As many of you may already know, I am addicted to TV. Now that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy great movies because if the mood strikes, I will gladly sit down and watch a movie. And this year I did get to enjoy a few that were new and a few that I’d never seen before. But TV has always held a special place in my heart for being able to tell in-depth stories over the course of weeks. Movies are great, but they are over too soon. I like meat in my storytelling and this was a bang-up year for excellent TV.
I realize I’m a little late on this post, as it is already the 15th of January, but you can still check out these great shows if you’re looking for something good to watch in the new year!! Sound off in the comments below 🙂
- Bloodline (Season 1)
I began bingeing Bloodline at the start of 2015, so it feels like I’m coming full circle back to the beginning in order to start fresh in 2016. Bloodline was captivating from the start, despite knowing what was going to happen from the beginning. Netflix original series have not burned me so far, so when I heard good things about this show I decided to give it a chance. The cast, for one thing, is incredibly stacked: Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini, Kyle Chandler and the exceptional Ben Mendelsohn worked like a dream together. Chandler and Mendelsohn’s scenes together were a special treat due to their incredible skills in front of the camera – an acting masterclass if you will. Telling the story in reverse might have made a lesser show uninteresting, but despite knowing how it ends, the build-up leading to that moment was fantastic.
- Jessica Jones (Season 1)
After her excellent turn on Breaking Bad, Krysten Ritter has not found her niche yet, despite her great work on the short-lived sitcom Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23. I think she has finally found that with Jessica Jones. Despite being a superhero, Jessica Jones does not act like one, nor does her show. She is an abused woman who is trying to gain back her independence and her sanity by helping other people. The show challenges patriarchal values, explores abusive relationships and PTSD all through a super powered lens. The antagonist Kilgrave, known as Purple Man in the comics, is a well-to do white man with mind controlling abilities that he uses to control everyone around him to do what he wants. David Tennant is excellent as the depraved villain with no concept of right or wrong, who thinks his volatile and abusive attitude towards the people around him, specifically Jessica, is done out of love and naiveté, which makes him such a formidable foe. The cast is excellent and I cannot wait for season 2!
- Marvel’s Daredevil (Season 1)
As Marvel’s first entry in their Defenders saga, Daredevil begins a bit like Jessica Jones, in that it is more concerned with the noir and crime elements of the story. As the season progresses, it becomes more and more like a traditional superhero show. Matt Murdock, played excellently by Charlie Cox, is a similarly guilt-ridden superhero like Jessica Jones (though he is accentuated by a heavy dose of Catholicism to boot). As he begins to ensnare the criminals who populate the newly destroyed Hell’s Kitchen (thanks to the Battle of New York that took place in The Avengers), he becomes entangled with the most intimidating and nuanced villain in the Marvel Universe since Loki: Wilson Fisk, played by the indomitable Vincent D’Onofrio. As the series continues, it leans heavier on the superhero side of things rather than the gritty crime drama elements and as a result loses a bit of magic in the process. However, this debut season is excellent for many reasons, but for me it is their deft handling of the most incredibly intricate fight scenes which are unparalleled on TV.
- Fargo (Season 2)
The first season of Fargo was heavily invested in the concept of good and evil, right and wrong and the consequences of the choices a person takes than can lead than down a dangerous or victorious road. Season 2 takes us back in time to the 1979 case worked on by season 1 protagonist Molly Solverson’s father Lou (Patrick Wilson). The case itself deals with a young couple who get mixed up with two of the biggest crime syndicates in the local areas of North and South Dakota. Despite following similar patterns of character tropes seen in season 1, this season is far more focused on agents of chaos rather than the individual despicable actions of one individual. The couple who get caught up in this whirlwind crime spree are Ed and Peggy Blumquist, Jesse Plemmons and Kirsten Dunst respectively. Highlights of the season include excellent acting work from Kirsten Dunst, Jeffrey Donovan and Bookeem Woodbine as the sharp-tongued Mike Milligan as well as some of the most incredible cinematography seen on television today (only to be rivaled by perhaps another on my list: Hannibal).
- Transparent (Season 2)
Even after the brilliant first season introduced us to the Pfefferman’s and their transgender matriarch Maura, I believed a sophomore slump was entirely possible. However, under the care and direction of Jill Soloway, the second season has only expanded upon the first, letting us get to know the people that make up Maura’s orbit. Without giving any juicy details away, this season’s MVP completely goes to Amy Landecker’s portrayal of Sarah as she falls apart following her divorce and marriage to Barb. Ali (Gabby Hoffman) continues to try to find herself, this time through her exploration of new sexual awakenings and relationship with her best friend Syd (the fantastic Carrie Brownstein). Josh (Jay Duplass) is trying to find his own footing in life, while still not dealing with the trauma of being sexually assaulted at a young age, as his past comes constantly creeping up on him. The show has become more than Maura. She is no longer the protagonist, as all the characters stories hold their own weight. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the third season if it’s any good as this one.
- Justified (Season 6)
The final season of Justified was anyone’s game. After the previous year’s dud that was season 5, I had hope that Justified would go back to its roots for the final season, and my, was I not disappointed. Not only did they finally tie up some loose ends, but they did it during an explosive season with perhaps the greatest antagonists since Margo Martindale’s turn as Mags Bennett. First we have Garret Dillahunt as Ty Walker, who has a nice run as the always respectful, but completely unhinged right hand man to the true evil of the season: Avery Markham. Played by the incredible Sam Elliot, minus his trademark mustache, Markham is menacingly laid back so when he snaps its all the more terrifying. Mary Steenburgen also has a great turn as Markham’s love interest Katherine Hale, a woman with nefarious plans of her own who wouldn’t let anything get in her way. The show did not go out in a blaze of glory, but rather chose to honor Elmore Leonard in the best way possible, stay true to your characters and their development. After finishing the finale, I realized I had only seen such a masterful ending to a show two times before that: Breaking Bad and Six Feet Under.
- Hannibal (Season 3)
When I heard that NBC was canceling Hannibal, I refused to acknowledge its inevitable end until it actually happened. My denial of the show’s ending only made me more eager to savor every morsel that was left while I still had the chance. The final season does feel a bit disjointed and as a result I have compartmentalized the first and second half of the season. We begin following Hannibal’s escape with Bedelia in Europe and it almost seems unreal and ethereal; the drama is there but it doesn’t feel urgent. We are very much in Bedelia’s shoes and the absence of Will Graham feels palpable. However once the drama returns to the US and familiar territory of the Tooth Fairy killer, played by the excellent Richard Armitage, the story feels like it took a detour and then circled back to the place where everything began. The story of Will and Hannibal has always been a love story, albeit a disturbing and unhealthy one, and the show respects and understands that relationship intensely. I’m sure that the final moments of this series will haunt me forever.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 3)
I will admit that I initially thought this show would be terrible, but even after viewing one episode I was sold. This show has one of the greatest ensemble casts on television, whether it is a drama or comedy, and they work so well together that any pairing of characters works seamlessly. Each of them bring something different to the table that enables them all to coexist so well. As a result, this is easily one of the funniest shows on TV. I have never sat down for an episode and not had a least 2 or 3 belly laughs, usually as a result of Gina’s brilliant one liners and Chelsea Peretti’s spot on delivery. While the storyline progressed a bit from the previous season (Amy and Jake are finally together!) the stakes are never too high on this show, so you can enjoy each episode on its own. Do yourself a favor and binge this show and if it doesn’t put a giant smile on your face – you are most likely a cold, heartless bastard.
- iZombie (Seasons 1 & 2)
When I look at best of the year lists for 2015, I am consistently surprised to not see iZombie among TV’s best. There really isn’t another show on TV that melds its case of the week/serialization plots so seamlessly and with such a good sense of humor. This season we have watched Major spiral downward as a he continues to be under control of Max Rager, learn more about Clive and what he is into (Game of Thrones!), as well as follow Liv as she continues to be a member of the undead while trying to help those in need. The sophomore season has gotten darker as the stakes have been raised, while always keeping an excellent sense of humor (thank god for Ravi). Liv’s brain transformations are consistently entertaining and I think I could watch Rose McIver play just about anyone after seeing how talented she is on this show. I would highly recommend catching up because I promise you won’t regret it.
- Sense8 (Season 1)
If you told me that the Wakowski’s created a TV series for Netflix, I may have been a bit dubious of its possible merit. However, I decided to delve into this show when I heard from other people and critics that is was a solid series with legs to stand on. I decided to give it a try and I was hooked after episode one. It really appealed to me for several reasons, including the fact that I didn’t know any of the cast beforehand, and I am usually not one to turn down a good sci-fi series. The title refers to a sensate: someone who can sense and experience things another sensate is feeling in any given moment. Sensates are grouped into pods of 8, and they can live all over the world, but still be connected. And this show has just about everything you could ask for: car chases, crime syndicates, government conspiracies, sensate-fueled orgies and more. Despite the occasional plot holes, they are really trying to build a world that eclipses time and space that shows the physical distance between sensates and the things they can experience together even on different sides of the world. It’s a very intriguing premise and I am eager to see how the conspiracies build into the second season.
Honorable Mentions (Because I’m not caught up)
Ash vs. Evil Dead – This show is absolutely brilliant. Bruce Campbell is the king of camp and this throwback series has everything I loved about the original series, but with even more camp. There is a lot of blood and a lot of one-liners and I cannot get enough of any of it. Just do yourself a favor and watch this show.
Jane the Virgin – I am in love with this show and all I need to do is catch up. Alas, this is what happens when you decide to watch a show with your mother and she never wants to watch TV. I’m not really sure what is going on in season 2 and I may just have to binge it all once the season is over because they might just be a lot easier.
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp – I recently re-watched the movie after years and years and then I started the show. It is so nonsensical and super weird and has an incredible comedic cast. I love the absurdity and heightened stakes of the everyday camp minutiae. Highlights include Christopher Meloni – who frankly should do comedy for the rest of his career – and Paul Rudd playing the perpetual immature rude teenager has only gotten better with age.
Luther – I just finished all 4 seasons of this short BBC series and it was the easiest binge I’ve done of a show. Idris Elba is fantastic in a role that is more or less a grounded Sherlock. He relies on series police work and tends to make questionable choices when he is cornered. Ruth Wilson is also incredible as his sociopathic friend, who sometimes gets him out of a tight spot. The acting is superb and I really can’t deny that I am just a sucker for British accents.
Show that Had Potential:
Flesh & Bone – I was so excited for this show from Breaking Bad exec producer Moira Walley-Beckett to be set in the world of cutthroat dance. Ballet itself is an immensely demanding way of life and I had hoped that the drama would pull from the ballet, but it ended up working in reverse. Claire Robbins started out interesting and then became a product of her situation with her past constantly creeping up to threaten her current position. The season took a lot of detours only to land eventually where I expected they would. I had hoped for a lot more from this show.
And the one I feel like giving up on…
The Walking Dead- I have been enjoying TWD for 6 seasons now and thinking back, there was a lot of story choices I didn’t like, but I was able to enjoy the show all the same. This season, the writers really lost me. I find the endless battle between everyone and Rick tiring. Knowing definitely that a character will die if they disagree with Rick is lazy storytelling, plain and simple. It constantly feels like I’m being bashed over the head with the same story beats over and over again. Only this season, they decided to drag it out and create one conflict to stew in for the whole season. They have marginalized characters who I enjoy and have gotten rid of new characters at a rate that is similar to another kill happy show, Supernatural. I am hoping the back half of season 6 brings something different to the table, but my hopes are not high. However, I will inevitably continue watching Rick and Co. as they make their way through the end times.