The Top 20 Television Moments of 2016 – Part One

Posted by Kim and Sage

WE DID IT YOU GUYS. The end of 2016 is nigh. Everyone take a deep sigh of relief.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that 2016 was a dumpster fire of a year. It was brutal with the celebrity deaths and it felt like the world was on the verge of imploding every time you turned on the news. I can’t help but think of Samwise Gamgee at the end of The Two Towers when I think of 2016. “How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you.” These end of year posts are the stories that have stayed with us. We hope you enjoy the memories as much as we do. –Kim

1) Michael Phelps swims the 200 Butterfly – The Rio Olympics

Michael Phelps did not come to the Rio Olympics to play. After being disappointed with his performance in the London Olympics (you know, a measly six medals, four of them gold), Michael returned to the pool as a man on a mission. The most important part of that mission? Getting back the gold medal in the 200 meter butterfly that South Africa’s Chad le Clos had taken from him. As fate would have it, Phelps and le Clos were in the same semifinal, swimming right next to each other. It’s the perfect sports story, really. The undisputed King of the Pool and the younger and cockier rival who had lorded his victory over Phelps for four years. Who would triumph? Here’s why I love the Olympics so fucking much: the completely pure and unstaged moments of human emotion. As cameramen in the holding room focused on the two rivals they caught le Clos showboating and shadowboxing in front of Phelps. And there sat Michael, his hood up over his head and his trademark headphones on making a FACE OF DEATH. Seriously…laser beams were about to shoot out of his eyes. Thus, the greatest meme of 2016, #PhelpsFace, was born. (It’s also the default facial expression to describe the year.)

Was le Clos trying to psych Phelps out? Was Michael truly just in the zone, as he later claimed, or was he making the face at the obvious showboating? We’ll never know, really. What we DO know are the results in the pool. Phelps and le Clos qualified 2nd and 3rd in that semi, which set up an exciting final that was packed with contenders for the Gold. There was something about Michael’s swimming and attitude in Rio though. While he never looked MISERABLE in previous Olympics, it was clear that Michael had always been focused on winning and shattering records alone. In Rio, he seemed to have rediscovered the JOY of swimming and it showed in his interviews and his emotions on the podium. Michael shaved off nearly 8/10ths of a second off his semifinal time to take back his precious Gold Medal and his jubilation was reminiscent of a certain end zone dance by Rod Tidwell. One might say that Michael Phelps found the Kwan in Rio and we all got to see it. — Kim

2) The #HamilTonys

Look, Hamilton was going to come into the Tonys like a wrecking ball. Everyone knew it. Hence the joke in the opening (Hamilton-themed) number: Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, Anthony Ramos, and Okieriete Onaodowan advancing on a Tony-toting James Corden, who stops them by singing, “Just you wait, just you wait…”

The Best Musical award was a foregone conclusion. (In any other year, Waitress. Any other year.) Score and Book were too. The tightest races in a couple of the acting categories were actually BETWEEN Hamilton castmates. And though no choice would have been the wrong one, the Tonys – in our opinion – played it just right. For once, Alexander Hamilton didn’t spoil an Aaron Burr victory; Leslie accepted the Leading Actor Tony he deserved. There was no controversy, since Lin went home with a wheelbarrow of other awards. Broadway veterans Christopher Jackson and Jonathan Groff looked on proudly as newcomer Daveed Diggs was handed the Featured Actor Tony. It’s safe to say that being in Hamilton would change anyone’s life, but of those three, it changed Daveed the most. And come on, the guy plays one character per act, spits RECORD-BREAKING fire, and delivers the best asides in the show. (Whaaaaaaat?) Renee Elise Goldsberry cried as she gave her Featured Actress acceptance speech. And if it hadn’t been for the unstoppable Cynthia Erivo, Phillipa Soo would have been on that stage too.

All told, Hamilton took home 11 Tonys, falling just short of the The Producers‘ record. But that wasn’t the whole story. Hamilton in its very existence is a statement. In the same awards cycle when #OscarsSoWhite trended worldwide, Hamilton contributed to the Tonys’ incredible diversity achievement of all four musical acting awards going to non-white performers. The show made this the hippest Tonys (is that a thing??) in recent memory. The 2016 telecast was the highest rated in the last 15 years. And those new viewers were tuning in SPECIFICALLY to see Hamilton – a piece of art that’s reinvigorated and redrawn the medium by prioritizing inclusion, truth, and a ridiculous amount of work.

A dark shadow was cast on the Tonys. Early that same morning, the Pulse massacre occurred in Florida. The telecast was dedicated to the victims and their families. One of Lin’s speeches was a quickly composed sonnet honoring them too. And Hamilton‘s producers made a decision to alter their performance. There were no muskets in “Yorktown.” The actors and the ensemble mimed their presence. And that image – two dozen people in Colonial garb pointing invisible guns into the audience – will stay with me for a long time.  –Sage

3) The Origin of The Big Three – This Is Us

I was fully on board with This Is Us from that first trailer that featured guaranteed tearjerker “I Won’t Give Up” as the soundtrack (and because it had Mandy Moore). But I was also completely aware that a great trailer by no means makes a great show and that This Is Us could easily be saccharine overdose. I was lucky to get to see an early screening of the This Is Us at the Paley Center a couple of weeks before it premiered. I was immediately taken in by the sharp and funny dialogue and the tightly drawn characters. (Sterling K. Brown gets Randall from the GET GO, guys.) I was so drawn in by the four principle stories of the pilot that I forgot to look for the twist of how they were all tied together (SILLY ME). I ignored niggling questions like why in the hell with triplets did Mandy Moore’s Rebecca NOT have a c-section scheduled? I missed the hints of Randall saying that he was abandoned at a fire station and adopted by a wonderful couple. I COMPLETELY missed it…and so did most of the people in the Paley screening room.

A collective GASP swept through the room when Milo Ventimiglia’s Jack, mourning the loss of one of his triplets, stood at the nursery window smiling at his two babies and started talking to the fireman standing next to him, who pointed out the baby who had been abandoned at his fire station. “OH MY GOD,” I quietly (or not so quietly) exclaimed, as the camera panned back to reveal people in period clothing wandering the halls of the hospital. “THEY ARE A FAMILY.” It was in that moment that we KNEW that This Is Us was going to be a special kind of show: unabashedly sentimental, expertly acted, and one that would take us along on the journey.  — Kim

4) The Blood Threesome – Penny Dreadful

Rest in peace, Penny Dreadful. You crazy bitch.

Showtime’s literary horror masterpiece pulled out all the stops for what we didn’t know would be its final season. We didn’t get this gory orgy not in the finale, oh no. This was episode THREE.

I have some issues with the way it was resolved. But overall, I am all about Penny Dreadful turning the horror of being a woman of no consequence in Victorian London around on the godless men who exploit them. It facilitated some jaw-dropping Billie Piper monologues, that’s for sure. It also facilitated this consummation: Lily, her benefactor Dorian, and their bloodthirsty protege Justine celebrate Justine’s first kill by indulging in the most indulgent act possible. Lily and Justine are celebrating being masters of their own bodies for once. And Dorian? Well, Dorian’s just a hedonist.

The camerawork, the candles, the score: it’s all so over-the-top and UBER-DRAMATIC and not really that necessary for the plot. I love TV that will throw over subtlety when necessary, and go to these places just because it’s FUN. –Sage

5) Murtagh gets his vengeance – Outlander

When I look back at Season Two of Outlander, I can sum it up with a singular text I got from Sage whilst she watched episode 11, “Vengeance is Mine”: “THIS SHOW IS SAVAGE.” Season Two was a LOT, from all the shenanigans in Paris to the emotional wallop that was the entire episode of “Faith” to Jamie stabbing BlackJack Randall IN THE DICK to a pregnant Claire being sent back through the stones. The entire season was a masterclass in pacing and storytelling because we KNEW the ending in the opening moments of the season premiere, yet the show managed to keep us on our toes and have us HOPING that said ending would not come to pass. But sadly, I can’t single out the entire season for this post. Thus I settled on the moment that prompted Sage’s text message: Murtagh’s savage beheading of the Duke of Sandringham. Because as a book virgin, I did NOT see that one coming.

Let’s face it: Murtagh is the unsung hero of the series. He faithfully stands by Jamie and Claire’s side in France, even though every expression on his face says “I MISS SCOTLAND”. His only reaction when Jamie FINALLY told him the truth about Claire was to punch him in the face for not trusting him with this information sooner. He pulled a “I’m with you till the end of the line” with Jamie at The Battle of Culloden when Jamie tried to send him away. (SIDE NOTE: MURTAGH BETTER BE ALIVE IN SEASON THREE BITCHES.) Murtagh is good people. So it was devastated to see him wracked by guilt over not being able to protect Claire and Mary when they were attacked (and Mary was brutally raped) on the streets of Paris. HE WAS UNCONSCIOUS WHAT COULD HE HAVE DONE? Nevertheless, his promise to avenge Claire and Mary was one he took to heart. The last minutes of “Vengeance is Mine” were absolutely thrilling, from Red Jamie storming in ready to kick some ass to Mary grabbing the knife and stabbing her attacker once Sandringham’s complicit involvement in the attack came to light. But it was all capped off by Murtagh grabbing a fucking AXE and taking a swing at the Duke. Off came his head and he grabbed it and placed it at Claire and Mary’s feet as they looked on in shock. “I lay my vengeance at your feet,” he said, kneeling before them. That’s Murtagh for you. Taking things literally. — Kim

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6) “Gettin’ Bi” – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Darryl Whitefeather: pure cinnamon roll, light of my life, and proud bisexual man.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is frenetic and lousy with both creativity and charm. It obviously needed to be represented on this list, but we could have gone any number of different ways. There’s Rebecca’s torch song of self-hatred, “You Ruined Everything.” I haven’t prepared to go out to a party or a bar without queuing up “Sexy Getting Ready Song” since the first time I saw the pilot. And we NEARLY went with Greg’s promise of “three days of you and me just RUINING each other.” (Please.) But in the end, the answer was obvious. Our moment had to be “Gettin Bi,” Darryl’s jubilant declaration of his newly discovered identity. Just like the man who performs it, Darryl’s sax-infused Huey Lewis tribute is infectiously happy and a little bit annoying. It’s certainly not an announcement he needs to make in a work meeting. But Darryl feels free. When we met him, he was resigned to a life of bickering with his ex-wife and being pulled further and further away from his daughter while swimming in a dating pool he didn’t understand. But now Darryl’s life is rife with possibilities. And god damn it, he wants to sing about it.

Pete Gardner plays a rare beast: a canonically bisexual man on network television. It’s so rare to see any depiction of bisexuality on TV; rarer still when it’s a dude. And it’s clear that Rachel Bloom and songwriter Adam Schlesinger are aware of that lack of representation and were very thoughtful about this number. In lyrical form, Darryl demolishes misconceptions about his sexuality (“Being bi does not imply that you’re a player or a slut!”) while rocking out with a full band in front of a bisexual pride flag. Best of all, Darryl skewers the sad queer stereotype by greeting this new awareness with elation. Wouldn’t you, if a guy like White Josh requited your crush? –Sage

7) Bruno Mars performs at Jane’s Wedding Reception – Jane the Virgin

Everything about Jane Gloriana Villanueva’s wedding was perfect. She looked like a princess as she walked down the aisle flanked by the two most important women in her life. (SOMEONE TEACH ME HOW TO DO MY HAIR THAT WAY.) Her cinnamon roll of a groom Michael Cordero took secret lessons with her Abuela so he could surprise her by reciting his vows in Spanish. There was a fantasy musical number called “Go Have Sex, Jane”.  And most importantly, there were no (real) last-minute confessions of love from her Baby Daddy Rafael. (Thank GOD that love triangle is done. May it stay done forever and ever.) The icing on the already perfect cake? Ultimate wedding planner Rogelio calling up his “third best friend in the world” Bruno Mars to perform for Jane and Michael’s first dance.

Jane LOVES its celebrity cameos, from Paulina Rubio to Britney Spears to Gloria Estefan. Maybe it’s just my undying love of “Uptown Funk” talking but it felt like Bruno was a MASSIVE get for this little show that could and would. Bruno could have gone to any show to drop some new music on us (NEW MUSIC) but he chose Jane the Virgin. The excitement on the set was palpable…I’d wager Gina Rodriguez didn’t have to do much acting to capture Jane’s fangirling. I love how she couldn’t even focus on Michael at first because she was like OMG BRUNO MARS. Same, Jane. Same. — Kim

8) The Were-Monster’s Story – The X-Files

I think we were all hoping for a lot more from The X-Files revival. I could sit here and count the problems (that unearned breakup, the character assassination of Monica Reyes, all 43 minutes of “Babylon,” etc), but I’d rather focus on that one shining jewel of an episode: “Mulder & Scully Meet The Were-Monster.”

What X-Phile didn’t rejoice when Fox announced that Darin Morgan – author of scripts like “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space,” “Humbug,” and the genius “Clyde Bruckman’s Finale Repose” – would be returning to the show for the event series? He brings a uniquely existential eye to the show’s exploration of the paranormal. Couple that with his pessimistic wit and you get some of the best and most substantive dark comedy ever created for television.

“Were-Monster” is a near-perfect episode featuring Flight of the Conchords actor Rhys Darby in a classic X-Files guest role. It stands alone completely – you can absolutely appreciate it without knowing the show’s mythology. Morgan likes to turn conventions on their head to see what falls out; he does it here by reversing the monster-infects-man sci-fi device. Darby is “Guy Mann,” a scaly sea monster bitten by a monstrous human and turned into something he doesn’t recognize: a middle-aged guy. Mulder meets him in a cemetery (shout out to Kim Manners) hoping to get a confession. Instead, Guy tells Mulder the story of his transformation, and it’s Adam & Eve meets American Beauty meets Ulysses, plus a dog named Dagoo.

Guy Voiceover: Alas, I was human again. I went back to work. But now that I had a job, all I could think about was how much I hated my job.
Guy: Oh, that’s it. I quit!
Guy Voiceover: But I was too overcome with human fear to quit. How would I pay my bills? Without a job, I’d-I’d never get a loan and start a mortgage, whatever that is. Already I was terrified I wasn’t saving enough for my retirement.
Guy: And what else was I supposed to do? If I haven’t written my novel by now, I’m never going to write it, you know?

Darin’s episodes are so special because his cynicism is ultimately life-affirming. He writes so eloquently about the shared misery of humanity and how our individual choices are basically meaningless. Guy realizes that in his human state he’s just a cog in a machine: stuffing his face with caffeine and red meat, working at a job he loathes, and “BSing” his way through life. What’s so comforting about that? The notion that none of us are alone. –Sage

9) “Dr. Brennan. It is good to see you again.” – Bones

On a lovely day in July, I got a text from Kelly. “I’m going to need you to log on to the Fox press site and watch the Bones finale IMMEDIATELY because I HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT.” What the TV Mouse wants, she gets, so I promptly pulled up that screener and settled in with a mild sense of trepidation. The latter half of Season 11 of Bones felt like a true return to form. The Puppeteer was the most genuinely terrifying big bad the show had in a WHILE. Jack Hodgins broke my heart on a weekly basis as he struggled to adjust to life in a wheelchair. Hell, I had even started to warm up to Not Sweets Aubrey. It felt like things were falling into place for the final season. And then, in the final minutes of “The Nightmare in the Nightmare,” Bones yanked the rug out from under us. “Dr. Brennan,” an oh-so-familiar voice rang out. “It is good to see you again. You and I…we have so much to talk about.” BOOM Zack Addy is back in our lives and I couldn’t be more thrilled. (How AMAZING is that shot where Zack slowly comes into the light? GOOD JOB ON DIRECTING, DAVID.)

As fate would have it, thanks to a VERY odd scheduling decision by Fox, the season 11 finale aired the night before the show’s final panel at San Diego Comic Con, so most of the nerds in the room hadn’t even seen the episode. Never have I ever been more grateful to have access to screeners because I would have been SO MAD to have been spoiled on this one. Ballroom 20 audibly gasped when they played the final five minutes of the episode before the panel started. One of our line friends had begged me that morning to tell her what had happened in the episode. Her response? “OH MY GOD STOP THAT’S AMAZING.” Indeed.

Any Bones fan worth their salt has passionate feelings about Dr. Zack Addy. Making Zack Gormagon’s Apprentice is PROBABLY the most controversial decision the show has ever made (yes, even more so than Booth and Brennan pulling a Mulder and Scully and consummating their relationship off-screen). Personally, I liked the IDEA of it but the storyline CLEARLY got bungled because of Season 3’s shortened episode order due to the writer’s strike. Zack’s fate and what exactly HAPPENED to him is definitely the biggest dangling thread of the whole series and I am SO HAPPY that it appears that we’ll get some solid answers in Season 12. Having seen the premiere for season 12, I can say that I am excited with the direction they are taking. Buckle up, Bones fans. We’re in for one hell of a final ride. — Kim


10) “I would do anything for you.” – Gotham

THEY DID IT. Gotham shoved its canon in the face of every show that’s ever benefited from queerbaiting and then backed off.

The friendship between Oswald Cobblepot and Edward Nygma (aka Penguin and the Riddler) began in earnest in season 2; in season 3, the two became roommates, business partners, and each other’s sole confidante. Robin Lord Taylor and Cory Michael Smith have played the storyline beautifully. By the time “Mad City: Anything for You” comes around, Penguin’s emotions at least are written in permanent marker all over his face. We don’t get the explicit acknowledgement until the next episode (“I have no choice but to confess my feelings to Ed.”), but as far as I’m concerned, the aftermath of that wild night at Sirens is when the good ship #Nygmobblepot officially left the dock.

It’s a stressful hour. Ed plays both sides of a game, expressing to Butch that he’s only buddied up to Oswald in a bid to take him down. (I knew I was in trouble when I felt personally offended by this.) But he’s lying. Ed leads Butch right into a trap that removes him from Penguin’s inner circle. It nearly costs Ed his life, but it gains him a fan. Oswald is – how can I put this delicately? – a whore for affection. And when he sees what Ed is willing to risk for his sake, well…he’s done for.

I know this is going to end in blood and tears, but I’m so damn proud of Gotham for following through on Ed and Oswald’s undeniable chemistry. And for giving me so many tender, well-dressed man-hugs. –Sage

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We’ve got ten more amazing TV Moments of 2016 coming your way later this week. In the meantime, tell us about some of YOUR favorite moments.

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