Skip to navigationSkip to content

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

The actor Kit Harrington at the Emmy Awards.
Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
HBO has hit a creative wall.
  • Dan Kopf
By Dan Kopf

Data editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

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.”

RankingShowChannelMetacritic Rating
2The AmericansFX95
3 (tie)AtlantaFX90
3The People v. O.J. SimpsonFX90
3The Night OfHBO90
3Silicon ValleyHBO90
7BoJack HorsemanNetflix89
8 (tie)FleabagAmazon Prime88
11 (tie)CatastropheAmazon Prime87
11Broad CityComedy Central87
13Crazy Ex-GirlfriendThe CW86
14 (tie)OutlanderStarz85
14You’re the WorstFX85
14Better Call SaulAMC85
17 (tie)Mozart in the JungleAmazon Prime84
17Take My WifeSeeso84
17The Hollow Crownpbs84

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.

ChannelShows in top 20Average rating
Amazon Prime386
Comedy Central187
The CW186

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.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.