Well folks, here we are. The flaming dumpster fire that was 2016 is over, and we’re all here in 2017 hoping it can’t get worse than last year. But there were some good things that come out of 2016, and just like last year, we’re highlighting a few super specific things we loved from 2016, that don’t necessarily fit into any general Best of categories.
Best 2000s television reunion of 2016: Gilmore Girls
Ironically, Gilmore Girls also made our Best of 2015 Superlatives list, but this time it’s for an entirely different reason. The show made a big splash in pop culture ever since the revival was announced back in 2015, and the hype was at a high this year, crawling back into the zeigesit in the weeks leading up to ThanksGilmore (we were guilty too). But as OG Gilmore fans, we had been waiting nine years to find out how Amy Sherman-Palladino wanted to end her series the way she truly wanted. When the four episodes dropped that fateful Friday, we were transported back into the world of all things Gilmore – where the town weirdo runs a janky Ooober service, the locals have to hide a secret bar from the selectman, and the phrase “I smell snow” elicits very real emotions that induce crying. For us, this feeling of comfort – of feeling back how in Stars Hollow – was what we wanted from the revival. While it did produce the perfect example of Your Fave Is Problematic #RoryGilmore, overall, we were so glad to have those adorable Gilmore girls back in our lives once again.
Best Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life Cameo of 2016: Parenthood Cast (as a whole)
Speaking of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, there were many a cameo throughout all four mini-movies that made me squeal with glee. But none more so than three very special appearances from Lauren Graham’s other TV family, the Bravermans. First, we knew her Parenhootd daughter Mae Whitman was going to be in the revival, but seeing her interact with Lorelai Gilmore and not Sarah Braverman made our hearts explode, but the fact that she always interacted with Rory?! Our brains explode too. And then came summer, when I lit’rally screamed out loud after seeing Jason Ritter pop up as the park ranger. MARK CYR FOREVER AND ALWAYS. And THENNN Peter Krause aka Adam Braverman aka Mr. Lauren Graham as park ranger two?! I DIE. I DIED. Thanks, 2016.
Best Ham4Ham performance of 2016: The Hamilton Mixtape
I feel like it’s unfair to call this a #Ham4Ham, but the Hamilton officials called it that, so we’ll go with it. HamFams have been waiting about a year to hear the mixtape that Lin had been promising, and boy it did not disappoint. In the most epic release party, they held a #Ham4Ham inside the Richard Rodgers, with a few artists from the mixtape doing live performances of their Hamilton covers. AND it was live streamed for the interwebs. The Roots, Regina Spektor, Andra Day and Ashanti and Ja Rule + more – it was “LIT AF” as the kids say. I got emotional (like I usually do) watching it, realizing that this joining of forces between contemporary artists singing Broadway covers on a Broadway stage opens the doors for so many more people to be introduced to theater in a brand new way. It’s the way life and art should be – accessible and enjoyed by every one.
Best Hamilton Happy Trails of 2016: July 9th, 2016
Hamilton may have opened in 2015, but it reached a fever pitch in 2016. A month after winning 11 Tonys, four of the OG cast members, Phillipa Soo, Leslie Odom Jr., Ariana DeBose and the maestro himself, Lin-Manuel Miranda, took their final bows. Saying goodbye to one OBC actor is hard enough, but four is even more difficult if you’re HamilTrash. Luckily, a live stream was provided and we were able to watch as their tears synced with our own. The kicker? Alex Lacamoire stealthily adding in The West Wing theme for number one fan Lin (I lit’rally just rewatched that on mute and I’m STILL crying over Chris Jackson pushing Lin back out to take his own bow).
Best Beyonce Live Performance of 2016: MTV VMAs
Beyonce was one of the shining lights of 2016 thanks to her kind of surprise album drop with Lemonade, but what made it epic was the entire HBO movie special she made as a vehicle for the new music. After going on her Formation tour (equally epic), she blessed us with a 20 minute performance of Lemonade on the VMAs. God. Is. Good.
Best Michelle Obama Speech of 2016: Democratic National Convention
We’re really going to miss all the Obamas, but Michelle has been such an inspiration to all women (and humans) during her reign as first lady. She is poised, classy, articulate, smart, compassionate, caring, funny, etc. etc. And while giving her speech at the DNC this summer to show support for HRC, she yet again left us in awe and tears, but mostly left us with something to aspire to – when they go low, we go high.
Best Carpool Karaoke of 2016: Adele
In what is arguably his best carpool karaoke yet, James Corden’s ride along with Adele has raked in over 143 million views since it was released last January, and it’s obvious why. Maybe because I’ve accounted for at least 43 million of those? Nah, probs because Adele is a badd ass bitch who raps Nick Minaj better than Nicki Minaj.
Best Political SNL Sketch of 2016: Hallelujah
The Worst Week of 2016 aka Election Week ended with the great Leonard Cohen dying (because #2016), and in what was reminiscent of the way they handled the first ep back after 9/11, SNL knew exactly how to bring meloncholy and levity to homes across the U.S., by having the wonderful Kate McKinnon, as Hillary Clinton, sing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Cue the tears.
Best SNL Non-Political Sketch of 2016: Haunted Elevator
Best Mannequin Challenge of 2016: Black Lives Matter
I’m over the mannequin challenge (I was never under it), but this one was worth all the other silliness from everyone else.
In this moment, I am somehow able to imagine what it would be like to be both a teenager attending my first state dinner and talking with a handsome male movie star, and the big sister of a teenager attending her first state dinner and talking with a handsome male movies star. Meet our era’s Schuyler sisters.
Forget what came after for a moment and just focus on Bill Clinton, the man who served as leader of the free world for eight years, still getting a kick out of balloons … and even more of a kick out of his wife’s presidential bid.
Honorable Mention: When you could see Bill mouth the words “that’s my girl” during Hillary’s concession speech, or his death grip on Chelsea’s husband during Chelsea’s speech at the DNC. You know what? They’re all winners.
Best Olympics Moment of 2016: Michael Phelps’ One Last Time
It feels like so long ago now, but 2016 was a Summer Olympics year, our favorite TV/sporting spectacle and feel-good obsession. Nobody made us prouder to be Americans that golden boy Michael Phelps, who did his last Olympics right by earning his 23rd gold medal.
Honorable Mentions: So many! The Final Five’s overall brilliance – how much do we love Simone and Laurie?! – and Katie Ledecky’s astonishing performance, and the US and NZ runners who helped each other finish after crashing on the track … we could keep going.
Zootopia was great: funny, clever, touching, and with a really beautiful and necessary message. I went with kids, but I would have gone as a single adult just as proudly.
Honorable Mention: The Secret Life Of Pets
Best new Netflix series – drama of 2016: Stranger Things
Stranger Things gripped audiences nationwide with its loving tribute to the 80s horror/children’s adventure film, but it did it in a singularly modern way as a short, streaming series. The series spawned memes, catchphrases, national sweethearts (Barb!), a whole lot of Halloween costumes, and the coolest troop of child actors around.
Honorable Mentions: The OA (possibly my best, but I’m only halfway through it); The Get Down
It’s not exactly a secret that Ava Duvernay is a fantastic filmmaker, but she did something really special with 13th. She took an issue most Americans who are paying attention already knew about – the consistent and disproportional incarceration of black men used as a type of modern servitude in the prison industrial complex – and presented it in a clear, gripping, impossible-to-ignore way.
Best New TV Series That Your Mom Would Like Too of 2016: This Is Us
We love This Is Us. So do most of our friends (30-somethings). So do a lot of older baby boomers we know. This series appeals to the nostalgia of young(-ish) adults who grew up in the 70s – 90s, as well as their parents who were raising kids at that time. It’s not a cheap nostalgia trip, though. This Is Us is a relatable and incredibly touching family story for anyone who has siblings, or parents, or feelings. Plus, let’s not forget how they hooked us all in with that twist in the pilot.
Speaking of relatable, Arthur’s balled-up fist is relevant to as many life situations in 2016 as it was when you were 10.