Top 15 television shows of 2015
Editor-in-Chief and A&E Editor
15. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia- The FX hit comedy is as funny as it has ever been, which is extraordinary considering that the show is in its tenth season. While the newest batch of episodes did not reinvent the wheel, it was consistently hilarious and insane. From a Family Feud inspired game show installment to an episode where the “gang” joins a cult, Sunny proved that it still has what it takes for more seasons.
14. Silicon Valley- The first season of Mike Judge’s hilarious tech comedy was a welcome surprise last year, and the sophomore season only builds on what made the previous one so funny. The writing was more confident, the jokes were funnier, and several plots pushed the envelope in delightful ways. The cliffhanger ending promised more Silicon Valley in the future, and it will be interesting to see where the show will take its characters next season.
13. Master of None- It has been a great year for both Netflix and Aziz Ansari, and the collaboration between the two was one of the most talked about T.V shows of the year. The streaming service’s new program, written by Ansari and Alan Yang, was as touching as it was comical. Race, love, family life, and technology are examined through the show’s unique point of view, and the show’s look at modern life establishes Ansari as one of the premier comedians of his generation. Plus, it is one of the best looking and most expertly directed shows of the year.
12. Game of Thrones- Plot twists and shocking deaths remained the name of the game for HBO’s fantasy smash-hit. The show still has not quite figured out what it wants to focus on, and there are times when the show’s many plots seem to be fighting for attention, but there is no denying the show’s appeal. The writing, acting, direction, and special effects are exceptional as always, and the story’s unpredictable nature kept viewers in constant suspense.
11. Daredevil- There is no debating that we are living in the age of superhero entertainment. Some of the biggest movies each year are consistently superhero related, so it is no surprise that a new wave of superhero television has emerged in the past few years. DC has had huge success with programs such as Arrow, The Flash, and Gotham, but Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has not seen the same level of viewership or acclaim as those shows. However, Marvel’s two new Netflix shows this year, Daredevil and Jessica Jones, have been met with rave reviews. They are each fine shows, but Daredevil is doubly impressive in how it blends classic comic-book-action with dark, serious character drama. The performances were all fantastic, the fight choreography was top-notch, and the writing was able to tap into the titular character’s psyche. The second season can not come soon enough.
10. South Park- For a show that has thrived on addressing topical and controversial issues, South Park has somehow never lost its ability to shock viewers. The nineteenth season is one of the best the series has ever seen, continuing the show’s recent tradition of tying together its episodes with a season-long story arc. This season’s jabs at political correctness fit the show like a glove, and there is even some genuine mystery and suspense in its narrative. If Trey Parker and Matt Stone can continue to innovate and adapt like they have in this season, the show will continue for years to come.
9. Justified- This is one of the smartest crime shows of the past decade, and its farewell season gave viewers the finale they deserved. There were still some frustrating plot elements, as there have been in the prior five seasons, but the knowledge that the show was nearing its close gave the already suspenseful story a sense of real danger. The plot twisted and turned in interesting ways, and it was hard for even the most experienced television aficionado to guess where it was going. Our time in Harlan County may have come to a close, but Justified will go down as one of the most entertaining and risky cop shows to ever exist.
8. Key & Peele- This Comedy Central sketch comedy show only improved as it went along, going from a solid half hour of comedy in its first season to an undeniably brilliant program during its final seasons. The skits were as funny as they were inventive, and each episode was guaranteed to provide huge laughs. The final season was so good that it left fans clamoring for more, but this was probably the plan. The farewell only solidified the show’s place in television history, and people will still be quoting it years from now. It is completely ingrained into modern popular culture, which is the crowning achievement for a sketch program.
7. Nathan for You- This brilliant comedy from deadpan comedian Nathan Fielder can almost be too cringe inducing for its own good. Almost. Its premise, involving Fielder “helping” real small business owners attract new customers, seems simple at first, but his schemes have a tendency to lose control. By this point in the show, Fielder has created a fake movie, started a fictional workout “craze”, and has created a legal plan for a convenience store to sell liquor to underage customers. Outside of being shockingly hilarious and uncomfortable, the show is also able to provide an unsettling look at what people are willing to do for business.
6. Narcos- For every quality show based on real events (Boardwalk Empire, Masters of Sex), there is one that falls flat with critics and viewers (Black Sails, Marco Polo). Narcos, the new Netflix crime drama about the life of infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, thankfully falls into the former category. From a style standpoint, the show owes a lot to Martin Scorsese crime dramas like Goodfellas and Casino with its voiceover narration and frequent montages, but the strong writing keeps it from feeling like an average imitation. The writers are able to find the redeeming qualities in the brutal Escobar, and the stranger-than-fiction plot will be enjoyable for any crime drama fan.
5. Hannibal- Perhaps the strangest show to ever appear on network television, Hannibal makes Twin Peaks look like I Love Lucy. However, the slow pace and borderline psychedelic visuals kept it from appealing to mainstream audiences despite its relation to the very popular Hannibal Lecter character. NBC has dropped the show, and its future on another station is up in the air, but the third season serves as a pitch-perfect potential sendoff. These thirteen episodes saw the program’s left-field approach to horror television become increasingly surreal and operatic. Some critics have accused Hannibal as focusing on style over substance, but the visuals never overshadow the suspense or nuanced character development. It’s a brave and unique television show, and fans of horror need to watch all three seasons.
4. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp- At first glance, this star-studded Netflix show looks like the typical raunchy teen comedy. However, the show’s true genius starts to show itself after a few episodes. It is an absurd and hilarious series that manages to pack in side-splitting laughs every minute. Don’t watch for a realistic or coherent look at teen life; it comes off as a live-action cartoon for most of its runtime. It’s also funnier and more creative than just about anything you can watch this year. Plus, it is even more quotable than the cult classic film of the same name that it was based on. The huge cast, featuring Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Cera, and Jon Hamm, just to name a few, certainly does not hurt.
3. Better Call Saul- A Breaking Bad spin-off about the origin story of Bob Odenkirk’s sleazy lawyer character may have seemed like an unnecessary cash-grab on paper, but Better Call Saul is one of the best shows of the year. Surprisingly, Saul Goodman, whose non-lawyer name is Jimmy McGill, is as interesting of a character as Walter White, and his evolution into the corrupt lawyer from Breaking Bad is as fascinating as White’s murder-fueled rise to power. Odenkirk is able to display some outstanding dramatic abilities, but the show has more laughs than most comedies. Plus, it somehow manages to improve on Breaking Bad’s brilliant visuals. In short, it has the potential to be looked at as one of the great T.V. shows of this generation.
2. Kroll Show- Nick Kroll’s Comedy Central sketch comedy is not perfect. As a collection of skits, it is not as consistent as Key & Peele, as provocative and gut-busting as Chappelle’s Show, or as crowd-pleasing as Saturday Night Live. Still, it may go down as the one of the most innovative sketch shows of all time. In its beginning episodes, it was easy to dismiss Kroll Show as a second-rate Key & Peele, but as the show went on, Kroll’s ambition became more evident. These were not just disconnected skits aiming for quick laughs. Instead, the show’s recurring characters, most of which are played by Kroll, intersect and interact with each other in unique ways. The different “stories” blend into each other, and by this year’s concluding third season the show had almost fully committed to the show’s ridiculous narrative, which included a murder “mystery” and a kidnapping. This emphasis on storytelling, plus the obsessive attention to detail, made the show funnier and smarter than it appeared to be at first. It is perfect for people who like risky and envelope-pushing comedy.
1. Fargo- The quality of television has been increasing at such a fast rate during the past fifteen years that it can be easy to take the medium’s achievements for granted. However, sometimes a series comes along that reminds us of what television is capable of. Fargo is one of these shows. Its first season was warmly received by critics, but it did not prepare fans for the second season, which will air its final episode next Monday. Noah Hawley, who created the show, has simultaneously broadened the show’s scope and refined its character development. Last year’s season managed to honor the Coen Brothers’ movie of the same name while telling a new and unique story, and the writing is even better this time around. It is a prequel, set in 1979, to the first season, and its spot-on recreation of the era is only one of its achievements. It may tell a complex and layered story, but at its core, the show boils down to an effective tale of good versus evil. The show’s captivating story, humor, direction, tender characterization, and unique stylistic touches make season two of Fargo the best television show you can watch this year.
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