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.
Oscar season spoils us. The major Hollywood studio pack the fall release schedule with thoughtful movies directed by skillful filmmakers and brimming with exceptional performances from Hollywood’s acting elite. 12 Years a Slave! Gravity! Nebraska! Her! American Hustle! Movies are so awesome.
Then awards season really kicks into gear, right around the time when everyone and their mother is reaching back into their memory banks to fill out their Top 10 lists summarizing the year in film. We’re reminded of all the great experiences we had at the movies even before fall began. Remember when we cried at the sight of Oscar Grant cowering in front of a policeman at the end of Fruitvale Station? Remember when Cate Blanchett tore into her role as an entitled woman stripped of her privilege in Blue Jasmine? Remember when Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley reminded us that teen romance isn’t all sweaty vampires and broody mopes in The Spectacular Now? Movies are so great.
And they are. But the reality of Hollywood’s long-standing business strategy makes it very difficult for us to maintain that belief in the first few months of every new year. With their Oscar hopes secured, the studios take out the trash, dumping their most impressively unambitious projects of the year into the trash receptacle known as January.