Top 10 TV Shows of 2015

My favorite television shows of this year, of which I watched more than any other year. Shout outs to The Genius (a Korean reality show that is brilliant, but I didn’t have time to catch up with completely) and to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (a musical comedy that showed half of its first season in 2015,  but will continue into 2016, thus disqualifying it.)

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10. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season 1)

I have many well documented opinions about this show, which I found fairly uneven, but also so enjoyable. I can’t help but think the show will only grow, making use of its Netflix freedom and the wonderful cast of characters it’s created. Titus’ “Pinot Noir” and rendition of “I’ll Make Love to You” at a funeral might be the two funniest moments of television all year.

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9. Fresh off the Boat (Season 1)

Another show that is fairly uneven, but is elevated by how likable every character is, plus Constance Wu’s Jessica Huang is probably the best new character on television. It’s a show with a unique perspective (literally only the second show to star an Asian-American as a lead ever) and it’s definitely worth the watch.

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8. Nathan for You (Season 3)

I’ve went through all three seasons of Nathan for You in the last month, so forgive me if I’m incapable of differentiating the three, but Nathan Fielder’s comedy spoof on business reality shows is both a brilliant sort of cringe comedy and a commentary on capitalism. Season 3 showed Nathan continuing brilliant ideas (Best Buy return policy, being a hero, weight loss through a moving company) and continued to mock viral media.

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7. Master of None (Season 1)

Aziz Ansari turned into an auteur this year with a show about all of the ideas that interest him. It’s definitely a product of the 21st century and could almost be given as a primer to adults who don’t understand those in their 20s. Ultimately though, Master of None, succeeds because of Ansari’s charm and the amount of heart he puts into each character’s story arc.

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6. Review (Season 2)

Review is premised off of a man reviewing everyday life via audience suggestions for a tv show. In actuality it’s an absolute farce, with Forrest MacNeil ruining his life episode by episode because of his commitment to following through with each review (the episode where he reviews giving something 6 stars is particularly hilarious). For being such a ridiculous show it actually is quite dark, like watching Job inflict himself with the punishments of God.

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5. Survivor: Cambodia – Second Chances

The season was really great, my favorite all-stars season ever (I’m also not the hugest Heroes vs. Villains fan), but what really made it was all the hype leading into it. For the first time ever Survivor allowed fans to vote in returning players–this lead to a barrage of campaigning and pre-gaming like has never taken place before. When the cast was announced at the Worlds Apart finale, it was torture knowing that each and every day the players you voted for were out playing Survivor. When we finally saw the product it was worth it, with some of the most fluid and impassioned gameplay in the show’s 31 seasons.

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4. The Americans (Season 3)

One of these days The Americans will be my number one show (it’s finished 2nd twice and now 4th), but it’s a consistent show for its intense spy games and the layers of relationships it creates whether they be familial, friend, or work. This season saw Clark and Martha more strained than ever, Paige going to a whole new character level, and all sorts of new vulnerability across all the leads.

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3. Fargo (Season 2)

Some people have hailed this as better than season 1, I’m not sure I agree (it was my favorite last year), but boy is this the most inventive show out there. It’s an anthology series so there were little ties to the first season (the connections that were there, played out brilliantly), but thematically all of the same ties are there–the fight for good in an evil world and the corruptibility of humanity when given the chance.

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2. Show Me a Hero

David Simon (creator of The Wire) brought a new mini-series to HBO about low-income houses getting brought into the suburbs of New York and the resulting political ramifications. Like Simon’s past work the show is complex, following a multitude of characters and how the placement of low-income housing affects each of their lives. If you know The Wire, you’ll know exactly how this turns out and Simon is a master of creating stories out of deep political and socioeconomic divides.

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1. Parks and Recreation (Season 7)

I mentioned that this was my favorite tv show of all time on the best episodes list and this year they put out one of their best seasons. It’s an encore that highlights each of its characters best qualities, making every episode feel like an event. It’s an emotional roller coaster that ends a great series just about better than any other show.

Honorable Mentions: Veep (Season 4), Community (Season 6), Bloodline

TV Review: FRESH OFF THE BOAT

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Yesterday the new ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat premiered (it should be noted that I only watched the pilot, but two episodes did air). The show is about a young boy whose family moves from Washington DC to Orlando so that his dad can open up a new restaurant. The series is based off of Eddie Huang’s memoir Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir, but its real headline is that it is something like the second primetime television show to be about Asian-Americans.

The show follows Eddie as he deals with his family’s move from the far more diverse Washington DC to the monoculturally white Orlando. It is a comedy partly about the immigrant experience, partly about family, and partly about growing up. Its jokes aren’t the most brilliant, some of them fall flat, but the show absolutely thrives off of its core cast and their experiences. It’s pretty simple, but highlights how much we miss out on when we ignore a diversity of voices in our pop culture and media.

Eddie is an Asian-American who is in love with hip-hop culture–he says it’s always been the anthem of the outsider–and the show makes great use of 90s hip-hop legends like Notorious B.I.G. and Nas. His dad, Louis, is in love with America and the opportunity it can provide for his family–this is shown by his restaurant’s wild west theme. His mother, Jessica, tries to fit in with a rollerblading group of young blondes in the neighborhood, much to her chagrin. His siblings Emery and Evan adjust quite well to their new neighborhood, though one eats string cheese and discovers he’s lactose intolerant.

The immigrant experience and the cross-cultural America we our currently experiencing (though it has always been a big mix of people) is pertinent and fascinating. The show does a good job of representing the mix of people and varying experiences. Eddie and a group of white boys bond over Biggie, Louis hires a white guy (played by Paul Scheer!) to attract customers to his restaurant, the restaurant’s cook is a tattooed Latino, and Louis’ biggest problem at school ends up being the only other minority–who picks on him in order to elevate himself from his perceived place at the bottom. Fresh Off the Boat acknowledges the multicultural world, using it to its advantage  to make a pilot episode that is exciting, charming, and very promising.