Top 10 TV Shows of 2015

Top 10 TV Shows of 2015

End of the year lists spend so much time on film. Nothing wrong with that, but I spent a lot more time on my couch this year than in a theatre. So, I humbly present my take on the best of television this year.

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Honorable Mentions.

Justified – Fans thankfully got a thrilling and satisfying conclusion to perhaps the greatest modern western show ever.

Game of Thrones – I read the books, so it’s increasingly hard to be objective with Game of Thrones. Yet this season delivered on its ambition, despite it’s detraction.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – I cannot understate Tina Fey’s comedic brilliance. This is a very odd show, but also very, very funny.

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10. MASTER OF NONE

master001Aziz Ansari has his finger on the pulse of the culture right now, and he’s the perfect man for the job. Master of None isn’t perfect but it’s refreshing. It doesn’t get cynical when it has every right to. It’s got a sure touch, a warm heart, but a truthful stance on life and love. Plus, it’s really funny. It feels completely authentic and it’s very worth a binge on Netflix.

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jjones0019. JESSICA JONES

I thoroughly enjoyed Jessica Jones. It nearly aced all the points it was aiming for; the gum shoe idiosyncrasies, the noir-ish superhero vein, the thematic question of powers left uncontrolled. What’s more, David Tennant as the Purple Man was a stroke of genius. Yet, the show sorely lacked in humor, taking itself a bit too seriously as it seemingly tried really hard to be great. Kristen Ritter was superb, if a little one noted. Nonetheless, this is another of many wins for Marvel this year, and I’m excited for the show’s future.

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8. BLACK SAILS

bsails001You could basically call this Game of Thrones for pirates, but it’s far less complicated and usually a lot more fun. The first season was an intriguing pirate story with beautiful scenery and gritty swordfights. The second season, which aired at the beginning of the year, came along and blew it out of the water like a cannon on one of those giant 18th century gunships. It had some of the best character moments I saw this year, with heartbreaking results, all the while boasting the best pirate swashbuckling action ever to be on the small screen. I implore you to seek out this vastly underrated show.

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b990017. BROOKLYN NINE-NINE

Hands down, this is the funniest show on TV right now. There are plenty of hilarious shows out there, and many on this list. But none deliver the laughs more purely or consistently than the nine-nine. Andy Samberg’s Jake Peralta is the right amount of confidence and immaturity to mix with all of the well-rounded, quirky characters on the show. It’s a smart comedy with a lot of stupidity. Watch this show.

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6. DOCTOR WHO

whod001Last year, the Doctor would have been unfortunately far away from this list. One of my all time favorite shows seemed to be trending quickly downward. Season nine inhabited absolutely everything the show does well, and became one of the best in the series. The twelfth Doctor quickly shed his cavalier attitude from the previous season to fully embrace the eccentricities and kindness the Doctor is known for. His speech on war in “The Zygon Inversion” is a masterpiece of science fiction writing and an important indictment of the human spirit. I’m so relieved that Doctor Who is back.

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siliconv0015. SILICON VALLEY

I’m happy to have so many brilliantly funny shows on this list. Silicon Valley is often ridiculous and crosses far over the line (in the best way possible), but at its heart it’s a David vs Goliath story set in the often phony world of big tech conglomerates. The second season delivered everything the first season promised and more. I think it’s one of HBO’s best shows, not just currently, but ever.

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4. COMMUNITY

community001The smartest and most meta sitcom of all time got its proper send off as the final season aired on Yahoo! this year. Dean’s virtual reality adventures, Chang’s Karate Kid stage play, the RV trip, so many great moments are here. The finale “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television” is one of the most brilliant pieces of TV writing I’ve ever seen; razor sharp, painfully funny, and even a little self deprecating. How did this show always get so overlooked?

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lastweek0013. LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER

It’s easy to call this the successor to Jon Stewart after his exit from The Daily Show. This is definitely the news show that tells it like it is. But Last Week Tonight goes beyond The Daily Show, because it is somehow able to get more to the heart of the issues facing our culture. Perhaps it’s the longer run time or the uncensored forum HBO provides, but John Oliver and his writing staff cut deep, very deep, mercilessly skewering anything they find trying to cover up the truth. His exposé on televangelism should be given whatever journalism awards they give out these days. We need this show more than we probably realize.

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2. DAREDEVIL

dd001How do we deal with injustice in a just way? What happens when the lines of right and wrong become blurred? Is one life a worthy cost to pay for the lives of many? This is a superhero TV show asking these questions, folks. In the midst of captivating entertainment and action that will leave imprints in your couch cushion, these fully-realized, expertly-acted characters wrestle with essential struggles of the human heart. It’s a victory not just in the superhero genre, but for television in general.

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carter0011. AGENT CARTER

The year 2015 was an exciting and important one for female characters in entertainment– perhaps the most important year yet. In film we had Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road, and Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In television, Jessica Jones played a vital role, but I would argue that the real triumph was Agent Peggy Carter.

The show dealt with male chauvinism head on by showing off the workplace relationship of the post war 1940s, warts and all. They further illustrated this by placing our hero directly in the shadow of Captain America, both a literal and figurative reality. Agent Carter was exciting, twisty, thrilling, and most importantly authentic in its nature. I was blown away by how stellar this show was, when it could easily have followed the contrived line of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Those two shows are wholly incomparable, and in my estimation, no show this year was comparable to Agent Carter.

In summary, I’m no fan of Mad Men, I missed one or two other shows on most big name critic’s lists, and Netflix and Marvel make the most appearances. But every show on this list was wholly entertaining, thrilling, and poignant. I can’t recommend all of these shows enough.

5 comments

This is a great list! I especially love seeing Community so high, as it’s one of my favorite shows of all time (and the finale really was perfect), but there were so many great shows this year that it was only #25 on my list… Yes, I watch too much TV. I’ll just share my top 15.

1. The Leftovers (I’m the guy that wrote the Leftovers review here)
2. Fargo
3. Review
4. Mad Men
5. You’re the Worst
6. BoJack Horseman
7. Show Me a Hero
8. Nathan For You
9. Rectify
10. The Americans
11. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
12. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
13. Better Call Saul
14. Veep
15. Silicon Valley

Thanks Forrest!
I must confess that I completely forgot about Wet Hot American Summer. I am a HUGE fan of anything WHAS. Too much great TV to keep up with!
Apparently BoJack Horseman is really great. It’s on so many top lists.
Fargo might have been on my list, but I didn’t watch this season because the first season was so hopelessly, soul- shakingly dark. It was very well written. But it’s borderline sadistic need to be bleak and cynical got too much in its own way. It reached for darkness whereas something like Breaking Bad just developed its darkness.

Yes, BoJack is great after the first few episodes of season 1. It starts out feeling like a generic blend of every adult cartoon of the last 15 years, but about 4 or 5 episodes in, it becomes more of a psychological drama about a depressed man who feels like he has nothing to live for.

I see what you mean about Fargo. To me, the darkness in season 1 of characters like Lester and Malvo was balanced out by the goodness of Molly and Gus. The over-the-top darkness of the villains, to me, is in line with the absurdist nature of the show. It’s a morality tale that gets its points across with extremes. And in the end, in true Coen fashion, everybody gets what they deserve. Season 2, for what it’s worth, feels much more hopeful throughout than the first did. And justice is always delivered in one way or another. I would highly recommend giving it a chance.

Also, my name is Chris; Forrest is just my username. He’s the main character of Review (my #3 show of 2015). I can’t recommend that show highly enough. It’s about a critic who doesn’t review food, books, or movies, but life itself. In the show-within-a-show, viewers send in requests of life experiences for him to review, and he always does it, because he feels that he is doing important work that can radically improve the lives of those who watch. His complete dedication to the job, regardless of the absolutely insane things he has to review, begins to ruin his life and the lives of his loved ones. But he doesn’t know when to stop. It’s sort of like the Breaking Bad of comedies, in that we watch the central character gradually descend into darkness, but he thinks he is doing what he does for the right reasons. It’s one of the most unique, hilarious, heartbreaking shows I’ve ever seen.

Sorry Chris! I didn’t put 2 and 2 together on that one.
Wow Review sounds amazing. I’m going to check that out for sure.

I wonder if a more hopeful Fargo season will still be as hopelessly dark as I imagine haha. Oliver Platt’s character Stavros from the first season is where I believe the series really kindof caved into straight cynicism and darkness. I did love Gus and Molly (especially Molly) and I understand the plot function of Stavros, but the way they left him to me was bizarre and thematically irrelevant. They like to play with biblical concepts in the show without really discovering how they relate to humanity. Or at least, that’s how his arc felt to me. Billy Bob and Martin Freeman were unbelievably great, though. Which is why I say I liked it but just wouldn’t ever watch it again I don’t think.

No problem, it gave me a chance to plug one of my favorite shows!

That’s a totally fair criticism of Stavros and Fargo’s use of biblical concepts. His arc was my least favorite part of season 1 for sure. Season 2 was better in every way though, in my opinion, and it definitely felt more human. I’d at least give it an episode or two to see what you think.

Also, I just started watching Black Sails thanks to your list (the only show you mentioned that I wasn’t familiar with), and I’m hooked. Thanks for the recommendation!

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