Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Awards Psychic's Top 10 Television Shows of 2015

10. Mr. Robot - The term "surprise hit" is an understatement for Mr. Robot. Rami Malek is fantastic in the series, but is a relative unknown (one of those guys that you recognize him, but can't put a name to it), and USA had not had a series with this kind of critical reviews. But the stars aligned for Mr. Robot, and it is now a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award nominee for Best Drama Series, and is making almost every top ten television list for 2015. Mr. Robot is a fascinating series that is tech-y, but universal. It is paranoid, provocative, and never seems to let up. It is just the show we need in this modern, tech-centric world, and if you haven't taken the time to watch it yet, stop what you're doing, and make the time. It is certainly worthy.

9. black-ish - As Modern Family continues its aging decline, black-ish continues to take its place, as its second season has been even better than its first, which is saying a lot, because it was easily one of the best new comedy series on television last year. black-ish has one of the best casts on television, and as it moves into its second season, their chemistry is simply undeniable. And moving Jenifer Lewis into a more permanent role has created more comedic moments, particularly her dynamic with Laurence Fishburne. It is always laugh-out-loud funny, the actors are on point, and it is constantly surprising, always inventive, and particularly smart. It continues to be one of my favorites.

8. You're the Worst - There was a point in this season of You're the Worst, where it literally went off the rails. At first I thought it was just a simple plot maneuver to transition to a new episode, but then it kept going. For most of the season it left one of our central characters at the precipice. It frustrated me, because I thought that last season's edgiest and funniest show had finally gone just a bit to far. But once the final frames fell on Season 2, I realized that I cared more about the characters, that I laughed more, and that what I thought was going off the rails, was actually a brilliantly funny, surprisingly serious, and emotional thread that made this season even more brilliant than the first.

7. The Good Wife - At this point in most series, particularly broadcast legal dramas, they have hit their autopilot moment. They know what their fans want and they take less risks. Why mess up a good thing, and potentially lose your built in audience? Well the writers over at The Good Wife don't seem to care about that model, and they continue to push forward, create twists, and even as it enters the midway point of season 7, it is still easily the best drama series on broadcast television, with whip-smart dialogue, a game cast, and most importantly, continually evolving plot lines and characters that feel just as alive and sharp as they did on day one.

6. (TIE) Master of None and The Mindy Project - Both Mindy and Aziz started off as supporting roles on big sitcoms, The Office and Parks & Recreation respectively. Both have made it on their own, and like so many before them have been able to transition from supporting character to magnetic lead. The Mindy Project got cancelled by Fox, but thanks to Hulu has seen new life. This fourth season is easily its best, with new performers (Fortune Feimster, who is from my hometown, and I am a huge supporter of is particularly fantastic), and you would have never noticed that it had to make a huge transition. It is wildly hilarious and proves that it is still one of the best sitcoms today. I am not that surprised by Mindy's success, but Aziz's has certainly thrown me off. He played his role well on Parks, but was never one of my favorite characters. But with his own platform on Netlfix, he has shined brightly. Master of None is easily one of the best new shows this season, and proves that when given the chance, he can really make something that is truly funny, and wholly unique.

5. Empire - 2015's biggest show missed out on some big Emmy nods, and really that is to the detriment of the industry. They should have recognized it, if for nothing else, because it would have been an excellent way to show that traditional television is still alive and well. But Empire should have managed a lot more Emmy attention because it is just a hell of a show. Yes it is an over the top, ridiculous soap opera that makes daytime shows look tame. But underneath that drama there is real talent. Lee Daniels and Danny Strong have created vibrant characters, and a wildly entertaining plot that never lets up. But most of the credit belongs to the cast. Terrence Howard and the supporting players all do their part, and each is distinct and well-played. But at the top this is Cookie's show. Taraji P. Henson has created one of the most memorable characters in television history. She is delicious in every sense of the word, she commands the screen, and proves that she is one of our fiercest talents.

4. Getting On - Three short seasons is all we have with our characters of Getting On, and while each moment seemed to work to perfection, I would have loved to have seen more. Getting On was the perfect combination of humor and heart. It could make you laugh out loud one minute, and then break your heart the next. Our four main cast members perfectly balanced each other out (Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein, Niecy Nash, and Mel Rodriguez), and their chemistry was undeniable. I always liked the show, but this year, Niecy Nash and Ann Morgan Guilbert created one of the most emotionally effective scenes on television this year. As we said goodbye to one of our beloved patients of this wacky geriatric ward, it was Niecy Nash's heart-wrenching choice to let her go that sold me on this: Getting On was a one of a kind gem. I will personally miss it a lot.

3. The Americans - As The Americans enters its fourth season this winter, I think I should go back and re-watch Season 3. Like its first two outings, Season 3 was a brilliantly constructed character study of two KGB agents trying to pull off a normal American life. Their ability to do so continued to crumble, and this season as their daughter slowly starts to figure out the truth, The Americans smoldering family tension and intense Cold War spy drama reached new heights. And yet it still managed to maintain its subtle cool, and its slow-burn quality that has made it one of television's most fascinating shows. It is worth a second viewing just to recapture all of the nuances, the brilliant dramatic touches, and the fully realized characters that make The Americans one of the best, if not they best, drama on television.

2. (TIE) Fargo and Show Me a Hero - The art of the miniseries is now being used so much, that overall it is starting to lose some of its luster. It feels like so many folks are using "miniseries" or "anthology series" to avoid having to create a larger story arch. But this year two miniseries proved that if done right, it can be one of the most effective mediums on modern television. The first was HBO's Show Me a Hero. From The Wire's David Simon, this six part series was brilliant slow-burn historical piece, about the public housing crisis that many cities faces in the 1970's. Based on the true events of Yonkers, NY, and led by the enigmatic Oscar Isaac in one of his most prolific roles yet, Show Me a Hero perfectly captures the anger, the emotion, and the slow struggle of America's liberals to truly equalize housing. It was perfectly constructed, impeccably acted, and one of the year's best. The other is Fargo. After its first perfect season, I was a bit hesitant to see if they could pull it off again. And boy did they ever. Like the masterful film, and the winning first part of this anthology series, this incantation of the Fargo franchise is a incredible blend of crime thriller and wickedly quirky comedy, and with a cast that includes Kirsten Dunst, James Cromwell, Bokeem Woodine, Patrick Wilson, and particularly the brilliant Jean Smart, Fargo proves that lightning sometimes really does strike twice.

1. Please Like Me - Okay, so since June when Please Like Me won Best Comedy Series here at The Awards Psychic Television Awards, I have given you about six months to catch up with it. If you haven't done so yet, you really need to buckle down and, as we say here in the south, git 'er done. Okay so this show isn't for everyone, but if you are a millennial looking for a show that perfectly captures the sadness, the conflict, and the humor of being a 20-something in this day and age, then Please Like Me is the show for you. So few shows seem to understand what its like to be in our generation, but Please Like Me has it all. There are awkward moments with friends, as they navigate sex, love, friendship, and the whole growing up thing. There are beautifully rendered moments of our main character Josh dealing with his parents, the folks that raised him, who now he feels like he has to take care of. Then there is the father that remarried someone too young, the mother who has severe mental illness, the ex-girlfriend turned best friend that has an abortion and needs your help. Please Like Me is a funny, messy, and wonderful show that had the more impact on me than any other this year.

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