Here is contributor Max Havey’s end(ish) of the year list, in which he went back through the absurd amount of television he saw this year and picked out the best shows. Hopefully you enjoy it and maybe even find a new favorite show!
FX’s acclaimed anthology series about murder up north delivers yet another season of the strongest stuff on TV. Instead of a domestic dispute gone wrong, this season, set in the late 70s, focuses on a mob war that happens after a man is mysteriously killed. It has everything from great accents to aliens, as well as the return of a young Lou Solverson, who was played as an older man by Keith Carradine in the first season. It often feels like reading really good fiction. The story flows effortlessly, which paired with the beautiful cinematography makes for an incredible show to watch. It captures the essence of Joel and Ethan Coen’s body of work, leaving little references, both material and stylistic, all over the place, without cheapening the story, which is a feat in and of itself. This is even without talking about the incredible cast, which includes Patrick Wilson, Ted Danson, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemmons and Bokeem Woodbine, to name a few. I could talk about Fargo for hours, but now that the season is just about over, it will make for the perfect show to binge this season. Believe me, you won’t regret it.
This bitingly cynical and sharply written FX sitcom follows two equally terrible people as they decide to move in together. What separates this season from the first is its decision to follow the character Gretchen as she deals with her depression in very real ways while examining the idea that it is something that can’t necessarily be fixed, no matter how much the main characters would like to do to fix it. Series creator Stephen Falk even finds ways to innovate with the show’s format each week, even telling a story from the perspective of a couple whose relationship mirrors that of Gretchen and Jimmy. Great performances from Chris Geere, Aya Cash, Desmin Borges and Kether Donohue drive home this excellent season of television.
Easily the most surprising show for me this year, this USA Network show delves deep into the world of hacking as a drug-addled vigilante hacker joins a group that seeks to take down the world’s corporations. Mr. Robot, as a series, is compelling and twisty, never really letting the audience find an even keel and making them even doubt what they already know. Rami Malek, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday and Christian Slater shine in their performances. This is the kind of show that could easily become the next Breaking Bad. If you haven’t checked it out yet, now is the time.
Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series gave him the opportunity to expand on ideas present in his standup like relationships and family life, as well as new ideas like what it is like making a living as an Indian actor. In the best way, the series feels a lot like Louie or a Woody Allen movie, but with more warmth and less cynicism. If that wasn’t enough, the series has a strong supporting cast that includes Noel Wells, Eric Warheim and Lena Waithe as well as Ansari’s parents. The series successfully brings the indie-film aesthetic to the small screen.
This spin-off of Breaking Bad offers a new glimpse of a familiar world, showing Bob Odenkirk’s sleazy lawyer when he was still Jimmy Macmillan. Saul was always an interesting side character, but further getting to know him makes for a surprisingly effective and entertaining series. Plus it divulges the origin story for Jonathan Banks’ Mike Ehrmantraut, along with Michael McKean, Saul’s previously unseen brother. It garnered plenty of deserved award attention this year and will be returning for another season in 2016.
Hatched by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, the minds behind 30 Rock, Kimmy Schmidt was destined for greatness. The series brings 30 Rock’s comic sensibilities to the strange story of a woman seeing the world for the first time after getting stuck in an apocalypse cult. The series also has a dynamite cast of Ellie Kemper, Titus Burgess, Jane Krakowski and Carol Kane. You will never be able to look at pinot noir the same way again.
The second season of Netflix’s breakout animated series improves on its first in all the right ways. It tightens up the jokes, opting for quicker payoffs, as well as taking a deeper dive into Bojack’s depression and other issues while also skewering celebrity culture with the outlandish game show “Hollywoo Stars and Celebrities. What Do They Know? Do They Know Things? Let’s Find Out!” Plus the top notch voice cast of Will Arnett, Allison Brie, Aaron Paul, Amy Sedaris and Paul F Tompkins cement Bojack Horseman together through yet another excellent season.
Marvel’s latest foray into the streaming market shows it has some teeth when it comes to social issues. Tackling issues like rape and PTSD through its hard-drinking superpowered heroine, the series sets itself apart from its more mainstream counterparts. That, mixed with the twisty neo-noir narrative makes for a series that is compulsively watchable and sets a good precedent for all superheroines who follow in Jessica Jones’ footsteps.
ABC has cornered the market on family sitcoms over the past few years and has begun to diversify their catalogue. With one of the first Asian-led sitcoms since the late 90s, it chronicles the life of celebrity chef Eddie Huang growing up in Orlando. It boasts a soundtrack of classic 90s hip-hop and nostalgia paired with great performances by Constance Wu and Randall Park. Fresh Off the Boat has clearly found yet another way to keep a stagnating genre fresh and relevant today.
This quick British import from Amazon was one the most surprising things I watched this year. It struck the right balance between sweet and raunchy, as well as dramatic and comedic. Stars Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan‘s performances add an extra level of warmth and inevitability to their characters and the situation they have found themselves in. A pleasurable watch from start to finish.
This article was originally published on Voxmagazine.com