2015 in Review: Top 10 TV Shows

Hello! And welcome to the annual year-in-review posts that some of you like, but are mostly for my own personal cataloguing purposes. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Let’s not belabor the point for long: I just started an annual television list last year and, considering I’m a college student with no cable and limited access to streaming services, my End-of-the-Year television list will be the most scarce. I make time for films, and music is just as accessible as the old gum on my desks in class. Television tends to get lost in the shuffle, but I still love it!

In an effort to defend myself, I’ve made a few little sub-categories before the actual Top 10 list. If your favorite show made it on one of these lists, chances are I’ll watch or finish it eventually. If you don’t…

Shows I started but never finished: Better Call Saul; Bloodline; Galavant; Hannibal; Parks and Recreation; Sleepy Hollow

Shows I never watched so feel free to yell at me: The Americans; Broad City; Fargo; The Last Man on Earth; The Leftovers; Mad Men; Mr. Robot;  Nathan For You; Silicon Valley; Veep

Shows that didn’t make the list but are still cool: Bob’s Burgers; Brooklyn Nine-Nine; True Detective

There are a lot of good shows on those two lists. Hannibal was my favorite show on television for a long time, but the third season was a little too helter-skelter to keep up with in London over the summer. Mad Men has never left my Netflix queue, and Better Call Saul fell by the wayside after I didn’t have access to British Netflix any longer.

Just some last thoughts before I get to the list:

  • We are certainly still in the golden age of television. However, the medium is rapidly evolving: many of the best shows currently running are either Netflix or Amazon originals. And Netflix is apparently smelling blood in the water.
  • HBO is in trouble after the weak returns of its critical darling, True DetectiveGame of Thrones is as strong as ever, but what else does Home Box Office have going for it right now?
  • I hate you, NBC. I hate you so much.

 

10. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

Even if Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, isn’t as life-changing on the second go-round, it’s still one of the most entertaining shows of the year. But the real treat of Kimmy Schmidt is Tina Fey’s writing, sly and always full of commentary. Oh, wait. Titus. Yeah, Titus is definitely the best part.

9. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix)

I’ve never seen the film that inspired this madcap, eight-episode miniseries, but if this show is any indication, it was way ahead of its time. The cast is appropriately absurd, playing teenage camp counselors as 40-somethings. And the humor is so outrageous that, eventually, it wore down my stuffy inclinations. It’s an acquired taste, but, like most acquired tastes, almost feels like a necessity at this point. Season Two, please.

8. Community (Yahoo!)

Through every high and every low, every Community fan knew that, somehow, the Study Group would make it through six seasons. By golly, they did it, and I’ll be darned if they didn’t go out with the best season since the first two. I still want my movie, but I’m comfortable letting the show go now. Goodbye, Community. You’ll always be streets ahead in my book.

7. The Walking Dead (AMC)

The Walking Dead has always been unique. Always been entertaining. Always been exhilarating. But, to be honest, it’s never been that good.

Season Five changed the narrative for the popular zombie drama. The writers centered the story around the enigmatic Rick and let it ride, a move that should have been made a long time ago. I’ve yet to start Season Six, but if it picks up where Five left off, I’ll feel justified putting it this high on my list.

6. Catastrophe (Amazon)

Most Americans probably haven’t watched Catastrophe, the British comedy fronted up by comedians Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan. And even if they’ve watched it, they probably didn’t keep up: It’s not for those with weak constitutions or sensitive ears. But Delaney and Horgan have crafted the most interesting couple on TV. They bring a warmth to their on-screen relationship that isn’t matched on this side of the Atlantic.

5. Game of Thrones (HBO)

It finally happened, everyone. The show caught up with the books. And after much trepidation about how this would affect the show’s quality, fans were (mostly) pleased; after all, there’s a real problem with how the show uses sexual violence as a plot device.

But Game of Thrones remains near the top of most TV lists because of its incredible production value and the work of a wonderful cast. The actors have matured into their roles and continue to churn out career-defining work episode after episode. Everyone’s in the dark from here on out, but Season 5 showed that Benioff and Weiss are more than comfortable finally having the upper-hand on the fans for once.

4. Jessica Jones (Netflix)

Jessica Jones is almost faultless. Almost. If I’m nit-picking, the choreography is clunky at times. And that’s about it.

I finished Marvel’s second Netflix series in 42 hours, a testament to the emotional investment viewers make with the titular character. And the best part? It’s a woman! Jessica Jones is the best crafted female character television has seen in a long, long while and Krysten Ritter is more than up to the task. It doesn’t hurt that David Tenant may be the best villain Marvel has ever done in anything. Television or film.

3. Transparent (Amazon)

Transparent was the critical darling of last year’s Emmy’s and for good reason. Season One was a bold work of art, a pointed look at one person’s struggle through a transition from man to woman. But how long would that formula work?

Luckily, Jill Soloway got ahead of the curb and realized that Transparent is more than Maura’s story: It’s the Pfefferman family’s. We also care about the lives of Ali, Josh, Sarah and Shelley. Season Two is another step forward for Amazon’s ground-breaking series. It still faces the difficulties of Maura’s life with unfiltered honesty, but extends its reach into the murky waters of what it means to be a human being, be that a woman, a father, queer, or grieving.

(Note: Please forgive me for any incorrect word usage in the above analysis. I’m trying to be conscious of properly using certain words and descriptions when describing sensitive topics. The show only teaches me so much.)

2. Master of None (Netflix)

One of my most anticipated shows of the year exceeded my expectations, while still being completely different than what I expected. Master of None isn’t like most series because it follows a loosely episodic format. These aren’t as much moments in a story as they are their own distinct short films that all have their own message togged across. And Ansari’s writing style translates well. He’s not exactly subtle about the issues he’s confronting (minorities on television; daily sexism; cohabitation), but he treats everything so casually and with such grace that you can’t help consider his point of view. That’s a formula of success for a show so concerned with the intimate details of one man’s life.

1. Daredevil (Netflix)

Jessica Jones got more praise as Marvel’s successful foray into the gritty Defenders universe, but it has Daredevil to thank for the hype that preceded it. Fronted by stunning performances from Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio, Daredevil barged head-first into new territory for Marvel and emerged sparkling on the other side. It’s a stylish, risk-taking drama that paves the way for future generations of superhero television, showing that the unbelievable world of mutants and weird science can thrive when steeped in reality.

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