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.
The last two minutes of the July 26 episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver might have been surprising to people who have heard about the show but never watched it. As the 17-minute piece on mandatory minimum sentencing laws drew to a close, Oliver delivered an impassioned plea to viewers to consider the issue and its implications. Even as a devoted fan of the show, I kept waiting for Oliver to punctuate the earnest moment with levity. But he never did, and his show is all the better for it.
It’s impossible to write about Last Week Tonight on the Internet without drawing accusations of clickbait, as his clips are designed, as if genetically, to feed the media beast in a way that even the best of Jon Stewart never matched. But if you dig deeper than the superficial weekly recap below an embedded YouTube clip, if you watch that YouTube clip and pay attention to the care and detail that goes into crafting a Last Week Tonight segment, you realize that people are clicking not because media outlets are telling them to, but because the show rewards their clicks with substance, style and sincerity.