Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Best TV of 2015

"How do you find the time to watch all that TV?"

I hear it at work. I hear it online. I hear it at dinner when my wife and I are out with friends.

I watch quite a bit of television. Not as much as you think, but a lot. And truthfully, I can't keep up with everything anymore.

The major networks make it easy with most of their programming. But the cable networks, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other outlets have created a great problem for faithful TV watchers...too much of a good thing.

As a result, this annual list has become much more difficult to write.

But since you asked, here are my picks for the best television of 2015.


Master of None (NETFLIX)
The Man in the High Castle (AMAZON)
Mozart in the Jungle (AMAZON)
Rectify (SUNDANCE)
Transparent (AMAZON)

I'm behind, but I've heard great things about these new shows.

I loved the first two seasons of Rectify, so I'm anxious to start season number three.

Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light made season one of Transparent worth watching. I hope the kids become slightly more likable in season two.


Veep (HBO)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (NETFLIX)

All of these comedies made me laugh out loud and had strong seasons. Definitely worth checking out.


Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Like The Wire, this show never got the acclaim it deserved. I miss the world of Pawnee and all its inhabitants. Setting the last season in the future was ballsy - and absolutely perfect for this comedic gem. Too bad NBC has given up on comedy.

Justified (FX)
Excellent final season. I miss Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder. Great characters, solid acting, and the writing was pretty darn good. Everything you could ask out of a final season for an underrated show.

Mad Men (AMC)
I'd like to teach the world to sing, but this suffered from splitting the final season in two. Still beautiful to look at, and I'm glad Jon Hamm finally got the Emmy he deserved. We got some closure, but not enough. That's the problem when you have so many great characters to write for. And I will never blame Jay Ferguson for Stan and Peggy...too sappy for me, and Mad Men.


10. Better Call Saul (AMC)
Consider the torch passed. Very difficult to follow Breaking Bad, but I'm glad this universe is still alive. Odenkirk and Banks are fantastic, and Vince Gilligan knows how to handle a series. Pacing is everything, and I believe season two will be even better than season one. Really enjoyed this one.

9. Narcos (NETFLIX)
What. A. Pilot. The interweaving of real footage from the life of Pablo Escobar is one of the many highlights of a great first season. Top notch acting, and if Spanish isn't your native language you better be paying attention. Relive the war on drugs and watch all the money pour into Colombia.

8.  Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)
This took a Parks & Rec-like leap in quality from season one to season two, and I liked the first season. Fun story with plenty of drama packed in. The geek in me loves the 80's story of PC clones and 2400 baud modems, but the actresses keep me coming back for more. Even if you didn't build your own computer, this one is still worth checking out.

7. The Leftovers (HBO)
Some of the best writing on TV happened right here. You're starting with the unexplainable problem of 140 million people disappearing without a trace, and now you scrap your season one location for a different part of the country? This was no Laverne and Shirley move from Milwaukee to LA - Damon Lindelof LOVES TV and knows how to keep things interesting. This show MOVES me, and when it's on its game there's no better drama.

6. Silicon Valley (HBO)
Our third show in a row that destroyed its previous season. Every episode delivered as Pied Piper continued its West Coast struggle. Very funny actors along with some great writing had me rolling every Sunday night.

5.  Game of Thrones (HBO)
Shame if you're not watching the world of Westeros. Shame.

4.  Last Week Tonight (HBO)
The funniest program on television this year, and one of the most thought provoking. John Oliver is incredible. The show is biting, informative and always very funny. Forget The Daily Show - this is the one worth watching.

3. The Americans (FX)
Every season, this cold war drama takes it up another notch. They've done a great job filling plot holes that didn't work and cranking up the family tension and that big Soviet decision. And Keri Russell - to quote a buddy of mine at work, she's my favorite.

2.  Mr. Robot (USA)
This summer surprise reminded me how good TV can be when the audience is kept off balance. I had heard it was Fight Club in a high tech world. My expectations were greatly exceeded. Rami Malek and Christian Slater are excellent, and Sam Esmail deserves some kind of award for creating this universe. I never knew what was coming, and I couldn't wait for more. Easily the best new show of 2015.

1. Fargo (FX)
I remember hearing about season one and thought there's no way I could watch a TV show based on the Coen brothers classic film. Billy Bob and plenty of others proved me wrong. This season was going to be a prequel of sorts with a whole new cast? I knew not to doubt Noah Hawley this time around. Each episode of Fargo felt like a new film. Acting, writing, directing - all top notch. They went way out there with some of the storylines, and I bought it all. This series is something special - and that's why it's at the top of my list this year.

And that's it...if you think I forgot something, let me know. Happy holidays, and here's to a great 2016 in TV and beyond!