Jose Cordova’s Top Ten TV Shows of 2015
Narrowing down 10 shows is always a difficult task. I always have trouble making those final cuts from 15 to 10. Here are a few shows that nearly made the final cut. Game of Thrones: Season five of Thrones was very up and down. Questionable narrative choices dragged the show down but then an episode like “Hardhome” comes along and almost single-handedly saves the season. Black-ish: Black-ish feels like I’m staring into a sitcom version of my future. Dre’s struggles as a father are things I’ve thought about when I imagine myself with a family in the future. The show manages to tackle ides not usually seen on Network TV while staying funny. Jessica Jones : This was a great season of TV. Killgrave continues the trend of phenomenal villains started by Daredevil. I enjoyed it and respected it tackling the subject matter that it did, the show lost steam midway. At certain points the story felt like it was extended artificially and the show lost some of the energy it had in the early episodes (similar to Daredevil).
Season 2 is always the true test of a good TV show. Can a show build on the promise it showed in its first season? If the show is You’re the Worst the answer is a resounding yes. You’re the Worst was easily the biggest surprise of television in 2015. Its first season was a fun romp of an anti-romantic comedy. Season two became an exploration of depression and the difficulties of trying to make a relationship work when one person tries to fix a problem that can’t be fixed. This season of You’re the Worst may have been the most heartbreaking season of television this year. Aya Cash deserves major love from critics for her stellar portrayal of Gretchen’s battle with depression and I hope she gets some level of recognition for her amazing work.
2 . Master Of None (Season 1)
After the pilot episode of Master of None I described it to my friends as Louie but from the mind of Aziz Ansari and with his sensibility. Then I watched episode 2 and it wrecked me. Master of None felt like it was made just for me. Almost every episode as the season went along it felt like Ansari, along with co-creator Alan Yang, were saying things that I’ve struggled to articulate in the past. It’s an incredibly relatable show. Ansari and Yang explore a range of under-represented topics carefully and thoughtfully all while crafting a very funny show. It was great to see topics like being second generation immigrant explored on a sitcom. As more people of color create TV and other media, I’m hoping a show like Master of None becomes par for the course but in our current media landscape it’s feels fresh and important.
3. Better Call Saul (Season 1)
As a follow up to Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul was always going to have a high bar to clear. The way it did that was by telling a completely different type of story. Breaking Bad was about a man embracing the darkness inside himself. Better Call Saul is the story of Jimmy McGill fighting desperately to do the right thing when everything around pushes him to do wrong. Bob Odenkirk gives a fantastic performance as Jimmy and is surrounded by an immensely talented supporting cast highlighted by Jonathan Banks and Michael McKean.
4. Jane The Virgin (Season 1, 2)
Who would have thought that a telenovela inspired dramedy on the CW would be one of the best shows of the year? Jane the Virgin takes many cues from telenovelas: a messy love triangle, insane villains, and ridiculous plot twists. At its core however, the show is a family drama with real heart and a star king performance from Gina Rodriguez as the titular Jane. Rodriguez is a tremendous discovery. She can do comedy. She can do action. She can dance! There’s a genuine quality that Rodriguez brings to Jane that makes her feel like a real, living, breathing person. A real person trapped in unreal circumstances. In its second season the show hasn’t dipped in quality even as Jane had her baby. That could have easily derailed a lesser show. Jane quickly embraced its new character by exploring the difficulties of being a new mother and including these stories without skipping a beat.
5. Justified (Season 6)
Justified began its life a procedural with a great lead character and a rich and interesting setting. As the show settled in, it became an explorotation of a this community in Kentucky and how where we come from plays a large role in who we are and who we become. Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens and Walton Goggins’ Boyd Crowder existed as two sides of the same coin with Boyd embracing the outlaw spirit of Harlan County and Raylan struggling to reject it. The final season brought their conflict to the forefront after years of the two characters circling each other and refusing to deal with each other head on. The result was one of the best season of television of the year with whip-smart dialogue and tense action. There may not be a better final line of television than “We dug coal together.”
6. The Flash (Season 1, 2)
Comic book heroes have been dominating both the small and big screen for a couple years now but The Flash may be the first series to truly but a comic book on screen. It shies away from nothing in it’s source material. Time travel, alternate universes, telepathic gorillas, even half man half shark villains are fair game on The Flash. With the number of outlandish things it presents, the show could easily have been a bright and colorful disaster. It avoids this by grounding the character work in real human drama and having a strong emotional center. Grant Gustin is great as the earnest Barry Allen and he has a super supporting cast anchored by Jesse L. Martin’s and Tom Cavanaugh. Martin and Cavanaugh are a delight as Barry’s surrogate fathers and bring real emotional weight to the show.
7. Parks and Recreation (Season 7)
Endings are hard. Television endings in particular can be extremely difficult. The final season of Parks and Rec is one of the best final season ever. The creative team took a risk with a seven year time jump at the end of the previous season to set-up a great season of television. Parks and Rec was always about good people trying their hardest to make the world a better place. This sense of optimism was a defining characteristic of the show. Because of that, the number of happy endings on the show doesn’t feel forced or unearned. These characters struggled and fought for years. It seems more than fair for them to finally reap some rewards for all their hard work
8. Fresh Off The Boat (Season 1, 2)
Fresh Off the Boat has been solid since its debut early this year. It owes a lot of its success to an extremely solid cast. Kid actors can be a problem for any show but Fresh Off the Boat has three solid child actors. Hudson Yang as Eddie Huang in particular has really improved in the second season. It’s a great benefit to the show that the kids can often be given their own plotline and episodes quality will not suffer. Rounding out the cast are Randall Park and Constance Wu as the parents. Park had proven his comedic timing before and it’s great to see him as a major player on network TV. Wu has been a revelation. Her portrayal of Jessica Huang is both hilarious and heartfelt. She’s easily been one of the big breakout stars of 2015 and watching any episode of Fresh Off the Boat will show you why.
With a strong cast powering stories that were missing from television, Fresh Off the Boat has quickly become my favorite family sitcom on TV. On a personal level some of that can be attributed to the setting. As a child of the 90’s, it’s fun to see that decade mined for nostalgia in the same way the 80’s have been for years.
9 . Making A Murderer (Season 1)
Coming in at the very end of the year, I’m convinced this show would have made many more top ten lists if not for its release date. Making a Murderer could easily be compared to Serial or HBO’s The Jinx and if you enjoyed either this is definitely a must watch. It’s engrossing and compulsively watchable. The fact that it’s a true story still boggles my mind. Beyond the true-crime/mystery elements, Making a Murderer examines real issues in the American justice system and how “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t always mean the same thing for everyone.
10. Daredevil (Season 1)
It was very tempting to cheat and use this space for both Marvel Netflix shows but in the end I went with Daredevil because I think it comes together just a little better than Jessica Jones does. Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin is easily the best Marvel villain since Loki and probably the most well developed. The struggle between Kingpin and Daredevil was an interesting look at two men trying to save their neighborhood by completely different means. The action on the show is also some of the best on TV with hard hitting fight choreography that feels solid and like it has real weight to it.