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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Still sounds good, still feels right: Lady Dynamite (Season 2 premiere Friday, Nov. 10, Netflix), Maria Bamford’s semi-autobiographical meta-comedy about dealing with bipolar disorder (much like, but totally differently from, BoJack Horseman’s bouts with depression, or Jessica Jones’ lingering PTSD—Netflix is your one-stop therapy shop), is damned near impossible to explain. There’s time-hopping; there’s fourth-wall obliteration; there’s heartbreak; there’s pugs; and there’s Bamford herself, long an odd-woman-out comedian who makes utter and complete sense within the surreal context of Lady Dynamite. You could skip Season 1 and just jump right in … but why would you do that, dummy?

How do I know it’s November? The Hallmark Channel is cranking out Christmas movies. The Sweetest Christmas (Saturday, Nov. 11, Hallmark Channel) stars perennial Hallmarker Lacey Chabert, this time as a struggling—and, of course, single—pastry chef who’s made it to the finals of the American Gingerbread Competition … but her oven is broken! Desperate, she reaches out to her ex (Lea Coco—he’s a dude; relax, watchdog groups), a pizzeria owner with just the right equipment. Will she win? Can love re-bloom for a Christmas miracle? Will I resist the obvious hot, throbbing gingerbread-man/oven joke?

I’m rarely wrong, and it’s even rarer for me to cop to it when I am, so hold onto your asses: Star Trek: Discovery turned out to be an impressive prequel, and CBS’ All Access streaming service might actually work in the long run. Here’s another winner: No Activity (series debut Sunday, Nov. 12, CBS All Access), a Funny or Die comedy about the clueless humps (in this case, Patrick Brammall and Tim Meadows) on the periphery of those action-packed crime procedurals—the cops who never get to slide across the hood of a squad car, bust a perp or do anything cool. Will Ferrell and other FoD usuals guest on No Activity, meaning you may want to keep All Access even though ST:D (ha!) is over for now. Sorry.

What’s so funny about cancer? Ill Behaviour (series debut Monday, Nov. 13, Showtime), a British show acquired by Showtime, has an idea. Recent divorcee Joel (Chris Geere) moves in with Charlie (Tom Riley), who then announces that he has cancer and, instead of clinical treatment, is going the holistic route. Naturally, Joel and mutual friend Tess (Jessica Regan) kidnap Charlie and begin injecting him with chemo drugs against his will. And if that’s not funny enough, also in the mix is alcoholic sex-addict doctor, Nadia (Lizzy Caplan, who always makes anything better). It’s more hilarious (and chaotically British) than it sounds, and Geere almost tops his You’re the Worst performance. Almost.

The rise of eSports baffles me—how the fuck is playing videogames a “sport”? I’m typing this paragraph athletically quickly right now, so can I be in the Olympics? Anyway: Future Man (series debut Tuesday, Nov. 14, Hulu) is about a hapless gamer (Josh Hutcherson) who’s recruited by time-traveling bad-asses (Eliza Coupe and Derek Wilson) to use his eSkills to save humanity. (Obviously, these visitors haven’t been paying attention and don’t realize that humanity is no longer worth the effort.) Future Man is a Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg joint, and the kitchen-sink action/comedy mix they brought to Preacher and This Is the End is in full effect here, just on a smaller scale. But humanity? Nah.

The Mindy Project (series finale Tuesday, Nov. 14, Hulu) is one of those rare shows that survived being cancelled by a TV network (Fox) by landing on a streamer (Hulu) and running longer than anyone ever expected (three more seasons). Not that Mindy Kaling’s rom-com-gone-wrong really had six seasons and 117 episodes-worth of material, but kudos for going farther than anything called a “project” should. (I’m looking at you, Alan Parsons Project and Vanilla Ice Project.) Over the years, unlucky-in-love OB/GYN Mindy Lahiri evolved from a hot mess into at least a warm mess, and Kaling smartly let her co-stars (a cast with a higher turnover rate than Papa John’s) shine. Now, when’s The Office reboot happening?

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No, not all of the great shows are here; 2016 served up too much quality TV to contain in this space, while not all of the great shows rise to the level of year-end best lists. (Too many other critical lists are surrendering space to Stranger Things; just sayin’.)

These 16 shows are binge-worthy alternatives to holiday family time—Merry Xmas!

Westworld (HBO): This Westworld was smarter, sleeker and more terrifying than its 1973 origin flick, but it also imbued the Wild West park’s androids with a tragic “humanity.” (Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton for all of the awards.) It also reminded us that actual flesh-and-blood humans are just the worst.

Veep (HBO): Now more than ever, huh? Vice president-turned-president-turned-footnote Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) suffered an exhausting political beating months before the rest of us did in 2016, but at least hers was funny (and slightly more F-bomb-heavy). Forget IdiocracyVeep is our republic’s true guide.

BoJack Horseman (Netflix): Animated series BoJack Horseman has always been about the aggressive shallowness of Hollywood and celebrity, but Season 3 went deeper and darker (and more experimental, including a dialogue-free underwater episode) than ever before. It’s also funny as hell. OK, it’s everything as hell.

Lady Dynamite (Netflix): Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite was a meta-comedy that did for bipolar disorder what BoJack Horseman did for depression and Jessica Jones did for PTSD: It made entertaining, thoughtful art out of the usually “too heavy” to talk about. Both way surreal and way real … sounds good, feels right.

Quarry (Cinemax): This overlooked, 1972-set crime-noir series is grittily crafted down to the most minute details, spun with jarring twists, and anchored by Logan Marshall-Green’s intense, mercurial performance as a reluctant hit man. It’s the Memphis-barbecued second season of True Detective you really wanted.

Better Call Saul (AMC): The debut of Better Call Saul was a fantastic surprise that expanded upon Breaking Bad, building its own pre-Heisenberg world. From hilarious to heartbreaking, Season 2 further transformed small-time Albuquerque lawyer Slippin’ Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) into future legal shark Saul Goodman.

Halt and Catch Fire (AMC): Behind Saul, Halt and Catch Fire is AMC’s best drama, even if it doesn’t generate Walking Dead numbers. The ’80s-set computer-revolution saga moved to Silicon Valley in Season 3, amping the startup fireworks between Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishé, who overshadowed even Lee Pace (!).

Mr. Robot (USA): Elliot (Rami Malek) and hacker group fsociety brought down E(vil) Corp at conclusion of Season 1, but it just caused more problems than it solved. Mr. Robot 2.0 was less buzzy, and trickier to follow, but it gave Elliot’s circle (especially Carly Chaikin and Portia Doubleday) space to shine.

Goliath (Amazon Prime): David E. Kelley and Billy Bob Thornton streamed a classic Los Angeles legal-noir drama that overcame a middling plot with killer performances from Maria Bello, Molly Parker, Nina Arianda, Tania Raymonde, William Hurt and, of course, Thornton himself. Binge with a stiff drink—or eight.

Atlanta (FX): Donald Glover’s Atlanta wasn’t what anyone expected. Something far more than a comedy (though there are hilarious moments) or a drama (ditto, heavy moments), it unfolded like an indie flick in no hurry to get any Big Moments, and depicted the flat-broke-and-black experience with unflinching detail.

Better Things (FX): One of the rawest comedic TV portrayals of single motherhood ever, Pamela Adlon’s Better Things swung from sweet to sad to snarky with an assured precision that her creative partner, Louis C.K., never quite nailed with Louie. Subtle jabs at Hollywood’s treatment of women are just a bonus.

You’re the Worst (FXX): The Only Anti-Rom-Com That Matters got back on track after some downer detours last year—which isn’t to say You’re the Worst didn’t take chances in Season 3. Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) may never work out, but it’s sweet (and profanely hilarious) to watch them fail.

Shameless (Showtime): Emmy Rossum, who’s played Shameless’ surrogate Gallagher mom Fiona for seven seasons now, recently got a pay bump to at least equal co-star William H. Macy’s salary. Coincidentally, she also turned in her best, most heartbreaking work this year. ’Merica isn’t Modern Family; it’s Shameless.

The Good Place (NBC): Kristen Bell and Ted Danson are an unbeatable comic combo, and fears that afterlife sitcom The Good Place would be too weird for broadcast TV were apparently unfounded: It’s a (relative) NBC hit and, even better, the Jesus people are mightily offended by this inclusive version of “Heaven.”

Wynonna Earp (Syfy): If you were somewhat disappointed with Syfy’s recent zero-fun heroine epic Van Helsing—I know I was was—look back a little further in 2016 for Wynonna Earp, a Buffy the Gunslinger supernatural series that star Melanie Scrofano tore up with quippy glee. Also: hot Doc Holliday!

Not Safe With Nikki Glaser (Comedy Central): Nikki Glaser’s Not Safe was a sex-and-relationships talk show that combined intelligence, real information and filthy comedy that more than lived up to the show’s title. So, of course, Comedy Central canceled it after 20 episodes to make room for more Tosh.0. For shame.

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Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll (Thursday, June 30, FX), season premiere: The debut of Denis Leary’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll last summer presaged two rock-centric dramas, HBO’s just-cancelled Vinyl and Showtime’s currently meh Roadies—and his occasionally haphazard, always-swaggering comedy still nails inter-band relationships better than either. As Season 2 opens, Johnny Rock (Leary) and his Assassins bandmates react to the death of a fellow musician—2016 is the year for it—as only rock narcissists would: We each gotta establish solo-career immortality! (Wiki “Kiss,” “1978” and “mountains of record-company cocaine,” kids.) As terrible/hilarious as that idea sounds, SDRR doubles-down with actor Campbell Scott (as himself) buying the Irish Potato Famine rock opera by bassist Rehab (John Ales) from Season 1 and remaking it as a Hamilton-esque Broadway musical. Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is still gloriously ridiculous—rip off the knob, and turn it up.

Greatest Hits (Thursday, June 30, ABC), series debut: In 2015, a study circulated stating that the average person stops seeking out and listening to new music at the age of 33, settling into a one-ear-in-the-grave groove of just sticking with the tunes of their formative years. This is why all “classic rock” radio stations play the same 20 songs every day, as opposed to the same 10 songs spun into the ground hour after hour on younger-skewing “pop hits!” stations, broken up by regular 12-minute ad breaks on both. So, if you’re dead inside enough for commercial radio, Greatest Hits is probably for you: O.G.s (Original Geezers) and newer artists come together to perform the chart-toppers of yesteryear. Sound harmless? Tonight’s premiere episode features the union of REO Speedwagon and Pitbull. Think about what you’ve let happen, ’Merica.

Killjoys (Friday, July 1, Syfy), season premiere: Neither Killjoys, nor its Friday-night companion, Dark Matter, were ratings blowouts in their debut seasons last summer, both hovering at around 1 million viewers a week—but at least they got Syfy back into space (and, as observed in publications geek-thinkier than this one, projected a more realistically race- and gender-diverse future than most sci-fi series). Killjoys, about a trio of interplanetary bounty hunters (Hannah John-Kamen, Aaron Ashmore and Luke Macfarlane) working a quadrant seething with societal-class tensions (before Syfy’s pricier The Expanse did it), was more fun, balancing action, humor and clear stakes, and letting John-Kamen’s Dutch just be a badass heroine with none of the genre’s usual Strong Female Lead hype. A Season 1 Hulu binge here is a must, more so than with …

Dark Matter (Friday, July 1, Syfy), season premiere: Syfy seemingly thought Dark Matter would be last year’s insta-hit, promoting it heavily and leaving Killjoys to bat cleanup. But a really, really, really ridiculously good-looking cast didn’t make up for a muddled storyline (six people wake up on an adrift spaceship without memories, but with specific mercenary skills and bad attitudes) and a dreary, claustrophobic setting. (Their ship made the Battlestar Galactica look like a Carnival cruise.) Even though Season 2 opens with the gang entering an intergalactic prison in their undies—well-played, Syfy—the Sexy Six will see more of the outside world this time around before unleashing some vengeful ass-kickery onto the Corporate Warlords (which I’m trademarking as a band name as you read). In addition to more focused plotting, Dark Matters has scored a major get in casting Franka Potente as a galactic authority determined to bring the group down. Season 1 is on Netflix, but you might as well just jump in now.

Lady Dynamite (Streaming, Netflix), new series: Yeah, I missed this when it debuted—have I mentioned that There’s Too Many Shows? But there’s no better way to spend the Fourth of July weekend than watching all 12 episodes of Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite, a meta-comedy that does for bipolar disorder what Bojack Horseman did for depression, and Jessica Jones did for PTSD: Make entertaining, thoughtful art out of the usually “too heavy” to even talk about. Lady Dynamite’s time-jumping storytelling and fourth-wall-breaking asides would be overkill even in a less-surreal setting, but the long-underrated Bamford (and a boatload of guest stars) makes the weirdness of this semi-autobiographical story work seamlessly—and kudos to Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath for one of the most self-deprecating rock-star cameos of all time. Sounds good, feels right.

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