Monday, January 18, 2016

Top Ten TV Shows of 2015

Top Ten TV Shows of 2015

With Mad Med wrapping up in 2015, the "Golden Age" of Television has officially come to an end but TV has taking a surprising and exciting turn for the future.  We may not be in the supposed golden age anymore, but there is so much more material and choice out there that we seem to be in a good spot going forward.  There is so much good TV out there but not enough time to watch it all.

So, here are the TV Shows that I'm planning on watching but haven't yet seen, and thus can't be included in my Top Ten for this year.  The two shows that would have definitely been on my list, I can pretty much say without a doubt, are The Americans (FX) and Rectify (SundanceTV).  Those are two of my absolute favorite shows on TV.  Some other shows that I haven't seen yet include Banshee (Cinemax), Orphan Black (BBC America), The Last Man on Earth (FOX), The Knick (Cinemax), Homeland (Showtime), Masters of Sex (Showtime), How to Get Away with Murder (ABC), The Returned (SundanceTV), The Affair (Showtime), Catastrophe (BBC America), Outlander (Starz), Kingdom (DirecTV), Transparent (Amazon).

I'm pretty sure I'm done with The Affair and Masters of Sex apparently fell off a cliff, so I don't think I'll have to worry about catching up on those two going forward.  The other ones, I'm definitely looking forward to once I find the time.

Before we get to my favorite shows of the past year, let me just get all the Reality TV I watched this past year out of the way.  Now, just for the record, I enjoy reality competition shows, not reality shows in general.  That's a very important distinction to make before you judge me too harshly.  Also, if you don't want any spoilers on winners (for whatever reason), then obviously skip to the scripted section.

Survivor (CBS - Season 30 - Worlds Apart) - The concept was Blue Collar vs. White Collar vs No Collar.  A pretty weak season that saw Mike Holloway, the Texas oil driller win, but did give us Joe as a consolation.

Survivor (CBS - Season 31 - Second Chance) - A season that was cast with former non-winner contestants by a fan vote.  This was one of the best seasons in a long time.  Firefighter and family man Jeremy Collins took home the Lone Survivor title with a clean sweep of the votes.
The Voice (NBC - Season 8) - Folk youngster Sawyer Fredricks won it for Team Pharrell.  His winning song, penned by Ray LaMontagne is right up my alley.
The Voice (NBC - Season 9) - Jordan Smith, the powerhouse vocalist on Team Adam won the season, although I'd much rather listen to songs by 2nd and 3rd place finishers, Emily Ann Roberts and Barrett Baber from Blake Shelton once everyone comes out with their respective records.  I can almost guarantee I'll hear those two on country radio before I hear Jordan on the radio.
Steve Austin's Broken Skull Challenge (CMT - Season 2) - One of my favorite reality competitions on television.  The returning guy's champ Tommy is so hard to beat, keeps racking up more money, and is such a nice and humble guy, that you can't help but like him.
Lip Sync Battle (Spike TV - Season 1) - I still can't stand how the camera cuts away to reaction shots for half of the performance and I'm still trying to figure out what Chrissy Teigen adds in any way whatsoever.  My favorite performances os Season 1 were Anne Hathaway, Mike Tyson, & obviously Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
The Bachelor (NBC - Season 19) - Iowa farmer Chris Soules (aka Prince Farming) was a snooze-fest who made out with every girl on the show, picked Whitney in the end, and they broke up already.  You can still look up my recaps to the shows on here if you're interested.
The Bachelorette (NBC - Season 11) - Kaitlyn Britowe (3rd place on Chris' Season) is my favorite Bachelorette since Ali Feditowsky and completely turned the rules of the Bachelorette on its head by sleeping with returning Bachelor villain Nick Viall midway through the season.  Fortunately, the Connecticut born and bred Shawn Booth (aka Ryan Schnozling) won in the end.
Bachelor in Paradise (NBC - Season 2) - All the best and most raunchy parts of The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise rolled into one.  I don't really care about any of the actual or fake relationships of these people.
Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Houston Texans (HBO - Season 10) - Hard Knocks continue to trick me into taking players from each season of Hard Knocks three rounds too early in my fantasy football draft.  Fortunately for me, this season is was DeAndre Hopkins.
The Amazing Race (CBS - Season 27) - After the annoying Justin & Diana tied The Amazing Race record with 7 wins, it was the dating news reporters Kelsey & Joey who took home the $1,000,000 prize.  This may have been the weakest top-to-bottom competition I've seen on any season.
Shark Tank (ABC - Season 6) - I don't really differentiate between seasons of Shark Tank but I did catch up on the entire previous 5 seasons of this show and watch the 6th, so it's pretty addicting.
Ink Master (Spike TV - Season 6 - Master vs. Apprentice) - This season of the show had both the mentor and protege come on the show.  It was a pleasant little twist that saw teams work together well to forward each others' game.  In a surprising turn of events David Kruseman after being in the middle of the pack basically the entire season.
Framework (Spike TV - Season 1) - Rapper Common hosted a competition show for custom furniture makers, with Jory winning.  I'm not sure if custom furniture making is made for this type of show where you're timed to make something both innovative and structurally sound but I liked it nonetheless.  It reminded me of the songwriting competition Platinum Hit, with Jewel and Kara DioGuardi.
Married at First Sight (A&E - Season 2) - I'll be honest, I just watch this because the wife does.
Dating Naked (VH1 - Season 2 - Playing For Keeps) - This one's a bit weird, especially because the 2nd season kept the same two main people and had them vote off the newcomers.  It probably works better as a show with new people every week.
WWE Tough Enough (USA - Season 6) - Even though I don't regularly watch wrestling, I still thoroughly enjoy the Tough Enough competition.  The winner for the guys was the much deserved Josh Bredl (aka Chewy) and the girls was the cute but completely undeserving Sara Lynn.
Top Chef (Bravo - Season 12 - Boston) - The season technically started in 2014 and ended in February 2015.  Mei Lin ended up taking the title and I had no problem with that.

OK, now that we've gotten the reality shows out of the way, let's get to the scripted shows that didn't make my top ten list for 2015.

First, let's hit on those that are Ineligible Watches.  First up, the Pilots on Amazon.  I love the strategy that Amazon has taken on of releasing a bunch of pilots and having their viewers vote on which shows that they want a full season of.  That seems like the best recipe to guarantee that you'll have viewers if that pilot is picked up.

Amazon Pilot Season Rankings:
6) One Mississippi - I find Tig Notaro so unfunny, it's not even funny.  See what I did there.  This is basically her take on a female Louie show but without any discernible humor.
5) Good Girls Revolt - Some girls (Anna Camp, Lena Hall, Grace Gummer) at a news magazine try to assert themselves as real journalists.  Think if MTV made a Mad Men series dumbed down for teenage girls.
4) Edge - Shane Black (the writer from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Last Boy Scout, and the Lethal Weapons) takes on the story of Edge, played by Max Martini, a vigilante cowboy in the west.  I can't believe this was made by Shane Black as it is a pretty big mess of a show.  The dialogue, usually his strength, is filled with crappy puns and filler and the show goes back and forth from a gruesomely violent playground to a PG-type of TV movie.  It's like it doesn't know what kind of show it wants to be and was trying to finish the pilot to get it out by a certain date or something.  It just oddly plays out in a haphazard way with no rhythm to it.
3) Z: The Beginning of Everything - A biographical series about Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald played by Christina Ricci.  Who is she playing do you ask?  I have no idea but this show seems so unnecessary and about nothing.
2) Patriot - Michael Dorman plays a folk singing war veteran who goes undercover in a pipeline company.  I have to admit, I do like the music, and any time you can throw Locke from Lost in the mix, I'm probably in.

1) Highston - A young kid name Highston (played by Lewis Pullman) has imaginary friends, who all happen to be famous people.  The cast is filled out with Chris Parnell and Mary Lynn Rajskub (Gail The Snail) and is the perfect platform for guest stars to play his imaginary friends whom he gets advice from.  The pilot had Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Shaq.  It's a really funny show that could have some legs on it.

Sneaky Pete - This show was an Amazon pilot that already got picked up for a full season that will premiere at some point in 2016.  Giovanni Ribisi plays a recently released convict who assumes the identity of his cellmate in prison and moves in with his unsuspecting family who hasn't seen him in years.  I think it has a shot to be really good with Ribisi, the always great Margo Martindale, Ethan Embry, Marin Ireland, and Shane McRae.

Making A Murderer - If you haven't seen this already, you must be living under a rock.  A 10-episode documentary series filmed over 10 years about Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who wrongfully served 18 years for a sexual assault and once released, gets charge with murder under suspicious circumstances from the same police and prosecution that put him away the first time.  If you want to get angry at our justice system, then check this out.

Black Mirror - White Christmas - This Christmas Special episode to one of my absolute favorite series, Black Mirror, finally came to Netflix at the end of 2015.  Once again, this episode touches on the darker side of life and technology.  Jon Hamm plays Matt and Rafe Spall plays Potter, two guys stuck in an outpost together, sharing a meal, and talking about their previous lives.

Detectorists - A British show with Toby Jones and MacKenzie Crook as two metal dectectorists and their ongoing quest to find the big historical discovery.  I watched this show in one day, I just couldn't get enough of it.  The first season is the only one on Netflix and since it is actually from 2014, I didn't include it.

Top Boy - Another British show about young kids and drug dealing in London that is behind because the seasons just got on Netflix.  It's very short (each season is four 1-hour episodes) but pretty good.  Like a poor man's Wire.

So let's get the shows I didn't like out of the way real quick.

The League (FX - Season 7 - FINAL SEASON) - I haven't like this in a while but it was the last season so I feel like I had to finish it out.
Hand of God (Amazon - Season 1) - What was my favorite pilot of Amazon's pilot season last year turned out to be way to metaphysically religious for me.  Garret Dillahunt was awesome in this though.
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (FX - Season 1) - Nope.
Ballers (HBO - Season 1) - Cheesy as hell.
House of Cards (Netflix - Season 3) - The show took a nose dive from season's 1 & 2.  I guess it was much more interesting when Frank wasn't President.
The Man in the High Castle (Amazon - Season 1) - Another show from Amazon's last pilot season that is basically Red Dawn, the TV show.  It's actually Amazon's most watched show ever, but I just thought it was so damn boring.
True Detective (HBO - Season 2) - Writer Nic Pizzolatto tried to tackle too much in the second season and threw too many storylines into the mix.  The scene where they figure out the grand conspiracy doesn't even make sense because you don't even remember half the shit they are talking about.  Colin Farrell was still fucking bad ass though.

Didn't Make The Cut:
Narcos (Netflix - Season 1) - Didn't really like Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), liked Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura), loved Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal).
F is for Family (Netflix - Season 1) - Bill Burr's animated comedy about a run down dad and his family in the 1970's is perfect for Burr's profanity-laden outbursts.
Archer (FX - Season 6) - This show is so underratedly funny.
Vikings (History Channel - Season 3) - I didn't like the 3rd season as much as the first two, but it's still a really good show.
The Walking Dead (AMC - Season 6 - Part 1) - The same as it ever was.
Fear The Walking Dead (AMC - Season 1) - I was hoping for much better than what we got from Fear.  I thought I was going to enjoy it more then Walking but I think I actually prefer Walking.
Louie (FX - Season 5) - It looks like Louie C.K. is taking a Larry David and Curb approach to making his show, so that's annoying.
Bosch (Amazon - Season 1) - Much better than I anticipated.  Of course, whenever I see my man Marlo, I always think of this...
Modern Family (ABC - Season 7) - Still funny, even if it's not laugh out loud funny.  Perfect for watching but not really paying attention to, like when you're doing chores or something.
Wet Hot American Summer (Netflix - Season 1) - Loved seeing everyone back.
Broadchurch (BBC America - Season 2) - Really, really good second season.
The Bletchley Circle (BBC America - Season 2) - I enjoyed the first season more and the premise is a little hard to swallow about crime fighting women code breakers of the 1950's.

First Ones Out.  These shows were a step above the last group but not quite into the Top Ten.
You're The Worst (FX - Season 2) - Maybe the first show to actually continue at the same level once the main two characters actually end up together.  Aya Cash's performance in the 2nd Season is basically the reason why it got picked up for a 3rd, in my opinion.  She was great.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX - Season 10) - Always going to be up there for me.  My favorite three episodes were The Gang Group Dates, The Gang Goes On Family Fight, & Charlie Work.
Parks & Recreation (NBC - Season 7 - FINAL SEASON) - A quick final season for Parks & Recreation but still really funny nonetheless.  This is going to be one of the most rewatchable shows when it's playing on TV from now on.  It joins Seinfeld and The Office.
Silicon Valley (HBO - Season 2) - Took a step up in Season 2, capped of by the amazing scene where the guys discuss their Dick Jerk Algorithm.
Veep (HBO - Season 4) - Everyone seems to like this show more than me, but I definitely do like it.  Possibly the greatest ensemble comedy on TV.
Halt & Catch Fire (AMC - Season 2) - A HUGE comeback from Season 1 where the show basically took a sharp turn and changed who the show is centered around.  This season put Cameron (Mackenzie Davis) and Donna (Kerry Bishe) at the forefront of things and was twice as good as it was last season.  Brilliant move by the showrunners and writers.

Just Missed The Cut:
Daredevil (Netflix - Season 1) - With Daredevil being the first Netlfix show about a Marvel character, I have to admit I was a little bit skeptical going into it.  I suppose a little of that has to do with the shitty Ben Affleck movie as well, but boy was I wrong about this one.  The show stars Charlie Cox (from Boardwalk Empire) as Daredevil, a bling lawyer who fights crime at night using his utlra senses and martial arts experience.  The fight sequences are brilliantly choreographed and the show pulls off its gritty crime dramatic feel.  The supporting cast was all really good too including Rosario Dawson, Vincent D'Onofrio (as Kingpin), Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica from True Blood), & Elden Henson (Fulton Reed from The Mighty Ducks).  It looks like next season will have Jon Bernthal (Shane from The Walking Dead) as Frank Castle/The Punisher, which I'm looking forward to.
Justified (FX - Season 6 - FINAL SEASON) - The final season of Justified came to a close.  I'm just sad that I'm not going to see any more Boyd Crowder scenes.  I've been Team Walton Goggins for so long and I'm finally hoping The Hateful Eight will give him his due.  He makes everything he's in significantly better.

Game of Thrones (HBO - Season 5) - Probably the hardest omission from my list but the Jamie Lannister and Braun entire plotline was just a complete waste of time and those two great characters.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix - Season 1) - The theme song alone would put it close to the top and Jon Hamm showed why, once again, he is one of the most underutilized comedic actors out there.

Catastrophe (Amazon/Channel 4 - Season 1) - Short, sweet, and a pretty much perfect comedy about an unexpected pregnancy.

The Top Ten.

10. Mad Men (AMC - Season 7 - Part 2 - FINAL SEASON)

I'll admit it, I really wish the entire last season was consecutively run because I think it took away from the emotional story arc to have it broken up like that, but I'm still going to miss this show.  It was one of, if not the, best written show on TV for nearly a decade with one of the deepest casts who could all play both comedy and drama.  Plus, every time I drink a coke, I'm going to think of Don Draper now, so there's that.

9. Looking (HBO - Season 2 - FINAL SEASON)

I may have been higher on this show than some others but I thought that it's perspective on relationships, both friendships and romantically was pitch perfect.  I specifically thought Murray Bartlett who played Dom was especially excellent in both seasons 1 & 2 and the guest-starring role of the always wonderful Scott Bakula really lifted up their scenes together.  It's too bad that shows like this get taken off the air and something as surface-level as Ballers gets renewed for another season.  

8. The Leftovers (HBO - Season 2)

I can't stand how HBO doesn't let you embed their videos from YouTube.  Anyways, The Leftovers really converted me in its second season.  After the first season, I was ready to give up on the show altogether because it was just so unpleasant to watch as a viewing experience.  But, since I knew that the second season was going to be original material after the first season was based on the book, I was going to give it a couple episodes no matter what.  I'm back in on The Leftovers which announced that it will be shooting and airing its third and final season. 

The International Assassin episode was dynamic, weird (in a good way), and brilliant.  It looks like it takes so much out of Justin Theroux to play Kevin Garvey.  Kudos to him.

7. Togetherness (HBO - Season 1)

I guess I'm just running down my list of HBO shows at this point.  Togetherness introduced us to Steve Zissis, who was stunningly good in the first season of the show as an aspiring actor who's trying to get his shit together.  Paired with him is the best performance I've seen to date from Amanda Peete. Zissis plays Mark Duplass' best friend and Peete plays Melanie Lynskey's sister.  Duplass and Lynskey are married and they all are living under the same roof and trying to pursue the things that are important to them, once they figure out what those are.  All four of them are great.

6. Master of None (Netflix - Season 1)

Even after being in Parks & Recreation's final season, I still thought that Aziz Ansari had the best comedy of the year in his show, Master of None.  The scenes where he's bullshitting with his friends (who include a black lesbian, an Asian guy, and a big white guy - now that's diversity) are reminiscent of some old Seinfeld scenes where they talk about nothing but its the most relatable element of the show.  Plus, Aziz's parents, played by his real parents, are some of the biggest scene stealers in the show.

5. Hannibal (NBC - Season 3 - FINAL SEASON)

Hannibal Season 3 saw the cancellation of one of my favorite shows on television, right before they were going to get into the Silence of the Lambs material and Clarice Starling.  It's unfortunate but there were talks of the rights to the character of Starling and it might have been more trouble than it was worth to try and get everything straightened out in time for Season 4.  I'm hoping (although I've read otherwise) that maybe DirecTV or Netflix might pick up some of the costs and continue the show.  It is the most beautifully shot and yet most gruesome shows I've seen before.  It's elegantly vicious.  The fact that it was on NBC still blows my mind.

4. Jessica Jones (Netflix - Season 1)

After seeing Daredevil (see above), I was psyched to see the second Marvel adaptation from Netflix with a character I was unfamiliar with, Jessica Jones.  The show stars Krysten Ritter as the title character, a woman with super human strength and the ability to jump far distances (almost like controlled limited flight).  One of the things I really like about the show is how it mentions things like The Avengers so that you know you're operating in the same universe but on a more personal level than superheroes fighting galactic monsters.  

I was afraid I was going to hat Krysten Ritter because of how unlikeable she was as Jane in Breaking Bad.  Of course, she was supposed to be but sometimes that lingers with you from one performance to another.  Luckily for me, she killed it (no pun intended) in this, so there's no problem there.

It also looks like Jessica Jones is headed for some crossover with Daredevil as Rosario Dawson shows up at the end of the first season.  The show will be called The Defenders.  Also, from what I've read, Mike Colter who plays Luke Cage, is going to get his own series on Netflix as well.  With what I've seen from Colter, it looks like Netflix is going to go 4 for 4 with Marvel adaptations.  

P.S. David Tennant as Killgrave was an awesome villain.  The accent just gives him that extra something.  He had quite the year with both Broadchurch Season 2 and Jessica Jones. 

3. Better Call Saul (AMC - Season 1)

Another show that I was a bit skeptical of going into it, but I think everyone was a bit skeptical based on how good Breaking Bad was and the fact that Better Call Saul was going to naturally be compared to it.  Wow.  That's what I have to say.  It's good to be back in this world and back with a lot of these characters.   Bob Odenkirk is great as Slippin' Jimmy/Saul and shows incredible range that I didn't know he had.  Jonathan Banks is back as Mike and is just the best.  Really, he is.  He's the best.

2. Fargo (FX - Season 2)

The second season took a leap from the first.  The cast had an impossibly deep bench that included so many characters that you were excited to see every time they were on the screen.  Right when you forgot about a character, they'd come back into the story and blow you away with something new.  I don't know where the show is going to go with a story for the third season, but I do know, that whatever they do, it's going to be awesome.

P.S. I see you Landry.  Who would've thought that Jesse Plemons would have the best career post-FNL of anybody from the show?  Fargo, Bridge of Spies, Black Mass, Breaking's incredible. Good for him

1. Mr. Robot (USA - Season 1)

And here it is.  My favorite show of 2015.  The out-of-nowhere Mr. Robot.  I watched the show when USA (of all networks) put it out On Demand in advance of the pilot actually airing on the channel.  This was a really smart idea by USA based on how good and dynamic the pilot episode of Mr. Robot was.  I was literally telling people to ignore the weird name of the show and check it out before the episode had even aired on USA.  With time to spread the good word of the show by word of mouth before the second episode, USA had a built-in audience ready to gobble up each episode as it came out.  Usually a show would have to have an entire first season that would need to be talked about after it was over and then have people waiting in anticipation of the second season...if they even made it there.  Mr. Robot was able to tap into that model but incorporate it into the first episodes of the series.

Rami Malek is phenomenal as the lead and his hollowed eyes just add to the intensity he is able to get across on the screen.  Christian Slater was really good in a supporting role as well.  Good to see him back in action.  Mr. Robot wins 2015.