2015 Stuff I Liked: TV

I never used to do year-end lists.  Reason being, there’s no way in hell that any person could watch every show on TV, or listen to every album released each year.  Maybe they could watch every movie, but even that would be a stretch unless they were actually being paid to do it.  So there’s no way I can honestly say what I think is the “best” stuff released each year, because I can’t watch/listen to it all.  That’s why I’m calling  these lists “Stuff I Liked” rather than “Best Stuff” – I can’t really tell you what was the best out of ALL the things, but I can certainly tell you what I personally enjoyed.

Let’s start with the TV list (which, I’ll be honest, may or may not be the only one I do this year.  We’ll see).  Once again I am going to split my list into hour-long shows and half hour shows, just because it makes it easier for me.  Here goes …

Hour-Long Shows I Liked in 2015

You know what’s crazy, and what I didn’t realize until I started writing this?  My 2014 list had 6 total shows in the “hour-long” category, and a whopping 4 of those shows have dropped off the list this year.  That is a 66.7% failure rate in my 2014 list’s holding power.  What the hell happened??  Because so many shows dropped off, I’m going to have a section at the bottom to explain why, for each of them.  But for now let’s look at my 2015 list:

The 100

The 100 -- "Many Happy Returns" -- Image: HU204b_0015 -- Pictured (L-R): Eliza Taylor as Clarke and Dichen Lachman as Anya - Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW -- © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

A great example of a show I missed out on in a previous year-end list is The 100.  If I had seen this show when its first season and the first half of its second season originally aired in 2014, the show would most certainly have been on my 2014 year-end list.  As a matter of fact, it would’ve been damn near the top.  Not that I’m putting these things in any particular order, but you know what I mean.  It’s a show that, despite me having heard some good things about it, was very easy for me to brush off as just a shallow “model-gorgeous young people running around in the woods looking cute” type of deal, especially because it airs on The CW.  The last time I watched CW was Gilmore Girls.  It’s been a loooonnnngg time.

And while the pilot episode really IS mostly “pretty teeny-boppers on a space ship” followed by “pretty teeny-boppers in the woods”, it starts to become evident around the end of the 3rd ep that the show is going to be far more than that.  It turns out that this little CW show is a shockingly deep exploration of morality, the consequences and atrocities of war, leadership strategy, human survival instinct, loyalty, and, well this list could go on and on.  It poses the question of whether it’s possible to retain your humanity and integrity when you’re at war and/or in a situation of fighting for survival.  What does it mean to be a “good person”?  To do the “right” thing?  This is a really engaging show in season 1, and it gets significantly better, more complex and more substantial in season 2.  One of my favorite TV critics Mo Ryan describes it best:

According to one reading of the narrative, Clarke is a mass murderer — and she’s not remotely the only one we’ve encountered. Of course, seeing Clarke only as a killer would be a profoundly limited interpretation of who she is and what she’s done; at every step, I look at her decisions and think I probably would have done the same thing. To its credit, the show explores these issues of morality and ethics without beating us over the head with them. You only have to look at Clarke’s face at several key moments in the finale to understand that she herself is asking these questions: “Am I a monster? What kind of person am I?” (Full review here but don’t read past a certain point unless you’ve seen the entire series; it has spoilers.)

The show is Lord of the Flies and/or Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones meets your favorite cable sci-fi show – I’ve heard that Battlestar Galactica is also a strong influence.  I can’t claim to have watched BSG, so I’ll have to trust what I’ve heard in that regard.  But it says a LOT that this little low budget CW show can truly impress me in ways that the HG series and GoT have not.

And while I missed out on it in 2014, luckily the second half of season 2 aired in 2015, so I get to make up for it here.  Season 3 starts in January, so I’ll have to wait another few weeks to see if S3 can keep up the show’s momentum and quality.  Fingers crossed.  And btw, seasons 1 & 2 are on Netflix.  You should check ’em out.  Don’t let the first couple eps fool you into thinking they are what the show is going to be.  The series starts showing its true colors at the end of ep 1.03.

Game of Thrones

game-of-thrones-season-5-episode-9

It would take a lot for this show to fall off my list.  Season 5 had its ups and downs, and I’m still pissed at it for yanking us around re: Jon Snow, but there was also plenty to enjoy.  It took GoT 5 seasons to finnnnallly get around to bringing Dany together with literally any other major character on the show, but finally they gave it to us with Tyrion.  Sansa and Brienne’s stories started to kinda sorta join up, and Sansa and Theon were brought back together (it’s Reek!!).  It felt like we were finally making progress in certain key areas.  Plus, I live for character interactions, so these things made me happy.

Hmm I’m thinking back on the season, and I just remembered that many people were livid and declared they were dumping the show due to the rape scene after poor Sansa’s wedding.  Of course I felt terrible for her character when it happened … but why people picked this particular thing out of all the horrific things this show has done over the course of 5 seasons to become morally outraged about … I’m still baffled.  The 1st episode of this entire series had a very similar scene.  GoT kinda showed y’all its cards on day one, peeps.  The outrage felt a little to me like someone hugging a grizzly bear and then being shocked when the grizzly bear rips their face off.  Of course that’s not at all to say there’s not a line to be drawn somewhere, there certainly is.  It’s simply to say that GoT defined their playing field pretty clearly from the outset.

And then it seemed that by the time we got to “Hardhome”, everyone had forgotten about the Sansa thing.  Hardhome certainly brought us back to the crazy heights this show can reach when it’s really going balls-to-the-wall (hey, pun intended!).  Hmm and on the opposite side of the coin, we had my #1 fave character Arya’s storyline, which was torturously ssllloowwww going this season.  My lord.  On the bright side though, she got such an amazing revenge scene in the finale that it almost made it worth the wait.  Anywho, I’m on board with GoT for season 6; let’s see what’s up with Mr. Snow when the show returns.  Killing him at this point just seems downright stupid to me because it would defeat the purpose of SO much of the journey up until now.

Orange is the New Black

Orange-is-the-New-Black-season-3-cast

It could be argued that this show was in slightly iffy territory in season 3, for two reasons: 1) The storyline was a little meandering and didn’t have any majorly dramatic “edge of your seat” type arcs and 2) Piper somehow became even less likable, and not only that, she became FAR less likable than she ever had been.  When even Alex starts to become a sympathetic character by comparison,  you know something has gone seriously awry.

BUT, by the same token, there were the following upsides: 1) Piper feels less and less like the main character of this show every season, and at this point has fully just become one a large ensemble cast.  And that’s a great thing, because every other character on this show is 100 times more interesting to me than Piper and Alex.  You could write them out of the show entirely and I’d be thrilled.  2) The rest of the cast and their respective storylines kept me quite entertained in S3.  My favorite character Taystee was finally back to her normal funny self with evil Vee gone, and the storyline with Crazy Eyes and her erotic tales, eventually spawning fanfic, was hysterical.  The line about the New Testament being the ultimate fanfic was an honest to god revelation to me.  Pun intended?

And this show really has a way of getting you right in the heart parts in its final scene of each season.  Last year it was Rosa and the van, and this year it was the big “escape”.  It was a scene of such simple pleasures and it hit me right in the feels.  I’ll be back for season 4.

Daredevil

daredevil

I’m almost tempted to leave this show off the list just to drive Shelby insane.  What kind of asshole would have that temptation??  Sheesh.  Anyway I won’t do such a thing, because I found it to be a thoroughly fun and engaging way to spend 13 hours.  TV has always seemed to me like a more suitable way to adapt comics than movies, because of their serial nature.  The CW has had some major success with both Arrow and The Flash, and admittedly I haven’t watched either of those shows.  But it was cool to see a comic translated into a TV show that doesn’t have to live by network standards.  There’s a lot more flexibility that way and I think Daredevil took full advantage of it.  It’s nearly wiped that old lingering Affleck-shaped stain right out of my brain, and that’s hard to do.  The action sequences were excellent, Charlie Cox is a cutie patootie, and it’s just a really solid action series.  Plus, the opening title sequence is awesome.

Jessica Jones

jessica_jones

Whaaaaat, TWO Marvel shows on my faves list??  This feels a little odd, because, I mean look, I don’t read comic books, but I do see basically all the Marvel movies.  I think the only ones I don’t see are the stupid Spiderman reboots (so pointless), but I watch and enjoy the others.  They just aren’t necessarily at the very top of my favorite things ever.  Why is that, you ask?  Well, a lot of it has to do with the characters – Let’s be honest, it’s a real sausage fest.  It’s not that I don’t love the dudes, but as a chick myself, I find it depressing how few of my people – the ladies – get to be up there in the limelight on screen.  Who do *I* get to live vicariously through when I watch?  The gals do exist in the comic book movies of course, but even in this day and age, they too often feel like tokens.  You get the 5 dudes and the 1 token “kickass chick”, but she’s a supporting character only.  She doesn’t get her own movie or anything, obviously.  Hah, let’s not get crazy here.  Girls are too busy painting their nails and shopping to care about this type of thing, amiright?

Enter Jessica Jones.  I started to write about this show here and realized – I think partly because I started writing this literally less than 2 hours after finishing the season – that I had more to say than I thought.  So I put it into a separate post.  But I’ll just give you this preview, which was a tweet from the aforementioned TV critic Mo Ryan: “Been thinking about the idea that #JessicaJones might be (among many other things) one long furious response to the Bill Cosby situation.”  You can read my full review here.

The Jinx and Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

going-clear

I almost forgot to include these since they weren’t scripted shows.  There are few things I love more than a good documentary, and both of these were mesmerizing to me.  The Jinx – I think I later read an article about some issues with the way some of the facts were presented here and/or what they chose to highlight, but holy shit it’s hard to say that this documentary wasn’t successful when they essentially caught the murderer red-handed at the end.  Law enforcement couldn’t do that, so leave it to this documentary instead.  I’m addicted to shows like 48 Hours Mystery (which I think is just called 48 Hours now), and this was like if you took one of the most fascinating cases from that show and delved into it for 6 full episodes.  And that = me in documentary heaven.

And then we had Going Clear.  Talk about one of my other favorite topics in the universe – religion.  I love learning and talking about various religions, but the ones I love most are the especially wacky ones.  Obviously.  Examples: Mormonism, Scientology.  I’m also reading and writing about The Bible on my other blog (see: Christianity and Judaism).  In terms of Going Clear, I already know all the basics of Scientology, as you would imagine, but this documentary helped me fill in blanks, and details, and gave me proof of things I had always suspected (and some things that I hadn’t even considered).  And it wasn’t coming from just some random Scientology members either – this came from the people highest up in the organization just below David Miscavige.  These people know what they’re talking about and they do NOT mince words here.  And that is made quite clear from the Scientology thugs that stalk Marty Rathbun’s family 24/7.  Wow, fascinating, juicy stuff.

Yes, I Know, I’ll Get to These Other Shows!

Sorry guys, I didn’t watch Mr. Robot yet.  Nothing on earth was going to be worth my suffering through constant promos for Royal Pains and Suits the entire way through it on stupid lame-ass USA network.  It actually makes me angry that they finally managed to get a hit on their hands for the first time in a while (at least critically).  That show is next up on the docket though, now that I can just watch it on Amazon streaming (I’m assuming).  And yes, I know everyone lloooooved The Leftovers season 2, but they straight-up tricked me with that one because I heard very mixed things about season 1, so I never had any intention of starting it.  Will I ever?  I’m not sure, but my cousin Katie has insisted that I watch Fargo first.  Well, second, after Mr. Robot.  And oh shit!  Rectify, I said I was gonna watch Rectify on my post last year!  I forgot.  I’m gonna watch that too.  Sorry Leftovers, I don’t know when I’m ever going to get to you.

Half Hour Shows

Broad City

broad_city4It is an absolute travesty and embarrassment that I saw the first few seconds of Broad City every single week right after Workaholics, and yet it took 1 1/2 seasons before I finally realized that I needed to check it out.  I’m not going to call out Workaholics specifically this year, but that show is still funny as hell too, so you can consider it as part of this by default.

But Broad City, I just, I can’t even … what even needs to be said about it??  It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of in a comedy.  I feel about Broad City the same way I felt about Girls in 2012, which is that this show was made specifically for me, to make me feel complete.  I’m not ordering these lists, but like The 100 in the hourlong section, this show is at the top of my half-hour pile this year.  Instead of writing any more on this post, I’ll just explain it with a scene from the show:

broad_city3Oh, Ilana.  You crazed maniac.  ‘Nuff said.

Master of None

master-of-none2

Oh shit!!  Wait!  If Broad City is at the top of my half-hour pile, then what about Master of None??  Yeah, see this is why I can’t order these lists.  I’ve seen Aziz Ansari do stand-up live at my local concert hall, I’ve seen every single ep of Parks & Rec, I’m a huge fan of Eric Wareheim, I follow all of these people on Twitter, and yet I had no clue this show existed until a few days before it was released on Netflix.  How I was so in the dark I have no idea, but luckily all the stuff I saw about it in the week prior to its release was raves and fawning praises from the TV critics I follow.  All of this was plenty to convince me to check it out, and the show did not disappoint.

I love a show that takes a well-trodden concept – in this case the half hour scripted comedy – and tweaks it a little.  Just enough to make it feel a bit different than anything you’ve seen before.  I love that this show stars an Indian dude, an Asian dude, a white dude, and a black lesbian chick as its four mains.  I love that it explores stories such as the backstory (including immigration to America) of both Dev’s and Brian’s parents in a more heartfelt way than any comedy needs to.  I love that Aziz’s real life parents star as themselves!  They are clearly not trained actors, but it doesn’t matter; they are still funny as hell and as authentic as one can possibly get in this situation.  Probably about 60-ish% of my coworkers are from India, and getting their perspectives on it (they are basically all checking it out from what I can tell) has been really fun.

I’ve always thought Aziz was funny, but he took a step up to do something here that I never really expected of him, and I’m very impressed.  This show digs deeper into the meaning of life than you’d ever expect from a half-hour comedy show.  And bonus: Eric Wareheim of Tim & Eric fame!  Yay.  I looove Eric in this so much.  So, so much.  OH and another bonus: The season finale of this show inspired my cousin to propose to his girlfriend of 2 years on Thanksgiving!  The day after we watched it, coincidentally.  Ha.  Nice.

You’re the Worst

Youre-The-WorstShit!!  Yet another show that’s absolutely worthy of topping my half-hour pile.  I watched season 1 of this show right after I made my 2014 list, for the specific reason that I knew I was probably missing out on something great when I made that list.  Turns out I was right.  YTW is like if you took the demented comedy of It’s Always Sunny, gave it a love story, and put a legit emphasis on character stories and real-world situations.  Season 1 is somewhat lighter overall, focusing primarily on the love story between Jimmy and Gretchen, with several great supporting characters and subplots to fill out the show.  But the show has a very unique way of giving its characters real stories that are sometimes heavy, and yet somehow making them feel true-to-life and substantial while still finding the twisted humor in them.  It’s hard to describe, but the best example of this in S1 is Edgar and his Iraq War experience and his resulting PTSD.  It’s a thing he has and that he deals with, and it feels significant, but it provides some bizarrely funny situations as well … the same way tragic shit in real life can do this.  It’s taken seriously as a subplot, but it adds to the humor of the show and never feels like an Afterschool Special.

Season 2 is still hilarious, but it surprised me with a more serious turn halfway through the season, which I think for the most part served to make it an even better and more interesting show.  It took the concept I just mentioned with Edgar, and kicked it up a notch with a more serious turn for Gretch – it turns out she battles clinical depression, and it rears its ugly head midway through season 2.  I know some people, my friend Shelby included, were not entirely thrilled about this serious turn, because things got a little too real at certain times.  And I definitely get that, but I think the show handled it in a way that made the show and its characters deeper and kept me laughing throughout just as much as I always had.

It turns out I have more to say about this show, too, than I can fit here, so you can read the rest of what I have to say here, if you’re interested.  Like Jessica Jones, I also had just finished this show’s season right before I started writing this.  Heh.

Inside Amy Schumer

inside-amy-schumer-season-3

Yes, this show is still just as awesome as ever, if not more so.  You’ve heard about all the great sketches in season 2 – “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer”, “Girl you Don’t Need Makeup”, etc.  And those were hilarious, but there’s another that hasn’t gotten quite as much attention that was one of my top faves.  I’ll just leave the rest of my review at this one. Click to watch; it’s too hard to try to embed it because sadly it’s not on YouTube.

Transparent??

transparent-season-2-photo_cropped

O.k., these guys screwed me over by not releasing season 2 until December 4th.  I only have so much time in my life, people.  Work has been wwaayy too hectic in the weeks leading into Christmas break.  I’ll get to this one soon, + I’ve been hearing it’s great, + season 1 was on my 2014 Faves list.  So I’ll probably love it?  I’m leaving a placeholder just in case.  If by some terrible chance it sucks, then I’ll take it off after I watch it.  For now I’m gonna give it the benefit of the doubt.

The Runners-Up

Honestly, I love a TON of half-hour comedies.  I’m not going to make a separate post for all of them because it’s too many, but I still also love all these shows (a couple of them new):

  • Girls
  • Silicon Valley
  • New Girl
  • Drunk History
  • Workaholics
  • Parks and Recreation final season
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine whose current season is especially funny
  • Portlandia
  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  • Another Period
  • Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories, which features eps with titles such as “Sauce Boy” and “Hole”
  • Louie although I’m now slightly weirded out about him after those accusations that bubbled up for a hot minute on Gawker this year … eek.
  • The Daily Show
  • The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore
  • Maron which is not a show I loved before (my husband likes it), but I liked season 3 a lot more than seasons 1-2.

So there’s my 2015 TV list.  I guess it’s slightly shorter than the 2014 list, but that’s mainly just because I couldn’t figure out which of my “runners-up” shows deserved a highlight over any of the others.  They’re all good and I don’t have the patience to write all of them up, because I had too much to say about the others.

Oh and what about the hour-long shows that fell off my list?  Curious about a couple from last year that you may have noticed are missing from this year’s list?  You’re in luck, because I have the answers for you right here.

3 thoughts on “2015 Stuff I Liked: TV

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