Monday, January 11, 2016

My 10 Favourite TV Shows of 2015

It is the end of the year once again, and that means it is time for all of us so-called critics to start tossing out our annual best of whatever lists. Today, it is this so-called critic's turn, and it is going to be the best TV shows of the year. And, as we are currently living in a true golden age of television, this is a damn strong list of the best TV had to offer in 2015. Perhaps favourite is a better descriptor than best, but whatever you wish to call it, here it is. So, without further ado...

1. Mad Men (AMC) - After seven classic seasons, the great Mad Men finally came to an end in the Spring of 2015. An ending that was simultaneously exhilarating and heartbreaking. Probably the best show of the last decade (though perhaps second to Breaking Bad), Mad Men created a world long forgotten, and maybe a world that never actually existed in the first place. Set in the 1960's world of New York ad men, the show not only chronicled the time, but took biting stabs at the sexism of said times. Jon Hamm, as the charmingly despicable Don Draper, was the crux of the show, and his ups and downs were the crux of the drama. I've always been a Peggy kinda guy though, and Elisabeth Moss, as the veritable second lead, was the heart of the show. This final season, and especially those ballsy final five minutes, make this already modern classic (yeah, I used that term!), the best show of 2015. Goodbye old friend. You will be missed.

2. The Walking Dead (AMC) - Moving from its fifth to its sixth season, The Walking Dead has become more than merely an iconic, Comic-Con juggernaut of a show. Rick Grimes and his post-apocalyptic family have become like our own family. I can see myself hanging with Daryl and Michonne, getting both baking and killing tips from Carol, maybe even eating a big ole can of pudding with Carl. The metaphorically titular characters of AMC's hit show, are no longer mere characters, but my friends and family. I cried when Beth died. I cheered when Morgan came back. I was torn asunder by the shocking sudden deaths of Noah and Tyreese. I was hanging on every moment of Rick's breakdown. The spectacular highs and the devastating lows of The Walking Dead, make the show, now that Mad Men is gone, the best damn thing on television.

3. Fargo (FX) - The first season of FX's anthology series, created by Noah Hawley, and ever-so-loosely based on the 1996 Coen Brothers' film, was highlighted by the fantastic central performance of Billy Bob Thornton. Last year's second season, set in 1979, did not have that one principal crux, but rather one of the best, and most eclectic ensembles of recent times. From Patrick Wilson to Jesse Plemons to Ted Danson to Jeffrey Donovan, Brad Garrett, Nick Offerman, a surprisingly able Kirsten Dunst, a wonderfully odd Bokeem Woodbine, Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan, and a show stealing Jean Smart, Fargo is one of the smartest and most fun shows to come down the pike in a long time.

4. Game of Thrones (HBO) - Consistently one of the most well-received and highly acclaimed shows around today, this notoriously blood-soaked, other world fantasy creature, complete with dragons, and one of the more infamous shows on TV, willing to kill off anyone...anyone, just gets better each and every season. I can't wait for its bloody return in 2016.

5. Parks & Recreation (NBC) - The only network show to make the list, and dammit if it ain't gone forever. Yup, One of two shows on the list that bowed out in 2015, Parks & Rec,, make that was, one of the best comedies of the past decade, and yet also one of the most overlooked. Goodbye Leslie Knope, goodbye Ron Swanson, goodbye Pawnee.

6. A Very Murray Christmas (Netflix) - When I first read about a Bill Murray Christmas special, directed by Sofia Coppola, and featuring the likes of George Clooney, Rashida Jones, David Johansen, Jason Schwartzman, and Miley Cyrus, I knew I needed to pencil it, no, make that pen it in for the eventual year end list. And here it is, penned right in. Yeah, so there. Have I mentioned this is a Bill Murray Christmas special? Yup! Bill Murray. 'nuff said!

7. Mr. Robot (USA) - As great and innovative television expands to more and more channels, it is about time USA gives us something better than the able yet still rather mediocre fare such as Burn Notice or White Collar. This Kubrickian mindfuck of a show, featuring Rami Malek and newly-minted Golden Globe winner Christian Slater, will knock your socks off.

8. Archer (FX) - Forget The Simpsons or Bob's Burgers, or even Family Guy (it jumped the shark years ago), season after season, it is Archer that is solidly the best damn animated show on TV. This show just keeps being some of the laugh-out-loud funniest writing on television. Seriously, if you have not yet watched Archer, get your as moving. Seriously, move it!

9. Ash vs. Evil Dead (Starz) - Who ever thought that in 2015, one of the best shows on television would be a sequel to Sam Raimi's cult classic Evil Dead? Well, guess what... And the show is not only fun as hell, and it is, but also still has that air of giddy charm the original films had. And it has Bruce Campbell as well. What more could ya wish for?

10. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix) - Both sardonic and silly, this Tina Fey created Netflix comedy, may have caused some eyebrow raising and accusations of racism (accusations that are mere ridiculous PC-mongering) in 2015, but that doesn't stop this critic from LOL'ing the fuck out of it!

And since my favourite number is 13, here are three more

11. Flash (CW) - The funnest (yeah, funnest) of all the comic book/superhero shows out there. This CW show, a sort of back door spin-off of Arrow, plays out the most like an actual comic book come to life on the screen. A much more entertaining show than the rather somber soap opera-y Arrow.

12. Orange is the New Black (Netflix) - This was the first big success when Netflix started doing original programming, and now, after three seasons, it has only gotten better. Playing at both comedy and drama, this is one of the best acted shows on television, or whatever one calls television these days.

13. Empire (Fox) - Think Dynasty or Dallas, as a hip hop, record producing family affair, and you have the essence of this highly entertaining network drama. And then you have Taraji P. Henson as the batshitcrazy Cookie, one of the best characters on TV.

Other good shows, in no particular order, which I still feel bad about not including: Broad City (Comedy Central); Casual (Hulu); Daredevil (Netflix); Jessica Jones (Netflix); The Americans (FX); Louie (FX); Community (Yahoo Screen); Better Call Saul (AMC); Orphan Black (BBC America); Sense8 (Netflix); The Strain (FX); Bates Motel (A&E); Episodes (Showtime); Modern Family (ABC); Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central); Halt and Catch Fire (AMC); You're the Worst (FX); Penny Dreadful (Showtime); Transparent (Amazon Prime); American Horror Story: Hotel (FX); Homeland (Showtime); Bojack Horseman (Netflix); Veep (HBO); House of Cards (Netflix); True Detective (HBO); Making a Murderer (Netflix); The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime); Last Week with John Oliver (HBO); and, of course, Doctor Who (BBC). And let us not forget Gotham on Fox, a show that I wasn't a fan of during its first season, but one for which I did a 180 in the current second season. Hell, even the final episode of the first season of Fear the Walking Dead (after a rather disappointing first five episodes) made me have hope for next season.

Well, that's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

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