Judging 2015: The Lists, Volume 1, “The TV Edition”

So, the Oscar nominees came out yesterday morning. It was a pretty underwhelming year and there were quite a few significant snubs. (Check Twitter for #OscarsSoWhite if you haven’t seen any of the relevant tweets yet.) But none of this was really any surprise; it was another classic Academy year.

Nevertheless, there is something strangely compelling about lists, especially for somebody like myself who survives by compiling numerous collections of to-dos, to-watch’s, to-reads, and then complimentary lists of the things I’ve managed to complete. There is nothing like the thrill of checking something off a list. 

According to friends, I also apparently have the tendency of assigning my favorite films/TV shows/books etc. to arbitrary and grandiose list designations such as “my top 50” or “top 125” in conversation. So for a compromise and in reflection on 2015, I’m going to try be a little more intentional and spend the next few days presenting my actual Top Five favorite media selections from the past year. I’m going to do a different media category every few days, starting today with television. 

So without further ado, here’s Judging 2015: The Lists, Vol. 1, “The TV Edition”

  1. Mad Men, Season 7, Part 2
    Mad Men is already my favorite TV drama, and Season 7’s finale proved a fitting and memorable end to the show, placing this solidly at the top of my list. I will miss Don Draper a little, but mostly, I was sad to say goodbye to Joan and Peggy, two of the most fascinating female characters on tv.
    Screenshot from the finale.
    Screenshot featuring Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) from the finale.
  2. Mr Robot, Season 1
    I hate to participate in all the hype, but Mr. Robot legitimately was a great show. I was a bit unsure at first, but once the show got into the swing of things it developed into such a unique story about a troubled hacker, told in an exquisite fashion. Once I have more time on my hands, I plan to go back and unpack some of the layers woven into this show–such as its regular nods to Kubrick. Unlike Mad Men, however, I felt like the female characters were quite lacking. Let’s hope that season 2 makes up for that.
    mr robot
    Screenshot featuring Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek) and Mr. Robot (Christian Slater).
  3. Jessica Jones, Season 1
    This was another hyped show that I reluctantly started watching after I turned in my last paper this fall. I am not a big Marvel fan, so I wasn’t expecting much. But Jessica Jones is not your typical superhero; in fact, she actually abandoned a failed superhero career to instead pursue life as a private eye. This is film noir meets the digital age with a liberal splash of David Tennant at his finest. By the time you cross the halfway mark, you will find yourself hard pressed to pull away.
    Screenshot
    Screenshot featuring Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) and Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor).
  4. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 1
    Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the third show on my list to surprise me. I started watching this Netflix Original after overhearing segments while my husband watched the show. Kimmy Schmidt has lived captive underground for the last decade; after she is rescued, she decides to start her new life as an independent adult in New York City. Of course much has changed while she was underground, so Kimmy experiences everything with the naïveté and innocence of a child. The result is a refreshingly frank yet hilarious and delightful perspective on the state of the world today.
    Screenshot
    Screenshot featuring Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper).
  5. Black-ish, Season 2
    My last pick is also a comedy that is both frank and hilarious. Black-ish follows the ABC Modern Family sitcom model with a twist. It’s a story about an African-American family living in a wealthy, white neighborhood, while trying to navigate what it means to be black within this new context. It can be cute and funny but more often than not, Black-ish tackles complicated and sensitive topics with comfortable ease. For instance, the first episode of the second season centered on an insightful discussion of the historic and contemporary usage of the n***** word. 
    Screenshot
    Screenshot featuring the Johnson Family (L-R: Marsai Martin, Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson, Yara Shahidi, Marcus Scribner, and Miles Brown)

Special Mention: Blindspot, Season 1
While I don’t think Blindspot operates on the same level of brilliance as my top five picks, this show is still an incredibly fun and compelling ride. A woman is discovered by the FBI in Times Square–unconscious, naked, and zipped up in a bag. In addition, they quickly learn that not only does she remember nothing, but she has also been recently inked with hundreds of complex tattoos that cover her entire body. How did she end up there? Well that’s the underlying question of the show, and each tattoo holds a separate mystery that brings the FBI closer to solving her identity and her origin. Blindspot is an intricate blend of mimicry–you’ll find elements of True Detective, Memento, and CSI throughout the show–but in this case, the mimicry actually works. I think the reason is because the characters and the performances are so believable. There are also a number of fantastic female characters written into this show, which I am always a sucker for.

Screenshot
Screenshot featuring Jane Doe (Jaimie Alexander) and Patterson (Ashley Johnson)

Next Up: “The Book Edition”

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