10 Essential TV Shows for 2016


There was more television than ever in 2015, and the industry shows no signs of slowing down its output in the year to come. As we reach the midpoint of the 2015-2016 season, there are more new series, from more outlets, on the horizon than ever — and with so much white noise, it takes a lot to stand out as an essential. Still, here are ten can’t-miss television events in the year to come, with a heavy focus on the first half of the year. (There’s just too much on the agenda to plan ahead by more than a few months.) Click through for a look at what’s to come from the likes of Samantha Bee, Ryan Murphy, and Woody Allen.

Baskets (January 21, FX)

Zach Galifianakis gets to bring his weirdo-alt-comic side — as opposed to his hit-studio-comedy-trilogy side — to television at long last, with the help of none other than Louis CK. Galifianakis stars as a failed French clown in the un-glamorous part of California; semi-hilarity ensues. The cringe humor will be strong here, as well as the hype from Louie fans and comedy nerds alike.

The X-Files (January 24, Fox)

The first of a slew of reboots to hit in 2016, with varying levels of excitement and/or dread (Gilmore Girls! Samurai Jack!… Fuller House?!), X-Files’ latest chapter might be the most eagerly anticipated of all. Nineties nostalgia reaches its high point in late January with the return of Mulder and Scully, plus a notable cameo or two.

American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson (February 2, FX)

FX moneymaker and camp impresario Ryan Murphy initially appeared to have out-Murphyed himself with this one. But his latest anthology series, coming right out the gate with the biggest true-crime story of all, appears to be gunning for prestige that, say, Scream Queens wasn’t. Add dependably excellent performances from returning Murphy repertoire members like Sarah Paulson and Connie Britton, plus newbies like Cuba Gooding Jr., and you’ve got the most intriguing debut of 2016.

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (February 8, TBS)

We can finally stop wondering what a female-led late-night show for the 21st century would look like, and start dreading the endless scrutiny Bee’s about to face as the only one around. Luckily, Bee’s bullshit detector remains sharp as ever in her post-Daily Show days, and her show seems poised to join Conan in TBS’s roster of unabashedly interesting talk shows unburdened by the expectations of a major network (RIP, Pete Holmes Show).

Vinyl (February 14, HBO)

Terence Winter and patron Martin Scorsese return to HBO with another hourlong, morally ambiguous drama. This time, however, fellow executive producer Mick Jagger propels the duo forward from the 1920s — Winter and Scorsese last collaborated on Boardwalk Empire — into the literal sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll of the 1970s. The budget is high and the marketing-generated buzz is deafening for the network’s latest attempt to dominate Sunday nights.

The Path (March 30, Hulu)

It says something that the most interesting element of a drama about a cult featuring alumni of a landmark antihero drama (Aaron Paul), network television’s weirdest, greatest show in recent memory (Hugh Dancy), and the most thankless role in True Detective’s first season (Michelle Monaghan) isn’t even its premise. Instead, it’s The Path‘s status as Hulu’s first serious foray into drama now that it has two solid comedies — Difficult People and Casual — under its belt.

Game of Thrones Season 6 (April, HBO)

It takes a lot for a sixth-season show to stick out in today’s overcrowded TV landscape. Thanks to last season’s cliffhanger, this season’s shrewd previews pegged to said cliffhanger, and A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin’s news that there won’t be a sixth book in advance of Game of Thrones’ corresponding installment, though, the fantasy epic isn’t having much trouble.

Preacher (mid-2016, AMC)

Supernatural, hyper-violent comic book adaptations have done all right by AMC in the past, so the network betting big on this supernatural drama based on Garth Ennis’ series of the same name. It’s also an entry into both more serious territory and television producing for comedy partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, plus Breaking Bad alum Sam Catlin. No premiere date yet, but we already have a full trailer, which gives an idea of how much AMC wants this to be its next big hit.

Woody Allen’s Amazon series (TBD)

The notoriously embattled director took on this notoriously embattled project almost a year ago, and there’s still no premiere date. But Amazon’s latest prestige bid, and its first series to bypass the platform’s crowdsourced pilot season gimmick, is already in production and due out sometime this year. It’s a landmark in terms of both TV’s high-art street cred and Allen’s own career, one that’s sure to be analyzed to death.

Westworld (TBD, HBO)

Debuting with the unbeatable PR trifecta of cult film pedigree, JJ Abrams’ involvement, and an insane trade-publication story about extras in a massive sex scene, this HBO series from Jonathan Nolan doesn’t even need its knockout cast (Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, and Jeffrey Wright) to garner interest.