Screen Scholars’ Top Shows of 2015: 20-11

20. Bob’s Burgers [FOX]

2015bestbobs

It’s a tragedy and downright dishonorable that Bob’s Burgers is competing for airtime with the dastardly Sunday Night Football. (That’s how we ended up with a Christmas episode following a Halloween episode, airing in November.) It’s a shame because Bob’s inhabits the strange, surreal, fictional Brooklyn-esque (creator Loren Bouchard has placed it ambiguously there or Jersey Shore) universe reserved for highbrow, live-action programs. When we watch Louie, Girls, or High Maintenance, we laugh and nod sagely. Yes, that weird thing you think only a lunatic made up happened to me Wednesday morning. A Landship Parade would install porta potties in front of a restaurant and ruin business. A family would band together to scare its youngest, never-been-scared daughter. I’m surprised my landlord hasn’t pitted the tenants against each other in an effort to fraction unity and jack up the rent. Through its unreal, fantastic universe the Belchers remain unchanged. They operate as a single, dedicated unit, just like a real family. Airing half an hour before primetime is for the slush pile, Fox, give Bob’s the slot it earned.
-Katherine M. Hill

19. The Good Wife [CBS]

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Alicia Florrick has had a hell of a year on television, and she’s made so many daring moves, so many choices, that Kalinda’s exit from the show (and her tense life leading to it) seems longer ago than this past spring. Alicia had no time to mourn Kalinda’s absence, and neither do we as Alicia continues pivoting for mere survival. The Good Wife is CBS’ great show; sometimes I think the reluctance in others to watch is less its misleading title than its association with a stodgy network, but The Good Wife remains wise and prescient. It is often contemplative and edgy — its editing and photography often leagues ahead of its peers. (Perhaps Madame Secretary and Supergirl may be an indication that CBS is willing to aim higher in quality and story for the network; nevertheless, may The Good Wife follow Fargo’s cinematic lead.) Quality is apparent in last season’s “Mind’s Eye,” a Mrs. Dalloway-ian ode to being alone with one’s thoughts, as Alicia prepares for an interview and imagines and recalls events and conversations. It is a meditative and thoughtful view of the show’s universe through the eyes of its own protagonist.
-Katherine M. Hill

18. Mad Men [AMC]

2015bestmadmen

This year we witnessed the “The End of an Era,” literally, with part two of the series finale of Mad Men. Yes, it was annoying waiting for the second part of season seven but it was worth it to see how Mathew Weiner would tie up all the very messy loose ends of Don Draper and company. We find ourselves in the middle of 1970, with the rise of feminism and women’s rights being played out in the office via Joan and Peggy. Don ended up pretty much where he also has, alone but this time a little more self-actualized. After his hippie, yoga retreat we see him ohming on a mountain, possibly thinking up the famous Coke ad, which meant he bought all the idealism as long as he could bottle it up and sell it.
-Navani Otero

17. BoJack Horseman [Netflix]

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Admittedly, touting an animated series as one of the starkest, most accurate reflections of human depression might not make one want to sprint to the remote for a hearty bingewatch. However, BoJack Horseman’s second season is such an enthralling, hilarious, sprawling, bizarre, provocative, endearing mess that is almost impossible to turn off (well, until the daringly brilliant penultimate episode, but we’ll get to that). Fifty-something burnout actor BoJack (Will Arnett) finally seems to have his life together at the beginning of the season as he’s filming the Secretariat biopic of which he’s always dreamed — so of course things will inevitably fall apart. While they do, we’re treated to such glorious absurdities as a constantly-on-fire Disneyland, J.D. Salinger coming out of both reclusion and the grave to produce a celebrity quiz show, an extended joke about mulch, a straight-outta-30-year-coma owl voiced by Lisa Kudrow, a cultish improv troupe that is not, they repeat not, a stand-in for Scientology, and BoJack’s ill-advised road trip to New Mexico to re-kindle an old flame — one which if you are indeed invested in the series, may well destroy you.
-Jason Thurston

16. Hindsight [MTV]

2015besthindsight

Oh, Hindsight we barely knew ye, and now we’ll never know how Becca gets her BFF back. …Because that’s why Becca wakes up on the day of her first wedding in 1995, and not the day of her second wedding in 2015. In a romantic comedy Becca would realize that she’s destined for her first husband, but in this short-lived gem, she realizes this is finally a chance to right her wrongs, and get her estranged best friend back. What a best friend, too. On the surface Lolly is the Wacky Best Friend, but through Sarah Goldberg she is loyal and Becca’s biggest supporter. We’ll never know how Becca overcomes her future to right the past, but deep in my heart I believe she could.
-Katherine M. Hill

15. UnREAL [Lifetime]

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UnREAL sets its soap opera shenanigans behind-the-scenes of a reality dating show in the vein of The Bachelor(ette). Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby) shines, equal parts detached and venomous, as a reality producer who’s reluctantly gifted at her job. The show’s opening sets the stage with Hitchcockian drama as the various crew and cast await the sure-to-be tempestuous return of mysterious genius-in-exile Goldberg — last seen fired by the show one season prior for an unrevealed infraction. While the show is jam-packed with well-defined flawed and fractured characters, it’s Rachel’s slow descent into a certain kind of madness which drives UnREAL. How much of her soul is she willing to surrender as she puppet-masters the contestants into mind-bendingly awful scenarios? And how far are we willing to join her?
-Jason Thurston

14. The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore [Comedy]

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I used to turn to Jon Stewart during the presidential campaign, expecting The Daily Show to act as a balm; before Stewart retired, Larry Wilmore superseded that position, through his deft and clever humor, and inability to kowtow to, well, anything. The Nightly Show powerful as soon as it premiered, and in 2105 covered tragedies and controversies, particularly the protests in Baltimore, with the respect and grace the news outlets never bothered to muster in the first place. The Nightly Show is more than we deserve and we must never let it go.
-Katherine M. Hill

13. You’re The Worst [FXX]

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You’re the Worst followed its first vulgar, explosive, heartfelt season with an ambitious, successful, gut-wrenching exploration of love and the desire to be loved. A show about terrible people isn’t usually sensitive and nuanced, but You’re the Worst always was, and this season took an unexpected gamble when Gretchen fell into a deep depression, exploring what it really means to love someone when she’s feeling her worst.
-Katherine M. Hill

12. Orphan Black [BBC America]

2015bestorphan

Street-savvy orphan Sarah thought she would change her life by taking on the new identity of a woman murdered in front of her. Instead, she found out more about herself, including the fact that she is a clone. Of how many is still to be determined. Figuring out who the bad guys are and keeping her daughter safe keeps us on a roller coaster in this sci-fi thriller. Now Season 4 promises more twists and turns and sisters to keep track of.
-Navani Otero

11. Veep [HBO]

2015bestveep

Former Senator Selina Meyer has accepted the call of duty to become the VP and it’s nothing like she thought it would be and everything she feared. Follow her and her esteemed team as they try to navisgate the circus that is politics in the White House. The stakes and satire get even bigger now that she is campaigning for the presidency. Her shenanigans are great training for dealing with the upcoming 2016 elections IRL.
-Navani Otero

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