The fiery, feminist-leaning UnREAL revolves around the cast and producers of Everlasting, a fictional reality TV show that mimics our real-life version of The Bachelor. The Lifetime series isn’t subtle about the messages it’s trying to send—much like reality TV as we know it. Season 2 goes where the real-life Bachelor has yet to go, and possibly never will: It casts a black man as its romantic lead (called “the suitor” in Everlasting land).
The relevancy to our nonfictional news cycle doesn’t stop there: one contestant parades around in a Confederate flag bikini, defending “the way things used to be,” while another dons an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt to make a statement about police brutality. UnREAL proves that reality TV, while seemingly far from our actual lives, can turn the lens around and point it straight back at our biases, perceptions, and preconceived notions of the truth. –Brooke Bunce
Louis C.K.'s 10-part, live-theater-feeling, self-distributed series set in a Brooklyn bar owned by one family for 100 years, is his darkest and intentionally least-funny project yet. At a point in the eighth episode, Horace (C.K.) sits with his brother Pete, played by Steve Buscemi (and revealed early on to actually have unknowingly Horace's cousin his entire life). Pete is dependent on a powerful anti-psychotic medication which, after a decade of use, is being taken off the market. He faces devastation we've only seen a tiny glimpse of previously, and an indefinite return to a psychiatric hospital, where "it's not like you have some good days and some bad days—you don't...no, you don't have anything." Horace asks if Pete can make the most of his remaining time on the medication. He answers:
"What can I do? For what? I mean, you know, part of living my life is waking up, y'know, going to work, taking care of myself, carrying on my relationships, sleeping, eating. It's not a joyful life, y'know? But you do it because you know there's always some potential. I mean, some days are okay. And even if they're not, then you know you can have an okay one. Or maybe even a great day. So you sort of...you're just biding your time to see what happens next, see what life offers. Maybe hit the lottery. Meet someone special. Maybe the Mets'll win the playoffs, if they make it into the playoffs. Or like looking forward to Easter this year. I like talking to you, I like TV. But you gotta understand, Horace: my life is about to be a nightmare. My mind is gonna drift into madness. I mean, you have no idea what it's like. I mean, you can't. I can't do it. I won't do it. ... You see these pills? Okay? When that runs out, none of this shit exists. And when I take that last one, and it wears off, the darkest cloud that you can imagine is going to form inside my mind. You give me one good reason why I should walk into that shit again. Alright? Just gimme a reason why I shouldn't do like my dad and fucking shoot myself. ... Try 'the floor has teeth, and it's biting you.' The five years that I was in there, that was forever. The 10 years I've been out went by like a minute."
It's the strongest of a deluge of jaw-dropping, heart-wrenching moments, like the final two scenes (which nobody watching in real-time knew were the series' final scenes, till the very end), and Laurie Metcalf's episode-opening nine-minute monologue, an unbroken close-up on her face. And, certainly, this extended conversation Horace has the morning after sleeping with a woman he didn't know was transgender, with her explaining that she is in charge of when—or whether—he should get to learn that information:
Show-watchers waited 59 hours for it; book-readers, 4,000 pages. But in the Season 6 finale, Daenerys finally rode Drogon into fire-breathing action, busting Viersion and Rhaegal out in the process, and reminded everyone why she's the only power in the world that might stand a chance against the White Walkers. –Zach Dionne
Listen to the Back of the Class podcast talk about the Game of Thrones Season 6 finale:
Gay characters are almost so commonplace now on TV that it's remarkable when one needs to come out, much less one that's a grown man. But lovable teddy bear Mikey from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt needed to tell his very Italian family, and he and fabulously tragic boyfriend Titus planned the perfectly dramatic reveal. That is, until it wasn't dramatic at all and Mikey's dad was totally cool with it, referencing the new Pope. But what makes the scene brilliant is how Titus is actually upset with Mikey's family's acceptance and wants drama so *he* can deliver a monologue, flipping the whole perception that coming out needs to be a controversial matter on its head.
Also shoutout to the creators for making the family's Italian grandmother played by a Muppet—a Muppet who's the biggest ally of them all. –Jeff Benjamin
There are a million great scenes in Season 2, among them the moment when Frankie shows Brianna a painting of her vagina, painted with her vagina, hoping it will become the package art for the lube they’re partnering on. But the very best scene in the season comes, appropriately, at the end of the final episode, when Grace and Frankie have finally had it and let loose on their ex-husbands and children at the same time, refusing to be marginalized anymore and informing them that they’re starting up a business making vibrators for older women with arthritis. “Older women masturbate, too," Grace says. “And," adds Frankie, "we have vaginas.” –Laurie Ulster
The host of FX's progressive late night show Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell got a new show this year, a CNN travel-docuseries where the sociopolitical comedian seeks out locations and situations an American black man may find unwelcoming or dangerous. He went all-in on the first episode, taking part in several frank sit-downs with members of the Ku Klux Klan, eventually attending a cross burning for the conclusion. Essential, harrowing viewing. –Zach Dionne
Daredevil’s second year was one of the most anticipated seasons on TV and online streaming in recent memory. Once it dropped in April, critics and fans universally loved the new season, and for good reason, as it was filled with phenomenally awesome moments. Moments like the continuous stairwell fight scene, with Daredevil rescuing the Punisher, Daredevil being gifted his patented billy club; I mean, I can do this all day. I'm going to go with prison scene where Frank Castle has to escape a cell block full of inmates. In this brutal scene, we watch as the Punisher goes to work against a gang of bloodthirsty prisoners who, at the command of the nefarious Kingpin, want to end him. The moment features outstanding camera work, hard-hitting fight choreography, intense acting and top-notch directing. Also, there’s shanking. Lots of shanking. All the makings for a supremely kickass moment in the series and in TV, period. If this doesn’t hype you up for the stand-alone Punisher Netflix series, then nothing will. –Juan Cadavid
Big Freedia making a cameo on Beyoncé’s “Formation” song was one of the biggest music highlights of 2016 thus far, and the moment Freedia received the unexpected call was just as exciting. During an episode of Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, the entertainer is seen in her kitchen when the phone rings with Queen Bey on the line. "No matter how big she get or whatever, she still just gonna be a black Southern girl,” Freedia told Fuse.tv about their conversation. So whenever you see an unknown number pop up on your iPhone screen, do not block it. You never know which superstar could be calling! –Bianca Gracie
While Broad City continued on the hot streak it hit last season, nothing really said the New York City–based show had "made it" past its targeted demo like the time Hillary Clinton made a cameo. The episode itself was incredible, with Abbi's all-too-real DMV struggles and Ilana's all-too-real millennial-navigating-the-workforce struggle. But ending it with the best friends choking up as the Democratic presidential nominee struts into campaign headquarters was a breaking moment for all the three talents involved. Yassssss, queens! –Jeff Benjamin
Preacher's intro to the Irish vampire Cassidy was one of the most exciting, capably filmed action scenes seen on TV this year. Meeting Tulip, though, was a life-changing experience. It's not just the cornfield fight in the backseat of a car; it's the way she goes immediately on to throw on a head scarf and sit in a kitchen with some random kids she's just met while she builts a bazooka out of fat tin cans. We don't get to witness her destroying the unknown baddies' helicopter with it—that goes down offscreen, with budget-saving grace—but we're already so deeply in love with the significantly tweaked adaptation of the graphic novel character that it doesn't matter. –Zach Dionne
HBO's lovely little Duplass dramedy aired its series finale this spring after just two seasons. Early on, Michelle (beautifully played by Two and a Half Men's Melanie Lynskey) confesses her Season 1–closing infidelity to Brett (Mark Duplass) at the end of a great party they've hosted. They're sitting on their bed, across from each other, and Brett, drunk, can only stare, dumbfounded. Until he vomits all over the bed and his guilt-wracked wife. Not pretty, but not even remotely expected. –Zach Dionne
For most of Season 6 of The Walking Dead, a brand new baddie was teased. Folks in the know (or anyone with an internet connection) predicted this new villain would be Negan, infamous from the Walking Dead comics for ruling with an iron fist, or actually with his badass barbed wire-covered baseball bat. The reveal of Negan, played by the amazing Jeffrey Dean Morgan, was already a spectacular way to end the season, but the Walking Dead writers kicked it up a notch. After the majority of the main characters are caught by the Saviors, Negan’s loyal followers, things get dark, fast. Negan, in his creepy yet calm, authoritative drawl, lets them know who he is, and that they’re going to regret messing with his people. After playing an edge-of-your-seat version of eeny, meeny, miney, mo with each character, Negan’s bat swings and suddenly we’re seeing the POV of its victim. Everything goes dark and the episode ends, without any inkling of who just got (possibly) offed. –Mark Sundstrom
The first full season of the Full House sequel series was cheesy fun (with lessons! For kids!), and the double-wedding of the finale was a fine set piece, but the most memorable moment was the sight of the Tanner clan back together for the first time in the series premiere, joking around the kitchen table about how good they collectively look. Before D.J. and her kids took center stage, we needed a heavy dose of nostalgia…and with Saget, Stamos and Coulier in tow, we got just that. –Jason Lipshutz
The writing on The Mindy Project kills me; it’s ridiculous how many times the words coming out of Mindy’s mouth make me crack up laughing, even when it’s just me in front of my TV. But she’s also a master of physical comedy, which I noticed early in the show’s run when she kept sliding off then-boyfriend Cliff’s satin sheets and onto the floor.
So my favorite comedy moment, this season, happens when she visits Peter in Texas. Left alone for the day, she takes a walk through his wife Lauren’s “succulent garden,” and tries to take a picture of a cactus. She leans back into a different one, shouts and jumps away in pain, lands in another one, shouts jumps away in pain, then falls into the pool.
It’s almost as funny the second time she falls in the pool, and, not realizing how shallow it is, flails and splashes as if she’s drowning, all the while holding her popsicle up so it doesn’t get wet, but nope! The cactus wins.
(And yes, she does fall in the pool a third time.) (And yes, I laughed again.) –Laurie Ulster
Throughout the second half of Season 3 of The Fosters we see Callie Adams-Foster working to make her Fost and Found app better and reach a wider audience, with the help of investor and foster kids advocate Justina Marks. It slowly becomes apparent to the viewer, but unfortunately not Callie, that Justina may not be exactly who she claims to be. Before a big party to unveil the new Fost and Found app, which Justina is now an admin for, Callie finds out her mentor actually works for a company involved in the privatization of foster care, something Callie is strongly against as it results in bad foster families getting into the system simply because they can get paid. At the party, Callie gets onstage and exposes Justina, denouncing her support. The problem? Somehow Justina knows about Callie and foster-brother Brandon’s secret romantic past and wastes no time revealing it via the app. This could mean big trouble for Callie, who, after a long battle, was finally adopted by Brandon’s family. –Mark Sundstrom
There were so many big moments on Orange Is the New Black this season that stand out, but the Big One is the one that you don’t want to know about if you haven’t seen the show yet. I mean it: do not keep going if you haven’t watched it, because this is a major event that happens at the very end of the season.
It’s the death scene, and it’s important because it speaks to prison life, to #BlackLivesMatter, and to every emotion we’ve invested in these characters since Season 1. Piper isn’t the star of the show anymore, because, like us, she’s no longer an outsider at Litchfield. When the inmates get up on the tables, one by one, in protest, as we’ve known they were going to do eventually, and the guards move in, we know something terrible’s going to happen. But it happens to the last person we expect it to, and it happens because the guards aren’t seeing her as a person at all.
It’s a brilliant scene, hitting us on a deeply personal level because we love Poussey, and a political one at the same time, showing us the grief and agony behind a number, a name, a news headline. The choice of who actually kills her is important, because he’s the one who’s supposed to be sort of a good guy, amongst the baddies. We know there’s some decency deep within him, but by not standing up for what’s right when it matters, he becomes the perpetrator of the worst act of all. The scene is mesmerizing in its power and its very preventable tragedy.
As always, the acting on OITNB is stellar. Have some Kleenex handy. –Laurie Ulster
Judd Apatow's Paul Rust/Gillian Jacobs–starring Netflix series is a nice little jewel we can't wait to see more of. But a particular surprise happens in its first season, when 53-year-old Eels frontman Mark Oliver Everett, a.k.a. E, shows up to do a little acting. "It's intimidating and terrifying because you're not one of them, and you're consciously aware of that," E told Fuse of the challenge. "I really enjoy it, ultimately." –Zach Dionne
For all of his political and personal scheming, President Frank Underwood is not bulletproof...and in Season 4 of the Netflix drama, we found that out in stunning fashion. The midseason assassination attempt by the panic-stricken Lucas Goodwin was a gasp-worthy action sequence on a show built around knotty dialogue, and although Underwood ended up surviving the shooting, our hearts skipped a beat with the character. –Jason Lipshutz
I’m not supposed to talk about the horse scene—and if you say “What horse scene?” then you haven’t seen that episode yet—but that still leaves a lot of excellent choices. Ehrlich trying to talk while smoking is a classic, along with Dinesh’s gold chain, and Richard comparing himself to Hitler while on a date.
But the winner is the hideous Pied Paper jacket that Jared loves, the one Gilfoyle wouldn’t use to cover his naked dead mother in the street. That doesn’t stop him from borrowing it and tormenting Dinesh in at a local coffee shop. –Laurie Ulster