going downhill for several seasons now. I’d say that seasons 1 and 2 were great television, season 3 had some missteps, season 4 even moreso, but by season 5, the show had turned from must-watch to must-miss television.
    Including it in the list, even worse putting it at #1, is galling, and even more offensive that it kept off truly fantastic shows like The Americans and Penny Dreadful.

    • AB says:

      Most people would argue that it actually increased in quality up until season 4. Season 5 had a lot of missteps, which turned off a lot of people, but this last year was just as good as it’s ever been.

      • Joey says:

        If most people would argue that, then most people would be wrong. Season 6 was a dumpster fire. Characters frequently made decisions that made no sense given the context in which they made them, and also did things that were completely out of character.
        In any event, in terms of HBO shows, Westworld is by far the runaway winner for this year.

        • Super-fan says:

          Seeing as this is all very subjective, no one is right or wrong…this just goes by the opinions of majority of the audience….and going by what most of the audience and critics say, this past season of GOT was stellar, a real masterpiece. Sorry to say but you are in the minority but that’s not to say your opinion is wrong….it’s just not a popular one.

          • Joey says:

            If I were to take your claim that I’m in the minority at face value, which I won’t, it would be a much larger minority than you would believe.

          • Super-fan says:

            By definition, minority is less than majority…so I’m not sure what a “larger minority” would look like.

    • Shru says:

      Has it become the ‘cool thing’ to hate on Game of Thrones now? It’s still one of the best dramas on TV right now, just because it’s a massive cultural phenomenon doesn’t mean it is bad by any means. The writing, acting, directing and story telling is still as top notch as ever.

      • Joey says:

        You lost any credibility when you said the writing and story telling are top notch. These two are the most frequent complaints about the show. The directing can be hit-or-miss, but could definitely improve with a feminine touch. The acting, however, is typically pretty darn good, except for Emilia Clarke and, on occasion, Kit Harington, who can be as wooden as Pinocchio most of the time.

      • Super-fan says:

        I agree with all you said.

  8. Sal says:

    I guess this just shows how bad the Big 5 broadcasters are now… only two shows made the list, both from different networks… of course, I don’t watch either.

  9. hypey says:

    Wish Orphan Black made the list… the Beth storyline was amazing this season.

  10. Seestra says:

    This Is Us should be number one. Not 5th wtf?! Pure drama. Amazing writting and cast. And Strangers Things number two. Enough with GOT
    Agree with Bates Motel

  11. Courtney says:

    Amazing shows! I still have to see 3 or 4 of them. I’m surprsied Gilmore Girls wasn’t on here. Mine are:

    1. Stranger Things
    2. Game of Thrones
    3. The People vs. OJ Simpson
    4. Jane the Virgin
    5. This Is Us
    6. Good Girls Revolt
    7. Younger
    8. Transparent
    9. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
    10. The Path

    • AB says:

      Younger, Transparent and JtV might be considered as comedies… If not, then Jane certainly deserved a spot on the list.

      • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

        Comedy, comedy and…. comedy. —Mgmt.

      • Oh definitely. I was just thinking my top 10 shows. But these give me a few spaces.

        1. Stranger Things
        2. Game of Thrones
        3. The People vs. OJ Simpson
        4. This Is Us
        5. Good Girls Revolt
        6. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life
        7. The Path
        8. Outlander
        9. The Americans
        10. How to Get Away With Murder

        I haven’t finished The Crown or Westworld yet.

        Still have a hard time considering Transparent as a comedy though.

    • BickerBake says:

      Good Girls Revolt was great! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who watched (and enjoyed) it. I’m very disappointed that Amazon is not continuing with a second season.

  12. RichCD says:

    Stranger Things was very entertaining, but a Top 10 Drama? Um, no. Better Call Saul was better than at least half of the shows on this list.

  13. hayleyabraun says:

    Not putting The Americans on this list after their amazing fourth season is crazy!

  14. Taylor says:

    So Penny Dreadful DIDN’T make this list. Can’t say I’m surprised – while parts of it were extraordinary, this third season finale was so disappointing it affects whether I recommend it to some people. I WILL NEVER GET OVER IT.

  15. Kevin says:

    Game of Thrones is always #1 in my book as the best drama of the year. The last two episodes of the season were my faves (Battle of the Bastards and The Winds of Winter).

  16. Diane DeMore says:

    Missing Longmire on Netflix (originally on A&E)

  17. No The Americans!!! That’s my number one pick. Usually you give them a lot of love so I guess maybe I can excuse it this time.

  18. Iris says:

    Game of Thrones is the only one I watch and S6 was the best so far. Entertainment at its best, and so, so, so much pay-off. It’s unlike anything on TV if only going by the quality and scale of its production.

  19. 1. The People V. O.J. (one of the best cast ever assembled)
    2. This Is Us (love at first sight, love the picture you used by the way)
    3. Queen Sugar (simply outstanding)
    4. Bates Motel (amazing season but I haven’t watched the finale yet; it’s sitting on my computer, I just can’t do it even if I know everything that happens).

  20. Andrea McGarvey says:

    No Rectify? Well written, superb acting, best of this year’s dramas IMO.

  21. Rella says:

    I think you definitely got it right,especially Game of Thrones being your number 1 Drama in 2016!! It is the BEST show on TV and ever!! The rest of the shows you picked were good too, but not a fan of OITNB! Thanks for the article!

  22. webly3 says:

    I’m so glad that Orange Is the New Black was recognized on this wish (I personally would put it at number one with Game of Thrones second). What I’m most shocked about is the exclusion of The Americans and Rectify in favor of The Night Of and This Is Us. The Night Of was honestly overrated. I love This Is Us, but I don’t think I have enough room on my list for it.

  23. Super-fan says:

    Thank you TVLine staff for recognizing the superiority of Game of Thrones. Season 6 was more than just a tv season but a visual & emotional experience.
    Bates Motel, Good Behavior, This is Us.
    UnReal broke my heart this season

  24. Piers says:

    None of the above.

  25. digitalred93 says:

    No mention of The Crown?

  26. Diane says:

    The picks are very valid but I don’t see Outlander here and it’s been overlooked entirely too much!

    • Simon Jester says:

      Season 2 of Outlander wasn’t very good, and doesn’t deserve to be included. I’d be surprised if it appears on ANY reviewer’s Top 10 this year.

  27. kate says:

    the over the topness of this is us made me turn it off. i will take the americans over this is us every day of the week and twice on sundays.

  28. American Crime Story, Stranger Things & This Is Us most definitely! I would add Colony in there! Was one of my favorites from this year.

  29. frokentv says:

    1. Shameless
    2. Stranger things
    3. Skam
    4. Orange is the new black
    5. This is us
    6. Bojack horseman
    7. Scream
    8. Gilmore girls: a year in the life
    9. Degrassi: next Class
    10. Eyewitness

  30. Eric says:

    This is an extremely strong list, especially numbers 1-7 but I’d probably swap iZombie in at number 10. It’s not the most deep or nuanced show, but it’s thoroughly entertaining with across the board stellar performances and an engrossing narrative. Oh, and that’s not even mentioning the two hour finale which had some of the most tense, nerve-wracking, and effectively dramatic scenes that I’ve ever witnessed. (Seriously, I can’t over-emphasize how good that finale was).

  31. Cas says:

    The people saying GOT is overrated are crazy! I just discovered it this year and love it. On a different note what is that Horrace show? I believe it is #10. I haven’t heard of it but love the cast.

  32. kajar says:


  33. Jeana says:

    Great picks. Didn’t watch Bates Motel – but obviously I should! If the list was a bit longer I would add Penny Dreadful, Orphan Black, How to Get Away with Murder, The Crown and Luke Cage.

  34. audra says:

    The Americans should be on this list.

  35. parstl says:

    Good list but I would have had Orphan Black at least at 7 (4 or better it’s first two seasons) and Shameless at 10. Also, Flash and Chicago Fire would have made my top 15 and perhaps even Grey’s Anatomy with the handling of the loss of one of the key characters.

  36. Spence says:

    Totally agree with this list, although I would also throw HTGAWM on here! It’s third season was riveting and brilliant!

  37. Echo says:

    To all the people hating on Game of Thrones and calling it the most overrated show on tv: 1. While this season was far from the best season of the show, it still contained the two hands down greatest episodes of television this year, with The Winds of Winter and Battle of the Bastards. Nothing else even came close. 2. The title of “Most Overrated Drama” most certainly belongs to “Stranger Things”. Sidenote: So glad to see the criminally underrated Bates Motel finally getting some recognition. This season was just flat out brilliant. And the acting was beyond extraordinary.

  38. Nothing beats “The Battle of The Bastards” on GOT best acting ever in a series by Ramseey and Jon Sow loved it

  39. Maggie says:

    Why is OITNB included on a list of dramas when it enters into awards as a comedy (also wrong)? The Americans needs to be included over “comedies.”

  40. LJ says:

    No Outlander?

  41. abz says:

    I like Game of Thrones as lots of people do and this past season was enjoyable, but there is NO way it should be in the first place.
    American Crime season 2 was some of the finest pieces of television and acting (excluding the disappointing open-ended finale) that I have ever seen and infinitely better than GoT. It should at least be in the top 5 if not the first or second place spot.

  42. the shows 10 I feel got snubbed by this list are

    The Crown
    Luke Cage
    Berlin Station
    Designated Survivor

  43. Brian says:

    I’d find places for ‘Quarry’, ‘The Americans’, ‘Outsiders’, and ‘Halt and Catch Fire’ which had its best season and dump the ridiculously overrated ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘This is Life’. ‘Westworld’ was decent but also a tad overrated and not top 10.

  44. Ally Oop says:

    I don’t get HBO (and limited data on my intetnet plan to find its shows online)so still haven’t got to watch Westworld or the last two seasons of Game of Thrones. Of the dramas I have watched this year (excluding dramedies like Gilmore Girls, Jane the Virgin, Wynonna Earp and Crazy Ex) my top 20 (yes 20 because that’s how many shows I watch that deserve mentioning) would be Orphan Black, Poldark, Vikings, Outlander, Call the Midwife, Queen Sugar, The Originals, Grey’s Anatomy, This is Us, X Company, Longmire, Jessica Jones, Colony, Peaky Blinders, Designated Survivor, Underground, Pitch, This Life, 19-2 and Orange is the New Black.

  45. jerrired says:

    Pretty good list. HOWEVER, I don’t think Stranger Things is as good as people claim it is. That aside, glad to see Bates Motel so high. I adore that show and wish more people watched it. It’s becoming one of my favorite of all time. And the team smartly decided to end it while it’s still great instead of milking it too long. Can’t wait for the final season.

  46. BickerBake says:

    The only two on this list that I watched were Westworld and Stranger Things. I never even heard of several of them. Horace and Pete sounds cool. I’ll have to check that one out.

  47. gm says:

    Switch the order of Westworld and GOT and I think you’ve got a pretty solid list.

  48. GOT always the best and first place! Season 6 was phenomenal! Also, i love Stranger Things, Bates Motel and Orange is The New Black. OITNB season 4 was easily the best yet, and i can’t wait for what’s next. Stranger Things was a wonderful surprise, and Eleven is just EPIC! Also, Winona got back in a AMAZING style! And Norma’s death on Bates Motel was shocking and i can’t wait for Season 5!

  49. ReneCat says:

    No Designated Survivor?! Seriously?!

  50. Game of thrones. So good.