List is not ranked.
The self-described sociopolitical comedian and dad, also the host of the tragically ill-fated talk show Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, launched an important new CNN series. In hourlong shows that play, per Bell, like No Reservations episodes about racism instead of chow, Bell spends time with the Ku Klux Klan, with East L.A.’s Latino community, in San Quentin prison, in Alaska and beyond, prodding at the central issues of our fractured nation. As the indispensable voice told Fuse, it's full of precious moments of "people laughing together who are reaching across the aisle with each other." And Season 2's coming with eight episodes, importantly debuting months after Donald Trump goes full POTUS on our asses.–Zach Dionne
Listen to Bell on Back of the Class at the 37:40 mark below:
When I heard Fox was premiering a TV series based on The Exorcist, one of the most iconic horror films ever, I was both excited and nervous. It’s no secret most horror reboots or sequels of classic franchisees almost never live up to the original. Out of curiosity I tuned in anyway with a bit of hope that I’d be wrong—and boy was I. Starring Academy Award–winner Geena Davis, The Exorcist has become one of my favorite new shows this year and one of my favorite horror series ever. Everything about the show is impressive; from genuinely unexpected plot twists to the effectively creepy tone achieved through great acting, cinematography and direction.
I’m not alone in my love for the series, either. With just a few episodes left this season, and live-viewing ratings not as impressive as other hit series (most viewers seem to be watching on Hulu, DVR or OnDemand), a fan-fueled #RenewTheExorcist campaign has taken off on social media, including online petitions for Fox to renew the freshman series. Hey Fox, it’s not often a horror reboot is done right and embraced by fans the way The Exorcist has been, so don’t mess up a good thing. After all, horror lovers are some of the best and most-loyal devotees to have. –Mark Sundstrom
Issa Rae brought her quirky-yet-relatable Awkward Black Girl vibes to Insecure, the HBO series that explores a side of the every day modern women that isn’t stereotypically sexual or combative. From the "Broken Pussy" anthem to raw displays of unfaithful relationships and corporate micro-aggressions, Insecure is never short of dull moments, keeping Twitter on its toes for days. The creation of the petty-as-fuck #LawrenceHive, which followed the much-discussed season finale, is all the more reason to tune in to Season 2! –Bianca Gracie
Samantha Bee was unexpectedly passed over in hosting The Daily Show when Jon Stewart left in 2015, but that may have been her lucky break in the end. Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS has more than made its mark on late-night television with the host's burning, on-point critiques, at times getting more coverage than some of the major network hosts. Bee has found a slew of her clips going viral (including her post-election monologue, with 3 million views to date, and a powerful speech on gun violence after the Orlando tragedy) not for their ridiculousness, but for her smart and fair takes. Even sweeter? Full Frontal is beating The Daily Show in ratings, too. –Jeff Benjamin
Fuse’s Clash of the Corps followed Drum Corps International's two most historically successful corps, the Cadets from Pennsylvania and the Blue Devils from Northern California. The docuseries dove into the world of drum corps and the story of the individuals that make it what it is today. Seven Bucks Productions captured the battles faced on and off the field in addition to struggles each member faced while striving to be the best. We saw the ins and outs, the blood, sweat and tears as both teams fought for the DCI World Championship title. It all proved drum corps is not your typical marching band. –Amissa Pitter
OWN delivered something we've been missing on television for a while, and have most likely never seen before—a true compelling black story of three siblings. Ava DuVernay and Oprah brought Natalie Baszile's novel to motion with the help of seven female directors (Neema Barnette, Tina Mabry, Kat Candler, Salli Richardson Whitfield, Victoria Mahoney, So Yong Kim, and Tanya Hamilton) entrusted to bring a unique perspective to the 13-episode show.
The drama series portrays southern black culture, NOLA culture to be exact. And the story of three Bordelon siblings working to rebuild their lives individually and collectively as well as maintaining a heavy inheritance their father left. Each episode left us on the edge of our seats wondering if Nova (Rutina Wesley), Charlie (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) and Ralph Angel Bordelon (Kofi Siriboe) could pull off the responsibility of owning an 800-acre sugarcane farm. It was a thrilling season, an emotional rollercoaster and one that should not be slept on.
Apart from a great storyline and unexpected scenarios, Queen Sugar gave us relevancy and realness. It broke down television barriers and touched on topics from our justice system, race, parenthood, infidelity, and more while still holding on to the main focus—the Bordelon family legacy. –Amissa Pitter
Louis C.K. has already secured his place in the TV hall of fame with his many stand-up specials and his preeminently ambitious, absurdist, continuity-be-damned FX series Louie. But one Saturday morning in January, he shared on his website a 67-minute pilot for his new show called Horace and Pete, another series made completely under his independent control, with him in the lead alongside Steve Buscemi. The surprisingly starry, live-theater-ish program returned every Saturday thereafter, typically for $3 an episode, with no indication of how long it would go. Then C.K. gave us the unprecedented TV-watching experience of learning, with Episode 10, that our new favorite show was suddenly over—or going dark for who knows how long. What a complete gift. –Zach Dionne
HBO worked with J.J Abrams, Lisa Joy and Christopher Nolan's writer brother Jonathan (The Dark Knight and TDK Rises, Interstellar) to build on its own Deadwood legacy, ending up with a towering sci-fi skyscraper of a show. The result hungrily weaves Lost-like character-driven mysteries with the sleekly realistic vibes of Ex Machina and Black Mirror, then glues it together with an android-sentience narrative for the ages, set in a doomed high-concept attraction straight from deceased Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton, who wrote/directed the 1973 movie Westworld is based on. –Zach Dionne
Listen to Fuse’s Back of the Class podcast discuss Westworld at the 39:30 mark:
Luke Cage was one of if not the most anticipated Marvel adaptations to come to Netflix. So it was no surprise that the day after its release, the streaming service experienced a major technical issue. That’s right, Luke Cage broke Netflix. With powerhouse actors such as Alfre Woodard and Mahershala Ali coupled with an amazing score composed by Ali Shaheed Muhammad (of the legendary A Tribe Called Quest) and Adrian Younge, Luke Cage’s success came as no surprise. However it was its cultural rich portrayal of Harlem, it’s presentation and celebration of African-American culture and its ability to incorporate present day pop culture into its storyline that made Marvel’s Luke Cage one of the best of 2016. –Malikah Shabazz
Listen to the Back of the Class podcast break down Luke Cage at the 14-minute mark:
Three great characters, various pivotal (and fascinating, fun) time periods in American history, a master villain who may or may not be a good guy, and a new adventure every week, plus a dangerous conspiracy = must-watch TV. My favorite new show of the year. Bonus: The time travelers keep making up names for themselves from pop culture. (“His ID says his name is Wesley Snipes.”) –Laurie Ulster
2016 has been a rough year with a lot of dark spots. Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg coming together for a cooking show on VH1, however, has been a shining beacon of light in the burning garbage pile. Though more of a hangout than an actual cooking series with recipes, Martha and Snoop have a genuine friendship and a mutual respect that’s apparent when they sit down to share a meal at the end of each episode. It’s a fun-loving half-hour that shows how a seemingly dissimilar white woman from the East Coast and an African-American rapper from the West Coast can find common ground in food, drinks and stories. –Brooke Bunce
The O.J. Simpson trial captivated the entire country back in 1994, and the show covers every single thing that explains why. The acting is totally uneven, but that’s half the fun: Cuba Gooding (Simpson) is all over the place, like he hasn’t even decided how he’s playing it, and John Travolta (Robert Shapiro) and David “Juice! Juice!” Schwimmer (Robert Kardashian) are just silly, but Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, and Courtney B. Vance (as Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden and Johnnie Cochrane, respectively) are amazing and hold it all together. It’s as compelling as the original event itself. –Laurie Ulster
Lovably incorrigible Louis C.K. collaborator Pamela Adlon (Louie, Californication, Lucky Louie) finally got her own autobiographical FX series 18 months after we first heard the news. And holy shit is it honest, bleakly and realistically hilarious, and masterfully performed. The 10 episodes, detailing Adlon's working actress/single mom Sam Fox raising her three daughters and navigating a complicated and befuddling social life, were written entirely by Adlon and C.K. Thank the gods of auteur TV that Better Things (which had the strange task of premiering just after Stranger Things) is coming back for Season 2. –Zach Dionne
One of the many things to define 2016 was the cultural phenomenon of Stranger Things. The plotline was so gripping and thought-provoking that binge-watchers everywhere regretted inhaling the episodes so quickly, and its cast was nearly unbeatable. There were the show's young heroes Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Eleven, along with Winona Ryder's heralded comeback role as Joyce, not to mention Shannon Purser as the internet's new obsession, Barb. There was almost too much good in the Netflix smash, which will make Season 2 all the more anticipated (and even tougher to pull off successfully). –Jeff Benjamin
What do you get when you combine Black pop culture references, the dirty south, rap music and Donald Glover? FX’s Atlanta, one of the most innovative series to come out of television this year. Glover (who is also the show’s creator) plays Earn, a broke-ass guy living with his baby momma while moonlighting as his cousin Paper Boi’s manager. The actor’s refreshing take on the rap world and incredibly smart humor, combined with the surrealist imagery, led to the show being picked up for a second season. –Bianca Gracie
Watch Atlanta star Bryan Tyree Henry tell Fuse his top five hip-hop movies:
Nancy Drew, meet Broad City. In this Alia Shawkat–starring dark comedy, an innocent search for a college acquaintance turns into a twisted journey of self-discovery. While the show’s mystery pulls you in, the on-point satire of four self-absorbed, floating 20-somethings in New York City will keep you firmly rooted in front of the screen. TBS dropped the series all at once, which is kind of perfect for our binge-obsessed culture; you’ll laugh, cringe and gasp—especially at the ending, when things take a really dark turn. –Brooke Bunce
Executive-produced by John Legend, the show takes place in Georgia, where a group of slaves are planning an escape that will take them 600 miles across the country. The stakes couldn’t be higher and the acting is stellar, with standout performances from Aldis Hodge, Jurnee Smollet-Bell, Chris Meloni and Amirah Vann in particular. It’s harsh, terrifying and mesmerizing. –Laurie Ulster
The show’s a little heavy-handed—okay, a lot—but it kicked off with a gripping, innovative premise and it’s been fascinating to watch the story unfold. In the first episode, someone blows up the Capitol during the State of the Union Speech, and a low-level cabinet member instantly becomes the President. And it’s Kiefer Sutherland! –Laurie Ulster
Like much of the best television, Divorce stands out for its the realistic picture it paints. Main characters Frances and Robert (played by Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church) kick off the series attempting to amicably dissolve their marriage before real life kicks in and things gets nasty, depressing and ridiculous real quick. SJP's HBO return isn't glamorous as Sex in the City, but it is another important role which many viewers can relate to and see themselves in. –Jeff Benjamin
AMC already had an über-successful adaptation of one of the best graphic novels of all time with The Walking Dead. But they did it again, on a much higher-operating scale, with Preacher, based on the legendary '90s comic that had been in Hollywood's fiery development hell for years. Developers Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Sam Catlin worked seamlessly with actors Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga and Joseph Gilgun to offer a perfect appetizer for the juicily, violently blasphemous saga we'll see in the years to come. –Zach Dionne
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