To celebrate the end of 2015, over here at Emertainment Monthly we’ve compiled a list voted on by the TV Section writers for the top 10 TV shows of 2015. It’s been a great year for TV – we’ve said goodbye to many long-running shows, there’s been an abundance of new shows with great promise, and as will be made apparent very quickly, Netflix clearly stepped up their game to even greater heights for 2015. Here are the top 10 TV shows of 2015.
10. Game of Thrones
Based on George R. R. Martin‘s book series, it has always been a struggle for HBO’s Game of Thrones to determine just how closely its showrunners need to follow the ASOIAF books. However, season 5 of the show saw a drastic departure from following the source material. As Martin is still not done with the written series, GoT has been forced to distance itself from the books and its writers have resorted to coming up with their own plot ideas to satisfy audiences. This past season, it was interesting for book-readers to finally be surprised by some key plot events that have not yet happened or were not included in the books altogether, significant deaths and significant marriages alike. 24 Emmy nominations and 12 wins later, Season 5 of Game of Thrones appears to have been a roaring success. Still, it can be said that Season 5 had its faults, and some characters and their plots felt confused as the show’s writers attempted to carve new arcs for them outside of Martin’s work. Next season, the writers of Game of Thrones will officially be on their own, having now completely caught up with the book storylines of every major character. It will be interesting to see what directions the show decides to take these characters in for Season 6 and if the show is able to find its grounding outside of Martin’s guidance. [Jessica Morris]
Season three of Nathan Fielder’s wonderfully bizarre Comedy Central show contained some of the most outrageous stunts the comedian has pulled yet. It’s a wonder how Fielder comes up with his ideas, but as bizarre as his plans for travel agents to incorporate funerals or for overweight people to use balloons to horseback ride are, his real talent lies in finding odd people in the world and pressuring them into doing bizarre things for television. There’s truly nothing else like it on television, and shows like it or Broad City and Review are the sorts of low budget experiments that make Comedy Central one of the most exciting networks currently on the air. [Wesley Emblidge]
Armando Iannucci’s HBO political comedy continued to be the funniest show on TV with its fourth season. The show’s titular premise was originally how useless being in the office of vice president can feel, even as the person directly under the most powerful person in the country. But the more recent seasons have taken Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer all the way to presidency itself, with an even bleaker view of how hard it is to have any positive effect even in that position. Iannucci and his writers rival Aaron Sorkin for the best quippy political dialogue, and the whole cast lives up to that standard, with Anna Chlumsky and Tony Hale as particular standouts this season. Sadly, this was Iannucci’s last season as showrunner, he’s moving on to other projects but Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s David Mandel will hopefully keep the show on track for season five. [Wesley Emblidge]
Each season of AMC’s The Walking Dead is always split into two parts. This past year for the show was no different. Part 2 of Season 5 aired in early 2015 and ended in March. Beginning in October, the first part of Season 6 ended the year for TWD with its mid-season finale airing this past November. With The Walking Dead having parts of different seasons air in the same year, it has been easy in the past for the show’s seasons to bleed together, showing little time from one season to the next. However, the first part of the show’s sixth season truly impressed audiences and was unique from the seasons before it. Season 5 was fine and finally brought the cast to Alexandria, but this first half of Season 6 managed to keep viewers hooked while also exploring key themes such as morality.
Cliffhangers were galore and tensions rose high between the characters. Season 6 has also thus far managed to keep the threat of other survivors equated to the threat of Walkers, raising the stakes for the show’s beloved characters and keeping viewers intrigued. This first half of season 6 was revolutionary for the series as it showcased better scripting, directing, and acting than had previously been seen in the last few seasons. With the promise that Negan, an integral villan from The Walking Dead comics, will soon enter the show and be portrayed by actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, fans are more excited than ever before about what the rest of the season has to offer. [Jessica Morris]
6. Agent Carter
Anyone who enjoys the Marvel universe and did not watch the first season of Agent Carter is missing out. Hayley Atwell shines as the fiercely independent and capable woman who was one of the founders of SHIELD. James D’Arcy is just a joy as Jarvis, and of course Dominic Cooper shows up as Tony Stark every so often which is always a delight. But the reason to watch is for Peggy Carter herself who exemplifies why a show led by a female protagonist can be just as witty, emotional, and exhilarating as the many shows featuring male protagonists. [Madison Gallup]
In a prime example of Netflix embracing bizarre concepts for their shows, Aziz Ansari’s not quite a comedy but not quite a drama, Master of None emphasizes how a show not about much still posed as a risk to adopt. In a television landscape full of big ideas, Aziz Ansari’s show about a struggling actor in his early 30s dealing with relationships in New York could have been easily overlooked. Thankfully Netflix saw the potential in Ansari and his stand-up, especially considering how much he pulls from his stand-up into his show. Much like in his stand-up, Ansari struggles with coming to terms with this point in his life where everyone he knows are having having children or getting married.
Unlike his stand-up, Master of None distances itself from comedy and rather creates a tone of understated humor and drama, firmly grounded in reality. Master of None has its standout episodes such as “Parents”, “Indians on TV”, and “Ladies and Gentlemen” that deal with important issues such as racism and sexism, but it also has its more subtle episodes where its characters are allowed to just exist without any over-the-top situational humor. For that, Ansari cements himself as a promising creator for television, outside the realm of his stand-up or his acting. [Maya Reddy]
In the aftermath of 30 Rock, Tina Fey brings to the table an extremely bizarre concept of a TV show, luckily that extremely bizarre concept works extremely well. With Fey’s subtle humor in its dialogue, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt takes great advantage of its cast of varied background. From Tituss Burgess and his Broadway beginnings, to Jon Hamm’s more dramatic experiences, and to Jane Krakowski – arguable most comfortable with Fey’s writing style thanks to her work on 30 Rock. Lastly, the show is led by Ellie Kemper who brings a charming naivety – much like her role as Erin in the Office. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a charming show based off of a unique idea, but it’s heart is what makes it special. Despite, or rather along with the humor found in life after escaping a doomsday polygamist cult, the show never forgets that Kimmy Schmidt is a survivor. [Maya Reddy]
In the first series installment of Netflix’s push into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Daredevil portrays a stark look at the real violence so often romanticized in comic-based movies and TV. Daredevil smartly taps into the gritty feel made popular by the Dark Knight trilogy, while still maintaining realism in the show’s amazingly choreographed fight scenes. Unlike any other piece of media that has as many fight scenes as Daredevil, Daredevil showcases the aftermath of violence and doesn’t allow its lead, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) to get away unscathed. It also has, arguably one of the most nuanced villains of the year.
Vincent D’Onofrio deftly brings a multifaceted approach to Wilson Fisk, also known as Kingpin, a character who can be soft-spoken and shy in one moment, and in the next moment be ruthlessly violent. Unlike other villains that may struggle between their good and bad side, what’s particular in Fiske is how both his good and bad sides coexist relatively easily. He still holds an almost innocent depth of love, while he rationalizes his views on Hell’s Kitchen to the point that’s almost empathetic for the viewer. Nonetheless Fisk’s position somewhere in the middle of right and wrong works amazingly well opposite Murdock’s strong and cemented beliefs between right and wrong, to create an entertaining and enthralling first season. [Maya Reddy]
Parks and Recreation completed its final season in February of this year, but has remained in the minds and hearts of its devoted fans ever since. Parks and Recreation aired on NBC, and had many reasons to fail. Many people debunked it as a duplicate of the hit-show the Office, and Parks consistently showed low-ratings despite being critically acclaimed. Regardless, the show triumphantly overcame the obstacles in true Parks and Rec-like fashion and stayed on air for an incredible seven seasons. Amy Poehler, who is capable of convincingly filling any comedic role, is at the forefront of the show as Leslie Knope, an optimistic bureaucrat for the Pawnee Indiana Parks and Recreation Department who has to constantly overcome the apathy of the state government. While Poehler is the source of many laughs, she spends a lot of time shedding light on the strong comedic potential of her cast mates. The show is fueled by the collaborative comedic efforts of these cast members, who have all become comedic icons in their own right.
While the show boasts perhaps the most incredible ensemble television has ever seen, the writers too are the best in the business and have created a world in which devoted fans could reside in every week. Behind the witty one-liners, wickedly funny dialogue, reoccurring inside jokes, and political commentary are developed story lines and growth in characters that left the viewers feeling they were part of Leslie Knope’s family. This warm and optimistic show has given its very best to its cult following and has remained unique among the other television shows of its time. [Caroline Fortuna]
Joining Daredevil under Netflix’s new focus on bringing Marvel characters to their streaming service, Jessica Jones masterfully blends the cinematic beauty and ambiance of the classic noir variety, while introducing one of the lesser known Marvel characters into the mix. Jessica Jones tackles heavy issues of PTSD and addiction through its extremely strong cast, lead by Krysten Ritter. David Tennant emanates a terrifying glimpse into the raw power of a character who may not desire to take over the world, but shows no remorse in treating people as objects to amuse him. Which is somehow far scarier than the usual villain spiel. With its diverse cast, and thrilling plot, Jessica Jones made its mark on TV this past year. [Maya Reddy]
Narrowing it down to just ten shows proved difficult under the high bar for quality TV in 2015, so here are a few more honorable mentions for this year’s TV – How to Get Away with Murder, the Flash, Bojack Horseman, Mad Men, Silicon Valley, and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. Here’s to another great year of TV here at Emertainment Monthly.
Maya Reddy ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant TV Editor
Madison Gallup ’18 / Emertainment Monthly TV Editor
Wesley Emblidge ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Editor
Jessica Morris ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Caroline Fortuna ‘19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer