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In Memoriam: 2016 TV

In which we eulogize the best shows we lost last year.

In Memoriam: 2016 TV

With the monster-sized Academy Awards In Memoriam reel looming in February, it seems like the right time to get our grief-muscles prepped by eulogizing the television shows we lost in 2016.

2016, as every year, saw many shows fall to the television gods. Some were good, many were bad. A few, though, were great. We gather here now to eulogize these lost giants, and to encourage you to spend your winter weekends bingeing them in tribute.

NB: Not all of these are YA-adjacent, but they are all well within the wheelhouse of our FYA fam — we are vast; we contain multitudes. 

GOOD GIRLS REVOLT

2016-2016
Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death! - Virginia Woolf

If you only have time for one cancellation-binge this holiday season, make it Amazon’s revolutionary, surprisingly comforting Good Girls Revolt. It’s short, ends on a decisive moment of change, and offers a kind of optimism that is uncannily relevant to the march into 2017.

“But didn't that JUST premiere??” you may be asking yourself. And yep! It sure did, to pretty much universal critical approval — Newsweek, whose very newsroom is the fictionalized source of sexist conflict in the show, even named it one of their favorites of 2016. But then, just five weeks after they hit the big red STREAM! button, Amazon declined to renew it for a second season. The official cause of death was given as low numbers (whatever that means in AmazonLand), but anecdotal evidence from behind the scenes paints a more frustrating, possibly sexist, definitely dismissive picture.

Whatever the true cause of death, Good Girls Revolt deserves all the eyes it can get, especially here at the end of the frustratingly, dismissively sexist year we've had in 2016: Watch it, learn it, go out and start a revolution.

This binge comes with a bonus gift — a chance for each of us to try and save it! Sony had until cast options expired on December 31 to shop it around to other networks, and even though that date has technically passed, fans can still help boost buzz using the hashtag #SaveGoodGirlsRevolt.

Binge stats: 10 episodes, 7 hours 20 minutes (Amazon Prime)

HOUDINI & DOYLE

2016-2016
Steel True, Blade Straight - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This criminally underrated gem was burned off by FOX in the no-man’s land of late spring. Its premise was as delightful as it was incomprehensible: Harry Houdini (character actor Michael Weston, finally given a lead role to kill in) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Stephen Mangan) team up as an investigative duo consulting with the London constabulary on all cases with a whiff of the supernatural — Houdini to disprove the supernatural and unmask charlatans, Doyle to prove the existence of phenomena beyond our ken. Their official police escort, given them as a ploy to keep her occupied away from “real” police work, is the indomitable Adelaide Stratton (Rebecca Liddiard), London’s first policewoman. One of their cases involve a creature of local legend scuttling up building walls. It is fantastic.

Making a good historical mystery series is tough; making a good historical mystery series that is also a supernatural spookfest and is also a romantic comedy and is also a sociopolitical drama, all while being tight, breezy, and affecting? Dang.

This show deserved way more love than it got (and Michael Weston and Rebecca Liddiard way more time getting to make names for themselves with their lead characters).

Binge stats: 9 episodes, 6 hours 40 minutes (Available for purchase on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, etc.)

BRAINDEAD

2016-2016
Goddamn you all: I told you so - H. G. Wells

Oh, what a perfectly odd, perfectly fun show this was — and in retrospect, how much more attractive its premise of alien ants eating the brains of everyone in DC, than what the rest of 2016 ultimately gave us.

It is impossible to do BrainDead justice in any written format, no matter the length, but the gist of it is: Laurel Healy, bleeding-heart liberal documentarian née American political scion (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, in stellar deadpan), is blackmailed by her retired politician father to stay in DC working for her senator brother (Danny Pino) for six months, in exchange for funding for the rest of her island music documentary. Once there, she has a scientist’s head explode in her face, then is roped into conspiracy theorist Gustav’s (Johnny Ray Gill) paranoid investigation into the cause, then discovers that the cause is alien ants whose prime objective is making humans fight each other into extinction (that sounds like a spoiler, but honestly this show could not be spoiled if someone tried). She also falls in love with the lead Republican senator’s chief aide (Aaron Tveit).

It makes almost no sense, and wraps up so quickly you’ll wonder briefly if your own brains weren’t eaten by alien ants, but it is SO. FUN. You and the family members of every political stripe you’ll be stuck with over the holidays will all agree on at least that.

Binge stats: 13 episodes, 9 hours 30 minutes (CBS All Access, Amazon Prime)

AGENT CARTER

2015-2016
Were there but a few hearts and intellects like hers this earth would already become the hoped-for heaven - Harriet Stuart Mill

A moment of actual silence for this loss, please.

Hayley Atwell is a marvel, and a gift to all humanity. Her Agent Peggy Carter is who we should all aspire to be when we grow up, no matter how old we are right now. And her vehicle, this madcap High Comics Aesthetic historical fiction series on ABC — well, it was just everything that is fun and vital about television. The costumes are incredible. The makeup and hair: you will die. The serialized Captain America radio drama framing the first season in NYC! The MUSICAL DREAM in the second season in sunny LA! The MEN.

Honestly, one of the biggest revelations of the searingly, inspirationally feminist Agent Carter was how deeply it endeared good men to the audience. Peggy Carter had to fight hourly against pervasive sexism — amongst her colleagues, in the world at large, even in her family. But she simultaneously succeeded and thrived because of the good men who found her and understood her capabilities and made themselves available to her cause: Edwin Jarvis, Daniel Sousa, Jason Wilkes, and, most amazingly, the smarm king himself, Howard Stark. ESPECIALLY Howard Stark. What an absolute joy to watch, the back-and-forth between Peggy and Howard.

This is a show that was taken from us well before its time. Let us only hope that, with Atwell’s other ABC starring vehicle (Conviction) being all-but cancelled, there is hope yet to return to Peggy Carter’s technicolor spy world. We need her now more than ever.

Binge stats: 18 episodes, 18 hours (Amazon, YouTube, iTunes)

THE NIGHTLY SHOW WITH LARRY WILMORE

2015-2016
His foe was folly and his weapon wit - Anthony Hope Hopkins

This is a loss we are still feeling — not because The Nightly Show was perfect (the “character” work pieces were almost always grating and 75% too long, and none more so than the Trump impressionist that appeared daily in the last few months before cancellation), but because Wilmore and his solid, diverse team infused their unapologetic (and very funny!) coverage of the world’s trash fires with such a welcome and necessary combination of warmth and informed outrage, and because the panel discussion format that they had juuuuuust gotten the hang of was, when it was on point, such a novel, useful feature in the nightly comedy talk show landscape.

The fact that they were pulled in the middle of the 2016 campaign season at all, AND with less than a week’s notice, was…well, we were about to say “a shock to the system,” but the way the American media system has always been, it really isn’t shocking. What it was was a slap in the face. We need to listen to the voices of people of color and women, and need to broaden mainstream to include that diversity, rather than consign those voices to niche-dom. We needed it before the election, and we need it now. And we need to laugh while doing it!

Larry and all: I miss you.

A topical comedy show from before the results came in on November 9 probably won’t end up high on anyone’s holiday marathon list, but if you want to honor Wilmore and his team in some small way, pour one out while re-watching his pie chat with rival Baltimore gangs during the Freddie Gray protests, and this panel discussion with Franchesca Ramsey, Holly Walker, and BuzzFeed’s Quinta Brunson on the Milwaukee protests and the “POC only” roommate request controversy from their last week on air:


Luckily, Larry Wilmore is still giving us the tea as an EP on Issa Rae’s Insecure and ABC’s black-ish. Also, Franchesca Ramsey still has her own series over at MTV — Decoded — and it is fire. Keep your ears and eyes open!

Binge stats: 260 episodes, 5 days 9 hours (CC.com, Hulu)

FAKING IT

2014-2016
The best is yet to come - Frank Sinatra

Here you go! A categorically FYA show: the fake lesbian woke high school comedy of our dreams.

Everything about MTV’s three-season “pretending to be lesbians for the likes” comedy Faking It was perfect. Everything. Every character, every joke, every 2-progressive-2-exist detail about Hester High, every slightly-off note of Gregg Sulkin’s weak American accent: perfection.

Getting the news that MTV had pulled the plug on Amy and Karma’s sweet, progressive, laugh-a-minute adventures (and epic maybe-romance) the same week as seeing the axe fall on ABC’s Agent Carter was…well, at the time, it felt like the literal worst feeling that 2016 could deliver. Obviously that was untrue! But the way 2016 unfolded, the pain of these two losses is, in retrospect, extra keen.

Do yourself a favor and watch this show with everyone you love, and everyone you hate (Lauren and Shane would approve), over and over and over until the end of time. Honestly, if enough people seemed like they were into it, I'd volunteer to do a rewatch recap series, here or elsewhere. I'll be watching it all over again, anyway!

Binge stats: 38 episodes, 9 hours (MTV.com, Hulu)

Finally, a fond farewell to a few shows that ended in 2016 on their own terms, giving us fans plenty of lead time to get ready for their absence, and themselves plenty of lead time to wrap their stories up satisfactorily:


GRAVITY FALLS

2012-2016
In comedy well skilled, he drew Lord Flame - Samuel Johnson

Come for Kristen Schaal, stay for the mystery twin hijinks and #YASummerShowdown-esque codes (who am I kidding: Gravity Falls does encryption way better).

Binge stats: 40 episodes, 23 hours 30 minutes (Hulu, Disney XD)

PERSON OF INTEREST

2011-2016
Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God - tomb of the Unknowns

Fan fiction come to life (and CBS' lowkey way of turning their core procedural-fan audience into hard sci-fi stans).

Binge stats: 103 episodes, 4 days 7 hours (Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play)

LOST GIRL

2010-2016
I had a lover’s quarrel with the world - Robert Frost

No, wait — THIS is fan fiction come to life. Bo & Kenzi are frendship goals so serious, I can't even use a hashtag for it.

Binge stats: 77 episodes, 3 days 7 hours (Netflix, iTunes)

PHINEAS AND FERB

2007-2015
Glad did I live and gladly die, and I laid me down with a will - Robert Louis Stevenson

LET'S ALL BE MAD SCIENTISTS.

Also no lie: I wept in the season finale. This is a GOOD, SMART SHOW.

Binge stats: 130 episodes, 2 days 20 hours (Netflix, Amazon Prime)

We may never miss 2016 the year, but we'll always miss the time in which these shows still lived. 

What lost shows will y'all grieve most? Let's celebrate them all below!

Alexis.'s photo About the Author: Alexis grew up in Wyoming, where she did NOT ride horses to school, but did write her IB extended essay on the youth of heroism in Peter Pan and Stargirl. In spite of this, she was shocked years later to realize how seriously she loved YA lit (blame the snobbery of academia for the blindness). She now lives in Washington DC, where she reads so much YA and MG she built a whole scavenger hunt around it.