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22 December 2016updated 03 Aug 2021 11:13am

The best television of 2016

Stuck on what to watch over Christmas? Our critic rounds up her picks of the year.

By Rachel Cooke

Happy Valley (BBC1)

The second series of Sally Wainwright’s frequently harrowing one-cop-and-her-family drama was even better than the first.

The Crown (Netflix)

It was lavish and brilliantly written and acted, and there were corgis. Its creator, Peter Morgan, must now be swanning around in ermine.

Photo: A still from The Crown

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Motherland (BBC2)

Savagely funny satire of ghastly alpha mums by Graham Linehan and Sharon Horgan. The best pilot of the year, and soon to be a full series.

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National Treasure (Channel 4)

Robbie Coltrane convinced utterly as a fading comedian accused of abusing young girls. Jack Thorne, the show’s creator, made Britain’s novelists look out of touch.


Camping (Sky 1)

Twisted comedy by Julia Davis in which a bunch of narcissists, control freaks and all-purpose weirdos “enjoys” a mini-break in a field.

Going Going Gone: Nick Broomfield’s Disappearing Britain (BBC4)

The iconoclastic director damns politicians who facilitate the neglect of the Wellington Rooms in Liverpool and other such places.

The A Word (BBC1)

Peter Bowker’s charming and involving Lake District drama about a family’s struggle to come to terms with their son’s autism.

The Young Pope (Sky Atlantic)

Holy moly! Paolo Sorrentino’s dreamlike tale of an ultra-conservative pontiff gave us Jude Law looking very good in a cassock.

Photo: Jude Law in The Young Pope

The Night Manager (BBC1)

This le Carré adaptation was lavish, very silly and highly watchable – all those hotels and backless dresses and Tom Hiddleston perspiring lightly.

Mum (BBC2)

Gentle sitcom by Stefan Golaszewski, with Lesley Manville as Cathy, newly widowed and surrounded by fools.

This article appears in the 13 Dec 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas and New Year special 2016