By Eugene Sims
2017 will start off with a few new show premiering, so before we get to my picks for the best shows of 2016, let’s take a look at what’s new next week.
Sunday, January 1
‘The Mick’ is a new series from the ‘It’s Always Sunny in Phillie’ gang. A mouthy two-bit hustler without a responsible bone in her body gets to care for her sister’s kids as she evades her legal issues. Look for it on Fox at 8pm.
‘Ransom’ debuts on CBS at 8:30pm. It’s a series about globetrotting crisis negotiators. And it sounds like the usual CBS tripe designed for the middle-aged and above.
‘Conviction’ moves to Sunday at 10 on ABC. This series doesn’t quite know that it’s dead yet.
Monday, January 2
‘Shadowhunters’ return to Freeform at 8pm.
‘Beyond’ is a brand new series about a young man that wakes up from a 12 year coma with special powers. It’s from the people that brought you ‘Heroes’. Look for it on Monday on Freeform at 9pm. But here’s the kicker… 2 hour premiere and boom! You can binge on the remaining 10 episodes on Hulu while you get the weeklies on Freeform.
‘Murdoch Mysteries (The Artful Detective)’ drops on Acorn TV. And yes, there’s an app for that.
Tuesday, January 3
Bones is back on Fox at 9pm. This is the long awaited final season premiere.
I believe that it should have gone away a very long time ago.
Top 5 Best New Television Shows of 2016
Number 5: ‘The Exorcist’ from FOX is the ONLY over-the-air network show to make my list this year. The series starts off good, but the second episode will creep you out and the power of Christ will compel you to watch more.
In the first episode you get the classic fedora, an online article about the priest’s death in Georgetown, AND you get the money shot… “Tubular Bells” closing the first installment.
This series takes place in the same universe as ‘The Exorcist’ films. There’s MORE that I could divulge, but I’m not one to write about spoilers.
Where’s the fun in that?
Casey Rance (Hannah Kasulka) is a young woman that starts acting strangely. Her mother, Angela Rance (Geena Davis), takes notice. She goes to a young priest named Father Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) for help. After an experience with the possessed young lady, the young priest enlists the help of a veteran priest, Father Marcus (Ben Daniels), who has a history of performing exorcisms.
Father Marcus lost a young man to a demon. He was “retired” and assigned to a fortunate spot close to Chicago where the series takes place.
There’s also a subplot where the rich and affluent followers of Satan are planning on purging the world of the Pope when His Holiness visits the Windy City on a future date. That may also explain why so many supernatural and grisly things are happening in Second City.
The series is sitting on the bubble for cancellation so I don’t have high hopes for its return. But that doesn’t deter me from recommending the series especially if you’re a fan of the movies.
Coming in at number 4 is ‘Luke Cage’ from Netflix.
This series is based on the Marvel Comics series that capitalized on the boom of blaxploitation films during the 1970s. The book didn’t last too long as the popularity of blaxploitation films waned during the Carter administration.
Carl Lucas (Mike Colter) is a former convict that was involved in an experiment that was sabotaged. Of course, as with most interrupted experiments, Lucas got super strength and unbreakable skin.
Lucas adopts the name Luke Cage for a fresh start and unavoidably sets out to protect his part of the Marvel Universe in New York City from Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali) and his cousin and local councilwoman Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard). As more baddies pop up, Cage becomes a wanted man by local police after being framed for a crime he didn’t commit. His biggest allies are NYPD Detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick) and Daredevil’s “personal” nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson).
This series is well written, well directed, well acted, and chocked full of intrigue. The fantastic incidental music pays homage to the blaxploitation flicks from the 1970s.
Even though the series is set in the here and now, that incidental music has the underlying message of not forgetting one’s roots.
And that’s what the first season is about as an origin story. We get all the main players and Cage isn’t a one dimensional character like Superman. ‘Luke Cage’ is layered and textured not only as a character, but also as a series. Because in Cage’s world, not all is what it seems.
It’s refreshing to hear Cage’s catchphrase “Sweet Christmas” taken from the earlier comics. It gives the viewer an idea about Cage’s good guy nature.
One of my favorite scenes has Cage wearing his traditional costume from the 70s. We saw him ditch it to adopt the more hipper attire given to Cage’s character in the 1990s. The look consists of jeans and a hoodie.
‘Luke Cage’ is a comic series for people that don’t care for the costumed heroes that populate the Marvel Universe. There will be tie-ins with other Marvel series, but Cage is able to stand alone.
When you have “Internet breaking” ratings, you’re going to get picked up for a second season. And ‘Luke Cage’ has been renewed by Netflix.
Coming in at number 3 is another Netflix series… ‘Stranger Things’
‘Stranger Things’ is a supernatural thriller that centers on a group of “geeky” Dungeons & Dragons players. One of them, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), is riding his bike home and encounters a government experiment on the loose. The kid disappears. The mother, Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), isn’t convinced that her son is dead. The local police chief, Jim Hopper (David Harbour), smells something much more pungent than the dead kid and his “crazy” mother. He smells like something is being covered up by the government.
Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), one of the D&D’ers, makes a new friend that’s named Eleven. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is psychokinetic with a limited vocabulary. She is on the run from a secret government organization led by Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine). She becomes friendly with the D&D group of kids. The group of geeks discovers her abilities as she protects them from the shadowy government group that wants her back.
The Byers clan joins forces with the geeks, Eleven, the local police chief, and Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) who wants her brother back.
The series can be shocking and sweet at times. And like the series ‘Red Oaks’ on Amazon and ‘The Americans’ on FX, it doesn’t poke fun at the 1980s. It’s merely a backdrop and not used for smarmy punch lines or sight gags that other series like to weave into the fabric.
‘Stranger Things’ takes great care in the telling of a story. It’s infectious and it’s well done. And the first season only consists of 8 episodes. Perfect for watching again when you’re in a “show hole”.
Number 2 on my list… ‘Atlanta’ from FX.
‘Atlanta’ is a comedy series about two cousins making a go of it in Atlanta’s rap music scene. Earnest Marks (Donald Glover) is a Princeton dropout that manages the budding career of his cousin, Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) while trying to iron out his personal life. Vanessa (Zazie Beetz) is his ex-girlfriend and mother of his child.
And then there’s Darius (Keith Stanfield) who is Paper Boi’s right hand man and comic relief.
The comedy in this series isn’t of the knee-slapping and side-splitting variety. It’s more on a cerebral level that gives your brain the gut buster. Race relations are broken down and examined through comedy with surreal and thought provoking scenarios.
Justin Bieber is depicted as a black man when the Biebs rubs Paper Boi the wrong way. It’s not only a statement on race relations, but it’s also a commentary on celebrity and manipulation of the media.
Paper Boi’s appearance on the satirical episode entitled “B.A.N.” examines opinions concerning trans people along with the complexity of free speech. They toss in fantastic commercial parodies, so be careful when watching with the fast-forward feature.
And the “Juneteenth” episode is priceless.
As for the finest surreal episode, “The Club” has the moments that will create belly laughs at the end.
Overall, the series has a slow and deliberate comedic burn to it. The series never gets out of control.
And my number one best new show of 2016… ‘Preacher’ from AMC
‘Preacher’ is based on a DC Comic that I have yet to start reading. But it’s not a superhero kind of series.
Jessie Custer is a reformed outlaw that has returned to his home in Texas to fulfill a promise to his deceased father. He tends to his father’s church and its flock. But things take a drastic change when something from outer space collides with Jessie. Jessie’s ex-girlfriend Tulip shows up attempting to get him back in “the game”. And there’s Cassidy, the Irishman that battles passengers in an airliner before leaving without a parachute.
‘Preacher’ is a dark little comedy that can be quite violent and bloody. You won’t know what to think after the first episode, but there are nagging questions that make you want to investigate further.
I realize that I’m not giving you a whole lot in order to “sell” you this series, but I want you to have fun with the series along the way.
The characters are quite colorful and eccentric.
Jackie Earle Haley is fantastic as Odin Quincannon. He’s the most powerful man in Annville who runs Quincannon Meat & Power.
And look for the high school mascots throughout the series. There seems to be a reluctant force that doesn’t want politically correct change.
I realize that 80% my top five this year is made up of supernatural and comic based series. But that’s just the way it falls. I didn’t find too many good comedies and very few good dramas.
HBO’s ‘Westworld’ was posted on my wall until I lost HBO and I didn’t get to finish the series. That series, another sci-fi, deserves honorable mention.
The return of ‘Gilmore Girls’ on Netflix also gets a nod of approval. But it’s a reboot and therefore cannot be considered a “new show”.