With a finite number of hours in the day to watch television, one can feel there will never be enough time to watch everything the critics, social media, our co-workers, friends, and family say we
need to see.
It’s not just a feeling. We now know it for a fact: There were 409 scripted TV programs in 2015, a new record. And you just can’t see them all.
To sit down and name the 10 best shows of the hundreds that aired and streamed this year is a herculean task. So for this list of 2015’s best shows, we reflected on all the well-written, superbly acted, and beautifully shot shows of the year (that we were able to check out) and added one more criterion to mix up the selections just a bit: Was it not only good, but surprisingly so?
With that in mind, here are 2015’s 10 best TV shows:
From Jason Reitman and Lionsgate TV, the comedy 'Casual' belongs to a new world of low-cost, 'indie' shows, like HBO's 'Girls' and Netflix's 'Master of None.'
Hulu's first Golden Globe nominee stars Michaela Watkins as a newly divorced mother, Tara Lynne Barr as her daughter, and Tommy Dewey as her brother, a dating app creator whom she and her daughter move in with. Its twisted humour examines how dating sites and apps that were supposed to make dating easier have actually made us worse off.
On 'Into the Badlands,' there are no guns, but a whole lot of cool kung fu. That and seven barons and their army of trained assassins keep the law of the land. But what happens when a young kid with amazing power could give one baron the jump on all the others?
That's the setup of AMC's new drama starring and executive-produced by Chinese film star Daniel Wu. The show not only breaks ground with its Asian male lead, but also with its biggest villain, the Widow, a highly deadly fighter with an all-female army looking to take over.
The world of 'Into the Badlands' is one of the most thoroughly thought-out settings in TV, and just as beautifully shot.
The bright spot of today's 'Peak TV' situation is that really good (but niche) shows have a chance outside of traditional television channels. Aziz Ansari's 'Master of None' has some important things to say and none of that would have been heard if Netflix didn't get the show made. Minority representation is one thing, but allowing minorities to play roles that exist outside of stereotypes and preset casting equations is even more important. What we got was an incredibly thoughtful season about how we treat and unconsciously stereotype others by race, age, gender, and nationality -- with a lot of smart jokes to boot.
This documentary series focused on the enigmatic figure of Robert Durst, a man who had been investigated in the disappearance of his wife, acquitted of a murder, and suspected of killing a close friend.
The six-part documentary was chilling enough in just the recounting of the suspicions surrounding Durst, but add in his participation in it and you have a pretty harrowing adventure. Most surprising was how events onscreen affected the real world to the point that Durst was once again charged with murder.
Sam Esmail's USA drama 'Mr. Robot' is a crazy ride through so many different aspects of modern life that the viewer has a hard time figuring out what to believe. It examines corporate greed, drug use, social interaction, love, and betrayal. Through it all, we're led by our unreliable main character Elliott (Rami Malek), who in turn is following the commands of an enigmatic figure in Christian Slater's hacker-king character, Mr. Robot. What's true and who's really in charge? We can't be sure, but it's a hell of a trip.
Who knew Ellie Kemper ('The Office') had Kimmy Schmidt in her? Tina Fey did, but NBC didn't. Again, thank the TV gods for Netflix, because this comedy is a binge-able delight. Kooky and over-the-top, it's really a comedy that commits along with its cast (shoutout to Tituss Burgess).
After being locked away from the world for years by her polygamous cult-leader husband, Kimmy experiences the outside with a unique passion. It's a refreshing point of view for a sitcom, one you don't see anywhere else.
Talented but inexperienced 20-somethings who find themselves in a competitive world like business is always going to be a winning (and hilarious) plot formula. So watching the boys of HBO's 'Silicon Valley' try to assert themselves in the tech business with millions of dollars at stake has viewers both giddy, but also cheering them on. Season two of 'Silicon Valley' was especially challenging as the guys had to deal with a pendulum that seemed to swing in their favour only to swing away just as quickly. Pieces of the company were falling apart as the guys saw their own work fall into their competitors' hands. We laughed a lot, but we also cared.
Netflix couldn't have rolled out its suite of Marvel series better than by starting with 'Daredevil.' Showrunner Steven S. DeKnight ('Spartacus') crafted a show that not only pleased comic-book fans, but also those of us who knew little to nothing about the hero. In a dark series about tackling demons, the hero felt both super and human to viewers. And talented actors like Rosario Dawson and Vincent D'Onofrio helped up the stakes. It was a perfect appetizer for Netflix's follow-up, 'Jessica Jones.'
After six seasons of a show as established as 'Mad Men,' other newer shows have an easier time of drawing you away. Then you get its inspired series finale and you wonder how the hell you'll live without it. That's the feeling one got as 'Mad Men' wrapped its run earlier this year. What a goodbye.
Forget about it: 'Game of Thrones' has to be on this list, and it deserves the top spot. That's not to say the HBO fantasy series' last season was perfect, or that it's above toying around with fans when it comes to things like, uh, who dies. Regardless, the show is still the master of story twists -- whether fans like them or not. And it's still an amazing accomplishment of set structures, relationships, battles, and mysticism. All of that makes for masterful TV, week after week.
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