In an era of Peak TV, for which we need a new and less overused buzzword, a Top 10 list for the year’s best television simply isn’t enough. What follows is a collection of good-to-great shows that, for a variety of reasons, just missed my marquee year-end list. I’ve organized this two-part guide to TV’s wide range of greatness in 2015 through the lens of one key episode per show. Some of these episodes are the best of their respective seasons. Others are the most emblematic of their respective series’ strengths. All of them are worth watching, if you’re so inclined.
(Note: I didn’t include episodes of shows that appeared in my top 10. But if I had, I’d have included the Edward Snowden interview on Last Week Tonight, the Broad City finale “St. Marks” and the Mad Men stunner “Time & Life.”)
Here’s an admittedly incomplete, scattered list of shows and performances I’d love to hear on Emmy nomination morning, tomorrow at 11:30am Eastern. If it’s not on here, I either haven’t seen it, don’t like it, or like it but think it’s so likely to get a nomination that writing about it now is just superfluous.
Community has ended several times. First, in season 3, it completed a trilogy of excellent seasons of often genre-bending, frequently fourth-wall-breaking, occasionally tearjerking comedy on NBC. Then the network unceremoniously dumped the show’s creator and guru Dan Harmon, leaving the show’s rabid fan base with a superficial shell of a fourth season that retained the show’s stylistic inventiveness but lost nearly all of its humanity. It ended on the show’s worst episode to date, a sour end to a misguided attempt at brand extension from a network and production company that had clearly misunderstood what viewers actually wanted out of the show.
But then, miracles of miracles, the show returned again, and Dan Harmon with it. The fifth season was bumpy, especially because it had to deal with the loss of integral cast member Donald Glover and his lovable teary-eyed jock-turned-nerd Troy Barnes. But it was the show again. And then it ended, somewhat unremarkably.
Except it didn’t end, thanks to the #NewRules of television economics.
This list is exactly what it looks like: a list of one great episode in each of twenty shows that I watched this year. I could have filled the entire list with episodes of The Americans and Hannibal, but I decided to impose a limit of one episode per show. This list is different from a list of my favorite TV shows of the year, though there’s plenty of overlap between the two. And if it’s not on this list, I either didn’t like it, liked it but preferred other things, or didn’t watch it.
And now, in chronological order, twenty of my favorite TV episodes of 2014.
Presenting the second half of my mock ballot for tomorrow’s Emmy nominations. I’m looking forward to seeing the majority of my hopes crushed in favor of mediocre or unsurprising choices. But that’s the game Emmy fans play. Check out the first part of my ballot for my thoughts on the supporting categories.
Without further ado, the nominations are…
This week in New York City, the four broadcast networks are unveiling their fall schedules, complete with renewals, cancellations and pickups. Though a volley of announcements earlier this week robbed the announcements of much of their suspense, and the very idea of a fixed schedule is irrelevant to a large percentage of the TV viewing public, these announcements remain interesting as the last vestiges of an outmoded business model.
NBC is up first. Notable points:
Watching last night’s two-part season premiere of Community was like greeting an old friend who just returned from a long trip around the world. He’s a little different than you remember, and he hasn’t quite readjusted to the rhythms of his old life, but he’s happy to be back and he’ll readjust soon enough.
Of course, Community didn’t go abroad last season – it went adrift. After Sony unceremoniously dumped the show’s idiosyncratic creator and showrunner Dan Harmon, replacing a singular voice with two journeymen Moses Port and David Guarascio, Community turned into an awkward hybrid of generic two-dimensional sitcom and desperate Community imitator. Aside from the dreadful premiere and finale, the show rarely fell above or below average, with a few episodes landing reasonably well but without the soaring heights of the show at its peak. Sony’s attempt to broaden the show’s audience failed – the show’s audience wasn’t ever going to expand no matter how many changes were imposed, and the loyal fans were unsatisfied with the subpar performance of the show in its unlikely fourth season. In a desperate attempt to win back the show’s jaded audience, Sony rehired Harmon in an apparent first for network television, hoping to stretch the show to syndication without alienating its core fanbase.