What a year for TV! I felt like I was constantly being handed bon bons from the big man in the sky when it comes to this year’s programming (is that word still relevant here?). Thank you St. Netflix. You weren’t so bad either, Amazon. But what were the best of the best shows this year? I ranked my ten favorites, and added a handful of honorable mentions cuz there were just so many shows worth mentioning.
I was skeptical at first about why the world needed Fargo to be a show. Yes I know midwesterners have weird accents, eat stinky food and are passive aggressive. Must we shout this to the whole world with a megaphone? Season 2 of Fargo justified the existence of the show with an original story and epic yet complex characters, including a handful of stereotype-busting lady characters. Plus it brought back Kirsten Dunst with a Drop Dead Gorgeous accent, which is worth a lot to me.
9. Jane the Virgin
This was one of my favorite shows of last year. Characters were speaking both English and Spanish on primetime network TV! There is hope for the future! I also loved that the show played on the telenovela format in a fun, cheeky way. This year, Jane the Virgin got even more tender and hilarious as Gina Rodriguez’ Jane handles the challenges of motherhood.
8. Broad City
Ok, I won’t spend forever re-explaining shows that didn’t come out this year. Broad City continued its momentum of busting stereotypes of ladies in comedy even more this year, and even included Kelly Ripa in an episode, which is my DREAM. (My brother-in-law once asked if we had to talk about Kelly Ripa at every holiday meal. That’s how important she is to my family.)
7. Inside Amy Schumer
From her 12 Angry Men parody to the “Last Fuckable Day” skit, Amy Schumer continues to bring imagination and hilarity to talking about feminism. Now I just wish her standup would be about something other than how unattractive she is. (You’re still pretty damn close to Hollywood’s standard of an attractive woman, lady. Same with you, Amy Poehler.)
6. Fresh Off the Boat
The saga of Fresh Off the Boat was interesting to watch this year. Eddie Huang, who you may know from Vice, Baohaus, Bergdorf Hoodman or his short stint as a lawyer (!), processed in real time what it’s like to see his life story go from a memoir to a network TV show. In an essay for Vulture, he criticized Hollywood’s unwillingness to find a Chinese showrunner for a show about being Chinese American. He eventually made some peace with the show however, acknowledging how powerful and stupidly rare it is to see stories about Chinese families on TV. The actual show turned out pretty damn funny, even if it didn’t get as authentic or dark as he wanted it to. Plus Constance Wu as his mom, Jessica, is hilarious/amazing.
5. The Carmichael Show
This show didn’t get talked about as much as I thought, so maybe I’ll be turning you onto a good thing. I’ve liked comedian Jerrod Carmichael for awhile, and was excited when he got his own sitcom. Going where John Mulaney so badly failed, The Carmichael Show is a multi-camera show that even features candid laughter. Forget about that stuff? It’s unpleasant yes, but it doesn’t ruin this show. Featuring the amazing David Alan Grier and Loretta Devine as Jerrod’s parents, this show is hilarious and lively in a way that most sitcoms only wish they could be. Plus it tackles issues like police violence and gun control with a fresh perspective that is funny rather than precious or pat.
4. Jessica Jones
Thank you Netflix, for bringing Krysten Ritter back to my TV after Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23 went away. She is amazing — funny, dark, strong and fresh. This down-t0-earth superhero series shows a flawed but strong lady protagonist take on a villain who uses the power of his mind to have his way with women.
There’s something different about Transparent. It’s slower, softer, more tender and more darkly funny than a lot of family dramas. It takes time to let you marvel in the beauty of its characters, but doesn’t put anyone up on a pedestal. Season 2 was possibly even better than season 1, which itself was groundbreaking.
2. Mr. Robot
USA’s Mr. Robot, came out of nowhere this year, drudging up Christian Slater and putting the phenomenal Rami Malek at the center of a strange, psychological thriller. Sure it’s derivative of Fight Club, The Matrix, V for Vendetta, American Psycho and a bunch of other dystopian blockbuster movies, but there’s something different about it. The cast features a lot of fresh-faced newcomers, full of raw talent, and the cinematography is slow, thoughtful, and a lot less “Hollywood” than the movies mentioned above. (Plus it has good female characters.) If you haven’t watched it yet, get to it!
1. Master of None
This show mixes Aziz Ansari’s sociological comedy with the oddball humor of Eric Wareheim and Aziz’s best friend Harris Wittels (RIP) to create an eye-opening comedy with tons of heart. Featuring a diverse set of main characters, it tackles everything from racism in casting to men’s occasional obliviousness to sexism. Plus Aziz’ parents are in it! This show was the ultimate bon bon from the TV gods.
One of my favorite shows of last year, season 2 didn’t quite tip it into the top 10.
Once you get past the name (and the so-so pilot), this musical comedy is wonderful.
Nathan for You
My favorite comedy show of the last few years. It didn’t make it into my top 10 because season 2 wasn’t as good as season 1.
This Netflix cartoon is funny, imaginative and feminist! Plus it has my favorite theme song of any show ever.
Last Week Tonight
This would have been in my top 10 but I don’t have HBO so have only watched segments on YouTube. It is so smart, hilarious and thought-provoking. (I also love Trevor Noah but have not kept up with The Daily Show because I don’t have cable, so props to him as well.)
How to Get Away with Murder
One of my favorite shows of least year. I didn’t find this season as good.
Wet Hot American Summer
An ambitious undertaking by Netflix. Made me lol a lot.
The Man in the High Castle
Amazon is becoming a real contender when it comes to original content. This show’s premise is amazing but its boring central cast made it miss my top 10.
It’s hard to compete with Nathan for You, but Review holds its own in season 2.
PLUS: Shows I Wished I Could Include, But Couldn’t:
This show seemed like it would be a ton of fun, but it had contempt, not love for any of its characters.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
I wanted to love this show, but looking back, it doesn’t sit that well with me. I miss 30 Rock.