With taking a heavier load of classes in the summer and fall semester, this was perhaps the first year in which I watched more television than films. It was easier to step away from writing a paper to watch an episode of Mr. Robot than it was to go to the multiplex for a few hours and get disappointed by the next summer blockbuster. There’s comfort in television, knowing that you won’t be disappointed by familiar faces that you’ve come to know in front and behind the camera. And if you find yourself wanting to cut ties with a show (talking to you House Of Cards) because it’s become a total mess, you can simply walk away from it, no questions asked. We saw some of our favorites go away this year, we found ourselves surprised by the turn around of other shows and we saw True Detective turn into a turd of a show. Here’s a look back at my favorites of 2015. (more…)
Best 30 Minutes of Television
Inside Amy Schumer – 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer
An homage to the classic Sidney Lumet film, 12 Angry Men, which focused on the jury of 12 men deciding the fate of a boy convicted of murder. In Schumer’s version, the focal is not on a murder trial but on whether Amy Schumer is hot enough to be on television. Just as the Lumet film, this episode showcases a cast of great character actors, including Paul Giamatti in a classic blow hard Giamatti performance. You don’t have to be a fan of 12 Angry Men to appreciate this hilarious episode that tackles how men talk about the value of women, especially one such as Schumer. Schumer’s willingness to have these men argue about her sex appeal and beauty, gives insight into the sometimes ruthless discussions men have behind closed doors about women in a heartbreaking, yet funny way.
Best Post Mad Men Performance
Jon Hamm in Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp
If you were a Mad Men lover such as I, there was a void after those final moments, of Don Draper envisioning the perfect Coca Cola commercial, that may never be filled. Yet those familiar faces were found all over television from Another Period, The Last Man On Earth, and Documentary Now. None were better than Jon Hamm as The Falcon in Wet Hot, a CIA agent who lacks any true concern or apathy for his mission. Hamm showcases his ease in comedy that was rarely shown in his reserved Don Draper performance. Hamm makes himself at home in this already established and beloved cult show, seeming to be at more ease than some of the actors who were in the film 15 years ago.
The “Come At Me Bro” Moment in Game Of Thrones
Due to some bad ad-libbing by the show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, this most recent season of Game Of Thrones was filled with missteps. Despite the flaws and questionable decisions (Sansa rape scene and the misadventures of Jamie & Bronn) going off book, literally, the show produced one of the most talked about scenes in pop culture this year. The battle at Hardhome came to be a surprise for non-book readers and book readers alike. With a battle that was only talked about in the books, the beloved character of Jon Snow rose to a new level of being not just the “emo” kid but also, now, a bad ass. Yet for all Jon Snow did, there is no way he could beat a guy who can raise the dead with a snap of the finger. The Knight’s King, the leader of the Others, makes a short appearance but a lasting impression with his awakening of all the dead wildlings, for the use of his own army. Showing his power to Jon Snow brings an echoing fear to him and us as the audience. You got some real problems now Westeros. Good luck.
Honorable Mention Shows
Daredevil, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Veep, Getting On, Halt and Catch Fire, and….
I’ve only had the chance to watch two episodes of the new season of Transparent but it terrifically picks up where the last season left off. This show goes beyond just being the “transgender show”, and speaks to the everyday troubles of being part of a family, even when we don’t want to be part of that family. The Pfefferman family may be filled with narcissistic, destructive, unlikable people but no one said you had to like every television character you watch. Even despite their flaws, Transparent shows the importance of family without trying to be a hallmark card from the set of Parenthood.
Top Ten Shows
10. Master of None – Netflix
Aziz Ansari’s take on the lifestyle, of a young up and coming New Yorker, may not be an original thought. Yet the perspective and insight he gives with the help of co-creator, Alan Yang, is something of its time in a profound way in a half hour “comedy”. Some may be disappointed with lack of laughs provided but the humor is there, in the relationships and situations of realism.
Best Episode – Mornings
9. Show Me A Hero – HBO
This six part mini-series, from David Simon (The Wire), shows the real life story of Yonkers building of public housing in the late 1980’s and the protest by it’s white middle class citizens who wanted nothing to do with it. This may sound like a bore to you, but Show Me A Hero was far from that, showing ways that racism can be carried out beyond Civil Rights and racial slurs. Oscar Isaac gets an opportunity to show his range as a leading man, playing the mayor of Yonkers, Nick Wasicsko, who reluctantly must see the public housing through to the end. Isaac showcases his ability to be the movie star in Wasicsko’s highest moments and the complicated character actor in Wasicsko’s lowest lows. Isaac’s higher profile turns this year in Ex Machina and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, giving him more of the spotlight but his turn in Show Me A Hero is the true peak for his great year.
Best Episode – Episode 2
8. Chef’s Table – Netflix
Yes, there were better shows this year but none as more pleasurable to watch than this documentary series. Chef’s Table gives insight to the best of the best of the culinary world; chefs with unique views on life and cooking. It would be easy to show shot after shot of mouth watering meals (don’t get me wrong they do that) but Chef’s Table displays the beauty, hardships, and artistry that goes into making the best food in the world. You’ll want to make a trip to each of these Chef’s restaurant after watching this, believe me.
Best Episode – Francis Mallmann
7. Better Call Saul – AMC
The pressure was on, for the spin-off of one of the best shows ever (Breaking Bad). Though it seemed after the first two episodes it was going to be a lesser rip off of it’s predecessor, Better Call Saul found it’s footing and it’s own unique perspective to the already established Breaking Bad universe. By mid-season, the show stood as its own in the Mike Ehrmantraut centered episode Five-O, that focused on his days as a cop prior to moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Bob Ordenkirk and Michael McKean show that some of the best actors are comedians as feuding brothers.
Best Episode – Five-O
6. Review – Comedy Central
Although Better Call Saul is the spin off to Breaking Bad, no character is more spiritually connected to Walter White than Review’s Forrest MacNeil. As a critic of life experiences, MacNeil has put upon himself to go all in on any potential review he must do. Whether it is experiencing a pillow fight, public speaking, or divorce, MacNeil follows through to self-damaging effect. By the end of season two, his life spirals down to a darkly comedic downfall only because of his own undoing.
Best Episode – Cult, Perfect Body
5. Fargo – FX
While most were hate watching True Detective season 2, Fargo was making its case for why we should be watching it over any other crime show for two years running. An all star cast, that feels as though they’ve been these people their whole lives, including Kirsten Dunst, who has never been better and Bokeem Woodbine, who has never gotten such an opportunity to play such a rich character. The show gives respect and admiration for the established Coen Brothers universe of the film Fargo while expanding that world, connecting it to their other films such as Millers Crossing, The Man Who Wasn’t There and The Big Lebowski.
Best Episode – Loplop
4. The Americans – FX
While previous seasons, of this spy drama, focused on the difficulty of keeping a healthy marriage going in the spy game, this most recent season focused on the difficulty of raising children in this dangerous world. This became especially apparent when one of the children finds out their parents are spies for Russia. This 80’s Cold War show, continues to show the brutal (sometimes too brutal) espionage world, which is quite the opposite of James Bond. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys don’t get accolades they deserve for playing the several characters that is asked of them, many times in just one episode.
Best Episode – March 8, 1983
3. Mad Men – AMC
My love affair with this show is will be documented so no reason to pontificate on it’s greatness. But in it’s closing chapters, Mad Men played wonderfully with old themes of the show of the ever-growing circles we find ourselves in. No other show wonderfully displayed the meta sadness of saying goodbye for its characters and creators while sending off in a classic satisfactory fashion.
Best Episode – Time & Life
2. Mr. Robot – USA
Rarely do you find yourself surprised by television. It’s designed to make you comfortable, characters you come to find dear to you on a weekly basis with storylines resolved by the final moments of the episode. Fortunately, there are shows that like to keep us on our toes. Mr. Robot was such a show that played with grandiose ideas that built on top each episode while breaking the foundation of what to expect from the previous episode. Yes, it had some similarities to a certain late 90’s anarchist tale but we knew that, they knew that but it expanded on a false narrator with layers and layers of denial by its lead character. No show made more excited for what was coming for it’s next season than Mr. Robot.
Best Episode – eps1.5_br4ve-trave1er.asf
1. The Leftovers – HBO
The best show of the year was the biggest surprise of the year, too. Although the first season had its moments with stand alone episodes and the mystery of the departure, I found myself debating if I even needed to watch the second season. Thankfully, the show left the dreariness of its previous season behind along with Guilty Remnant (to a degree) in Upstate New York. This season opened up more doors of questions, while answering others in a satisfying manner. As was the case with Mr. Robot, each episode left you with a compelling ending or threat, wanting you to watch the next episode.
Best Episode – International Assassin