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

Top 10 TV Episodes of 2015

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10. Fargo – “Did You do This? No You Did it”

All of the Fargo episodes are fantastically edited and feature unique sequences that are quite memorable, but each episode’s main content is fairly similar, meaning any episode could be in this spot. This one makes the top 10 because the end of it truly shocked me like very little does in television.

9. The Last Man on Earth – “Alive in Tucson”

A unique sitcom that eventually grew tiresome, The Last Man on Earth‘s pilot featured a solo Will Forte making his way around the earth like Will Smith in I Am Legend if Will Smith’s character had been a Judd Apatow-esque slacker. It left the audience wondering just how long its creators would try to pull this off (answer: not long enough).

8. Nathan For You – “Smokers Allowed”

Nathan For You episodes either rely on people’s reactions to his awkward questions and suggestions or the strange experimentations he comes up with. This one starts with the former (getting a bar owner to change her bar into a theater so they can exploit the theater loophole that allows smoking), but changes to the latter (hiring actors to reenact the “performance” that took place word for word and action for action and getting people to pay to watch it).

7. Show Me a Hero – “Part One”

David Simon’s mini-series is the most David Simon series possible, a political drama taking on the addition of low-income housing into the city of Yonkers and all of its consequent repercussions. Episode one sets us right into the action, portraying all of the sides, investing us into the lives of the characters, and scanning through the important events of the story.

6. Togetherness – “Family Day”

“Family Day” begins with a family of four planning a day to the beach and ends with two of those four plus a best friend and sister sitting in a van drinking cheap wine. It’s the best of Togetherness, setting the tone of a show that views marriage, family, and life through a lens of joyful melancholy.

5. The Americans – “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?”

I almost picked “Walter Taffet” here for its brilliant use of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”, but I was forced to pick “Electric Sheep” due to how uncanny an episode this was for The Americans. The episode takes place with Phillip and Elizabeth on a mission, but instead of hurrying it along, it spends the episode’s length there, allowing us to experience it moment by moment. When someone unexpected shows up, we are forced to truly confront how we feel about these characters and just how much their allegiance to what they do motivates their every action.

4. Review – “Cult; Perfect Body”

Note by note a perfect picture of what Review is all about. “Cult; Perfect Body” has Forrest review both those things, building one on top of the other as he builds a very successful cult, then loses it only to show back up with his “perfect body” culminating in an all out war, the loss of another girlfriend, and forcing his dad to once again change living facilities.

3. Parks and Recreation – “One Last Ride”

The finale to Parks and Rec may have forecast utopian bliss for each of its characters, but it really was the ending we all deserved. This show is probably my favorite comedy of all time and here it reminds you that its heart was always as big as the laughs it gave.

2 . Master of None – “Mornings”

Master of None’s weakest moments were scenes of characters walking or talking at a bar, seemingly reading straight from the script rather than acting out those scenes. “Mornings” is the antithesis of that, a montage of  mornings between the recently cohabitated Dev and Rachel. It showcases the joys and struggles of living alongside someone you love in a way that touches the cinematic.

1. Parks and Recreation – “Ron and Leslie”

Earlier this year I named this my favorite Parks episode of all time and considering I consider it one of the best shows, it’s only fitting it ends up here. “Ron and Leslie” takes what is perhaps the show’s most important relationship, estranges it, and then literally forces them in a room together to work out their differences. Ron and Leslie were always in opposition and it only makes sense that this would one day lead to some sort of falling out, considering just how stubborn each was. The way it has them come to resolution will have you believing in the power of friendship like no other piece of culture could. Grab your tissues.

Honorable mentions: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – “Kimmy Goes on a Date”; The Americans – “Walter Taffet”; Fresh Off the Boat – “So Chineez”