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20 Best TV Shows of 2016

From Samantha Bee and John Oliver raging against the machine to the greatest hip-hip sitcom ever, the year’s small-screen winners

Whatever else you say about 2016, it was a year packed with brilliant TV. The small screen gave us our most exhilarating and horrifying moments over the last 12 months, as the most restlessly innovative art form of our time kept evolving at warp speed. TV had it all: ambitious dramas, smart-ass comedies, political mockery, stoners, jokers, rappers, sci-fi monsters, trans truthers, Hollywood murder trials, the Battle of the Bastards and frozen waffles. These shows were the best of the best. (And check out of list of the 20 best TV characters of 2016.)

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‘Atlanta’ (FX)

A comedy hero for our times: Donald Glover shines as Earnest "Earn" Marks, a Princeton drop-out back in his hometown, trying to start his life over as a hip-hop manager. Glover's brainchild Atlanta stands as the most ambitious, outrageous, surreal and riotous thing to hit TV all year. Earn runs wild with his rapper cousin Paper Boi as well as stoner philosopher king Darius, who’s always up for a baked debate about whether Malcolm X is secretly still alive ("Nobody's seen the body since the funeral") or why black people don’t know who Steve McQueen is. (Darius does, but as he explains, "Yeah well, I'm Nigerian.") Atlanta digs into sex, money, race and fatherhood with truly fearless flair. As a big Community fan who’s been memorizing Glover's facial tics since Troy met Abed, I thought I already had a clear idea what a genius this guy is. I didn't. Here's to Season Two – Atlanta can't rise again fast enough.

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