Every year I try and name my top television shows of the past year. As every year goes by the list gets longer and longer (top 12 shows of 2012, top 13 shows of 2013, etc.) In hopes of not having to write a novel for 2068 I’m capping my list at ten, even though 2015 was the year of #PeakTV.
The list will be in alphabetical order because with such a variety of shows and genres I find it near impossible to say one is “better” than another. “Better” at what exactly? Every show has a different agenda and it is not my place to put Broad City under the same level of scrutiny that I do a show like Mad Men. I also do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum but there are some details I could not ignore, so you have been warned.
Unfortunately there will be noticeable absences from my list. I’m doing my best to catch up on The Leftovers and The Americans, which I have heard are both amazing. Plus many shows released their entire season in the last few weeks of 2015 (Transparent and Making a Murderer). Since this is not my real job and no advance screeners were available I was unable to see everything. However, these ten shows I did have a chance to see and love:
Better Call Saul (Season 1)
This shouldn’t have worked. Let’s give the comedic side-character his own spin-off! What could go wrong? Well it turns out nothing can when you have Bob Odenkirk, Vince Gilligan and the Breaking Bad team! While some may say season one was slow, it’s probably because we are used to the speed Jesse was traveling in the last episode we saw. We knew Odenkirk was funny but his dramatic work especially alongside his brother Chuck (Michael McKean) was a great surprise.
Fargo (Season 2)
I hate comparing shows but this year we saw the sophomore seasons of two critically loved miniseries largely from the mind of one individual. One of which (Fargo) could earn the number one spot if I was doing an order, the other can’t even be mentioned in the same sentence. (Since this is a new sentence the other show was True Detective). Everything we loved about season one of this FX series was back and multiplied by ten. Editing, directing, writing and an ensemble so good that if I listed them all we would have a run on paragraph! Creator Noah Hawley could catch lighting in a bottle twice but will the third time be a charm too?
Hannibal (Season 3)
Before 2015 I did not see a second of Hannibal and three seasons later I still can’t believe a second of this show aired on a broadcast network. A kaleidoscope lesbian sex scene, scene transitions using melted butter and oh yeah, a cannibal cutting into his ex-patients’ head with a buzzsaw. While the pacing of the season was a little choppy (the creator was forced to speed up his timetable) I am glad we got a beautiful and fitting end to the Will and Hannibal relationship. But if we got another season I would be the first one sitting at that table!
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (Miniseries)
HBO had the most outlandish character in all of television this year and he was completely real.Throughout February I heard rumblings online about how great this show really was but it was not until the eve of the finale when Robert Durst was arrested that I caved in to see what the fuss was all about. Two days later when I made it to the finale and heard Durst’s open mic, my jaw had to be lifted off of the ground. While the production timeline is a little fuzzy and perhaps blurs journalism ethics, it is hard to deny it was such an addicting television show.
Podcast Appearances: Series
The Last Man on Earth (Seasons 1 & 2)
Nothing may be ever able to top “Alive in Tucson” (the show’s pilot) but this is one of the few shows that I feel compelled to watch live every week. It is unlike anything on television and the most creative broadcast network sitcom. From solo episodes like the pilot to vignettes of Phil’s brother in space, you never know what, or who, will surprise us next. There are still some kinks to work out but when this show swings for the fences it always connects.
Mad Men (Season 7 Part 2)
While the AMC mandated break up of the final season did hurt the overall strength of season seven, the final four episodes of this half season were some of the show’s best. Everyone had their moment in the sun including Peggy Olsen’s badass arrival to McCann and January Jones’ awards worthy portrayal of Betty Draper and her sudden illness. Don’s finale could have been the brilliant “The Milk and Honey Route” but thankfully we got “Person to Person” where he had the chance to say goodbye to the three most important woman in his life before he has a groundbreaking idea. It was a perfect ending to a great show. Plus as for series finales go at least nobody became a lumberjack.
Man Seeking Woman (Season 1)
Alright you caught me. My bias is seeping into this list but anything I can do to support this show I’m willing to do. Whether it is dating a literal troll or going to a wedding in hell, anything is on the table. For those unfamiliar with the show Jay Baruchel plays Josh who finds himself in awkward and very surreal circumstances in the search for love. There’s time travel, a war room designed to create text messages and an Adolf Hitler appearance from Bill Hader. This show is near impossible to explain but if this sparked your interest season two drops on January 6th…
Podcast Appearances: Premiere
Mr. Robot (Season 1)
Much like The Jinx it was not until the week of the finale that I caved in and fell in love with Mr. Robot. Maybe I was thrown off with the title or maybe I just unfairly judged the show’s network, either way minutes into the pilot I was fully on board! Elliot’s dark and suspenseful attempt to take down E Corp with the mysterious anarchist Mr. Robot was one rollercoaster (or Coney Island ferris wheel) that I was not ready to get off. I have no idea how they can top the turns and surprises of season one but with a show that can eerily predict the future I’m sure Sam Esmail has it all figured out.
Podcast Appearances: Season (Spoiler Free)
Nathan For You (Season 3)
Much like Man Seeking Woman I need everybody to stop what they are doing and watch this docu-reality series starring this Andy Kaufman-like performer who graduated from one of Canada's top business schools with really good grades. If you checked my dopamine levels at any point during one of these episodes it would be sky high! What started as a spoof of business makeover shows, season three became something else entirely. With an original fitness routine, a slice of life theater piece, and a heroic stunt so big it required seven months of training I can’t even imagine where Nathan will take season four.
Podcast Appearances: Season
Silicon Valley (Season 2)
There were so many amazing comedy series that could be in this spot (Broad City, Louie, Veep, etc.) but I’m going with the sophomore season of this HBO series (which also won the Critics’ Choice Award for comedy series). While I enjoyed season one, season two fixed any faulty wires and thus a solidly consistent comedy was manufactured. Somehow despite more episodes and losing an hilarious supporting actor, the show only become more awkward and hilarious. An exciting arbitration arc (when have those two words ever been used together?) and guest work from Chris Diamantopolous and Matt McCoy ended the season on a cliffhanger that has me more and more excited for season three.
Podcast Appearances: Premiere
Five Honorable Mentions (to make 15 in honor of 2015):
Broad City (Season 2), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Season 1), Survivor: Second Chance, Veep (Season 4), and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp