Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. TV & Radio
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

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Content from our partners
Our common endeavour
Why economic growth needs the right leaders
Why ports are the gateway to growth

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.

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