NGN’s Best of 2015: TV Shows

The Americans finale

As we approach the end of 2015, I want to start off by saying that this year has given me so many wonderful memories as a writer. From sharing my NYCC experience with you to starting my book to writing perhaps my favorite post ever, I’ve grown so much as a writer and a woman this year, and I want to thank you all for being with me and supporting me on this journey. Also, I want to take this time to remind you that a great New Year’s resolution would be to write a letter for my book before the February 1 deadline!

With all that being said, let’s get down to business. For today’s final entry in NGN’s Best of 2015 series, I’ll be taking a closer look at my favorite television shows this year. I think I watched more television this year than any year before, and I’m proud of the variety of choices on this list and the passion with which I care about these shows. Don’t forget to share your own lists of favorite shows in the comments. Also, more year-end fun can be found at MGcircles, The Girly Nerd, and TVExamined!

1. The Americans
The best show on television continued to get better in 2015, and it did so in the most unexpected way: by putting a teenage girl at the center of the show and allowing a young actress (Holly Taylor) to stand toe-to-toe as an equal with Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (whose chemistry has never been better). In 2015, The Americans took big risks, provided us with huge moments of revelation, and did it all with the kind of subtle nuance that makes you pay attention to every beat because you don’t want to miss anything. There’s a lot to be said for whispering instead of screaming to get your point across, and this show has mastered that way of storytelling.

2. Parks and Recreation
In 2015, I said goodbye to my favorite show on television. But if Parks and Rec had to leave us, at least it went out on top. Its final season wasn’t just there to tie up loose ends and give fans plenty of sentimental moments before the end; it was genuinely great television that allowed its characters to continue to grow in believable ways, all while providing the combination of laugh-out-loud humor and heartwarming moments this show does better than any other. I couldn’t have been happier to see such a wonderful show have such a wonderful final season.

3. Jane the Virgin
Every time I venture into the Villanueva house as I watch Jane the Virgin, it feels like coming home. There is such warmth to be found on this show—such natural and believable love that makes the realistic moments of pain feel not so depressing and the moments of joy feel even more wonderful. I may be the farthest thing from a Latina (I’m as Polish as it gets in terms of my heritage), but I see my close, religious, supportive, and matriarchal family reflected so beautifully in Jane’s family. And I see so much of who I want to be in Jane—a woman who has flaws, who makes mistakes, but who is still as bright and warm as a summer afternoon. And, let’s be honest, Mateo is so cute that an hour of just his face would be one of my favorite shows on television.

4. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has become my TV happy place. It never fails to make me laugh, and it often moves me to tears when I’m least expecting it (Holt saying goodbye, Amy telling Jake he was who she wanted to talk to about her day, Terry introducing Jake to his goddaughter…). This is one of those rare shows where every combination of characters produces great moments, because its talented cast has incredible chemistry and great comedic timing. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a show that features an amazingly diverse group of characters who buck nearly every stereotype of both police procedurals and TV comedies—AND it’s ridiculously entertaining. It doesn’t get much better than that.

5. Once Upon a Time
While the second half of Once Upon a Time’s fourth season was entertaining (especially its alternate-universe season finale), it’s the first half of the show’s fifth season that lands it at this spot on my “Best Shows” list. It was a big risk to make the show’s central heroine the Dark One—but the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. And making Emma Swan the Dark One gave us some of this show’s best acting (especially from Jennifer Morrison), coolest twists (turning Killian into a second Dark One), and most powerful moments (the entire ending of “Swan Song”). Along the way, there was plenty of the self-aware humor, twists on classic stories, and fairytale romance that fans have loved since the start of this show. After nearly 100 episodes, it has yet to lose its magic.

6. The Flash
The Flash isn’t your typical superhero TV show, because Barry Allen isn’t your typical superhero. He’s wonderfully sincere, unfailingly kind, and open with his emotions. His tragic backstory didn’t cause him to isolate himself; instead, it made him look to be a part of a bigger family—his family with Joe and Iris and his family at S.T.A.R. Labs. The Flash is a show about good people coming together to help others, and the world needs more of that. And the fact that those good people are played by some incredibly talented actors certainly doesn’t hurt this show’s appeal.

7. Outlander
Every episode of Outlander feels like a movie—from its completely captivating opening credits through every beautifully shot and acted scene. There’s no duo on television right now with better chemistry than Sam Hueghan and Caitriona Balfe, and that chemistry was used this year to its fullest extent—creating a grand, sweeping romance of epic proportions. There’s more to this show than just its central love story, of course, and this year also brought twists involving fellow time travelers and brutally honest depictions of torture and the aftermath of trauma. But it was that central love story that brightened everything around it and elevated the entire show to the realm of something truly special.

8. Agent Carter
Agent Carter is unlike anything else on television right now. It’s a spy show with some superhuman elements. It’s a story about a woman learning to move on after the man she loves “died.” It’s a story of friendship between women and of respect (and maybe something more?) between a woman and a man who’ve both lost too much in the war. And—most importantly—it’s a story about how one woman rises above the sexist mindsets of her time to carve out her own place in the workforce and the world. Peggy Carter taught us all to know our value, and we’ve all been forever changed because of that lesson.

9. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
What surprised me the most about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was its message of strength and hope. Of course it’s hilarious; it gave us “Peeno Noir,” after all. But it’s also powerful. Kimmy’s story is the story a woman who suffered a traumatic experience that would break most people, but instead of being bitter and afraid, she chose to look at the world with hopeful eyes and a kind heart. Kimmy is such a strong protagonist, and her strength elevated this show from a silly sitcom to a comedy with substance.

10. Girl Meets World
Girl Meets World is one of those shows I don’t often remember to watch when it’s on, but when I do watch it, I’m reminded of how special it is. There’s an easy warmth and natural chemistry between all the characters that’s so reminiscent of Boy Meets World, and cameos from and callbacks to that original show are always fun to spot. But the real power of this show comes from the way it’s tackling important topics for teens (friendship and dating, bullying, religion, family dynamics, and even autism spectrum disorders) in a way that never feels like it’s trying too hard to be “important.” Instead, it deals with them with a refreshing sense of openness and honesty, making this a show with the kind of broad appeal and staying power that made its predecessor famous.

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8 thoughts on “NGN’s Best of 2015: TV Shows

  1. I also think I watched more television this year than I ever have before! You all are affecting my TV habits 😉

    I really hope to add several of these shows to my TV schedule in 2016, including Outlander, B99, Jane the Virgin, and most especially The Americans, because I always love reading your writing about it. (I also need to catch up on Agent Carter, I don’t know how I got behind but I am disappointed in myself lol.)

    All of what you said about The Flash is exactly how I feel! I can’t wait for more of this chosen family to be on my screen in a couple weeks, and The Flash definitely takes up one of my spots for my Best TV Shows of 2015.

    I don’t know if I watch quite enough shows for a full Top 10 to be meaningful, but some of my other favorite shows I saw this year are Elementary, Stitchers, The 100, Scorpion, and How to Get Away With Murder (more for the first season than the second). I’d also give an honorable mention to Limitless, which was a new show this fall that I’ve been really enjoying, and Galavant, which is just a ton of fun.

  2. I am finally sitting down and enjoying everyone’s best lists after a holiday season where I deliberately tried to stay away from my computer.

    I love the variety of your choices and love many of the shows you selected. I loved that you highlighted Girl Meets World. I didn’t come of age with Boy Meets World, so I am without any nostalgia when it comes to this show. I am also a deep cynic who often dislikes the shows aimed at Disney tweens. Girl Meets World is a glorious anomaly. Your description of it is perfect and what I find so refreshing, aside from the cast is the core commitment to friendship. In an age where I am raising a girl in a world that likes to highlight frenemies and drama this show focuses in on the importance of friendship apologetically and that all friendships navigate conflict, difference and change. But none of those things will undermine two people who care about one another.

    OK – my list in no particular order:

    1) Jane the Virgin – I will co-sign on everything you said and add that as a Latina I can barely talk about this show without crying because I waited 40 years to see people who reflected me on TV accurately outside of children’s television and not played by Rita Moreno. That the show is entertaining, funny, well written and topically fierce is like a gift every Monday.

    2) The Good Wife – They took a ton of risks this season, some worked, some haven’t but putting Margo Martindale as foil to Alan Cumming was a stroke of genius that I ate up like candy.

    3) The Americans – Once again, I will simply co-sign on what you put forth for The Americans, one of the most suspenseful shows I have ever watched.

    4) The Walking Dead – Between the close of the season that brought our torn core characters to Alexandria and seeming paradise to the first half of season 6 that brought an experiment of the longest day ever I appreciate that what the Walking Dead has done is create characters I have invested them, continues to question and challenge their choices and offered a visceral take for the viewer on what it would be like to be inserted into this world, cut off from immediate communication and without knowledge of what was happening beyond the walls. It didn’t all work, especially the Fall finale, but the sum of its parts were great.

    5) Fargo – I didn’t think it was possible, but Fargo managed to exceed my expectations in season 2 and I am only a 1/4 of the way in. The show honors the wonderfully quirky nature of its namesake film while creating a universe of characters that are so interesting you can’t fathom how they navigate this universe with any semblance of sanity.

    6) Your the Worst – My official binge watch of 2015. Thanks to Heather and a handful of others I began recording season 2 half way through without ever having watched an episode. I then went on to watch season 1 in one sitting. I’ve finally had a chance to watch season 2 and the bravery of this show and these actors is boundless and refreshing to me in a way the best TV can be.

    7) UNReal – Here is a show that takes on the likes of behind the scenes reality TV and literally uncovers the underbelly of all that is ugly about it. It is one thing to watch reality TV and know you are being manipulated. It is an entirely different thing to take a look inside. UNReal did so without apology and pulled no punches. The characters that inhabit this show are awful awful people. And like a car wreck, I can’t look away.

    8) Justified – One of my favorite series all time went out in a way that was truly fitting of the show, it’s creator and all the talent involved. The final run for Raylan proved interesting, biting, melancholy and completely satisfying. It was true to the stories they’d created and allowed the best duo in television in Raylan and Boyd to shine in a way that made me weep from sadness that it was the end but enthralled me simultaneously because they were that dynamic. All shows should hope to end on such highs.

    And while I have yet to complete them, I am going to insert Transparent and The Man in the High Castle as 9 and 10. Because, frankly my inability to keep up with TV shouldn’t diminish their brilliance.

  3. I love your choices! There is a lot of overlap between our lists, unsurprisingly, but I think one of my favorite things on your list is a show I don’t even watch (but should).

    I loved Boy Meets World and it was one of the early shows that shaped me as a young teen so I was excited when Girl Meets World was announced. I hoped it could recapture the same lessons and magic that made the original special and I’m glad to know it has. I love that girls have a new model of female friendship in Maya and Riley and that it still touches on real issues without feeling too obviously message-oriented. As an older fan, I love the cameos from the Boy Meet’s World cast members and the one clip I’ve seen of the show this year (Eric reuniting with Tommy) made me sob. I need to make some time to catch up on this lovely show.

  4. I am so with you on #2-5! I sometimes can’t believe how good Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Jane the Virgin are. I had fun with UKS but didn’t quite fall in love with it as much as I might have expected. Maybe I need to give it a re-watch (because I loved Peeno Noir)!

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