In the first part of our Winter 2016 preview we cover historical epics and screwball comedies alike.
There’s some of those in our top picks as well, but with bigger names and budgets. Stellar production values and lavish sets always help make shows more interesting. But this season’s best TV also has a lot of acting talent behind it.
Find out which must-watch shows made our top five.
5. Angie Tribeca
Pertaining to a whole different world of law and order, “Angie Tribeca” isn’t for anybody. Produced by Steve Carell and starring Rashida Jones, the show eschews their mockumentary past to offer something part spoof, part surreal nightmare. Most surprising is that “Angie Tribeca” is even live action: the show takes more than one cue from Adult Swim.
The humor isn’t always obvious, and the jokes sometimes sag, but the show still highlights the absurdity of cop dramas and dramatic cops.
Watch old tropes with a fresh glance Sundays on TBS.
4. Mercy Street
Set in an Alexandria military hospital during the Civil War, “Mercy Street” offers a visceral look at the war’s wounded.
Viewers receive social commentary in tidbits and subplots, but the story itself is surprisingly devoid of any progressive slant. Fine and dandy if “Mercy Street” offered more scenes that displayed the injustice that African Americans suffered in that era, particularly in places like Alexandria, but the show focuses on typical hospital drama stuff: hierarchy, appointments, treatment for patients, etc.
Officers and volunteers butt heads over practice, nurses scrounge for supplies, and everyone pronounces honor with a capital H in “Mercy Street”.
Watch it Sundays on PBS.
Showtime’s new drama features Paul Giamatti as a U.S. Attorney and Damian Lewis as his unscrupulous fat cat. Partly the brainchild of smart guy Andrew Sorkin, “Billions” plays with the Wall Street premise enough to keep things interesting when the two leads are absent. Most notable is Maggie Siff’s role: a psychologist employed by Lewis’s hedge fund but also married to Giamatti’s character. The narrative offers enough tension and backdoor dealings for anybody.
Watch it Sunday nights on SHOWTIME.
2. The Expanse
TV’s newest space epic, “The Expanse” entertains even as its haircuts appall. Also boasting neat production values, the series’ scope takes on the interstellar politics between Earth, Mars, and places beyond.
The setting may be operatic but the story remains manageable. Viewers focus on an old detective, a renegade spaceship crew, and an Earthling diplomat. What slowly begins as at least one bit police procedural slowly takes on new dimensions as the series develops.
Watch it Tuesdays nights on SyFy.
1. War and Peace
Tolstoy’s magnum opus in six episodes? The series lacks detail but more than makes up for it in casting, with Paul Dano and Lily James as the primary leads. Showcasing some of the highest production values on TV, “War and Peace” also offers some serious costume with the drama. There’s enough action for him, enough romance for her, and easy-to-follow schemes to tie the two together.
Check it out on History or A&E/Lifetime on Sundays.