Top 20 Shows of 2015

Television continues to change every year.  With more television subscribers shifting to over the top services there is more and more content out there.  Last year was a great year for TV everything from a really strong season from the clone club to Peaky Blinders a show I need back like, yesterday.  This year in TV was different either.  The Brits continue to release just incredible television and basically everyone in the American industry except for the Oprah Winfrey Network and network TV has tried to keep up.  This is just the best 20 shows from 2015 so here are a few that had to get left off the list but definitely deserve a listen:

Orphan Black, BBC;  Togetherness, HBO; Casual, Hulu (I know! Crazy right); Louie, FXX; Fresh Off the Boat, ABC; Moone Boy, Sky 1; Wolf Hall, BBC; The Leftovers, HBO; Unforgotten, ITV; Doctor Who, BBC; Broadchurch, ITV; Luther, BBC (It was hard to include Luther on the list since its literally only two episodes)

20. The Last Kingdom

the last kingdom

BBC’s newest drama set in the 9th century sells itself as a historical drama and I have no real reason to doubt that.  But really the most interesting thing about The Last Kingdom is not the story of how England went from many seperate kingdoms to what we recognize today but it is the in depth character about the life of Uhtred of Bebbanburg played by Alexander Dreymon.  Its also the only legal fun you can have with pillaging in the year 2015.

19. Silicon Valley

silicon valley-2015

Until this show gets more realistic or the boys at Pied Piper decide to do something right this show will continue to a staple of the year end lists.  The cast’s chemistry is some of the best on TV today and it doesn’t hurt that it has one of the best comedy teams on screen and behind the scenes assembled for a television show in a very long time.

18. Community

community-2015

I’m not really sure why people seemed to have forgotten about Community.  Especially considering everyone watches their TV online anyway.  Was it so hard to find it on Yahoo?  You really just had to Google, “Yahoo Community.”  Regardless, Community quietly had one of its best seasons without any of the fanfare it was accustomed to and fans might have actually gotten their dream of #sixseasonsandamovie.  There were a few notable absences from the cast, Donald Glover being the most notable. While the additions of Paget Brewster and Kieth David will never make up for the characters we fell in love with so many years ago but they do give strong performances in their own right.  And as some smart girl I once stupidly fell in love with said, “great comedies are only as good as their supporting cast.”

17. Broad City

broad city-2015

“Girls aren’t funny,” said the white men whose favorite show probably comes on Fridays at 7pm on the CW–don’t bother looking at what that time slot is filled with, I don’t even fucking know.  Broad City is fantastic, you know it, I know it, Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson know, the only people that don’t seem to know are Tim Allen and Jack Burditt–now that one was a reference to an actual show, but I don’t suggest you look that one up either.  The only thing I want from Broad City is more episodes and more Hannibal Burress but as it stands the show is pretty much as good as it gets for the 30-minute comedy.

16. Mad Men

mad men-2015

Mad Men ended in 2015, with far fewer fireworks than I would have originally thought.  It hardly slipped off into the night without notice but besides the 24/7 wall-to-wall coverage on AMC and in my heart there wasn’t much ado about the final episodes of Mad Men.  A lot of that could be because the final season was foolishly split up over two years.  It could also be because those last few episodes were far from the best in Mad Men’s illustrious run.  But even with all that said Mad Men is still Mad Men and Matthew Weiner remains Matthew Weiner and it would take a cold day in hell for that cast with that man at the helm to make a “bad” season of television.

15. Scream Queens

scream queens

I can’t say I’ve ever thought much of Ryan Murphy’s work.  Which is why I was weary of Scream Queens originally.  But it had one of the more impressive pilot episodes this season so I kept watching.  I was not disappointed, if it wasn’t the over the top acting, or entirely inexplicable costume design it was the unabashed fan service of the show that kept me coming back.  I can’t say I’ve ever found the horror film genre all that interesting and it is possible that I would have enjoyed Scream Queens even more if I were because it is chock full of references to horror classics (I did manage to catch the blatant references to The Shining).  The title and cast might scream, “girl’s show” to the casual observer but Scream Queens has something for everyone unless of course you were ever in a sorority that was once terrorized by a masked serial killer, then this might be a trigger.

14. The Americans

the americans

I remember when I first saw the trailers for The Americans back at the end of 2012.  I was really excited for this show, it looked really good back then.  But back then FX was a joke and its catalog flew under the radar.  I kept meaning to catch up but never did, until this year.  I finally made my way through the first two seasons before the third one was released.  And as I suspected back in 2012 the show is fantastic.  Andy Greenwald, a man who may not watch as much TV as me, but who is far more intelligent about these matters claims The Americans as his favorite show.  I would probably not go that far but I intend to never miss another hour with the Jennings family as long as they’re on TV.

13. Master of None

master of none

It does seem like a no-brainer to give the man who brought the world Tom Haverford and four outstanding stand-up specials his own television show.  I just can’t believe it took this long.  But here we are.  A few months after the release of his book Modern Romance that he co-wrote with sociologist Eric Klinenberg about dating in the Tinder era.  And then we get Master of None a show very much about dating in the Tinder era. At times Master of None is almost too brutally honest but the best comedies should never make you laugh from start to finish.  The one knock against Master of None is the acting, outside of the main cast, the acting is pretty terrible.  It was nice to see Ansari’s really parents in the show playing Dev’s parents but it was painfully obvious how normal those two normal people were.  Aside from that Master of None is a success and one that Netflix desperately needed.

12. Bloodline

bloodline

One of the most impressive things about Bloodline was the promotional art.  Whoever’s idea it was to sell the Netflix subscribers on a family drama set in the Florida Keys with the picture of boat ablaze should get a raise.  Were I not madly in love with Linda Cardellini there is no way, with Netflix’s track record, that I would have given this show a shot but that picture was just too damn interesting.  Bloodline proves to be much more interesting than that picture would have suggested though.  With strong performances from an ensemble cast made up of actors who are entirely too unknown and a great plot structure Bloodline is a great addition to the Netflix catalog.

11. Humans

humans

Along with being a fantastic sci-fi show Humans is one of the prime examples of the changing face of television.  Humans is listed as a “British-American” drama when really it was entirely produced by Channel 4 and the distribution rights were purchased late into development by AMC.  AMC saw an amazing show and had the need for IP so that when it becomes officially time for a-la-carte television people who aren’t fans of The Walking Dead will have a reason to buy AMC.

10. You’re the Worst

You're the worst-2015

Any other year You’re the Worst would have been number 1 on my list.  I really wanted to name this the best show of 2015 but I really just couldn’t justify putting above any of the 9 shows that dethroned it.  Last year You’re the Worst was one of the most riotously funny shows on TV and while this season was still hilarious it took a swing at a much more serious issue.  Gretchen’s battle with depression is the main focus of the second season and it allows for some amazing story telling from Stephen Falk.

9. Game of Thrones

game of thrones-2015

It’s Game of Thrones.  I’m actually not going to bother saying anything about this show.  If you haven’t seen it… well, shame… shame… shame… shame… shame… shame… shame… shame… shame… shame… shame… shame.

8. The Knick

the knick-2015

Even if you don’t love gnarly up close shots of turn of the century medical operations and weirdly long uncomfortable handjob scenes The Knick has everything you need.  Loathsome villains, the troubled hero, a romance with a nun, and the single best directing that is currently on TV and maybe ever has been.  The ensemble cast element of the second season was at times a determent, I just found myself saying, “I don’t really care about this story line.  When the fuck is Tom Cleary coming back.”  The good news is Tom Cleary does eventually come back on TV, and never has there been a performance more surprisingly magnetic as Chris Sullivan’s performance as Tom Cleary.

7. Man Seeking Woman

Man Seeking Woman-2015

This might be one of the most impossible shows to describe to someone who hasn’t seen it in the history of the little screen.  The opening scene of the pilot episode is a sad looking Jay Baruchel breaking up with his girlfriend and carrying his stuff down the street when a two foot wide rain clown quite literally rains on his parade.  That episode also stars Hitler.  The show is unexpected and hilarious and there isn’t much more to say about it besides that episode five “Sizzurp” is one of the best episodes of any TV show I have seen since Mad Men’s “Carousel.”

6. River

river

Very few shows just come out of no where.  But there was River just one Netflix one day.  It said British police drama so I watched it without question, didn’t read the synopsis or anything.  So you will imagine my surprise when I figured out that DCI River was a schizophrenic whose hallucination of his dead partner follows him around.  River is somehow a great police procedural mystery, a fantastic character piece, the story of struggle with mental illness, and a love story.  I would say there are few things that have been more satisfying as a television viewer in 2015 than discovering River.

5. Jessica Jones

jessica jones

I’m not sure what the best part of Jessica Jones is: its amazing cast, its honest look at misogyny and entitlement in rape modern culture, the both faithful and creative adaptation of a beloved graphic novel, or the fact that we finally found Krysten Ritter something worth her considerable talents. I haven’t been enamored with what Marvel Studios television division has had to offer to date, but Jessica Jones is a real gem and if they can replicate some of what they managed here with the upcoming Luke Cage and Iron Fist shows than I’m certainly going to keep watching.

The rankings at this point are fairly arbitrary to be honest, the top four shows are are so different in content and so identical in quality that it is nearly impossible to choose a “best” of the four of them–I do my best.

4. Fortitude

Fortitude-2015

I thought this was a mystery.  I mean it was for a while.  Then it turned out it was something very very different.  In a place where it is quite literally illegal to die people start dropping like flies.  How could a premise that good ever go wrong you ask. Well I’m not sure it can.  Coupled with a strong cast, lead by Stanley Tucci and Richard Dormer there isn’t much wrong this show does.  I am worried as to where this will go in its following seasons but that is an issue for another year and other article.

3. Mr. Robot

mr robot

The television network that brought you Burn Notice and Monk have now also brought you the single most daring show of 2015.  The collective reaction from audiences in 2015 to Mr. Robot was, “Ooo I didn’t know you could do that. I like it.”  I honestly never knew what to suspect from Mr. Robot from week to week, even the twist that nearly everyone called from the first episode (as you were supposed to) didn’t really turn out the way anyone thought it would.  Sam Esmail and Rami Malek are an amazing duo and even though this show does not have a single director like The Knick or True Detective season one, Esmail somehow manages to make sure Mr. Robot gives both of them a run for their money in the director department.

2. Penny Dreadful

penny dreadful-2015

Dark and twisted as ever Penny Dreadful continues to be one of the more improbably shows out there.  If you would have told me two years ago there would be a show with Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, vampires, werewolves and the Devil I wouldn’t have believed you.  If you had told me it would be good, I might have laughed in your face.  But Penny Dreadful is a magnificently stylized period piece with some of the best writing on TV.  I thought at times the first season was overwrought but the second season did away with a lot of the over the top moments from the first and the choice of a villain we could see was much more affecting on screen than that of the Devil we don’t.

1. Fargo

Fargo-2015

Okay well here we are, the number one show of 2015.  To be honest I’m not really happy about this, if Fargo is a 100 Penny Dreadful, Mr. Robot, and Fortitude are absolutely in the 99.9-97 range but I chose this burden so here we are.  How?! How is it even remotely possible that season 2 was better than season 1?  I don’t know, I honestly didn’t expect Fargo to get better, I would have been more than happy with a slight decline as shows tend to do in their second season.  But instead Fargo went from great to incredible which is no mean feat.  I honestly cannot think off the top of my head of a truly great show that improved in its second season.

1 Comment

  1. […] Black, The Last Kingdom, Doctor Who, Wolf Hall, and Luther all of whom made appearances in my year end list.  It is not only the quality of the few that set BBC apart but also the overall quality of their […]

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