Screen Scholars’ Top Shows of 2015: 10-1

10. Inside Amy Schumer [Comedy]

2015bestinsideamy

Amy Schumer took all of the flak she took last year, and all of the controversies and struggles women face, and made it funny. She challenged the notion that she isn’t hot enough for television. She criticized ageism. She satirized health care. In “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” she dedicated the full episode to one bit, using 12 Angry Men in a brilliant, cinematic takedown. She married low culture and highbrow criticism at the same time, making the feminists’ battle accessible for everyone.
-Katherine M. Hill

9. Silicon Valley [HBO]

2015bestsilicon

Easing into its second season — sadly sans the enigmatic and scene-stealing Peter Gregory (Christopher Evan Welch died in December 2013) — Silicon Valley thrived by embracing its absurd chaos. We get deeper dimensions to some of television’s best side characters — Guilfoyle and Dinesh (Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani, respectively) particularly shine as they tour an energy drink company then debate whether to warn an extreme sports stuntman about a life-threatening miscalculation as only they can — in a hilarious logic puzzle. There’s also more of “Big Head” (Josh Brener) as he fails majestically up the Hooli ladder; Brener’s oblivious expression as he guzzles caffeinated soda is a sight to behold. Then there’s Chris Diamantopoulos’ latest repellent concoction, billionaire investor Russ Hanneman (a thinly disguised Mark Cuban), an uber-bro collector of gaudy trinkets who owns a framed portrait of three commas (rep’ing his first billion), and is gleefully — as Dinesh dubs it — “the worst man in America.” Despite the gang’s predictable weekly descent into peril, only to save the company (or be saved) at the last moment, Silicon Valley’s deft writing crew manages to wring every bit of drama and suspense from actions as intangible as waiting on whether a computer will crash.
-Jason Thurston

8. Parks and Recreation [NBC]

2015bestparks

There was a time when Six Feet Under was lauded as having mastered the series finale –pioneering the way a beloved show ties up its loose ends and showing the audience the future, so that nothing is left unresolved. Friday Night Lights and Parenthood did a pretty good job, too. But Parks & Rec‘s final season served as its finale, jumping forward to 2017, and sending the residents of Pawnee on quests that would positively affect their futures, setting the course for a clean resolution before its two-part finale, which jumped as much as 50 years into the future. Season Seven is the show’s greatest — delivering not a series of episodes more confident, funny, charming, and heartfelt than before.
-Katherine M. Hill

7. Playing House [USA]

2015besthouse

Nothing says bff like giving up your career and moving in with your friend to help her raise a baby. That’s what happens when Maggie finds out her husband is cheating and calls on her longtime pal, Emma. Now childhood friends Emma and Maggie are off on their biggest adventure to date, navigating motherhood.
-Navani Otero

6. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt [Netflix]

2015bestunbreakable

Tina Fey’s first post-30 Rock sitcom UKS makes it fairly clear in its opening sequence and faux-viral video theme song that it inhabits its predecessor’s goofy, whimsical, hyper-meta shoes. Kimmy Schmidt (inhabited by the irrepressible Ellie Kemper) emerges from an underground cult prison after 20 years to discover a bright, shiny world she struggles to understand. She decides to make a go of it in New York City, findings a basement apartment (points to UKS for realistic NYC lodgings) featuring the showstopping and Emmy-worthy (and duly nominated) Tituss Burgess as her aspiring-actor-turned-Broadway-costume-wearer roommate Tituss Andromedon (nee Ronald Wilkinson) and a job with Upper East Side trophy wife Jacqueline Vorhees (30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski pretty much reprising Jenna and all her oblivious diva tantrums). While on its surface, it’s sunny and absurd — from the holla-ring construction worker who gradually pieces together his latent homosexuality to Kimmy misconstruing a potential love interest’s enthusiastic pocket-dialed rpg exhortations as expressions of passion (up to and including “troll the respawn, Jeremy”) — what makes UKS truly work is its ultimate realness. Kimmy was kidnapped and raped after all — a fact the show does not gloss over. Problematically (and newsworthily), it also included 30 Rock‘s glib no-comic-holds-barred attitude towards cultural-based humor, notably in Kimmy’s Vietnamese love interest Dong and the Native American lineage of Jane Krakowski’s Jacqueline Voorhees. While protesters (and there were many) had a point, it’s also fair to say these characters are the farthest from one-dimensional, and the former is even the primary (and easily rooted for) pairing for Kimmy.
-Jason Thurston

5. Jane the Virgin [The CW]

2015bestjane

Jane Villanueva vowed not to follow her mom’s footsteps by having a baby as an unwed teen. She thought she was in the clear too at 23, engaged to an amazing guy and still a virgin when a routine gyn appointment went haywire and she walked out artificially inseminated. But the insane premise is not even the best part of this show. Its charm lies in the satirical, over-the-top, telenovela dramatics from characters like Jane’s novela superstar dad Rogelio and from the love triangle between Jane’s fiance and sperm donor. Extra points for Jane’s cheeky abuela who speaks only in Spanish with English subtitles.
-Navani Otero

4. Mr. Robot [USA]

2015bestrobot

Some vigilantes scale buildings in one jump and toss cars, others have social anxiety disorders and save the world from the comfort of their computer. Enter Elliot, a cyber-security programmer by day and hacker by night. He usually goes after society’s scum but is faced with a moral dilemma when he is recruited by an underground anarchist called ‘Mr. Robot’ to attack the company he actually works for. What is a hacker to do? What if the dilemma is not with Mr. Robot but with himself? So many plot twists, so little time. The scariest part about this drama is it actually mirrors what’s happening IRL, so much so that the finale had to be postponed from airing as to not upset viewers. Season 2 promises to be even tougher so you def want to be caught up by then.
-Navani Otero

3. Fargo [FX]

2015bestfargo
What a wonderful world we live in, to receive the clever, brilliant, beautiful (and it’s digital!), perfect second season of Fargo. An ensemble cast, all characters of separate motives, dreams, and desires, collide at the lodge (as foretold in Season One). The writing, editing, and photography was better than some of this year’s greatest movies, and the end result is a dizzying, delirious, immersive sensation that begs the question: Why aren’t the other networks adopting this dedication to cinematic perfection?
-Katherine M. Hill

2. Master of None [Netflix]

2015bestmaster

At one point in an episode dealing with casual racism, after Aziz Ansari and Ravi Patel fail to connect on a joke, Aziz announces to the air, “well, that interaction didn’t go as planned.” It’s as good a tagline as any for Ansari’s sometimes-do-well comic actor Dev. While the post-Woody Allen neurotic mensch is nothing new, Ansari’s Master of None takes a rather original spin on the trope by not taking it to any extreme. Dev isn’t unrepentant like Larry David, nor terminally pathetic as with Louis C.K., but a real 30-something struggling to understand his own generation’s post-device perfectionist (and often emotionally isolationist) lifestyle. When Dev and friend Arnold (Eric Wareheim of Tim & Eric fame) spontaneously decide to grab lunch, it results in a labyrinth of choices within which, while chasing the perfect Yelp-endorsed meal, the pair go hungry. What’s most striking about Ansari’s masterful series is in his bold willingness to let conversations be genuine and unfold in real time; Dev & his friends’ dialogues build into referential reverie, go off-track, and often just peter out. So goes his relationships, as Ansari is not afraid to show his courting of Rachel (SNL’s Noel Wells) delightfully connect, adorably implode, and haltingly revive. Master of None is neither eternally awkward nor saccharinely full of cute moments — nor tidily focused on one element of life — but thrives in a world of unplanned interactions that occasionally, but not always, work out fine, kind of like life. It’s a show about everything craftily disguised as a show about nothing.
-Jason Thurston

1. Broad City [Comedy]

2015bestbroad

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are twenty-something bffs trying to navigate life in NYC with all its quirks and glory. Unlike other coming-of-age shows, there is never a dull moment with these two whether it’s getting your air conditioner stolen, trying to figure out how to carry weed on your person without subway dogs smelling it or shopping at whole Foods under the influence. Luckily, they have great friends like al dente dentist Lincoln and roomie-extraordinaire Jaime who have their backs through all the hilarious shenanigans.
-Navani Otero

Relive 20-11
30-21

Our Top Episodes of 2015

 

What to Watch: 01/14/2016

A busy, busy, busy night as no one feels afraid of competing with the GOP Debates as they banter back and forth for the thirteenth(?) or so time. Our suggestions include a new goofy comedy from a network on a roll for picking up web series, another sitcom that is standing the test of time based on its deft writing, and one of those always engaging PBS baking shows. Bon app!

JASON’S PICK:
Idiotsitter [Comedy, 10p]
Comedy Central has shown a knack for plucking quirky comic teams off the web (see Broad City, Workaholics, etc.), and while Idiotsitter looks hit-or-miss on its promos, the early reviews are in and pretty promising. Billie Brown (Charlotte Newhouse)  is shocked when she finds out the “child” she is engaged to nanny turns out to beGene Russell (Jillian Bell), an adult with a Ronnie Dobbs-level penchant for mischief.

KATHERINE’S PICK:
A Few Great Bakeries [PBS, 9p]
I love when PBS tours America’s pie shops/ice cream shops/taco huts* Few family-owned bakeries across the world, from Lafayette, Indiana to Juneau, Alaska, and consider these spots as ways to map out your summer road trip.
*not real as far as I know, so consider this a request.

NAVANI’S PICK:
Mom [CBS, 9p]
I forgot how amazing Allison Janney is until I saw her on Ellen recently. Now I am sold on watching her help/annoy her newly sober daughter Christy as she gets her life together. In this episode Bonnie pushes Cristy to get back into the dating world with a rich financier who happens to be Candace’s dad.

ALSO ON TONIGHT:

The debut of Sawye…I mean Josh Holloway’s new series Colony, second episodes of Jane Lynch’s semi-baffling Angel From Hell, and J-Lo’s (and Henry Hi…I mean Ray Liotta’s) promising Shades of Blue. Also, Liz’s fate is sealed on tonight’s conclusion of The Blacklist, is anyone out there watching the Heroes reboot(?), and dogs get a bunch of awards for being good dogs (yes they are, yes they are) on The World Dog Awards. And, if you really, truly hate yourself, the GOP candidates are battling it out yet again.

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]

2015bestgoodwife

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]

2015bestbojack

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]

2015bestunreal

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]

2015bestnightly

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]

2015bestworst

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

See 30-21

Or 10-1

Or Our Top Episodes of 2015

 

What to Watch: 01/13/2016

Wednesday is a great day for crime programs, and have we got two of them for you. Well, we do, one gritty, one a bit goofy. If you don’t see something you like over-the-air, head over to Netflix, where Reed & the gang have completed the set by adding every episode from the excellent Season Seven.

NAVANI’S PICK:
Second Chance [FOX, 9p]
A disgraced cop gets resurrected by some biomedical engineers for a second chance at life BUT they of course expect something in return. Give it a whirl, why not?

JASON’S PICK:
American Crime [ABC, 10p]
While Season One got exhausting by the end, the second go-around had a promising start last week. Taylor has to battle both perception and apathy while admitting his victimization. And Leyland High School is certainly not going to offer much help. It’s a provocative show, and so far this season seems poised to be another powerful character study.

KATHERINE’S PICK:
Parks and Recreation [Netflix]
Happy-sob your way through season 7 and realign your resolutions based on Leslie Knope’s career success in 2017 Pawnee.

 

Screen Scholars’ Top Shows of 2015: 30-21

Welcome to the Screen Scholars year-end countdown of the tops in TV and movies for 2015, a year defined by an abundance of choices. While as learned of a television expert as James Wolcott claimed Peak TV is too much TV, we feel it’s all in how you use it, and we’re here for you with our suggestions for what’s good in the vast wasteland that is the modern world of TV. Season ones dominate the list, but there are also a couple shows which went out on the highest of notes. Stay tuned here for the next ten titles tomorrow.

30. Casual [Hulu]

2015bestcasual

We got another does of social commentary about the dating world via the show Casual. You know times are hard when the developer of a dating app can’t even get his own algorithm to give him a match. Luckily, Alex is not totally alone. Thanks to his sister Valerie’s recent divorce, he has her and her teenage daughter Laura as roomies. They can all commiserate with each other on how insane dating is — no matter where you are in life. It’s just as challenging for someone getting back into the game after being married as it is for the lifelong bachelor.Try being a hormonal teen with a crush on her teacher, that’s no walk in the park either. The lines of right and wrong def get blurred here on many levels and the characters are not particularly nice people, but it still kept us coming back week after week.
-Navani Otero

29. Difficult People [Hulu]

2015bestdifficult

Creator Julie Klausner and her iconic screamer pal Billy Eichner play the titular leads of Difficult People, and to say that’s not a stretch from type for either is the highest compliment I can pay this brilliantly nihilistic Hulu comedy. The pair play slightly less successful exaggerations of themselves as their pop culture insults both keep them employed and get them into classic jams. They’re a pair of brattier, and even less apologetic, Larry Davids, and as with Larry (or at least Curb Your Enthusiasm’s version of Larry), it’s even funnier and more poignant when the world around them goes even madder, as when Billy’s new boyfriend is turned off when Billy makes a valiant attempt to be a “participator,” a trait Billy vociferously had hated in the boyfriend; or when he subsequently meets idol Martin Short, who saw his participation and lays hilariously, if cruelly, into his lack of talent as a comedian. Extra random points go to James Adomian as Kasner’s effetely stoic, but sweetly loving, steady.
-Jason Thurston

28. Key & Peele [Comedy Central]

2015bestkeypeele
This year on Key & Peele, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele lampooned Outkast (who were still on hiatus at the time), Gremlins 2, Nazis, Ray Parker Jr., along with resurrecting many of its regular characters. Key & Peele made the irrelevant timely, and the uncomfortable hilarious. This year the show made its pop culture mark when Luther appeared at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Now that the shows has ended, we’re left with Portlandia’s Nina and Lance where Andre and Meegan used to be, and it’s just not the same. Key & Peele filled the void that was left when Chapelle’s Show ended; not simply in Black sketch comedy, but for incisive, political, satirical, hilarious sketch comedy with the power to reach many and facilitate a cultural change.
-Katherine M. Hill

27. Better Call Saul [AMC]

2015bestsaul

As potential spin-off fodder, Bob Odenkirk’s slick-talking, comic-relief of a shyster lawyer, Saul Goodman, though a scene-stealing character on Breaking Bad, would not likely be high up on the list. Yet Vince Gilligan was once again more prescient than the lot of us, so here we are in the land of Better Call Saul, and what a strange, wonderful world it is. While not locked in time — it opens as Saul has sullenly followed through on his post-BB Nebraska Cinnabon exile — most of the action of BCS takes place long before Walter White started cooking his signature blue meth. Saul is simply James McGill, a small-time public defender kinda, sorta trying desperately to go straight, and escape both the shadow of his once-successful brother Chuck (Michael McKean) and his past as Chicago’s “Slippin’ Jimmy.” It doesn’t always go well (although sometimes it almost does). McGill has yet to develop Saul’s slick sheen; he still earnestly feels something akin to passion as he defends an array of obvious criminals and helpless victims, trying to set the table for his own firm — an event we know will never happen. Most shocking of all is how heartbreaking it is to watch James McGill genuinely try during his in between days — after his life as con-man Jimmy, but before he became true con-artist Saul Goodman.
– Jason Thurston

26. How To Get Away With Murder [ABC]

2015bestmurder.jpg

Shondaland has expanded and this time it’s a classic whodunnit tale with an less classic heroine leading the way. If you ever wanted a kick-ass, stealthy, someone-you-love-to-hate lead, look no further than Annalise Keating. Law Professor by day and by-any-means-necessary lawyer by night she offers her top students real world experience by interning for her firm. Little did they know it would mean becoming an accomplice to murder. Who can you trust if you can’t trust each other? They don’t have the pleasure of finding out.
-Navani Otero

25. Man Seeking Woman [FXX]

2015bestseeking

Man Seeking Woman plants eternally neurotic Josh (Jay Baruchel in 2015’s most on-the-nose casting) in a hyper-surreal world. When Josh’s girlfriend Maggie dumps him in the opening scene, instantly he’s surrounded by a Charlie Brown-esque personal rainstorm, complete with downpouring cats and dogs. From there, his sister Liz (Britt Lower) sets him up with an actual bridge troll, he meets Maggie’s new boyfriend, Hitler (as in Hitler Hitler), and is rewarded with a call from Obama when he earns a date with a woman on the subway — all in the first episode. Subsequent adventures find Josh opting to be surgically attached to a date, becoming jealous of a rival made entirely of penises, and attending a destination wedding in actual Hell, complete with wisecracking demons. In the most ambitious episode of the season, the tables are turned on his seemingly uber-together single sis (“partner is just around the corner”), as she gets dumped, rained upon, ridiculed by a tea party of married toddlers, and dates an actual robot. It’s all quite silly, yet works as creator Simon Rich imbues these characters with enough depth that you are quickly invested in their rises and falls, however ridiculous.
-Jason Thurston

24. Marvel’s Jessica Jones [Netflix]

2015bestjessica

While Marvel’s been everywhere these past few years, they’ve really knocked it out of the park when they roll out their C-List warriors. Featured in the “Alias” book series since 2001, Jessica Jones is the second of the upcoming Defenders team to be unveiled (following Daredevil) and features a particularly dark superhero. Jessica is an alcoholic miles away from comfortable in her own skin. Oddly unique about Jones is that there is no specificity or gimmick to her powers; she’s merely leagues stronger and more capable than the average human. But there are limits to her power, as exploited by Season One villain Kilgrave (Purple Man in print) — a mind-control whiz (played to charmingly creepster perfection by David Tennant) whose thrall she has only recently escaped when we meet her. They battle in a soul-sucked (and apparently alien-battered) NYC, a landscape which makes Gotham look positively Metropolitan-esque, while she tries to protect her friends. Of particular note here is love interest Luke Cage (next up for his own series in April), as a brooding bartender with indestructible skin, brought to life by Mike Colter with all of the charisma of The Good Wife’s Lemond Bishop, minus the ruthlessness.
-Jason Thurston

23. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver [HBO]

2015bestlastweek

On Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show sign-off, John Oliver lightly roasted his one-time boss with the observation “when something’s important, it’s worth taking the time to discuss it in depth. I’m talking 15, 18, 20 minutes, otherwise what are you really doing?” This should adequately drive home the notion that it was indeed good timing (and our good fortune) that the Brit who subbed so tremendously in Stewart’s chair in Summer 2013 was unavailable by the time the latter chose to take his leave. In 2015, Oliver kept his knack for finding double-digit minutes of humor in deeper, grander topics, without sacrificing the silliness that allows for characters like Jeff the Diseased Lung. During Season Two, Oliver turned his dark adapting eye to everything from big-ticket items like transgender rights and televangelism to seemingly mundane topics ranging from infrastructure repair to municipal violations. He created a mega-church who took in actual donations, engaged in a PSA-battle in Trinidad with a disgraced FIFA official, and earned a rare interview in Russia with fugitive Edward Snowden (a stunningly even-handed discussion to boot). Most importantly, Oliver stirred discussion of vital, and often overlooked, concerns both in the U.S. and abroad, and avoided heavy-handedness while keeping up an astounding level of hilarity. Well done indeed, John, and we choke down a pint of Bud Lime in your honor.
-Jason Thurston

22. Fresh Off the Boat [ABC]

2015bestfresh.jpg

Fresh Off the Boat premiered strong and has grown daring and confident with its second season. Premiering last February, and drawing the ire of Eddie Huang, the sitcom quickly veered from its source material, catering to the ABC audience, and yet…Fresh Off the Boat is significantly better than ABC’s other sitcoms: Modern Family, The Goldbergs, The Middle, Dr. Ken, and Last Man Standing lack the heart and the comedy delivered weekly by the Huangs (and in no small part because of the enormous talent of its cast). 2015 saw not only the first Asian family in 20 years, but the first good family sitcom in a long, long time.
-Katherine M. Hill

21. Being Mary Jane [MTV]

2015beingmary

Mary Jane Paul embodies the modern day woman to the fullest: she is financially-savvy, independent and successful in her career. She is way too powerful to be defined by a relationship, but that doesn’t mean she still doesn’t want one. What will it is take for this “it” girl to have her happily ever after? This season was tumultuous as we watched her grieve her best friend’s death, kick the love of the life to the curb and say goodbye to her bestie next door. But now with only herself to lean on we’ll see what the next season has in store.
– Navani Otero

Click here for 20-11

10-1

Or Our Top Episodes of 2015

What to Watch: 01/12/2016

It’s one last rise to the podium for President Barack Obama so he can opine on what adjective the “state of the union” is (my magic 8 ball is says it will be “strong”), as Paul Ryan does a slow burn behind him. However, rumor has it Obama — a year into the dgaf phase of his presidency — might just have something a bit more forceful and unique up his sleeve. Tune in tonight at 9pm to find out. There’s also a new New Girl and a showing of an early Sophia Loren classic tonight.

NAVANI’S PICK:
State of the Union Address [All The Networks, 9p]
As Obama’s term is coming to an end [waaaaaaa] he offers his final address to congress. Thankfully, this does not interfere with New Girl so it’s a win win.

JASON’S PICK:
New Girl [FOX, 8p]
And vice versa. It’s time for some classic sitcom tropes directly in the NG wheelhouse, as Jess is less than enthused by her new beau, but loves his parents, while Nick and Schmidt bicker as only the two of them can over who should run the bar.

KATHERINE’S PICK:
Boy On A Dolphin [FXM, 1:10p]
FX Movies is, for some reason, showing Sophia Loren’s 1957 English-language debut. (Shot on location, it was Hollywood’s first film in Greece, and an early Cinescope treasure.) Loren is a poor, Greek sponge diver who discovered a priceless artifact and finds herself torn in the bidding war; the artifact should go to Greece, while her heart desires Alan Ladd. DVR it now, before FXM airs the Transformers franchise for the next eight months.

What to Watch: 01/11/2016

A world gone to pot, mean girls being mean, veteran comic and friend of the Daily Show meets the new-ish host, and I hear there’s some sort of sporting event going on that a few people might care about.

NAVANI’S PICK:
The Marijuana Revolution [History, 9pm]
Ever wondered what it was like to be in the dispensary business? Well here you go. This doc offers an depth look at the marijuana growing business.

KATHERINE’S PICK:
Mean Girls [ABC Fam, 7p]
It’s Monday, you better not be wearing pink.

JASON’S PICK:
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah [Comedy, 11p]
Colin Quinn, one of Jon’s best buddies drops by, which should make for some fun awkward moments with Trevor Noah (who excels in the odd pauses). If that weren’t enough, the Golden Globes should have given him a lengthy scroll of fodder for tonight.