My Favorite Shows of 2015

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!

Mr. Robot

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.

Daredevil

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.

Agent Carter

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.

Silicon Valley

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.

South Park

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!

12 Days of Christmas (Specials) Day 1-“Abeds Uncontrollable Christmas” from Community Season 2

I saved this particular episode for last because-even though none of these entries were in any specific order, this one is my favorite.

While Greendale celebrates its watered down and politically correct version of “Christmas”, for reasons unknown to the group Abed suffers from some sort of mental breakdown that causes him to perceive everyone and everything around him as stop motion animated “puppets”. Worried for his mental health, Britta recruits Professor Duncan (John Oliver) to use his psychology methods to help him snap out of it before he gets kicked out of school. Duncan agrees to conduct a group therapy session disguised as a Christmas wizard-with the intention of publishing Abeds case to further his career. 

Abeds imagination takes the group on a magical and musical adventure to Planet Abed, where Christmas is paramount and the air is made of 7% cinnamon. Most of the group plays along while Duncan tries to lure Abed into a trap where he can confront the reasons for his breakdown. As the situation becomes more and more heartbreaking and transparent, his friends begin to see that this coping mechanism needs their support. Together, they turn on Duncan and help Abed confront his pain through song.

This episode is the epitome of Christmas in my eyes. It is whimsical and festive, but with an underlying and sobering sadness that is the reality of Christmas for so many people. The changing of times, the loss of old traditions and the need to adapt to new life situations are so common during the holidays. We often forget about the sad side of Christmas, but this episode shows us that change can be positive.

That last song makes me cry, everytime. Merry happy to everyone!

12 Days of Christmas (Specials)-Day 2-“Anatomy Park” from Rick and Morty Season 1

Jerry is in full Christmas mode and very upset with his families lack of excitement and interaction. While he makes supper and prepares for his parents arrival, he is angry to find that Beth, Morty and Summer are all sitting around on their phones and tablets-so he takes them away. Things start to get even more uncomfortable as his guests arrive-Rick, who brings a homeless man in a Santa suit named Ruben, and Jerrys parents-who bring a strange young man named Jacob and a worldly new philosophical outlook on life. 

Rick steals Morty away from dinner, shrinks him and injects him into the body of the homeless Santa in order to help save his life. When he arrives, he finds that he is in an amusement park called “Anatomy Park” which houses several deadly viruses on display. When Ruben dies from all of the viruses and bacteria in his body and a park employee is exposed as a traitor Morty must escape from the rampant diseases with the parks employees- including Dr. Xenon Bloom (John Oliver) and a cute girl named Annie. Rick steps in and takes the body into space. Things get weird.

Back at the dinner table the family discovers that the mysterious and charismatic Jacob is in fact the lover of Jerrys mother and that his parents are on a sexual spiritual journey with him. Beth is inspired by their willingness to live life to the fullest, while Jerry sees the situation for how awkward it truly is. Things get weird.

Christmas is saved when Jerry gives everyone back their electronic devices to calm them down and Rick brings Morty back to earth in one piece.

 

12 Days of Christmas (Specials)-Day 3-“XMas Story” from Futurama Season 2

I honestly don’t watch a whole lot of Futurama. It just isn’t up there for me. However, I always seem to remember this particular episode and its repetitive use of the word “XMas”.

Fry longs for the traditional Christmas that he used to have in the 20th century, so his friends decide to help him celebrate ‘XMas’-the modern interpretation of the holiday. Advancements in robotics have produced a mechanical Santa that performs the duties of the traditional Santa Claus, including figuring out who is naughty and who is nice. Unfortunately, a glitch in his programming caused him to become a gun wielding psychopath who murders (who he interprets to be) the “naughty” after sundown.

Fry realizes that Leela has only sad memories of the Christmas and sets out to find her a great gift. After buying her a parrot, she soon shows up to rescue him from the homicidal Santa. Bender and his robot friends offer shelter, but before long Santa finds his way in and has to be thwarted by Dr Zoidberg.

He promises to exact his revenge.

Does he exact his revenge? Maybe I need to keep watching the show…

12 Days of Christmas (Specials)-Day 4-“Snowflake Day” from Clone High

I absolutely, truly, genuinely,sincerely and undeniably love Clone High. I miss it so. I watched this show over and over and over again in my teens-as a part of the killer ‘Teletoon at night’ lineup including Undergrads, Mission Hill and the Oblongs. It consumed every night of my life for a few hours.

In very much the same way that fans grieve and pine for the one season wonder that was ‘Firefly’, I too find myself mourning the loss of Clone High (and the Undergrads…what the hell!?). It was brilliant, stupid and ridiculous-but the talent involved in creating and executing it was top notch.

Their one and only holiday themed episode takes place on what they call “Snowflake Day”-a strange Christmas-like holiday that involved traditional spices and meats. Joan of Arc is sick of the materialistic holiday and her oblivious family, so she retreats to the outside world. While near a dumpster she encounters a sexy homeless woman who looks alot like Mandy Moore (voiced by Mandy Moore). She tries to use her magical powers to help Joan see the meaning of Snowflake Day.

Meanwhile, Cleopatra tells Abe that she wants an expensive present. This convinces both Abe and Gandhi to get a job, where they get the inspiration to invent a new utensil called “the knork”. Oh, and JFK records a Snowflake Day album.

In true Clone High fashion, we end up learning absolutely nothing-except that if you see a sexy homeless person that looks like a celebrity, they are not homeless and cannot be trusted.

12 Days of Christmas (Specials)-Day 5-“Holidays of Future Passed” from The Simpsons Season 23

There are many fantastic Christmas specials from the shows 27 year run, but this recent episode from season 23 is one of my favorites.

We see a glimpse into the future of the Simpson family and their now extended family. In the year 2041 Lisa and Milhouse are married with a bratty teenage daughter name Zia, Bart is a divorced father of two sharp young boys and Maggie is a rock star who is about to pop. Homer and Marge have the family over for Christmas dinner and drama ensues.

Bart is currently at an all time low, living at Springfield Elementary under Seymour-who is now his landlord. His boys arrive for Christmas and bring complaints and the heartbreaking news that their mother has remarried. Lisa is fed up with her disrespectful, cyber addicted daughter and desperate to communicate with her while Marge tries to criticize her parenting style. Both feeling frustrated, Bart and Lisa bond over their family issues.

Homer decided to have a day out with his two grandsons, so he takes them to a some of Springfields famous spots-like the Kwik E Mart- and to a bizarre cryogenic freezing cemetery to see their great grandpa Abe. After seeing how hurtful and inconsiderate he can be, Homer explains to them that even though a father isn’t perfect, it doesn’t mean that you won’t miss them someday.

After a weird Mad Max-meets-Matrix-esque storyline transports Lisa inside of the internet to talk to her daughter, and a revelation brings Bart to apologize to his kids, all of the families issues are resolved by the episodes end. 

This episode speaks to me as one of the more relatable. Marriage issues, parenting issues, personal issues and professional issues are all forms of baggage that people carry around with them-even in such a joyful time as Christmas. A group of people come together and either wallow in their miseries or they forget all about them for a few hours. Sometimes your family is worth giving up a little bit of pride if it will keep them close. Family is-at the best of times-what Christmas is all about.

12 Days of Christmas (Specials) Day 6-“An Eric Forman Christmas” from That 70s Show Season 4

There is a lack of Christmas spirit among Erics friends and family. Eric and Hyde complain that the season isn’t exciting now that they are adults, to which Kitty responds by guilting them into organizing the church Christmas pageant. His friends agree to participate-all the while complaining and trying to manipulate their characters into something more interesting-like spacemen and a unicorn riding Virgin Mary. Red is fed up with Bobs obnoxious and loud decorative display and steals his decorations in the night and tries to lie about it. Jackie berates Michael into growing out of his whimsical love for Christmas specials.

Eric becomes frustrated with his friends and families constant bickering and quits the production. Kitty, sick of Reds negativity and Grinch-like behavior, convinces him to change his tune in the name of Christmas.

By the end, everyone sees the error of their ways and comes together to bring Eric back to the play and back into the holiday spirit. Red forms a truce with Bob and puts up his own festive display to impress Kitty, and Kelso realizes that he can keep his love of Christmas for as long as he wants.

We learn that Christmas can be extravagant and loud, but it is all about tradition and being together.

12 Days of Christmas (Specials)-Day 7-“The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis” from The Big Bang Theory Season 2

After a few seasons I stopped watching Big Bang Theory as the characters became less nerdy and awkward and the relationship angle began to take over. I also had to distance myself once every adult female in my life started telling my boyfriend and I that we were “just like Big Bang!”.

Ugh.

Well before I strayed, I was in love with the Christmas episode from their second season. Sheldon is frustrated when Penny brings him a Christmas gift because-as he says-“The foundation of gift giving is reciprocity. You’re not giving me a gift, you’re giving me an obligation!”. His friends take him to (I think) Bath and Body Works to get an appropriately priced and sized present for her. He decides to purchase several baskets, so that when he opens Pennys gift he can determine how much to give her in return.

She ends up giving him a gift so incredible that he gives her all of the baskets, plus a very rare bonus gift-an emotional hug from Sheldon.

I think about this episode quite often while doing my own shopping, as I attach too much importance to the quantitity of gifts, the price etc etc and let that guide my gift giving. The most amazing gifts aren’t expensive or large, but they are thoughtful and personal-especially between friends.

12 Days of Christmas (Specials) Day 8 – “Citizen Knope” from Parks and Recreation Season 4

Leslie is on suspension, and in her absence her colleagues try to plan a perfect Christmas gift for her-since she is notorious for being a flawless and very thoughtful gift giver.

They decide that they will work together to build a gingerbread model of the Parks department offices because Leslie loves her job so dearly. Complete with candy versions of themselves, they work tirelessly to make a special gift for Leslie.

While Leslie unofficially works on a Parks committee and Ben tries to move forward in his life with a new job, Leslie is given the bad news that her city council campaign managers have given up on her. Fortunately, her friends and colleagues end up giving her the best gift of all-their support.

This show never fails to tug at the heartstrings of its viewers (I know that I’m not alone) and this episode is a perfect example of how insightful and touching it can truly be. Christmas or not, it teaches us that there will always be another door for you to go through, and that the support of your friends and family is a beautiful gift.

12 Days of Christmas (Specials)Day 9-“A Christmas Special” from 30 Rock Season 3

In the sixth episode of its third season, Jack accidentally hits his cantankerous mother with his car, forcing him to care for her over the Christmas season. Wrapped up in his frustration towards her-and looking for a way out of the house- he springs a last minute idea onto the writing staff of ‘The Tracy Jordan Show’ that he would like to put on an extravagant Christmas special on Christmas eve.

Meanwhile, Liz obsesses over a project to reply to letters from Santa and fulfill less fortunate childrens wishes after her own family cancels their normal holiday plans. She buys an abundance of toys, but when she drops them off at the house she is greeted by two adult men and no children. Convinced that she was scammed, she recruits Tracy and optimistic Kenneth to help her get to the bottom of it.

He spends the entirety of the production fighting with his mother, Colleen, and obsessing over his childhood Christmas’ without his father in the picture. As he attempts to tailor the special episode of the show towards Mrs Claus as the main character, Liz makes him realize that his mother (who dressed up as Mrs Claus when he was a child) actually made his Christmas’ exceptionally special, even though he couldn’t see it at the time.

Uncharacteristically sentimental, this episode is a reminder that things aren’t always what they seem and that sometimes putting your faith in others will pay off.