I think there was some real fear in 2015 that the golden age of television was going to end. After all, we were losing Justified, Parks and Rec, Mad Men, Key & Peele, probably Community, and even The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. But holy shit did I have a hard time choosing just 10 shows to celebrate come the end of 2015, and that’s just among the shows I watch. There are probably a dozen other shows I know I would like that I haven’t watched yet, like that damn Mr. Robot, so yeah, TV is still pretty good.
Master of None
Nathan for You
The Americans would be the best show on TV if it didn’t make its audience work so damn hard for it. One of the first scenes I remember from the 2015 season is our supposed heroes brutally breaking a body into pieces to smuggle it out of a hotel. It’s that kind of gritty, meticulous realism that can make the show feel like a slow burn – but it’s worth it for the times when things really do explode. The characters are pretty much all unlikable jerks, the situations are often exceptionally uncomfortable, but there’s no denying just how riveting The Americans is every week. Also, mail robot!
I feel like most people would go with Jessica Jones, but for my money, Daredevil was the best thing in the 2015 Marvel Cinematic Universe. I mean, you guys know me, I’m slightly more inclined to go with the show with mystical ninjas over the show about PTSD. The Daredevil team was a lot of fun to watch develop, but what really impressed me about this show was its villains – the Kingpin in particular instantly became one of the best, scariest villains on the whole MCU (to be fair, his reign did end as soon as we met the Purple Man in JJ, but that doesn’t mean Kingpin isn’t great). Can’t wait for season two in a couple of months!
There’s nothing wrong with some good ol’ goofy TV, and one of the best places to find that in 2015 was on Netflix, with a slew of great comedies spearheaded by the would-have-been-doomed-on-NBC Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Yes, the set-up does bear a bit of a resemblance to Blast from the Past, Kimmy Schmidt‘s story is much more insane and leads to some wonderfully heightened scenes towards the end of the season. Bust mostly its the unbridled enthusiasm of the titular character that made this show such a fun binge earlier last year.
Transparent‘s second season did a lot to refocus itself after all the gossip surrounding the first season could have derailed things. Yes, this show is about a transgender woman and her wealthy, feminist, Jewish family, but it’s actually about those characters, not their politics. They’re all selfish and confused and sad in different ways, and this season was about those specific identities coming into question. So don’t worry, even if you can’t relate to these specific situations, the stellar cast and writing will show you that you can relate to what they’re feeling.
Comedy Central has amassed a juggernaut of great, under-appreciated comedy shows. There’s Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City, Nathan for You, and the recently deceased Key & Peele, to name a few. I think my favorite one is Review though, even as a show that probably didn’t need to come back after its first season. But the disastrous effects of the first season only added fuel to the fire that is Forrest MacNeil, who dedicated himself to burning everything down in not just his life, but anyone who dared get close to him. The insane challenges, the bizarre rituals, the shocking number of shootings, it’s all a lot of fun.
To those who say Better Call Saul is better than Breaking Bad, I salute you. Last year was all about reprisals for Bob Odenkirk, reimagining his iconic role from that beloved series as well as returning to his sketch comedy roots on W/ Bob & David. I don’t think I was alone in being skeptical about a new, prequel series focusing on Breaking Bad‘s weasley lawyer, but of course I should have known anything that brings back that show’s signature visual flair and provocative editing would be well worth my time. How long can it go? Who knows, let’s enjoy it while we can.
I wish there was more Mad Men in 2015 so I would be more comfortable putting it higher on this list. Episodes eight through 14 of the most prestigious show on TV aired last spring and showed one last stirring of the status quo as the characters embraced the end of SCDP (or whatever its final name was) and tried to figure out what life could be in 1970 and beyond. It was a short, rambling half season that gave us final reminders of how wickedly cyclical life can be.
John called Rick and Morty both smart and complex which might seem surprising for a show that added to its cast this year a character called Mr. Poopybutthole. But it’s true, this is a show that makes a deep commitment to its science fiction plots and a willingness to go with the most extreme option in each episode’s plot arc. From playing a car in self-defense mode out to its logical conclusion (brokering world peace with the giant spiders) or tackling parallel timelines in one of the most insane ways I’ve ever seen, everything was so great that I’m really bummed it’ll be quite a while until season three is out.
But at least Rick and Morty is getting another season. I don’t know why Hannibal got insanely bad ratings when shows like The Black List and Blindspot are doing well, but at least the show’s final season got to tackle two books and provide an ambiguous but effective conclusion to the twisted love story of Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter. The first followed the survivors of last season hunting Hannibal across Europe, the second introduced The Red Dragon and some of the most insane things I’ve ever seen on TV – and this was on NBC, not some premium channel where it would have been appreciated. I hope somebody falls hard enough for me some day that they’re willing to stab me in the gut but miss all my vital organs.
If you were thinking that first season of Fargo was a fluke, you were wrong. I get it, I hear True Detective‘s second season was a bummer and other anthology shows don’t seem to be aging that well. But Fargo‘s trip back to 1979 brought with it that same dark writing, a similar midwestern setting (does technology ever make it out to North Dakota?) and a set of great new characters with a few younger versions of returning heroes. The things this show gets away with are pretty nuts trying to explain to the uninitiated, so I’ll stop here. The next season might not be here until Star Wars Episode VIII, so take your time and savor this show if you haven’t gotten to it yet. You’ll find every bite is delicious.