The most critically acclaimed TV shows of 2016 weren’t on HBO

HBO has hit a creative wall.
HBO has hit a creative wall.
Image: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The data confirm reports of HBO’s creative demise.

Prestige television was once the sole domain of HBO, but according to ratings from the website Metacritic, it’s no longer even America’s best channel for scripted drama. Most ways you cut the data, that distinction goes to FX.

The following table shows the top 20 scripted TV shows that aired in 2016, according to their Metacritic rating. Metacritic derives these ratings by assigning scores on a 100-point scale to the reviews of eminent critics, and than averaging those scores. More weight is given to critics of higher stature. More than 150 programs received a rating. A score over 80 signals “universal acclaim.”

SundanceTV’s Gothic drama Rectify, one of only two original shows to air on the channel, received the top Metacritic rating of 2016.

After Rectify, three of the next five shows on the list air on FX. With a focus on diversity and originality, FX has quickly converted itself into a TV darling. Like HBO, FX has four of the top 20 shows, but the average rating of those shows is even higher than HBO’s.

Every year from 2011 to 2015, HBO had the most shows ranked in the top 20. In 2016, FX reached the top of the prestige TV world. But arguably the biggest winner from the increased competition are TV viewers.