2015 has been an absolutely stellar year for television and here is what I found to be the absolute best of the best. Keep in mind, this is merely an opinion piece and you’re more than welcome to your own in the comments section.
15. Transparent (Amazon)
Transparent remains one of the most emotionally rich and well acted comedies on television, but not all the risks taken by it’s bold second season paid off. The Pfefferman family is getting harder and harder to identify and empathize with, the Holocaust flashbacks are bizarrely out of place and it’s just not as funny as it’s first season.
14. Game of Thrones (HBO)
Although Thrones concluded amazingly well, with three back-to-back episodes that ranked among the series’ best, the first seven episodes were rather sluggish and underwhelming. This is easy to forgive, seeing as though Game of Thrones is the most complex and layered show on television by a mile. Adapting Martin’s novels into one-hour increments must be a bitch and a half.
13. Nathan For You (Comedy Central)
While not as consistent as the first two seasons, Nathan For You‘s third outing offered three mind-bogglingly brilliant episodes: Electronic’s Store, Smokers Allowed and The Hero. It’s the most cringe-worthy television out there.
12. Hannibal (NBC)
I could rant all day about how much I hate NBC for canceling the only decent drama on their network, but I’d rather talk about how much of a miracle it is that Hannibal was ever allowed on network television in the first place. Besides being incredibly gruesome, Hannibal was an incredibly cerebral character study of two introverted geniuses who form a prickly friendship on the basis of being the only people who understand each other. Season 3 wasn’t as fully realized as the incredible second season, but it did feature some of the show’s most haunting imagery as well as bumping up the always excellent Gillian Anderson to series regular.
11. W/ Bob and David (Netflix)
Without a doubt, my favorite sketch show of all time is Mr. Show with Bob and David, so naturally I was beyond stoked for Netflix to resurrect it. W/ Bob and David is a little different in style and tone than HBO’s Mr. Show, and while not as great in it’s limited four episode run, this was definitely the most imaginative sketch comedy 2015 had to offer. Just watch the Dry Cleaner’s sketch.
10. Justified (FX)
Possibly one of the most underrated shows of all time, Graham Yost’s pulpy powerhouse Justified reached the heights of it’s near-perfect second season in it’s sixth and final year. Capping off a solid season with an intense and unlikely series finale that featured the show’s finest scene involving Timothy Olyphant’s Rayland Givens and Walton Goggin’s Boyd Crowder. “We dug coal together.”
09. Mr. Robot (USA Network)
If you told me a year ago that one of the most unique and unsentimental shows not television would be on USA network, I would have called you a liar. With shows like Psych and Suits, USA Network hasn’t exactly paved the way for fearless, gritty dramas. However, Sam Esmail’s sad and angry indictment of Corporate America is powerful, unpredictable and exactly what we need right now.
08. Togetherness (HBO)
The Duplass Brothers’ awkwardly hilarious show about four unhappy thirtysomethings had the most painfully realistic dialogue and hands down the finest acting from any television comedy I’ve seen this year. I also related to Steve Zissis’ Alex Pappas more than any other character on television or film this year.
07. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix)
Far and away, the hardest I’ve laughed this year was watching Netflix’s reboot of the Showalter/Wain 2001 camp cult classic Wet Hot American Summer. Featuring fantastic guest spots from John Slattery and Jon Hamm, and a lead performance from a very fat Michael Showalter. My god, did he get fat! He’s fat!
06. Show Me a Hero (HBO)
David Simon, the genius behind The Wire, brings us an incredibly unsentimental portrayal of Nick Wasiscko’s (a career best performance from Oscar Issac) struggle to build low income public housing in a white middle class Yonkers neighborhood. Filled with extremely realistic characters and extremely frustrating city council meetings where everyone is just shouting over each other, Show Me a Hero was at times a chore to watch but it was ultimately rewarding. Alfred Molina, Catherine Keener and most surprisingly, Jim Belushi, deliver stellar supporting performances.
05. Better Call Saul (AMC)
Everything was stacked against this show, a tonally different spin-off of the most acclaimed television drama of our generation. However, great writing trumps all, and Better Call Saul had some of the sharpest writing of the year of any medium. Led by an unexpected tour-de-force performance by Bob Oedenkirk, that makes you feel deep empathy for a character that was such a sleazy shitbag on Breaking Bad. Great supporting performances are provided by Jonathan Banks reprising his role of Mike and the hilarious Michael McKean as Oedenkirk’s very ill older brother.
04. BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
Groundbreaking in that it’s the first animated show to work just as well as a drama as it does a comedy, BoJack Horseman follows the existential crisis of washed up 80s sitcom actor/horse. Instead of making BoJack a predictably vile mess like Californication did with Duchovny, show runner Raphael Bob-Waksberg makes him painfully self-aware of his shortcomings. If all this sounds like a giant downer, I assure you, it’s not. The show balances out the dramatic weight perfectly with humor both irreverent and poignant.
03. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (HBO)
The most shocking and revelatory moment of television in 2015 came in the riveting finale of this engrossing HBO documentary series. Following Robert Durst, the privileged and perverse son of a millionaire newspaper tycoon, and the three murders he was accused but never convicted of. Some have accused the show as being exploitative, but I really think it was just a fantastic character study about a man unable to buy happiness.
02. South Park (Comedy Central)
Who would have thought that South Park’s best season would be it’s nineteenth? Far and away the best social commentary we got from anywhere this year, this season of South Park is one long, continuous story about how PC has completely fucked us over. Targeting both the far left and the far right, South Park calls bullshit on gentrification, social media self-victimization, anti-immigrant policies, Caitlyn Jenner and so much more. It might not be the subtlest satire in town, but bullshit this nauseating needs to be torn apart in the most theatrical way possible. It’s a wild ride. BUCKLE UP, BUCKAROO!
01. Fargo (FX)
Noah Hawley’s brutally hilarious and thrilling second season of Fargo was the best show of 2015 by a mile. Each episode was somehow more intense, funny and poignant than the previous one, combining the most impressive ensemble cast on television with stunning cinematography that perfectly captured the Midwest and the best goddamn soundtrack I’ve ever heard in a show. If the first two seasons are any indication, television has found it’s new Breaking Bad.
RAMI MALEK – MR. ROBOT (USA)
A beautifully nuanced performance that can explode at any second.
MELANIE LYNSKEY – TOGETHERNESS (HBO)
Given the least funny material in the show’s quartet of actors, Lynskey miraculously succeeds in upstaging most of her co-stars with her sympathetic portrayal of a unhappily married woman that’s totally on-point.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
BEN MENDOLSOHN – BLOODLINE (NETFLIX)
Bloodline had one of the most impressive ensemble casts of any television drama this year, but the clear stand-out was the brilliant Ben Mendolsohn. Mendolsohn is quickly becoming my favorite actor, and his turn here as the Rayburn family black sheep is one of his most complex performances yet.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
CARRIE COON and REGINA KING – THE LEFTOVERS (HBO)
Say what you want about Damon Lindelof’s The Leftovers, but the second season, while flawed, was much more consistent and powerful than it’s first. The one thing that has always been consistent about the show is the acting, and Carrie Coon and Regina King completely stole this season with an unbearably tense five minute scene.