what i watched last year
what i watched last week

tv 2015: s through z, plus the 100, plus a best-of

Sense8. One of the oddest series of the year, from the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski. I can’t say I got it immediately ... I’ve seen all of Season One and I’m not sure of that. But where Sense8 succeeds is in creating an atmosphere that feels real in a psychic way, so the actual “plot” is pretty much irrelevant. I wrote about it here. On Netflix.

Shameless. A perennial favorite of mine that starts Season Six next week (the first episode of the season is already On Demand). Everyone still offers great performances, and if I don’t talk as much about Emmy Rossum these days, it’s only because I’ve given up ... she is as good as ever. On Showtime.

Spiral. I want to say I love this French procedural, and I’ve made it almost all the way through several seasons (although I am more than a season behind). But I’m likely never going to catch up ... I don’t usually watch procedurals, and just because this one comes with subtitles doesn’t mean it’s any better than the American versions. Except this one has Caroline Proust, as the Jane Tennison of her generation. I wrote about Season One at the beginning of 2015. On Hulu.

The Strain. Between this and Crimson Peak, it was a good year for B-level Guillermo del Toro. I summed up Season Two here. Short version: Fun, but not as good as Walking Dead, and definitely not as good as Penny Dreadful. On FX.

Supergirl. Pleasant enough, but I don’t know that I will stay with it after it returns from break.

Togetherness. Lost in the shuffle a bit, this is HBO’s contribution to the now-common genre of quirky takes on rom-coms. Melanie Lynskey gets a chance to show her stuff, which makes this watchable all on its own. I gave it a B+. Season Two starts next month.

Transparent. I’ve only watched a couple of the Season Two episodes, but this show is as good as you’ve heard. Since I’m only just into the new season, I have nothing new to add, except to note that I find it more obvious now that almost every character in this show is self-absorbed to an amazing degree.

The Walking Dead. There is nothing left to say. It’s the most-watched series in cable television history. It is such a part of our TV landscape that when a mediocre prequel aired this year, it got the highest ratings for any first season in cable history, apparently because the words “walking dead” were in the title. On AMC.

Finally, to jump out of my alphabetical silliness, Maureen Ryan convinced me to give The 100 a chance, and boy, was she right. There would seem to be no reason for me to watch this series. It’s on the CW (which does have Jane the Virgin, but which is otherwise outside of my interest zone). It’s a “Land of the Lost/Lord of the Flies” story about 100 teenagers stranded on Earth. I don’t know any of the young actors. But I trust Mo Ryan, who among other things was a great champion of Battlestar Galactica. All I can say for now is that The 100 completely defies your expectations. It is very hard-edged, and it doesn’t shy away from events that might seem a bit much for a Young Adult audience. Almost every episode ends with me looking at my wife, mouth agape, as if to say “I can’t believe what just happened.” It’s not that they pull plot switches out solely for the purpose of creating cliffhangers. No, The 100 gives us characters in flux, makes us care about them, and then constantly reminds us that the world these characters live in is dark and treacherous beyond belief. And most of that darkness comes from humans. I’ve got 11 episodes to go in Season Two before Season Three starts on January 21, and I join Ryan in saying, get on this, anyone looking for a new show.

Maybe, since I’m so far behind, I’ll end this with a list of the shows I’d place above the other good shows. These are the series that, as I type this, seem like the best of the best of 2015 (I’m sure I’m forgetting something):

  • The Americans
  • Fargo
  • The Leftovers
  • Penny Dreadful
  • Sense8
  • Broad City
  • The Jinx
  • Rectify
  • The 100
  • The Knick

Honorable Mention: Shameless, Jane the Virgin, Outlander.