2015 in Review: My Ten (Okay, Eleven) Favorite TV Shows

Leftovers

Diversity of many varieties was on the brain for many spheres of television this year. Network executives, showrunners, critics and audiences alike engaged in thoughtful discourse about what it means to make diverse television in 2015. There are more places than ever to watch TV, and more places than ever to distribute it. It makes logical sense that TV offerings this year would touch on a wider range of issues, feature a wider range of character types and demographics and explore a wider range of stories and universes than ever before.

But with great power comes great responsibility. My favorite shows in 2015 were the ones that used the expanding boundaries of what’s possible on television to their fullest advantage, crafting rich and surprising worlds, telling stories that dovetail with the themes, ideas and controversies guiding our daily lives. In relatively arbitrary order of preference (who’s to say whether a dark comedy about an animated horse is superior to one of the most beloved drama series of all time?), here are my ten favorite shows of 2015.

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The M&M Report, Episode 73: “Spotlight” and “Fargo”

Fargo

On this episode of The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I welcome Chloe Johnson for her fifth guest appearance. This time around, we review the excellent journalism movie Spotlight and reflect on the second season of FX’s anthology series Fargo. We had a lot to say, so we split the episode in two parts for your listening enjoyment.

EXCITING NEWS: You can now subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and download the feed directly into the podcast app of your choice. New episodes should show up on your feed immediately and on iTunes within a day or two of release. Subscribe away!

Listen to part one:

And part two:

Peruse the M&M Report category page for previous episodes of the podcast. Thanks for listening!

2014 in Review: Television is a Beautiful Mess

Transparent

When Breaking Bad departed from television in a trail of crystal blue persuasion last September, television lost its center of gravity. At the time, this development seemed troubling. Without a consensus show around which to rally on social media, television fans and critics alike had to search elsewhere to find a show worthy of their devoted attention and undying affection. But a year removed from Walter White’s final blaze of glory, the loss of Breaking Bad seems more like a gift.

The consensus about this year’s television is that there is no consensus. Continue reading

2014 in Review: The Year in Episodes

True Detective

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.

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Thanks

Thanksgiving

The world gives us lots to be cynical about every day. But today’s Thanksgiving, so I want to take a brief pause from frustration, indifference and indignation to marvel at the treasures on our massive pop culture landscape. Here’s a look at some of the pop culture (and pop culture criticism) that I’m thankful for right now:

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Five Quick Reactions to the 2014 Emmy Nominations

Emmy Nomis

After an entire TV season of speculation, the 2014 Primetime Emmy nominations were finally announced at the ungodly hour of 5:30am Pacific Thursday morning. (Perks of being on the East coast: waking up was no big deal!) As usual, the nominations provoked a mixture of reactions: surprise, resignation, disapproval, even bitterness. As Alan Sepinwall put it in his pessimistic but reasoned analysis, the television business is evolving too quickly for the Emmys to keep up, especially given that the TV Academy has a history of being slow to adjust to major changes in the industry. With a higher volume and wider array of TV shows than ever before, some quality shows are always going to get left behind. But when the Emmys continue to make apologies for shows that they previously loved, it’s worth wondering how long these awards can stay relevant.

Below, here are five of my thoughts about the nominations list. For more on the list’s weirder surprises, here’s my USA Today article from Thursday. For my dream ballots, click here and here.

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“Fargo”: Wonder, Chilled

Tolman

After nine increasingly brilliant episodes, the first season of Fargo concludes tonight at 10pm on FX. When this show was first announced, it was quickly derided as an ill-conceived attempt to capitalize on a cult favorite film that could not possibly be improved or enriched by a ten-hour adaptation. The first episode assuaged those concerns to an extent, with instantly arresting performances and a visual style that recalls the Coen Brothers without imitating them, but the show truly distinguished itself approximately halfway through its run, when it diverged almost entirely from the thematic arc of its source material while tying itself more overtly than ever to the film’s chronology. With just the finale to go, Fargo stands as one of my favorite television experiences of 2014. Here are five things I’ll miss after tonight’s much-hyped finale:

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