With 2015 in the books, we are looking back at some of our favorite content that the year brought us on the big and small screens. We’ll have lists coming with our individual favorite films of the year, but Kate is starting things off with a list of the best TV shows she watched in 2015.
Enjoy her list below.
From the crude, unapologetic, and impressively well-researched minds of Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome, Comedy Central’s Another Period is a savage skewering of modern wealth and reality TV set against the backdrop of 1902 Rhode Island. It’s Downton Abbey meets Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Leggero and Lindhome star as Lillian and Beatrice Bellacourt, heiresses of a wealthy Newport family led by womanizing patriarch Commodore (David Koechner) and morphine-addicted mother Dodo (a scene-stealing Paget Brewster). The household drama extends to their many servants, led by butler Peepers (Michael Ian Black) and new-girl Celine (Christina Hendricks), whose name is changed to Chair in the first episode. In its crass absurdity, the show relies on its antiquated time period to get away with much of its shock humor, to varying degrees of success, but the point is always clear to show how little we’ve changed as a society ruled by greed and status. Illustrating a point that cynical via a scene of Helen Keller drinking “cocaine wine” (a real thing) and attacking the awful Bellacourt sisters, puts Another Period among 2015’s cleverest new comedies.
4. Transparent (Amazon Prime)
Coming off of its revolutionary first season, Transparent returns for anything but a sophomore slump. Creator Jill Soloway continues to forge new ground in her overall mission to challenge and invite the audience to delve into the nuance and complexity of the LGBT community. After a premiere season that focused primarily on the three adult Pfefferman children grappling with their father’s transition into living as a woman, season 2 places the entire family on equal ground, unsteady and frightening though it may be. Each character is at the precipice of major self-analysis and discovery, all of whom (with the exception of middle sibling Josh, played by Jay Duplass) identify somewhere on the queer spectrum. Season 2 offers truly unprecedented representation of lesbian life, and the most necessary examination of radical feminism ever dramtatized, all while remaining a delicate yet devastatingly real comedic drama about family and what it means to feel complete.
3. Marvel’s Jessica Jones (Netflix)
Following Daredevil, Netflix and Marvel have added a new name to the darker side of their universe. Jessica Jones is a gritty, morally complex, workout of a show led by a razor-sharp balance of wit and danger in leading lady Krysten Ritter. In their exploration of the relationship between Jones and mind-controlling villain Kilgrave (David Tennant), Jessica Jones uses the tropes and canon of Marvel’s super-powered universe to create one of the most comprehensive studies on the nature of domestic abuse and PTSD that has ever graced any screen, big or small. It is decidedly feminist in its perspective, without boring us with a slew of “Strong Woman” superhero archetypes. Jones is messy, difficult, and harsh, while her foil Trish (Rachael Taylor) is ultra-feminine, powerful, yet honestly frightened of the world around her. Both of these women, and many others, are given their shrift on a show that respects and represents them, without ever once doing so with anything resembling a heavy hand.
2. Show Me a Hero (HBO)
It goes without saying that anything helmed by The Wire creator David Simon is probably going to be among the best television of any year, and Show me a Hero is a prime example. In this six-part miniseries, Simon and director Paul Haggis tell the story of Yonkers mayor Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Isaac) attempting, in 1987, to sway popular and political opinion in favor of building 200 units of affordable housing in the white neighborhoods of Yonkers. With impeccable writing, direction, and performances, Show Me a Hero is a necessary piece of television in a world where conversations about the intersections of race, economy, and social status are becoming increasingly muddled by defensive privilege. Isaac is an utter revelation as the tragic mayor, but it is the stories of the individuals whose lives will be directly affected by the housing decision, meaning those living in the Projects, that are the heart, soul, and true focus of the piece. In this seemingly small-town story of local New York politics, Simon and Haggis have embodied the phrase “the personal is political.”
1. Catastrophe (Amazon Prime)
Created, written by, and starring comedians Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, Catastrophe is easily the best new comedy of 2015, and among the best television in recent years. An American advertising executive (Delaney) travels to London on business where he meets and has copious amounts of sex with an Irish schoolteacher (Horgan). Soon after, Sharon (the characters bear the same first names as their actors) informs Rob she is pregnant, recalling that they only used a condom a handful of their 25 times. Thus begins the story of this extremely well-titled show. What ensues is a romantic comedy created for and by adults. There are no meet-cutes, nor any sentimental romanticizing of their situation. Sharon is 41, single, and wants to have a baby before she no longer can. Rob is a decent, caring man who wants to be present in her and his child’s life. The fact that they come to actually fall for each other is secondary to the comfort and security afforded by the very pragmatic nature of what they both want from each other, proving that romance and realism are in no way mutually exclusive concepts (still a radical notion in conventional storytelling). In an incredible blend of comedy and pathos, Catastrophe is genuinely heartfelt thanks to its honesty, while depicting an adult couple with children having a healthy, mutually satisfying sex life. Oh, and did I mention Carrie Fisher plays Rob Delaney’s mom complete with cameos by her dog, Gary? Go forth and binge. There’s only six episodes and season 2 is right around the corner.