January 5, 2016

Top 10 TV Programs of 2015

10. The Americans

            The Americans really knows how to make a season premiere and finale.  However, what separated its sophomore season from its debut season was there wasn’t really a whole lot going on between the two.  Fortunately, the show’s third season was a lot more like its first where it got all of the suspense it could out of its major card left in its hand: Paige (Holly Taylor making the most out of extra screen time) discovering that her parents are actually KGB agents.  I also really appreciated the fact that this show welcomes the idea of giving underrated Broadway actors their time in the spotlight (Brandon J. Dirden was a delight to see on screen).

9. Silicon Valley

            The extended jokes kept on working to perfection and the cast got better than ever as Silicon Valley evaded a sophomore slump.  While season one ended on such a complete conclusion, this show made continuing the storyline naturally look all too easy.  The darker path Richard (Thomas Middleditch finally gaining the composure to be the great lead that this show needed in its first season) ends up on this season still found time to be funny.

8. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

            With Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, it felt like 30 Rock never left the air.  Tina Fey’s quirky sense of comedy completely consumes this show and it’s mostly for the better.  The supporting cast here (led by the delightful Tituss Burgess) is as good as Fey’s former show and Ellie Kemper’s Kimmy makes for a much more pleasing lead than even Liz Lemon was.

7. You’re the Worst

            You’re the Worst’s original sense of dark comedy that it displayed in its first season seemed like it would be hard to replicate, and the second season of this show caught onto that almost immediately as it sustained this style of comedy with some actual genuine drama.  Gretchen’s depression storyline (admirable portrayed by Aya Cash) is one of the best handled TV storylines of the year and it made the second season of this show stand out from any other comedy on television.

6.  Fargo

            Fargo had a lot going against it in its second season.  The cast it had wasn’t as strong as the first season’s on paper.  The show it was constantly compared to, True Detective, suffered one of the biggest sophomore slumps in recent memory, and the format of Noah Hawley being the lone creative voice on the show was being traded in for a more conventional writing room format.  However, Fargo ended up fixing the few problems of the first season while giving us one of the most memorable breakthrough performances in recent memory, Bokeem Woodbine as the charming but ruthless Mike Milligan.

5. Parks and Recreation

            The final season of Parks and Recreation was a fitting and lovable end to one of the best comedies of the last decade.  While most final seasons tend to be all about closure, Parks and Rec still found room for a fantastic Leslie-Ron feud storyline that provided some of the best material yet for Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman.  The closure was done really well too, though, and who could forget the expanded screen time for Johnny Karate (newly minted superstar Chris Pratt going out with a bang)!

4. Game of Thrones

            Game of Thrones’ departure from George R.R. Martin’s source material only grew more and more with its fifth season.  Surprisingly most of that was for the better as it turned what easily could have been an unfilmable storyline into one of the best television experiences (in terms of scale) ever.  These departures also led to the fantastic “Hardhome” episode, which features an action sequence that would rank up there with the all-time action sequences in film.  Unfortunately, the finale was quite a dud as it teased that it was going way off the beaten path of GRRM’s source material only to constantly do a “just kidding”.

3. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

            The second season of True Detective was delayed a few months thanks to an extended casting process, but what HBO gave us in its stead was even better.  Andrew Jarecki’s documentary about the real estate heir turned accused murderer was one of the most suspenseful things put on television in recent memory.  While episodes such as “Body in the Bay” and “The State of Texas vs. Robert Durst” are really great examples of how far you can go with the documentary format, it’s the series’ closing moments that will end up as its most memorable with one of the creepiest revelations ever put on television.

2. Better Call Saul

            Prequels are tough to do.  While Better Call Saul had a better time at doing it during its first half of its debut season than most it was still lacking something.  Fortunately, it literally had a secret weapon still left unboxed in the form of Jonathan Banks.  As soon as Mike Ehrmantraut is released into the world of Better Call Saul it is all for the better as it adds pathos to the series and allows the writers some extra time to rethink Jimmy McGill’s storyline for the better too.  Jonathan Banks has quietly delivered one of the best performances in television history, and it’s a treat to be able to watch him on our screens every week.

1. The Leftovers

            As soon as the second season of the Leftovers opened with a Terrence Malick/Stanley Kubrick-inspired episode I knew we were in for something special.  The second season of Damon Lindelof’s return to television somehow found even more room for emotion and plot twists than its already great debut season did.  With Lindelof being given all the room he needs to explore his craft and one of the best ensembles on television at his disposal, he is one final season away from delivering another masterpiece.

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