In the world of peak TV—as many as 450 scripted series aired this year, in addition to around 750 unscripted shows—it’s more daunting than ever to winnow all those programs down to just 10 shows to represent the year’s very finest.
Yet for some reason, it was easier than usual to come up with my top 10 picks for 2016. With more sensational TV options than ever before, it has truly become survival of the fittest: a handful of shows separate themselves from a distinguished pack by resonating with you for months, long after you’ve moved on to dozens, or hundreds, of other programs.
That’s what this list represents: the shows that burrowed themselves into my brain this year and changed me—and television—forever. It includes not one but two different 10-hour programs focusing on O.J. Simpson, a surprise series that no one saw coming, and a pair of shows in the middle of their runs that have each hit new creative heights.
If you’re looking to binge a few shows over the holiday break, this list is the perfect place to start.