Ah, so much good TV! I don’t usually have a problem constructing my top ten of the year lists, since whatever’s gonna end up on them will assuredly fall into place over the course of a given year. But TV this year was an intense struggle, just because there was so much of it that I watched and so much of it was great, and at the same time there were probably a lot of great TV I didn’t manage to catch up with. That said, I apparently have been watching basically all the same great TV as Sean and John, so there’s not gonna be a ton here that hasn’t been talked about already. And instead of doing a long list of honorable mentions, I’ll just say Rick & Morty, Difficult People, Key & Peele, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Americans, Louie, and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp were all really great but didn’t make the cut.
We live in a world where well-dressed 20-year-old nerds with nice haircuts go on Colbert after making millions of dollars for some dumb thing that you can use on your phone. Are these overconfident nerds really making the world a better place? I don’t know, and to think that any of the nerds making this stuff are any less scared and helpless than us phone-obsessed zombies on the other side of the equation is absurd, and Silicon Valley has continued to milk this absurdity while somehow doing both high- and low-minded comedy really well.
Of course, I wish I’d had the resources and the acumen to approach my early adulthood in the same way as the guys on Silicon Valley and actually making money off the tech industry (granted my dayjob does allow me to do so to a very modest extent). But instead, I have much more in common with the aimless ragamuffins of Broad City and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Who wants to spend your twenties growing up when you can go on weird adventures that I only vaguely remember at this point, since this show’s last season started airing about a year ago. But regardless, I remember it being really silly and really awesome. Yeah!
Speaking of awesome, here’s a show that was never afraid to embrace its own awesomeness, though the later seasons slowly began to mute the over-the-top assholery of it’s protagonist Raylan Givens. Thankfully, this worked out in the end by giving the character a fittingly low-key ending that also gave the show a great cast of badasses and dumbasses for Raylan and Walton Goggins’ reliably weaselly Boyd Crowder to go up against in its final season. But as fun as it was watching these guys face off against each other, in the end, they dug coal together.
I was a little skeptical if Nathan For You would be able to follow up the blissful insanity of season 2, but pretty much every episode of this latest season had something unbelievable and wonderful at the heart of it. So much so that I’d forgotten that there was an episode where Nathan both started recruiting young child athletes for future sponsorship deals and convinced an antiques shop to start facillitating drunk people to come in the store and break antiques that they would then have to buy, in the same episode. Which again, I feel like I’m already getting into the bad habit of trying to explain the odd brilliance of Nathan For You, when really it just needs to be seen to be believed.
Aziz Ansari seems like the kind of guy that usually has a pretty good year, but after saying farewell to Tom Haverford on Parks & Rec, publishing the fantastic book Modern Romance, and putting out the brilliant debut season of Master Of None, I’d say 2015 was very good to Mr. Ansari. I’m not sure what else to say about this show, since clearly the other two guys on this blog liked it a lot as well. But it’s tricky for a show to be this thoughtful and this funny at the same time, and though it often felt more like a mini-series than a show that’ll go on to last a bunch of seasons, I wouldn’t mind more of it.
This is almost certainly a sentimental pick, due to it being another show that was airing its final episodes around this time last year, so I don’t remember Parks & Rec‘s most recent and final season all that well. But what I do remember is having an equally fun and heartfelt time hanging out with Pawnee’s finest, due to episodes like “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show” and “Ron And Leslie” that fell on both sides of the fun/heartfelt spectrum. I’ll always love Parks & Recreation because it was a show that helped strengthen my faith in the idea of the “smart network sitcom”, though sadly it looks like it might have been the last truly great one. If that’s not worthy of 5,ooo candles in the wind, I don’t know what is.
I feel like dark comedy is usually something that is rarely pulled off, or the term “dark comedy” is usually applied to something that’s dark, but not particularly funny even though it thinks it is. Review — which has apparently turned into a show about one man having his entire life ruined by having his own TV show in which he gives ratings to life experiences — is maybe the best feat of dark comedy I’ve ever seen pulled off on television. Because this is both a show that I laugh at a lot, and yet also frequently felt terrible about what was happening onscreen. And at the same time, it still had room for silly visual moments like Forrest McNeil making everything in his office huge so that he can feel the plight of little people, which is another one of my favorite TV images in a year filled with lots of great ones.
I didn’t have much knowledge of whatever controversy had been stirred up by Transparent, due to the fact that it stars a non-trans actor and is also about fairly wealthy people. Though to me it sounds a bit like what surrounded Girls a few years ago, where a show that dares to be honest and might make people uncomfortable forces overeducated dum-dums to nitpick at things that don’t matter. If there’s a single moment of this show that doesn’t feel completely empathetic towards those that have struggled with gender identity or just what it means to have an identity as a human being, I haven’t seen it. Because if there’s anything Transparent has been able to communicate, it’s that yeah, some of us may be more well-off or more outwardly confident than others, but we’re all just trying to figure out whoever the hell we are, and this show somehow manages to turn that confusion into something beautiful.
Again, maybe another sentimental pick, as Parks & Rec has been my favorite comedy for the past few years, while Mad Men has definitely been that in the drama department. Still, I can’t say there was a single episode out of these final seven that I didn’t heartily enjoy. It’s another show that was about people restlessly trying to find themselves, or at least whatever thing had been promised to themselves by this American ideal that they’d been constructing. Also, I just loved that finale, and it already feels like that last shot of Don Draper at ease on that cliff has already become an iconic image that ranks among Walter White’s final smirk towards the heavens or Tony Soprano’s agitated last glance towards who knows what.
I know binge-watching has more or less become the norm nowadays, and that’s fine, but I’m really glad FX is not a streaming service, but is in fact a network that made me wait each week to see what Noah Howley and his collaborators would cook up next. Because much like in season 1, this is a show that plays by it’s own rules. Stylistically, tonally, and narratively, it seems bent on doing whatever the fuck it wants, and I loved being able to witness that and I loved having that anticipation each week of thinking “What the hell could they possibly be up to on Fargo this week?” Thankfully, it was always something dark and funny and weird and full of moral complexities, but most of all, it was can’t-miss TV.