Top 15 Dramas of 2015
For the past several years, I have made it a point to rank my favorite shows of the year. Most of the critics I follow have made their lists much longer for this year because there are so many good shows out and they're available in every medium possible! I'm adding a few more than usual, so it's 15 this year. Feel free to agree or disagree. I welcome your comments as always.
Parenthood – Technically, I shouldn't be including this wonderful show because only four episodes aired in 2015. However, they were really great episodes! I felt like I was a part of this family for the six years, so I was so invested in seeing how they ended it. I've been a huge fan of Jason Katim's previous show Friday Night Lights so I had great confidence he could write it well. I was not disappointed and I balled my eyes out at the end and had tears at a few other times in the episode. It ripped my heart out in all the best possible ways. I will miss the Braverman family greatly.
The Flash – The Flash made the list last year for just a handful episodes, and it makes the list again this year for an enthralling second half of season 1 and an even better first half of season 2. Grant Gustin is incredible as the title character. This really showed in the season 1 finale where he successfully travels back in time and heartbreakingly says good-bye to his mother for the second time knowing he can't change her fate. The show keeps adding more great elements in the character's powers to make him so fun to watch. They've also had interesting villains and although I don't have the background of the comics, the podcast Central City Underground helps keep me informed! Another great thing about the show is the supporting characters who not only create a great team for Barry, but also add to the stories themselves. Iris is a lot more interesting this season, and Cisco continues to entertain. I could go on and on, but I'll wrap up by saying that it's a show that I can turn on and know I will be entertained from start to finish with great stories, impressive action scenes, snappy dialogue and heartwarming moments.
Jane the Virgin – I struggled with putting this show on the “dramas” list, not because there isn't great drama but because it's also a great comedy. In the end, I think it does qualify for this list. Like The Flash, it appeared on the list last year for a handful of excellent season 1 episodes and this year appears after an even better second half of season 1 and first half of season 2. I can't say enough great things about it. It's a soap opera at its core, with hilarious/ridiculous moments at every turn. It's also a great depiction of a multi-generational Hispanic family, with Spanish and English used in the dialogue depending on the characters involved. Season 1 ended with Jane having her baby, and it was a heartwarming moment when she had a boy and named him Mateo after her deceased grandfather. Jane's father Rogelio and the incredible narrator bring a lot of funny moments. It's a show you have to watch with your eyes and not just your ears because there are subtitles, and lots of other fun visuals that will appear on the screen. The only thing that bothers me on this stellar show is that Jane is still stuck in a triangle between Michael and Rafael. She either has to either pick one of them and stick with that decision for more than one episode, or pick neither! It's well worth checking out this incredible show.
Orphan Black – Tatiana Manslany continues to amaze me as an actress. This year she was finally nominated for an Emmy and although she didn't win, the nomination was a victory in itself. Season three introduced us to male clones, and although I didn't like how much time we spent with them onscreen most of them were killed off by the end of the season. Sarah was finally reunited with her daughter at the end of the season, Rachel is still alive and being kept by her mother(?!) with a robotic eye and Delphine is shot by an unseen assailant. I hope in season four we spend more time with the always great Leda clones while still introducing/exploring more about what's really going on. The many faces of Tatiana Manslany working together to figure out the truth is always the best part. Of course, there are also the great supporting characters of Felix, Mrs. S and Donny for even more entertainment.
Fargo – This show made the list for an absolutely gripping first season last year, and this year it makes it for a second season that was even better than the first. Set as a prequel to season 1 and set in Minnesota it again features an all-star cast including Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Patrick Wilson, Jean Smart, Ted Danson, Cristin Milioti and Jeffret Donovan just to name a few. The violence was even more extreme and again they are addressing the moral gray areas of right and wrong. I have a few episodes to finish of season 2, but I can't wait to see how they wrap up the story and where they decide to go (geographically and story-wise) in season 3.
Doctor Who – I have been very vocal of my dislike for the past several seasons of Doctor Who. It seemed like Steven Moffat didn't know how to write a consistently good season and I was more frustrated than happy as a fan. Last season I had the great privilege of joining the SQPN network as part of the panel of Secrets of Doctor Who. Even when there were bad episodes, at least I got to make fun of it with my fellow podcasters. I joined them again for many of the episodes for series 9 this year. However, something amazing has happened. The show is good again – consistently! Jenna Coleman finally left the show officially after hemming and hawwing for a lot of last season. They had a great exit for her this series and I wish they would have stuck with it. Instead they did something creative with it and although I don't like the decision they made, I can say that it gave Jenna Coleman some great material to play for the next few episodes through the season finale. The Christmas special was a lot of fun and I can't wait to rewatch and then record about it. That is a feeling I've had all season, which I definitely couldn't say last year. Let's hope the trend continues!
12 Monkeys – I admit that I'm always a bit skeptical when I read that a movie is being adapted into a TV series. Sure, there have been great successes like Friday Night Lights and Buffy but there have also been atrocities like Under the Dome and Minority Report. SyFy has had mixed success in developing shows that are successful for more than a season, so I wasn't sure how this would go with them but I was pleasantly surprised. They captured all the best elements from the movie (which is not necessary to view before this show) and changed just enough to help it stand on its own. The main character is the same from the movie (Cole, played in the film by Bruce Willis and here by Aaron Stanford) and the gender of the Brad Pitt character from the movie is changed to feature the incredible actress Emily Hampshire (who is having a blockbuster career this year – she's been everywhere from Rookie Blue to Hallmark movies). She is tied to the story by being the daughter of a character who is presumed to be behind the virus, but this isn't the whole truth. She doesn't have all her crayons in the box, but she quickly becomes one of the most interesting characters on the show as we try to anticipate what she'll do next. They also added in Amanda Schull (Suits) as Cassie, Barbara Sukowa as Jones and Kirk Acevedo (Fringe) as Ramse – to name just a few – to make the story more well rounded than just about Cole jumping time to save the world from the virus. It's a show you really have to pay attention to because it is easy to get lost if you don't. When season 1 first aired, I struggled with this. There was complicated plot to follow plus time travel and about halfway through the season I was so behind and confused that I was ready to give up. Luckily after the season ended, SyFy made the entire season available on demand so I used that opportunity to watch it from the beginning and make better sense of it. It worked much better this time and although there are still things about the plot that confuse me (time travel makes my head hurt!), I still really enjoyed what they did with the story. I can't predict where they will go next season, but I can't wait to see how to plays out.
Agent Carter – I'll be honest – when this show was announced, I said to myself Agent Who? I didn't remember her from Captain America, but I was willing to give it a try because it looked great from the promos. I was so glad I did. It benefitted from a short season – creating a bridge between the two halves of the Agents of SHIELD season – and gave us a female protagonist who you couldn't help but root for. This beauty had more skills than her fellow male agents yet couldn't get any respect from them. Since it's set in the 1940s, women had their place and it wasn't in the workplace. She easily became a role model for all young women to live their dreams. It had glamour, great dialogue and balanced light and dark elements. I was fully entertained by it and I can't wait for it to return in January for season 2 – set in Los Angeles.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Agents of SHIELD had a bumpy start, to say the least. I gave it a chance when it first started two seasons ago, but I dropped it within a few episodes because it was so slow and didn't care about any of the characters. I had friends who stuck with it, so I learned that it did get better as the season went on and really kicked into gear in the Spring as it tied into the second Captain America movie. I took this into advisement, but had to wait until the DVDs came out to get caught up since it wasn't yet on streaming (ugh!). I sought the advise of a few friends and only watched the second half of the season and the corresponding movie. I'm so glad I did, because the show was so much better from where it started. Season 2 continued the trend and now in season 3 it's a show I can't wait to watch. The team has really come together with each agent contributing their own set of skills to the action. The addition of several interesting characters has added great dynamics to the already good chemistry amongst the team. My favorite addition has been Adrianne Palicki as Bobbi, who has been a favorite actress of mine since she began her TV career on Friday Night Lights. Here she's joined by her ex-husband/friend with benefits Hunter and they have a great chemistry. They also added the lovely Luke Mitchell (Tomorrow People), Henry Simmons (NYPD Blue) and Blair Underwood (L.A. Law, etc) – to name a few. They gave powers and a great story to Sky/Daisy making her character more interesting and introduced the idea of powered people called Inhumans. The show is firing on all cylinders now and it is must watch TV. If you haven't checked it out since season 1, it's time to try it out again. You won't be sorry. PS I ship FitzSimmons hard 😉
Better Call Saul – There always seems to be that one show that premieres that you're not sure if it's for you but because you keep hearing wonderful reviews about it, you decide you must see what the fuss is all about. For me, that was this show in 2015. I wasn't sure if this show would work for me, mostly because I have yet to finish Breaking Bad (I know – stop nagging me, people!). I'm currently on season four and I will finish it eventually but it's not high on my priorities. Anyway, I decided to give this one a try anyway but it wasn't until the show was about to air its S1 finale. AMC smartly had a marathon of all the episodes leading up to the finale. (BBC America also did this for season 1 of Orphan Black and I'm so glad they did!) I recorded all the episodes and watched them within a week (there's only 10. That's not too bad!) I was sucked in pretty immediately because although I didn't have much experience with Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad, I had curiosity about Jimmy McGill – the man who would become Saul. I was highly entertained by the antics of this character – how he got started as a small-town lawyer and how his behavior changed over time to get to where he wanted to be. It was anchored by an actor who knew his character very well and made you care about his start. Jonathan Banks and Michael McKean also have impressive supporting roles as well. If you haven't checked it out, it's a great character study on how to do an origin story well.
Empire – Like Agents of SHIELD, this is a show I tried in the beginning but wasn't that impressed by it but for very different reasons. I'm a musician myself, so I'm always willing to give a show about it a chance. However, I was immediately turned off by the pilot for various negative reasons. I just didn't get what all the fuss was about, so I turned it off after the first episode. I was definitely in the minority and I accepted this. However, my friend/podcast listener Rick continued to encourage me to give it a chance. He is also a musician so I valued his opinion because of that. I was aware that Hulu had signed an exclusive streaming deal with the show so over the summer, I decided to give it another chance. This time it was a very different experience, however. This time I really paid attention to the character of Cookie Lyon because she took the screen by storm! I was hooked to the show just to see her character. Add to that the fact that it centers around the music industry, African American culture, an African American family and at its core it is a soap and I was hooked. I quickly binged the first season and continued to tweet with Rick about why I was glad I gave it a second chance. The first part of season 2 has been even better and I can't wait to see where it goes now that I'm completely caught up.
iZombie – Veronica Mars has been an all-time favorite show of mine since I discovered it (too late to help the ratings) in 2009. I was fascinated by creator Rob Thomas' ability to write well-rounded female characters, sassy dialogue and great storytelling. So when I heard he was heading another show for The CW I was all in. Yes, I had grown tired of the zombies of the Walking Dead a few seasons ago, but RT is in charge so it had to be good! iZombie is the kind of zombie show I love. It has a fantastic lead actress (Rose McIver, Once Upon a Time) who gets to showcase how great she is because each week she has different personality traits based on what brain she's eaten. And, she gets their memories so she's a detective too! I wish there were more Veronica Mars, but this is a great substitute for me. This is a cast that I would love to hang out with in real life because they seem like such a fun group on social media. David Anders has been an amazing villain on so many of my favorite shows (Alias, Heroes, Once Upon a Time) so I was so happy to have him part of the story. Then there's Robert Buckley has Liv's tortured ex-fiance, Rahul Kohli as her boss/confidante Ravi and Malcolm Goodwin as cop partner Clive. There are procedural elements to it, but each episode also explores the mystery behind the zombie outbreak and has developments in the character of Liv and all of her loved ones. I'm so glad that The CW gave it a chance, and even though it's getting terrible ratings it's clear the network has confidence in it and have made their decisions on it's future based on the social media support for the show and not the numbers.
Mr. Robot – In recent years, USA has moved away from it's “blue skies, feel good” programming and turned to darker kinds of shows. Although this spells doom for Royal Pains which is still limping to its inevitable end, it's good news for this new kid on the block. I wasn't sure what to expect from this show because there wasn't a lot of information about it before it premiered. What I saw intrigued me and I gave it a shot. I had room in my summer schedule, so why not? Wow, did this blow my expectations out of the water. It's part hacker drama/part psychological thriller and throughout the first part of the season I wasn't sure what was real and what wasn't. The main character does drugs and is also the internal narrator, but I was never quite sure what to believe. There were times when a scene would play out in his head and then play out again in real time, making you question which of them was real. There were also two (or more) explosive reveals throughout the season that made me question everything I had seen before! It gripped me from the very beginning and I'm excited to find out more about fsociety, Elliott, Evil Corp and so much more.
The 100 – The CW really took a chance with this show two seasons ago because they had nothing else like it and it's worked out so well for them. In season two, Eliza Taylor really came into her own as the lead character of Clarke. She became a leader that did what she thought was right, even if it meant that she would loose the loyalty of the young adult companions she began the journey on Earth with. At the end of season 2, she made a decision that really pushed these loyalties to the brink and I can't wait to see where the show will be headed after this. In this war-torn world no one safe and in the last two seasons the body count has been high. All decisions have consequences, and this is another show that deals with morality and the shades of grey between the black and white of right and wrong. It's unlike any other show on the air now and it well worth the binge watch to get caught up before season three starts in January.
UnREAL – I credit Jason for recommending this show so highly on TV Times Three for getting me interested in this show. If I hadn't heard that, I probably wouldn't have even heard of it. I am a huge Shiri Appleby (Life Unexpected) fan and I'm so glad for the recommendation to see her take on such a different kind of character in this show. Rachel is willing to do anything it takes to get her job done, even if that means manipulating everyone else in the process. If you've ever watched any kind of reality show, you have to know that there's nothing “real” about it. It shows us the behind-the-scenes of a Bachelor-like show called “Everlasting”, where nothing is real and everything is manipulated from the production side. Rachel's partner and confidante is Quinn (played by the delightful Constance Zimmer, who just wrapped a stint on Agents of SHIELD) who's even worse than Rachel to get what she wants. Season 1 introduces us to the bachelor of the show-within-the-show named Adam and all of his bachelorettes vying for his attention. Adam is as morally bankrupt as those working on the show and he's no more trying to find true love than he is trying to find success in business. There are a few stand out bachelorettes, such as Johanna Braddy (now on Quantico) and tons of real and manipulated drama. I was gripped by season 1 from start to finish and since they wrapped the story with Adam on Everlasting, I am curious to see where it goes for season 2. I'm definitely in and even though the numbers don't reflect it, the fans are as well.
The Good Wife
Again, it's only my opinion. I welcome yours..
P.S. In case you're wondering why Master of None, Man in the High Castle and Jessica Jones aren't on the list, it's because I haven't seen them yet. Maybe they'll make the cut next year 😉