Did Game of Thrones jump the shark? Was Westworld too clever for its own darned good? Which BBC biggies suffered second season syndrome and which went to another level? And where the hell did our chart-topper come from? Find out as we countdown our top 10 TV programmes of the year – plus give consolation prizes to the ones that just missed out…

10. Planet Earth II

A decade in the making and the first Beeb show made in 4K ultra-high-def, Sir David Attenborough’s six-part wildlife odyssey attracted unprecedented ratings for a nature documentary of 13 million viewers, and rightly so. Television doesn’t get much better crafted or more visually stunning, while scenes like the baby iguana vs the racing snakes and the snow leopard showdown meant that it was full of miniature dramas too.

9. Silicon Valley (Season 3)

Mike Judge’s tech industry satire continued to go from strength-to-strength in its third series and remains one of the most underrated shows on-air. The nervy nerds at data compression start-up Pied Piper had to fight for control of their own invention, coped with the ousting of their CEO and even looked for love – which was unexpectedly endearing as well as scathingly funny.

8. American Crime Story: The People v OJ Simpson

Even though we knew the outcome, we still couldn’t take our eyes off the Emmy-winning debut season in Ryan Murphy’s new crime anthology, which dramatised the infamous 1994 murder trial. This was mainly thanks to the superlative performances – Sarah Paulson as DA Marcia Clark, Courtney B Vance as defence lawyer Johnnie Cochrane, David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian – but also because of what it had to say about racism, sexism, tabloid trashiness and the justice system.

7. The Night Manager

The spy drama adapted from the John le Carré’s novel wasn’t just Tom Hiddleston’s 007 audition tape. It was also a compellingly deadly game of cat-and-mouse between Hiddleston’s soldier-turned-hotel manager Jonanthan Pine and international arms dealer Richard Onslow “Dickie” Roper (Hugh Laurie), aka “the worst man in the world”. Ambitious in style, scope and sweep, The Night Manager jetted between Cairo, London, Majorca, Marrakech and the Swiss Alps to tell its twisty-turny story.

6. Game Of Thrones (Season 6)

Winter finally came to Westeros and, freed from George RR Martin’s source novels, it made Game of Thrones go up several gears. There was death (we’re still sobbing about Hodor), destruction (the Battle of the Bastards), the resurrection of Jon Snow and long-awaited pay-offs, with female characters finally taking centre-stage for one hell of a finale. We’ve only got two more climactic seasons to tie everything up before the series finishes – no pressure.

5. Fleabag

Playwright, actress and all-round rising star Phoebe Waller-Bridge provided one of this year’s big surprise hits – an unexpected treat right up there with our number one. Her bold six-part black comedy about a nameless millennial anti-heroine navigating love, sex, booze and bereavement was confessional, filthily funny and unexpectedly heartbreaking. The supporting cast, led by monstrous stepmother Olivia Colman, were impeccable too.

4. The Missing (Season 2)

Like several other series on our list, this was one of those rare beasts: a drama where the second run is way better than the first. Tchéky Karyo returned as dogged French detective Julien Baptiste, this time investigating the reappearance of a girl 11 years after she was abducted. But is Alice Webster really who she says she is? The ensuing investigation haunted and gripped right to its superbly satisfying finale, with standout performances from Karyo, Derek Riddell and Keeley Hawes.

3. Line Of Duty (Season 3)

The cult cop corruption thriller just keeps getting better, and Line Of Duty’s latest season, about an armed response unit, was nail-gnawingly tense – from shockingly killing off major characters to the eventual unmasking of “The Caddy”, the gangland fixer embedded within the police force since series one. Kickass action scenes saw Vicky McClure wielding an assault rifle, while the long, masterful interrogation sequences had us shouting at the screen.

2. The Night Of

With echoes of its mighty HBO forebears The Wire, Oz and The Sopranos, this US remake of the BBC’s Criminal Justice was another surprise 2016 gem. Grittily unflinching and utterly gripping, it told the tense tale of New York student Riz Ahmed, accused of a murder he couldn’t remember after a hedonistic one-night stand. John Turturro arrived as his eccentric, hustling lawyer and the ensuing eight episodes combined a crime whodunit with a prison drama and legal procedural.

1. Stranger Things

Summer’s big breakout show threw everyone a curveball, but what a glorious one. This lovingly-crafted eight-part horror thriller was both fresh and reassuringly familiar, with Goonies-style smalltown school kids stumbling into a supernatural government conspiracy. Echoes of Stephen King stories and Spielberg films, the career revival of Winona Ryder and other retro flourishes had us misting over with nostalgia, while still glued to Stranger Things’ tale of telekinetic girl Eleven, the monstrous Demagorgon and “the upside-down”. A cheering under-the-radar success and what binge-viewing was built for.

The Next 10

Best TV Shows Of The Year 2016 - A Better Look

The ones we loved but which just missed out on the top 10…

Westworld (HBO)
The Crown (Netflix, Nov)
Happy Valley (Season 2) (BBC1)
The Grand Tour (Amazon Prime, November onwards)
Peaky Blinders (Season 3) (Netflix)
The Get Down (Netflix)