2015 in Review: The Best of Television

As of today, I’ve watched 14 television shows this year.

Not enormously impressive, I know, but I was impressed in what I saw this year.

Some shows, like Better Call Saul, surprised me in how good they were.

Others, like True Detective, are examples of high hopes shattered into billions of pieces.

I think the best way to to commemorate my thoughts on the year in television is to rank what I have seen, and then talk about what some of my favorite TV things were in 2015.

So, without further ado…

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14. True Detective (Season 2)

Ugh. I can’t really say anything that hasn’t already been said about this season. I don’t blame the actors, I don’t blame the directors, I blame the writing. If Nic Pizzolatto moves forward with Season 3, I pray that he brings in some help. Season 2 of True Detective felt like a parody of itself, and it all came down fundamental problems in the writing.

Best Episode: “Church in Ruins” – That final drugged out party scene, though.

Best Performance: Colin Farrell

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13. Star Wars Rebels (Season 1 and 2)

I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and I really enjoy this show. I wouldn’t call it particularly great – the writing is uncomfortably awkward at moments and it’s very hokey – but it’s a really fun show. I look forward to seeing what implications it has on Star Wars canon to come.

Best Episode: “The Siege of Lothal”

Best Performance: Steven Blum as “Zeb”

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12. The Walking Dead (Season 6a)

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this stretch of 8 episodes. The pilot made me wish every episode was filmed in black and white, and Morgan-centric “Here’s Not Here” was one of the series’ best. While I wouldn’t consider The Walking Dead to be in the pantheon of “Greatest Shows” I’d definitely put it among the “Decent shows that you can talk about with just about anyone because everyone watches it”.

Best Episode: “Here’s Not Here”

Best Performance: Lennie James as Morgan

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11. Game of Thrones (Season 5)

This season may have had some of the show’s biggest and best moments, but it may be the weakest season of the series to date. Inconsistent pacing and an unorganized sense of sprawling that the show has never really seen before really hindered it from being the great season it should’ve been. And, sorry, Peter Dinklage, but you didn’t deserve an Emmy for this season… That being said, Game of Thrones is still one of the best shows on TV, and will hopefully get its mojo back in Season 6.

Best Episode: “Hardhome”

Best Performance: Maisie Williams as Arya Stark

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10. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Season 1)

I laughed. I laughed so much. The randomness of the humor and the fact that everyone is game just makes this show so funny. I’m so happy this exists.

Best episode: “Electro/City”

Best Performance: John Slattery as Claude Dumet

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9. Bloodline (Season 1)

A show where the performances are better than the story. But, because the performances are so great, it elevates the show as a whole. Unnecessarily dragging from time to time, Bloodline is an overall compelling family drama. Also, Ben Mendelsohn, gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.

Best episode: “Part 1”

Best Performance: Ben Mendelsohn as Danny

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8. Louie (Season 5)

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Louie was a drama at some points – especially this season. Louie is a show that only Louie C.K. could pull off, and it’s grown and shifted in tonal ways as the series goes on. This season may have been the most serious season yet, but it was also the deepest.

Best episode: “Untitled”

Best Performance: Um…Louis C.K. as Louie…

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7. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Season 2)

This show makes people laugh while getting them pissed off. And you should be getting pissed off. John Oliver’s long form storytelling format not only gets the facts of an issue across – but the emotion behind it as well.

Best episode: Episode 32 (the Edward Snowden episode)

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6. Veep (Season 4)

This show completely switched things up while maintaining the same sense of humor, and had its best season yet as a result. Everyone is on their A-Game. Sadly, this was show-runner Armando Iannucci’s last season, so fingers crossed they keep it up next time around.

Best episode: “Testimony”

Best Performance: Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer

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5. Documentary Now!

Bill Hader and Fred Armisen are two of the funniest guys in the business. This IFC series parodies classic documentaries, and I pray that it comes back for a second season. The two of them are hilarious, and the show itself is very solid.

Best episode: “The Eye Doesn’t Lie”

Best performance: Tie – Bill Hader and Fred Armisen

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4. Mad Men (Season 7b)

A fitting ending to one of television’s best shows. It’s rare that a series can land as good of an ending as this. It’s rare that a series can have performances that are great to begin with and only become greater as time goes on. Mad Men has consistently been great, and the fact that it was great all the way through the final moments is all fans could have asked for.

Best episode: “The Milk and Honey Route”

Best Performance: Jon Hamm as Don Draper

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3. Better Call Saul (Season 1)

Breaking Bad fans, I ask you – Did you really expect this show to be as great as it is? Honestly? When you break Better Call Saul down to its basics, its clear that its a tragedy. For every funny scene, there was was a heartbreaking scene (Jimmy confronts Chuck in Episode 9, for example), and I can easily say that I care more about Jimmy’s well being than I ever have for Walter White’s. I can’t wait to see where this show goes.

Best episode: “Five-O”

Best performance: Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy/Saul

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2. Show Me a Hero

A show about public housing is one of the best shows of the year. I’m very happy to say it. Show Me a Hero is an ensemble piece, anchored by the layered, complicated, heartbreaking performance of Oscar Issac. The six-part miniseries takes you inside all aspects that afflict all involved in a debate over public housing in Yonkers – the politicians, the lawyers, the protesters, and those that actually need the housing. It’s beautiful, it’s engrossing, and the Bruce Springsteen soundtrack is definitely a plus.

Best episode: All of them.

Best performance: Oscar Issac as Nick Wasicsko

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1. Fargo (Season 2)

What did we, as citizens of this world, do to deserve such an incredible show? There were no dud episodes, there were no dud performances, there was no dud anything. This season of Fargo is the closest to TV perfection I’ve seen since the fourth season of Breaking Bad. If you aren’t watching this show yet, please do so. Please.

Best episode: “The Castle” “The Gift of the Magi”

Best performance: Bokeem Woodbine as Mike, Kirsten Dunst as Peggy, Nick Offerman as Karl, Jean Smart as Floyd. Hell, all of them, really.

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Best Episode of the Year: Fargo, “The Castle”

Best Lead Performance by an Actor: Oscar Issac – Show Me a Hero

Best Lead Performance by an Actress: Kirsten Dunst – Fargo

Best Supporting Performance by an Actor: Ben Mendelsohn – Bloodline

Best Supporting Performance by an Actress: Jean Smart – Fargo

Best Scene of the Year: Rachel McAdams’ drugged out party scene/the escape – True Detective, “Church in Ruins”

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