Welcome back! If somehow you missed out over the incredible amount of hits it received, here’s part one of my Top 50 favorite TV shows of 2015 list, so without further adieu, let’s move on to the Top 25.
“Transparent” is only recognized widely by award shows as a comedy because it runs in 30 minute episodes, as I’m not sure I laughed more than once or twice during its complete second season on Amazon. Although that may seem like an insult, it’s not. “Transparent” isn’t funny because it’s not meant to be. It is unlike a sitcom because it is incredibly layered and challenging, choosing emotional triggers and dramatic situations over cheap jokes.
Now that the initial shock of Maura’s transformation into a woman has worn off on the Pfefferman family, each character is given more of an opportunity to face their own problems, and the show is improved because of it. Maura is still the show’s central focus, but now Sarah, Ali, Josh, and even Shelly are given more of an opportunity to deal with the problems their own lives present head on.
“Transparent” is at the end of a day a show about finding your identity and accepting yourself. Whether it is gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, family, or whatever else. “Transparent” is gripping and sometimes even hauntingly sad, but it is above all incredibly raw and emotional and a great selection for whatever awards it wins no matter which category it ends up in.
24. The Affair
Showtime’s “The Affair” took noticeable steps back in its second season, but even a sub-par episode of “The Affair” is still better than most shows.
The biggest issue with the show this year was the descent (pun intended, and I’m just realizing now if you don’t watch the show you won’t get the joke) of Dominic West’s character Noah as he lost even more of his moral compass to become utterly unlikable, and his redemption story towards the end of the season fell short.
Still, the rest of the writing was strong, and Ruth Wilson and Maura Tierny were both amongst the best acting performances of the year. While “The Affair” ultimately came to a dissatisfactory conclusion in its final episode, the journey was still well worth it. Furthermore, the decision to give the ex-spouses of the two main characters (Tierny and Joshua Jackson’s characters) a more primary role in the story, (as well as their own flashback scenes), helped to bring the show into a fresher direction from those who were worried its gimmicky presentation from its rookie season wouldn’t hold up.
The opening six episodes of “Catastrophe,” a BBC show also picked up as an Amazon Prime exclusive in the US, were some of the funniest and the most good-hearted TV episodes of the season.
“Catastrophe” revolves around an American, Rob (Rob Delany) who winds up accidentally knocking up a woman he has a bender with (Sharon Horgan) when he is visiting England on business. When he finds out about the news, Rob decides to move to England and make it work with Sharon. The premise may seem a little one-note, but the comedic performances make it well worth your while.
You won’t see too much of Delany’s signature vulgar Twitter humor but he and Horgan, who also write the show, have natural chemistry, and even in its more dramatic moments, you often can’t help but smile at them. “Catastrophe” is another one of those shows you could knock out in a semi-marathon (the second season is currently airing in Britain and will be released in the US shortly) and it’s well worth your time, even if you’re unfamiliar with Horgan or Delany as comics.
“Veep” cleans up at the Emmy’s every single year, and despite my aversions I finally decided to give it a go last winter, and I had no idea what I was missing.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is as advertised as one of the funniest characters on TV as the now President Selena Walker, and while the show would be hilarious enough if it focused entirely on her, the top-notch ensemble cast and brilliant joke writing makes it one of the biggest laugh-out-loud shows on TV.
This past season was unfortunately the last for EP Armando Iannucci, responsible for many of the infamous one-liners that stand the test of time, and it remains to be seen how the show will adjust without his presence. Still, this season which revolved around Selena’s bid for reelection was one of the shows brightest as background players like Matt Walsh, Anna Chlumsky, and Sam Richardson were really given the chance to shine.
21. Jessica Jones
It’s safe to say that “Jessica Jones’ exceeded any and all expectations as the consensus pick for top show in the superhero genre of 2015, but to only call it a good “Marvel” show isn’t doing it justice. “Jessica Jones” wasn’t just the best “superhero” show of the year, it was flat out one of TV’s best produced dramas.
Krysten Ritter put in a fantastic performance as the title character, but David Tennant more than stole the show as the villain Killgrave. While Killgrave’s mind control powers kept the show’s sci-fi theme in tact, “Jessica Jones” did not fall into the trap of a stereotypical villain, instead using Killgrave as a vessel to shine light on themes of domestic abuse, victim blaming and Stockholm Syndrome. Whether or not “Jessica Jones” fully intended to be, it became a premiere show for the voice of equality and feminism on television.
Beyond that however, more than anything, “Jessica Jones” is just an extremely well shot, directed, and acted action show (although its not without its flaws, see: cliched and underdeveloped side characters), and it proved along with “Daredevil” to already be worth Netflix’s investment of diving into the Marvel universe.
20. Key and Peele
For five seasons, the under-the-radar work put in my Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele on “Key and Peele” was outstanding, and in their final effort, they went out with a bang.
Not since “Chapelle Show” (a show “Key and Peele” often gets unfairly compared to) has a sketch comedy show been as consistently funny and sharp as “Key and Peele,” and while yes, they often get the most attention for their racially motivated sketches (many of which, like the final sketch of the series “Negrotown” are downright genius), Key and Peele are just as comfortable finding their comedy from dumb things like the names of pro football players, or the overuse of the phrase “deez nuts.”
The future is bright for both performers whether they choose acting, stand-up, writing, directing or whatever, because they have both have proved to the world over the last five seasons that they are two of the funniest men on television. Although I look forward to seeing what comes next for them, not having a new season of “Key and Peele” to look forward to and knowing there will never again be an overly excitable valet sketch is something that’s going to take some time to get over.
19. Silicon Valley
“Silicon Valley” had a monumental task in front of them in 2015, as they were trying to follow up their critically acclaimed first season without the character of Peter Gregory after the actor who portrayed him, Christopher Evan Welch, who tragically passed away in between the filming of the two seasons.
While there was certainly a missing aspect of the show without the great work of Welch , “Silicon Valley” writers otherwise were able to take leaps and bounds forward in season two. Thomas Middleditch brought more depth to the central character of Pied Piper CEO Richard Hendricks, and his battle with “Google” ripoff Hooli CEO Gavin Belson was the highlight of the show. “Silicon Valley” delicately balanced just how many times to pull the proverbial ball away from Hendricks and crew just when it seemed like they were primed to kick it, without it becoming irritating.
Smartly, season two also allowed for more significant roles from side characters played by great comedic actors like Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, and Zach Woods. “Silicon Valley” is one of the smartest, more tightly written sitcoms out there, and season two proved it has the staying power to be a force for several years to come.
“Rectify” is sometimes referred to as the “best show no one is watching” (or maybe I just made that up, but whatever), and it’s a real shame.
Although season three was the weakest season yet of the Sundance Channel original show, it still proved to be one of the most effective dramas on television.
Now that we’re three seasons in, the question of whether or not Daniel Holden actually killed Hanna was really no longer even relevant (not that it ever really was), although more answers were provided this year than I would have expected. Still, Ray McKinnon and his writers still mostly decided to focus on the repercussions of Daniel’s inclusion back into society, and the mental toll it takes on his family members when he refuses to fight the allegations lobbied against him, while the investigation remains a side story that almost feels at times disconnected from the central plot.
Brilliantly acted again by Aden Young, Abigail Spencer, J. Smith Cameron and the rest of the cast, “Rectify” is a slow burn that tugs at you and sucks you in. Season three was challenging at times, and often left you heartbroken, but it still tops the list of TV’s more under-appreciated shows.
17. Game of Thrones
You’d be hard pressed to find a GOT fan that didn’t think that the latest season of the show was its worst. However, it was still good enough to clean up the “Best Drama” award at the 2015 Emmy’s. It was an odd choice to pick this year of all years to award “Game of Thrones” with that top prize, considering some of the questiomable narrative choices made and the controversy much of the season generated (Sansa’s rape induced a full plate of #hottakes the next day).
Still, “Game of Thrones” even with its flaws, is a phenomenal program, capable of providing some of the most high stakes dramatic moments on television. This year, it was the epic battle between The White Walkers and Jon Snow’s wildings crew that gave the season its best moment, and that episode alone is enough to qualify GOT for a top 20 spot. Three or four other scenes (many from the finale alone) were some of the most memorable and visually impressive of the year as well.
While I may not personally agree with the direction some of the characters went in in this past year, it’s hard to really argue that “Game of Thrones” isn’t one of televisions best shows, which is why once again it was the most torrented show of the year. Show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have more than proven they deserve the benefit of the doubt, and while the world waits for George R.R. Martin to write some more god damn books, “Game of Thrones” will be in capable hands as it further divides from its source material.
Captivating, engaging and brilliantly acted, the first season of “Bloodline” cemented it as one of the best breakout shows of 2015.
While the central plot of “Bloodline” took a few episodes to really kick into gear, once it did, the story of a disjointed family who makes a series of horrifying decisions and has to deal with the consequences, slowly but surely proved to be an enthralling thrill ride.
Kyle Chandler and Ben Mendhelson each put in career defining performances as dueling brothers each fueled by a warped sense of right and wrong. “Bloodline” is a character study about family, and the consequences of the choices we make, no matter how far in the past those mistakes may be.
The only complaint I could maybe have about “Bloodline” is that sometimes its even too slow of a burn and sometimes can take 30 minutes in an episode for business to really pick up. But more often than not, side conversations characters have that seem unimportant will come back to the fray in some way or another to connect the dots of the story.
For those who have seen it, without giving too much away, I worry about where they will go from here in season two, but if future seasons are anything like the first, than “Bloodline” will soon become fully recognized as one of TVs top dramas.
15. Mad Men
I watched “Mad Men” unlike any other show on the list this year; I binged watched it over the course of the year. I figured that after seven seasons of “Mad Men” being critically acclaimed as one of the best shows on TV, it was time, so I did what I hate doing: I binged one show straight through on Netflix and knocked out the seven seasons in 6 months.
Yes, I know 6 months seems like way too long for people that can watch a whole season of a show in one night, but that’s how I like to do things. But we’re getting off topic here, that’s a discussion for a different blog post.
Anyways, it’s hard for me to speak about just the 2015 version of Mad Men because I watched it all together, still I’ll try. The final episodes of “Mad Men” fell flat to me, at least considering how great the show was in its heyday, and yet, it undoubtedly still was some of the most poignant dramas on TV this year.
Don Draper’s final journey just felt…off to me. But the end game for Joan, Peggy, Pete, Roger and many of the other characters was more appropriate without being predictable. “Mad Men” is a show that never through the course of basically eight seasons lost its voice. From episode one until the finale, “Mad Men” had a specific tone and feel that never wavered. Although Matt Weiner ultimately decided not to cater to most of the crazy fan theories in the shows final episodes, he more than did justice to a show that will go down as one of the most significant of the decade.
In a way, it almost feels like you can tell that Louis CK doesn’t really want to make “Louie” anymore. Season 5 was the shortest season yet, and now CK is taking an indefinite hiatus before he comes out with season six. It’s unclear why “Louie” has become so significantly taxing on CK (you know besides the fact that he writes and produces the show, and is the lead character) but it may be simply that CK is ready for a break after experiencing his fair share of criticisms and even some pretty nasty allegations this year.
Still, if season five of “Louie” was CK’s swan song for the time being, he went out with a bang. “Louie” has always been a show that is deeply poetic and metaphorical, but this season CK took it to extreme levels with episodes such as “Untitled” in which CK is literally tormented by a monster that weighs on his conscious after he refuses to help a woman in need. CK also tackles the generational gap, depression, and of course the modern day stand-up world, including the phenomenal final two episodes of the season “The Road” pt. 1 and 2 in which Louie is out shined on a tour by a comedian who thrives on sophomoric humor and , Louie has to come to terms with his own shittiness as the reason why he is not more beloved.
Like usual, CK manages the themes with tact, without forgetting that at the end of the day this show is still supposed to be funny. The character of “Louie” has grown a surprising amount in the shows five years, and although the real life CK may need a break from him, I for one am excited to see where he goes next.
13. The Leftovers
The first season of “The Leftovers” that aired in 2014 was probably the darkest and most depressing shows on television. It was also tremendously narratively flawed, and Damon Lindelof vowed to lighten it up a bit in season two.
Well, he didn’t.
In fact, if anything, “The Leftovers” was just as dark as its first season. Except this time, it was tighter, more intense, and significantly better all around than it was the first time.
“The Leftovers” might not have been my favorite show of the year, but it certainly was the one that kept me the most engaged. Yes, there was plenty of mind-fucking that contributed to that, as I was trying to figure out just what the hell was going on at times. But it was more than that, it was also extremely well-acted, twisty, violent, gripping, explosive, and shocking.
Those seeking answers to every little mystery that “The Leftovers” provides are missing the point. At the end of the day, it’s the story is not about the 2% that went missing, it’s about those who are left behind. Now that the show has relocated to Miracle, everything has changed for the members of the Garvey’s as well as those who inhabited the town before the disappearance.
It’s a show that challenges you to stick with it and sometimes it can feel like just too much. But for those willing, “The Leftovers” will leave you saying “wow” more than any other show on TV.
12. Bojack Horseman
“Bojack Horseman” should probably not be good. The premise sounds dreadful on the surface..an animated sitcom about a former child star that is a horse, as he deals with the booze and drug filled life that follow many former stars as their careers slip away from them.
But not only is “Bojack Horseman” surprisingly often very funny, it’s also deceivingly dark. Bojack will not only leave you with enough clever animal puns and inside jokes that make the show warrant a second and even third time through of watching, but it’s also incredibly thoughtful and unique. It’s animated format allows “Bojack Horseman” complete flexibility over its setting, and while it uses it plenty of times for gags, it also cleverly uses it to tell Bojack’s story in a way that couldn’t be done in three dimension.
No show surprised me more than “Bojack Horseman” when I decided to check out its first two seasons on Netflix this past year, and while the first season took a couple episodes to pick up steam, the second continued momentum of the thoughtful final few episodes of the first season. Bojack Horseman is stunningly one of the most complex and interesting characters on television, (with a great voice performance to boot from Will Arnett) and its a show that can make you cry, and cry laughing with tears in the same half hour.
11. Master of None
Aziz Ansari has become a bit of a comedy renaissance man. Along with his long-term run as the scene stealing Tom Haverford, Ansari also continues to be one of the hottest names in stand up comedy, and is even a best selling author. Despite Ansari’s prior successes, it came as a bit of a surprise when his new Netflix show, “Master of None” turned out to be one of the best new shows of 2015. Yet if we were really paying attention, we should have seen it coming.
If the only exposure you have to Ansari is his role as Haverford or maybe one of his stand up specials, “Master of None” will show you a side of him that is much deeper, thoughtful, and introspective than you may have thought possible. Ansari and co-creator Alan Yang follow Ansari’s Dev as he goes through life in New York City trying to find the right love, get his acting career off the ground, and finding out more about his family history.
Each episode largely deals with a central theme such as “Parents,” a look at the under appreciation second generation immigrants have for their parents’ struggles (starring Ansari’s delightfully charming real life parents) and “Indians on TV” about how minorities are treated in the film and TV industry.
The real best part of the show however comes in the second half of the season and deals with the blossoming romance between Ansari’s Dev and SNL alum Noel Wells as Rachel. Ansari and Wells have blazing chemistry, and in the episodes “Mornings” and “Finale” we see their life play out over the course of a year, from when they move in together until Rachel ultimately decides to end things. It’s one of the most stand out group of episodes (“Mornings” specifically if I have to choose one) of television I saw this year. Hilarious, sweet, but ultimately devastating.
Overall, “Master of None” is a tremendous success for Ansari as he continues his ascension as one of comedies biggest stars.
10. You’re the Worst
“You’re the Worst” was one of the premiere breakout comedies in 2014, as creator Stephen Falk took the generic rom-com format and turned it into a series of edgy one-liners, and hilariously awful characters.
This year however, “You’re the Worst” took a hard turn. The show remained funny, but it decided mostly to focus its main storyline on the season on something completely unexpected: clinical depression.
Aya Cash probably won’t be in line for an Emmy this year, but she absolutely should, as she brought to life perhaps the best imitation of what it is really like to be clinically depressed that TV has seen….ever?. Cash’s Gretchen wasn’t just sad, she was broken, unable to perform even the most basic of tasks like getting out of bed, much less giving a shit about her friends’ zany misadventures or tring to keep her already troubled relationship afloat.
Season two of “You’re the Worst” kept much of what made its first season great while also presenting one of the most under-the-radar dramatic performances of the year, and the combination is enough for it to be one of my absolute favorite shows of 2015.
9. Last Week Tonight
While I have eight shows above “Last Week Tonight” on my favorite shows of 2015 list, there is no show on TV that is more important than John Oliver’s weekly half hour dive into the problems facing our world.
Oliver is half comedian and half investigative journalist, and while his timing and performance are great, what truly makes him stand out above the fray are the topics he chooses to cover. Each and every week, Oliver is solely responsible for bringing significant exposure to an important news topic that otherwise may be swept under the rug. And not only that, but Oliver is able to, in 20 minutes, not only explain the issue in depth, but tell jokes while doing so, without letting them step on the importance of the subject matter.
Oliver is not only changing the late night game, he’s also changing the news industry. While Jon Stewart is rightfully seen as the pioneer in the “fake” news format, Oliver has taken it to a new level. Whether its mental health in the US, Syrian refugees, LGBT rights, or the NSA, “Last Week Tonight” is a great way to get informed, laugh a lot, and get mad at the people in charge of these institutions.
8. The Americans
In its third season, “The Americans” brought Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings to the absolute brink.
The show about Russian spies during the Cold War has been one of TVs best dramas for three years now, but season three brought its characters to a crossroads. With the continued recruitment of their daughter Paige to join the USSR, the Jennings’ are forced to come to a decision once and for all: stay loyal to the motherland, or throw it all away and attempt to live their life as assimilated Americans.
Paige is the key to the entire scope of “The Americans,” and young Holly Taylor brings about a performance that matches if not surpasses the always outstanding Kerri Russell and Matthew Rhys in the lead roles. While “The Americans” is naturally tense and dramatic, it can also be incredibly intimate, and season three brought the show to new heights.
Oh, and there is also a scene which is by far the most brutal, and haunting scenes you may ever see on television, and spoiler alert, it involves trying to fit a dead body into a suitcase.
7. South Park
“South Park” has been on the air for 19 seasons. You would think after nearly two decades on the air, a show would be comfortable and complacent (see: “The Simpsons”) in a generic formula. But Trey Parker and Matt Stone were never one’s to shy away from pushing the envelope, and instead of keeping “South Park” in the bubble of episodic non linear storytelling they had implicated for the 17 years prior, (in S18 they dabbled in connectivity as parts of prior episodes such as Randy Marsh actually being Lorde carried over from episode to episode), they decided to take the show in a completely different direction and for the first time tell one continuous story over the course of the season.
What resulted was an occasionally disjointed but always hilarious season of “South Park” that once again proved to be one of the best conveyors of social commentary on television. With characters such as”PC Principal,” the frat bro who aggressively shamed those who showed the slightest bit of political incorrectness or intolerance, Leslie, the literal human embodiment of an actual advertisement, and the not-so-subtle 60s cartoon villain named “Reality,” South Park allowed newer characters to help drive the narrative (with much bigger roles for the likes of Timmy and Officer Barbrady) and took a slight detour from Kyle and Stan being each episodes protagonist.
While the usual individual episode themes were present (gentrification, click bait, internet shaming, ISIS) season 19 of “South Park” also brilliantly weaved together a narrative arc that brought the show into uncharted waters. It’s unfair to dislike “South Park” for offending you or disagreeing with your political views, as that’s alway been their m.o., and yet, some critics were quick to jump on Parker and Stone this season for not taking a stronger stance on issues like gun control.
But despite that small minority of critics (and there have always been some with “South Park” for one reason or another) this season was one of the shows best, and for the first time, the usual one-two punch of comedy and social commentary was joined by a surprising third reason to love “South Park”: an engaging and often thrilling science fiction storyline.
6. Better Call Saul
Doing a spin off to one of, if the singular greatest television drama in history is a risky task. Vince Gilligan and co. must have known that coming in to the production of “Better Call Saul’s” first season, as the “Breaking Bad” universe expanded to show how small-time lawyer Jimmy McGill transformed himself to the Saul Goodman that BB fans came to know and love.
And yet, while there was plenty of doubt heading into the show that Better Call Saul would be able to match “Breaking Bad’s” success level from a writing perspective, if anyone had the ability to do it, it was Gilligan and his team. By the end of the first season, all doubts of Gilligan’s ability had been washed away, as “Better Call Saul” proved to be one of the years best dramas in its first season.
Any misgivings that Saul Goodman was a strong enough character to anchor his own show was erased by the incredibly strong performance in the lead role by former funnyman and now unlikely character actor Bob Odenkirk. Odenkirk brings a depth to Jimmy/Saul that he never had the chance to explore during “Breaking Bad,” and in just the span of a few episodes the sleazy lawyer that we had come to know had been stripped away into a small-time lawman, vulnerable and desperate.
Knowing what eventually becomes of Jimmy (and the show graces us with black and white flash forwards to confirm how Saul’s life ended up post “Breaking Bad”) makes his trials and tribulations even more devastating. Odenkrik is joined by the excellent Michael McKean as Jimmy’s disturbed but brilliant brother, and Jonathan Banks puts in one of the best performances of the year in a supporting role as the familiar Mike Ehrmantraut.
Gilligan has proven now with the success of “Better Call Saul” that he really is a dramatic genius, and if BCS is someone able to following the same upward momentum from season one to two as “Breaking Bad” did, it may be the frontrunner for best show of 2016.
5. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
A few years ago, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” felt like it had hit a lull. Not that the show was ever bad per say, but the quality of the episodes had drastically fallen off from the legendary first 4-5 seasons.
Yet, while for most shows the decline in quality would only increase as the show went deeper and deeper into its run, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” flipped the script, and in 2014 produced one of the shows best seasons nine years after it debuted.
Any questions about IASIP declining once more were put to rest with the tenth season in early 2015, as show runners and leads Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenny, and Charlie Day proved that there was still plenty left in the tank.
Season 10 provided some of IASIP absolute most classic episodes, such as “The Gang Group Dates” and “Frank Retires” but it may have achieved its cinematic peak with “Charlie Work” a Birdman-esque dive into the day-to-day life of bumbling idiot Charlie Kelly, only to see that he more than anyone else keeps the Paddy’s Pub afloat while the rest of the gang couldn’t care less. Shot in one continuous take, not only is “Charlie Work” perhaps the shows best episode ten years in, it’s also a complete new and out of the box way for Always Sunny to produce an episode, proving that the IASIP gang are far from out of ideas.
Another reason why Always Sunny improved so much in recent years is that the once subtle hints about the shows main character’s secrets (Charlie is illiterate, Mac is gay, Dennis is a sociopath) are now essentially completely out in the open allowing for a while new crop of jokes and theme based episodes.
Who knows how long It’s Always Sunny can stay on this track, as all three men along with Kaitlin Olson have been popping up in many more TV shows and movies then they had been in the mid 2000s (even Danny DeVito has that Nespresso commercial). But as long as it does, it will remain one of the most can’t-miss comedies of the year.
4. Parks and Recreation
Heading into its final season, “Parks and Recreation” took an unexpected narrative turn, opting to skip over Leslie’s pregnancy and the beginning stages of her new job in Pawneee, instead fast forwarding three years into the future. Any time jump in a show is bold, but doing so heading into your last 13 episode run is extra risky. But in retrospect, although it was jarring at first, the time shift ended up giving “Parks and Recreation” the little extra boost it needed to sustain its high quality heading into its final season.
More than anything else during its seven year run, Parks and Rec was able to present fun, likable characters. That’s always been what the show is at its heart. It was never concerned with trying out its hand at overly dramatic story arcs or giving the show a darker side. Even the “villains” of the show like Tammy and Councilman Jamm were endearing in their own way. In its final string of episodes, Parks continued that theme, with the time jump allowing for things like Leslie’s run for Governor, Andy and April testing out the idea of starting a family, and a Leslie-Ron “feud” stemming from Ron leaving the Parks department.
Maintaining its high quality and extreme heart, “Parks and Recreation” led up to its final episode, one of the best put together finales I have ever seen. Opting not to try trickeration like “Seinfeld” or “How I Met Your Mother,” “Parks and Recreation” took notes from the wonderful finale of “The Office” by giving all of its characters the happy endings they deserve. In the “Parks” world, having closure on each character’s life post show was a thoughtful touch. I don’t know what I would have done had I not known that Jerry lived to be 100 years old, becoming the longest-tenured mayor in Pawnee history in the process.
Not having “Parks and Recreation” around next year will leave a hole on network television that will be nearly impossible to fill. Other shows have attempted to match P&R’s tone, but whether it is because of a lack of sharp writing or a less likable ensemble, they have all come and gone.
Characters like Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson, April Ludgate, Tom Haverford and Andy Dwyer will live on to be some of the most fondly remembered in sitcom history, and the final season of Parks and Rec gave them all fitting conclusions to their stories.
3. Nathan For You
What Nathan Fielder is doing on his Comedy Central show “Nathan For You” right now, is not only comedic, it is straight up performance art.
In its third season, “Nathan For You” has taken Fielder’s characters ability to manipulate people into trying out his insane ideas on their real-life businesses, and brought it to new levels. No show since “The Office” has taken the concept of cringe comedy and brought a more refreshing take on it than what Fielder is doing, but for critics who claim his wild ideas would be short-circuited in time, he has proven that is far from the case in his unbelievable third season.
While his prior “Dumb Starbucks” and viral pig video stunts have gained him national publicity, in his third season Fielder brought more of his ideas to life such as his line of jackets that promote Holocaust awareness and his fake self-help book “The Movement” to help you achieve your fake fitness goals.
Fielder’s big ideas are the baseline of his comedic value on “Nathan For You” but it is his ability to maneuver in social situations to gain the exact reaction he is looking for that sets him apart from those who have tried similar styles in the past. Fielder has the ability to draw out moments and bring them to their most uncomfortable levels before releasing the punchline all without breaking character. The show is hilarious, and really, a I don’t laugh at any show more than “Nathan For You,” but it is also a strange study on human condition. It’s weird, it’s unprescedented, it’s brilliant. You should watch it.
Last year, “Fargo” was the undisputed surprise show of 2014 (sorry “True Detective”). A tribute but not sequel to the Cohen brothers film of the same name, Noah Hawley’s first season of “Fargo” brought about humor, sharp writing, surprise twists, and classic characters that made it my favorite show of 2014.
Coming into this year, Hawley didn’t have the luxury anymore of sneaking up on anyone. The expectations for season two, set over thirty years prior to the first season and starring a stellar cast led by Patrick Wilson, Ted Danson, Jesse Plemmons, and Kirsten Dunst, “Fargo” had a lot to live up to if it was going to maintain its high regard amongst critics.
While this season may not have surpassed the first, it more than proved that “Fargo” is a legitimate candidate for 2nd best TV show of the decade (it’s going to be next to impossible to top “Breaking Bad”) up to this point.
Every episode in season two was smart, surprising, clever, violent, and grabs you from its first scene to its last, refusing to let up even once. Just when you think you had Hawley and “Fargo” figured out, he finds a way to switch it up and bring the story in a surprising new direction.
The characters also continue to be head and shoulders above any other show on TV as well. In season one, both Lorne Malvo and Lester Nygaard were among the best written characters of the year, and this time around Peggy Blumquist, Mike Milligan, and Dodd Gerhardt all were extremely memorable in their own ways (and Dunst, Jeffery Donovan, and Bokeem Woodbine all deserves serious award consideration).
Each episode is cinematically genius as well, as Hawley’s editing and directing are masterful. It’s a show that is also funny, and sometimes downright hilarious while simultaneously being gruesome and bloody. While there was one show who leap frogged it in my opinion in 2015, there is no show I would say is more of a “must-watch” to appreciate the golden age of TV in 2015 more than “Fargo.”
1. Mr. Robot
I don’t think anyone, me included, expected a hacker drama on the USA Network to be the best show of the year, but here we are.
Even the titled sounds wonky….”Mr. Robot” and the trailers didn’t do it justice either. When I first heard about it, I skipped out, “not for me,” I thought. But after about the fourth week or so, all I kept hearing was how surprisingly great “Mr. Robot” was, and I finally decided to give it a shot.
And it completely blew me away.
“Mr. Robot” creator Sam Esmail came from virtually nowhere to create one of the most intricate, and profound television seasons you will ever see. “Mr. Robot” is an action-packed thrill ride from episode one to its explosive finale, and it is the crowning achievement of television in 2015.
Led by a Emmy-worthy performance in the lead role by Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot” is unique from the get-go in that it tells the story almost entirely from the first person perspective of Malek’s Elliot Anderson, who is a drug addicted and possibly schizophrenic, but also a genius hacker.
With “Mr. Robot” you’re never entirely sure what is real, and what is just taking place inside Elliot’s head. It is bold and intense, and has some of the smartest editing choices I’ve seen in a long time.
Unlike a show like say “Lost” however, Esmail doesn’t withhold answers from the audience to the point of contempt. Instead, he smartly answers some questions, only for that answer to provide many more questions of its own.
There is no telling if “Mr. Robot” can sustain its success now that it will be on everyone’s radar in season two (see: “True Detective” and “Heroes” as shows with blistering first seasons which faltered in season two) but even if “Mr. Robot” gets worse next year (and for the record, I don’t think it will, as everything I’ve heard and read about Esmail seems like he has a specific plan for the story and is far from making it up as he goes), we will always have season one, which out of nowhere, burst onto the scene to become the best television show of 2015.