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Top 5 TV Shows of 2016

2016 has been a legendary year for television. As technologies, budgets, content and overall scale increased, television breached uncharted territory. Shows are bolder, sharper and more impressive than ever before. I invited The Daily Cardinal Arts desk to share some of their favorites of the year.—Ben Golden

“Westworld”

“Westworld,” HBO’s new series, embeds elements of the western genre within a sci-fi world to make a multi-layered and gripping first season. The show depicts a fantastical American-Western landscape populated by “hosts,” life-like robots built to serve the needs of human guests who come to visit, role-play and escape to a world without consequences. When some of these hosts begin to question their own realities, this utopian world begins to fall apart. Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton are exceptional as hosts Dolores and Maeve. Anthony Hopkins delivers a solid performance as Robert Ford, founder of the park. With unexpected yet satisfying twists, “Westworld” will leave viewers questioning what is real and what is not. —SM

“The Crown”

“The Crown,” the most expensive series Netflix has produced, provides a compelling look into the Queen’s ascension and the early days of her reign. Known for his various works about the royal family, Peter Morgan is back with his favorite subject, Queen Elizabeth II. It’s a fascinating and mostly historically accurate look within the inner workings of the family. The writing and award-worthy performances, especially by Jonathan Lithgow as Winston Churchill, brilliantly show the balance of family life and privacy and their privileged positions as royalty and figureheads that are not actually desired. —RL

“Black Mirror”

“Black Mirror,” a British drama series reminiscent of “The Twilight Zone,” is sweeping the U.S. and our Netflix accounts. Each episode has its own stand-alone plot, driving us to contemplate our own existence with fascinating, satirical and disturbing commentary about modern life and technology. For example, one episode features a memory “re-do” bug implanted in a user's head, allowing them to review any memory at any time that drives a young couple to question their relationship. “Black Mirror” validates our hesitations about technology and artificial intelligence. Instead of making us crave the benefits of technology, it gives us pause to ask “At what cost?” —Katie Scheidt

“Atlanta”

“Atlanta” showcases the highs and lows of day-to-day life, featuring a beautiful blend of comedy and realism. Ranging from high school football star Troy Barnes on “Community” to his multi-faceted rap persona Childish Gambino, Donald Glover has proven his ability to transform himself. In “Atlanta,” Glover plays Earnest “Earn” Marks, a college dropout looking to make a living for himself and his daughter. The show encompasses not only Earn’s struggle, but those of young adults. “Atlanta” is a perfect mix of one man’s attempts to improve his life sprinkled with cynical humor and a touch of social commentary that coalesce in a show that is real and honest. —Logan Rude

“This Is Us”

“This Is Us” is, without a doubt, one of the most inclusive, kind and captivating television shows of 2016. The show embraces diversity on every level—from casting decisions firmly rooted in the importance of on-screen representation of bodies, skin tones and abilities, to how the plot conceptualizes time within a variety of relationship dynamics—all while staying true to the crux of the show’s message: the value of family. Without sounding like too much of a sentimentalist, “This Is Us” will leave you with the overwhelming desire to hug everyone you know after each episode. 2016 was a rough year overall, but the creation of “This Is Us” made it a little bit sweeter—a task that only a “Best Of” show could achieve. —LV

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