2015 TV

Best of 2015 TV (First quarter)

It’s already April and 2015 and I’ve sampled or seen 40 TV series through the first three months of this year – and this may not even be the full scope of good TV available out there. It’s been a great year so far in TV, with  many new streaming players getting into the television game and network TV upping its game to meet this new threat. Of course the breakout sensation of the year has been Empire – a show unlike anything else on network or cable, a ratings giant as well as a terribly addictive reinterpretation of a family soap opera. The must watch show of the year, undoubtedly. But there’s been other terrific entertainment as well, and here’s a list of all of them:

NEW SHOWS 
These are shows I’ve been watching week-on-week or have binged watched entirely. Ranked in order of awesomeness.

1. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (HBO): The could easily be this year’s The Serial (if you haven’t heart it yet, HEAR IT NOW) in terms of pop cultural impact. A brilliant, creepy, bizarre, f–ed up non-fiction documentary centered on real life multi-millionaire weirdo Robert Durst and his alleged murderous ways. The climax of the documentary is *the* pop culture moment of the year.

2. Better Call Saul (AMC): I’ll be honest and say that I don’t remember the first season of Breaking Bad but I doubt it could’ve toppped Better Call Saul. It may be because we are already familiar (and love) the characters of Saul Goodman and Mike Ehrmantraut or it could be because Vince Gilligan is the greatest TV creator of our times, but Better Call Saul is superlative television.

3. Marco Polo (Netflix): I didn’t make time to watch Marco Polo because of the mixed reviews but when I watched episode one out of curiosity this year, I was bowled over and how! Marco Polo is one of the most vivid, visually arresting, epic shows of our times, rivaling Game of Thrones in scope and spirit both – and far grander than its first season was. The Chinese setting and heart make it a world like no other. Don’t miss this!

4. Empire (Fox): The network TV phenomenon of the year, Empire is a must-watch purely on the strength of the names alone – Creator Lee Daniels, actors Taraji P Henson, Terrence Howard, Gabie Sidibe starring. But watch one episode and you realize that this show is a network television achievement. A show about the hip hop world as seen from the within a dysfunctional, f–ed up family? There’s more plot in every episode in this show than there’s in a season of Mad Men!

5. The Last Man on Earth: The freshest, most unique, most fun comedy in YEARS. Created by Will Forte, and produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (of Jump Street and Lego movie fame), this comedy about what the man, who is the last man on earth… until he’s not, is laugh out loud all the way through. An ingenious premise and perfect execution.

6. Fortitude (Sky Atlantic):  Brit TV is awesome, as I have documented through the last few years. But what I love about it is that it’s also bloody innovative. Fortitude is the perfect example. A show that starts off as a Scandinavian kind-of murder mystery unravels into fantasy into sci-fi into just a fascinating and completely unique genre in itself. And so much gore!

7. Togetherness (HBO): It was a matter of time before the Duplass Brothers came down to television but I didn’t expect their show to be so much fun! Togetherness is quirky, endearing, sweet and hilarious. The cast is fabulous with Mark Duplass, Amanda Peet, Melanie Lynskey and the breakout Steve Zissis.

8. Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon):  Another super quirky show, created by another indie genius duo Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola. A show about the mad world of the NY philharmonic orchestra, with a cast that is led by Gael Garcia Bernal and Malcolm McDonald, this is a fun binge-watch.

9. The Slap (NBC): How is this show on network TV? With a cast SO epic (Peter Sarsgaard, Brian Cox, Zachary Quinto, Uma Thurman, Thandie Newton, Marin Ireland, Thamos Sadoski and Melissa George *phew*) and some pure, strong, Mad Men-ish drama, this should’ve been on cable, where it would have been respected far more.

10. Bosch (Amazon): Though not at all an original premise – a cop with issues solving a case where a lot is at stake (obviously), Bosch takes the slow-burning, gritty approach to all this and with its LA setting and noir-ish vibe and of course, Titus Welliver as its lead, it turns out to be a pretty above average show.

11. American Crime (ABC): This show comes closest to what a good multi-narrative cable show about crime and race (a la Crash) would look like if there was no cable! Created by John Ridley (of 12 Years a Slave fame), a solid, complex watch with some very cinematic direction.

12. Babylon (Channel 4): Co-created by Danny Boyle, and with a star cast led by the ever-dependable James Nesbitt and the awesome Brit Marling (why isn’t she a STAR yet?), this drama which looks at the London police from a PR perspective (yes!) should’ve been better than it is, but even with its flaws, it’s still a fairly decent watch.

13. Dig (USA): Set in Israel, created by the creator of the Israeli series than inspired Homeland, starring Jason Isaacs, Anne Heche and Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under!),  this show about a conspiracy related to the history of Jerusalem, will probably be higher in my list once the 10 episodes are through. An interesting watch nevertheless.

RETURNING SHOWS
These are shows that have had at least half a season, and that I’ve again watched week-on-week or binge-watched entirely. Ranked in order of how fantastic this season is.

  1. The Americans (FX): My favourite show on television for the last couple of years. The best show on television for the last couple of years. Hasn’t once failed to be brilliant so far. Watch it.
  2. The Wrong Mans (BBC Two): The second (and possibly concluding) season of action comedy mini series is HILARIOUS. More action, more comedy, more fun! Must watch.
  3. About a Boy (NBC): My favourite comedy on TV since last year, About a Boy is possibly cancelled because the world is not fair and people are stupid, but that shouldn’t stop you from catching up on this. The most rewarding comedy if you have a heart.
  4. Episodes (Showtime): After deteriorating over the last couple of seasons in spite of having possibly the funniest first season of a new comedy in years, Episodes became entertaining again this year, and how! Matt Le Blanc FTW!
  5. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO): If you aren’t watching this show, you are robbing your life of the best 30 minutes you can do each week sitting on your ass. WATCH THIS NOW.
  6. Broadchurch (ITV): Brit show Broadchurch shows you how to do a follow-up season of a hit crime drama so expertly that you are watching the same show you’ve seen and also a new one you haven’t.
  7. Suits (USA): I LOVE how Suits elevates a supporting character in *every* season and dedicates the entire season to showcase their skill. This season it was the turn of Donna (Sarah Rafferty) to get her moment to shine, and shine she did. Super enteraining!
  8. The Flash (CW): The only CW show I watch, and for good reason – this is the only CW show (I believe, apart from Jane the Virgin of course) where the focus has been on plot and acting and not (just) good looking young people. The only superhero show on TV that’s worth watching.
  9. Elementary (CBS): Elementary has generally been in the top 7-8 of any returning show list I make, but this season, the quality dipped ever so slightly, not because of the human part of the series, which is as strong as ever, but because of the cases, which were underwhelming. Still one of my favourite shows on TV.
  10. The Good Wife (CBS): Another show that dipped in quality this season, The Good Wife is usually among the top 3 network shows I watch. Still remains must-watch TV more than anything else on network TV, but I’m hoping the quality picks up post the new Alicia storyline.
  11. House of Cards (Netflix): House of Cards took an entirely different direction this season, giving the series an emotional, human underlay, and I absolutely enjoyed it. A lot of people didn’t, but that’s their problem. Better than season 2, I thought. Can’t wait for Season 4.
  12. Girls (HBO): For the last couple of seasons, I’ve kept wondering to myself why I watch Girls. I justify it as Adam Driver is funny, Allison Williams is pretty, the guest turns are great, I love New York, but usually this show has been my guilt-watch shame to bear. This season, however, Girls got less whiny, more story-driven and good fun in general.
  13. Vice (HBO): The show that week-on-week makes me feel like I’m more intelligent than I was the week before, Vice is must-watch TV.
  14. New Girl (FOX): New Girl’s entertaining as always and it has its ups and downs in quality, but this season had some jarring edit/direction issues, which threw me off. One new thing that happened this season though was that Lamorne Morris has suddenly become one of my favourite characters of the show. He’s SO funny!
  15. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (ABC): I watch this show only because Marvel, and since it’s always middling, but not entirely horrible, I’ll keep watching it only because Marvel.

 

NEW SHOW PILOTS
Shows that I have only seen pilots of, some of which I fully intend to see and some that I’ll pass on.

1. Bloodline (Netflix): It’s a Netflix show, it stars Kyle Chandler, Linda Cardellini (Freaks & Geeks) and Ben Medelsohn (every gritty crime flick over the last 3 years). Can’t wait to binge watch.
2. The Man in the High Castle (Amazon): An Amazon pilot based on a book that reimagined what the world of today would look like had the Nazis won. Super pilot, can’t wait for the series to come out (possibly next year).
3. Agent Carter (ABC): The pilot had more sass than I have seen in all TV shows with female protagonists combined. Looks like this would definitely be better than the Gothams and Agents of SHIELDS of the world, so looking forward to binge-ing on this.
4. Fresh off the Boat (ABC): Hilarious pilot. Laugh out loud. Will binge watch this as soon as I get the chance. Should be must-watch TV undoubtedly. (Also, it stars the dude who played Kim Jong Un in The Interview!)
5. Jane the Virgin (CW): What a fabulous pilot, with the most perfect and assured screenplay and direction, stuff you don’t usually see in pilots. This is couples TV, so will watch with wife whenever we both are free.
6. Battle Creek (CBS): Co-created by two of the greatest TV creators in America, Vince Gilligan and David Shore, I was a little let down by the pilot, even though it was much fun. Will still watch the entire series out of respect.
7. Sin City Saints (Yahoo): Fun pilot and it stars two great actors – Malin Akerman, who’s so funny and hot!, and Andrew Santino, who was fabulous in the underrated Mixology. Will definitely watch this.
8. The Librarians (TNT): I want to watch it because it stars Noah Wyle (of Pirates of Silicon Valley fame) and has a very National Treasure vibe to it, but this is just one of those shows that you won’t miss not watching. Still will try to give it a watch.
9. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix): Fun enough pilot, but I’m not quite certain right now if I’ll watch this fully. I want to because it’s created by Tina Fey and it’s a Netflix show but it wasn’t a must-watch to me after the pilot.
10. Man Seeking Woman (FXX): One of the most unique and original comedy pilots in years. I want to watch it completely but the unique also borders on strange, so I’m a bit cautious.
11. iZombie (CW): Fairly decent pilot, and it stars a new Indian actor (Rahul Kohli) as one of the main characters, and it’s about a zombie girl, yet there’s something very teenage about this. So I’ll probably watch it if I hear critics constantly praising this.
12. The Late Late Show with James Corden (CBS): Pretty decent pilot but I don’t generally watch Late Night shows regularly, so will probably catch some of it on YouTube every once a while.


Note #1:
In case you are looking for more recommendations, I had made a best-of TV list for my 2014 roundup. Here’s the list of 50+ shows from 2014 that you should watch – https://tanejamainhoon.com/2015/01/26/bestof2014tv/

Note #2: In case you are looking for *even* more recommendations, I had reviewed 50 summer TV shows in August last year. Here’s the list – https://tanejamainhoon.com/2014/09/01/summertv2014


What are your favourite TV shows of the year so far? Agree/disagree with  this list? Any shows I missed out on? Do leave your favourites in the comments below 🙂
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