by Julian Spivey
FX’s “Atlanta” is the wacky brainchild of multi-talented actor, comedian and rapper Donald Glover, who takes on multiple roles on the show as actor, writer and executive producer. Like “Black-ish,” “Atlanta” is able to give viewers a realistic and unique look at race, but in a more mature way without the constraints of network television. Glover plays Earn Marks, a Princeton dropout looking to make it as the manager of his hip-hop performer cousin Paper Boi (the hilarious Brian Tyree Henry). The first season was slightly uneven, in my opinion, but when it hits it hits hard. This one will make a lot of year end lists.
9. This Is Us
NBC’s “This Is Us” is the surprise hit drama of the fall network season, riding an incredible “you didn’t see it coming” shock ending to its pilot to a successful first half of its freshman season. The realistic family drama follows two generations of the Pearson family through two different eras, in a unique format that many network viewers haven’t seen before. The realism of the show is akin to former NBC series “Parenthood,” which was an all-time favorite of mine.
ABC’s “Black-ish” after only two and a half seasons has turned itself into the best sitcom on network television. The show following the Johnson family manages to make race funny in a way that we rarely ever see from a network comedy and more importantly it often does so in a manner that makes you think. The lead performances from Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross are among the best and funniest on television.
Fox’s “Pitch” is my favorite new series from the network’s fall season. Sure, as a huge baseball fan I’m probably a little biased, but the show has been incredibly entertaining and well-made. “Pitch” follows Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury), the first woman to pitch professionally in Major League Baseball thanks to her mastery of the specialty screwball pitch. The show gets the life of baseball down pretty well and mixed the sports scenes with drama better than just about any show ever, outside of “Friday Night Lights.” “Pitch” recently wrapped its first season, but unfortunately due to low ratings it may not see a second.
6. Orange is the New Black
I know multiple people who were put off by the fact that Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” took on a more dramatic, dark turn in its fourth season. But, as someone who’s always enjoyed the dramatic aspects of the series a little bit more I absolutely ate it up. ‘OITNB’ got real in season fourth with topics that mirrored real life issues – like race relations and police (or in the show’s case guard) brutality. TV is often at its best when bringing in the realness of the world and ‘OITNB’ proved it tenfold.
5. The Blacklist
I must be honest about this one – I actually haven’t started the fourth season of NBC’s “The Blacklist” yet, with episodes piling up on my DVR to be binged at a later date. So, “The Blacklist” selection on this list is solely for the second half of the show’s third season, which wrapped up in May. In my opinion, season three of the show was its best yet with Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) on the run and then presumed dead and Red Reddington’s (James Spader) reaction to both.
4. The People v. O.J. Simpson
It’s not often you see what is essentially a mini-series raved about as much as FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” was this spring. It took the O.J. Simpson murder trial, which took America’s interest by storm 20 years ago, and showed us an accurate behind the scenes portrayal featuring fantastic performances all around, especially from Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown. Creator Ryan Murphy will take on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the second installment of this series.
For years I’ve been watching the annual Emmy Awards and seeing Julia Louis-Dreyfus take home the honor for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy for her performance in HBO’s “Veep,” but had never gotten around to seeing it. This summer I finally started the series and before I knew it had binged through all five seasons, the fifth of which aired this summer. It’s quite simply the funniest show on television now, and frankly seems to be getting better. Watching it during this year’s weird political climate likely helped the entertainment factor.
2. Late Night with Seth Meyers
Seth Meyers took a struggling ‘Late Night’ and completely revamped it into what’s currently the best late night program on network television and he did it by mixing his old job at ‘SNL’ doing Weekend Update and filling the hole left behind by Jon Stewart by calling out the B.S. of the political world. Meyers’ “Closer Look” was one of the smartest and funniest things on television all year and with the election of Donald Trump the segment and its importance probably won’t be ending anytime soon.
1. Person of Interest
CBS essentially burned off the fifth and final season of crime drama “Person of Interest” during the early summer, but the show went out on top story-wise. “Person of Interest,” one of my favorite shows on television over the last half decade, was true to itself to the very end, which meant not necessarily giving fans a happy ending, but certainly a breathtaking one.