There was A LOT to watch in 2015. Even though we recently lost several great programs (RIP Parks and Recreation) there is plenty out there to fill the void. Although the majority of my viewing this year was comedy, there were a few dramatic, suspenseful and straight up disturbing shows that not only rocked in 2015-but will be returning in 2016. I can’t wait!
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Anything that Tina Fey is involved with is basically an automatic win for me. Kimmy Schmidt turned out to be a creation that was very similar in tone to 30 Rock, but with a far more outlandish premise. At 29 years old Kimmy and three other women are freed from an underground bunker where they have been living as part of a Doomsday cult for 15 years. The man responsible is put on trial while the women are forced to readjust to the real world. Kimmy decides to move from Indiana to New York City, but her apparent lack of worldly knowledge and social skills are a hurdle at every turn.
Ellie Kemper is still very much the ditzy, bubbly and naive character that she was on The Office for many years, but she grows a little stronger as this series goes on. She gets a job, finds an apartment, makes friends and develops a crush-all while deciding how to take down the man who kept her imprisoned under false pretenses for half of her life.
Titus Burgess is the standout for me in this series-you may remember him as one of the cast members of “Queen of Jordan” in several episodes of 30 Rock. Carol Kane steals the show several times as well.
Better Call Saul
After the triumph that was ‘Breaking Bad’ Vince Gilligan has a lot to live up to in his future projects. ‘Better Call Saul’ was a smart and natural choice to be his next project. It is an origin story of sorts about Saul Goodman, the shady, fast talking lawyer who cleaned up and perpetuated many messes for Walt and Jesse right to the end.
The show takes place before he moved to Albuquerque, he was still James “Jimmy” McGill and his office was basically a closet in a spa. The first season focuses on his relationship with his bizarrely ill brother, his struggling practice and his ambitions to be bigger and better-and the path that leads him to ‘breaking bad’ himself. Johnathan Banks (Mike) costars in the series and arguably steals the show on many, many occasions.
Rick and Morty
This show is most definitely not for everyone, but it is fantastic. From Dan Harmon-the man who is known for his edgy, off the wall shows that are always in danger of being cancelled (Community, anyone?) this is another show that has a dedicated following, an uncertain future and a niche audience.
Its second season was just as good as its first-if not better, but things have taken a very disturbing and dark turn this year. At its core, it is a goofy, explicit sci fi buddy adventure show that is hard to take seriously. Over time though, we are seeing glimpses of harsh reality and morbidity. They keep things interesting by introducing new space-time elements and by shitting all over Jerry. Get a job, Jerry!
No other show had me enthralled quite like this one did. We started watching this show on a recommendation from a random website and kicked ourselves for not hearing about it sooner.
In a ‘Fight Club’ meets ‘Wanted’ story, young tech genius Elliot is drawn into an underground movement of hackers led by a mysterious man named ‘Mr Robot’ (played by Christian Slater) towards an end goal of bringing down the worlds biggest and most corrupt tech company called E Corp-also known by its pet name ‘Evil Corp’. They hope to bring the company to its knees financially and wipe clean the debts that they have imposed on their millions of clients around the world. Sounds impossible, yes?
The real appeal to this show lies in one immediately obvious fact-Elliot is completely and utterly mentally unstable. You spend this entire show wondering what the hell is going on, and if any of it is real. Rami Malek has the majority of the screen time and he nails it. Its broody, dark and full of doom-and-gloom, but it has an expert grasp on current events.
Not arguably the best thing that Marvel did in 2015, Daredevil nailed its first season. It is the first time in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe that we saw a graphically violent take on a superhero, but Daredevils story was the perfect choice to take that detour.
Matt Murdock takes a journey-in a series of flashbacks-from being a curious young boy who is blinded in an accident, to a young lawyer turned vigilante who takes control over his life and over the injustices that plague his city. The cinematography and the fight choreography is memorable, the story is gripping and the variety of relationships keep you invested in the characters.
No character was more enigmatic than Wilson Fisk-played by Vincent D’onofrio. So rarely do we see a villains human side the way that we see the ‘Kingpin’. Here is a man who has the capacity to fall in love, to be broken down, and to show vulnerability. He seems so sure that he is doing the right thing that he forces those around him-and the audience to question if he truly is the bad guy, or if he is the necessary means to an end.
2015 was definitely a year that women in popular culture started to take a respectable step in the right direction-front and center. Agent Peggy Carter was the perfect choice to bring a Marvel heroine-though not your typical one-into the spotlight. As a rock solid lead heroine with wit, determination and strength of character, Peggy has no superpowers but she has all of the necessary elements to change the world.
After many smaller roles in Captain America: The First Avenger and a few flashback scenes thereafter, Agent Carters story needed to be elaborated on. As one of the founding members of SHIELD, Peggy Carter goes from being an important member of the United States military-aiding in the missions to assist Steve Rogers-to being a secretary and glorified errand girl for the SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve). Surrounded by an office full of men with a stereotypical 1940s attitude towards women, she fights past her limitations to help a publicly disgraced and wanted Howard Stark clear his name with a little help from a man that I was overjoyed to see-his butler, Jarvis.
This show is absolutely ridiculous at the best of times and incredibly smart at the worst of times. When I think about how we will look back at the 2010s this show stands out as one that we will reference as a snapshot of modern culture. From the slightly offbeat but brilliant man who brought us Office Space, Silicon Valley is an insightful peek into what goes on behind the scenes of this ever expanding technological era that we are living in.
Now about to enter its third season, Silicon Valley centers on a group of socially awkward, brilliant, crass and immature friends who spend a significant portion of their days holed up in their “office” coding, programming and trying to create the next big tech breakthrough. Led by Richard (Thomas Middleditch) the company ‘Pied Piper’ comes to fruition based on his data compression algorithm that could revolutionize the world of streaming. Richards tech and his company are being batted around and manipulated by his friend and entrepreneur Erlich (TJ Miller) Hooli-the biggest player in the industry and venture capitalist Peter Gregory-who is incredibly weird but also very, very wealthy.
The small startup company is desperately out of its depth in this cut throat industry, and we see them fall down so many times but we so badly want them to keep fighting-even though the majority of them are really douchey.
The Mindy Project
After I finished marathon watching the third season of this show on Netflix I was heartbroken to learn that it had been cancelled. Luckily Hulu has since revived it for a fourth season. Phew.
One of my favorite “easy viewing” shows of the year, The Mindy Project centers on Mindy (Mindy Kaling) who is a successful young OB/GYN working in a small NYC practice surrounded by a cast of quirky coworkers. She is very similar to Kaling’s character, Kelly Kapoor, from The Office-albeit slightly less dramatic and narcissistic. Only a bit less. The big difference is that while she possesses the same overconfidence that Kelly did, she is also incredibly insecure and self deprecating.
Although Mindy is the star, this is a classic ensemble comedy that brings in several primary, secondary and recurring characters to shake up the wacky and wild storylines. You can see Kaling flexing her star power in the sheer volume of quality cameos that she rakes in to play her many boyfriends, coworkers and acquaintances. At the moment the show is gaining its stability along with its main character and there is a bit more continuity to latch yourself onto. If you need to watch something that is just plain fun, this is a fantastic choice.
Brooklyn Nine Nine
This is one of my favorite shows on TV right now, and it definitely has my favorite theme song. Andy Samberg leads an ensemble cast whose dynamics and overall feel are reminiscent of Parks and Recreation (with a lot less emotional depth) through the personal and professional antics at the Brooklyn 99 police department.
Currently in its third season the show has started to stabilize its extreme wackiness and now focuses just a bit more on its relationships and aspects of actual police work. Andre Braugher continues to expand his comedic chops and is arguably the most likable character-which is saying a lot in a cast that includes Samberg, Chelsea Peretti AND the amazing Terry Crews.
This is another fantastic choice if you need a show that just makes you feel good after watching it.
Considering that this show has now been on the air for 19(!) seasons while being one of the most deliberately offensive things to ever grace television, you have to give South Park some major props. They are always on top of current events and trends and they seem to be very in tune with their audience. Somewhere in between making two video games and running a very successful Broadway show, they found time to put together a hilarious new season that-for the very first time-has continuity.
South Park Elementary has a new principal named “PC Principal” whos sole prerogative is to make sure that South Park is as politically correct and non-offensive as possible, guilting its residents into being void of any bias towards anyone. As it always does, the show finds a blatant and intelligent way to turn a mirror to society and show us that we just might be taking our “PC” culture a bit too far. Everyone from Caitlyn Jenner to Donald Trump is roasted in this season.
Meanwhile, Kennys decrepit neighborhood is turned into the new hipster-laden destination when they get South Parks first ‘Whole Foods’. The new area is dubbed “Shi Pa Town”. Oh, you guys.
I know that I likely missed ALOT in this list but there is a lot of television to wade through and I am only one woman!