Tuesday, February 9, 2016

TV 2015

Alright, last year this list was quick and easy, but the way I did it then won't quite cut it here.  Television schedules being what they are in the U.S., starting in the fall and ending in the spring, I listed each half-season of a show that I watched separately to indicate their relative quality.  But my TV-watching load increased this year, and listing every half-season would become too complicated--even though a couple of these shows had better half-seasons in the spring than they did in the fall, and vice versa.  I suppose this must be something television critics deal with all the time when compiling their lists, but I'm just a guy who watches some shows, so I never really thought about it before.

Anyway, as you can tell, I watch a lot of superhero shows, despite their large gaps in quality and significant limitations they've tended to show in format.  But I do love superheroes in general, and I think the superhero as a character still has a great deal of untapped potential in film and television, so I keep watching--and sometimes, in the case of my top two series especially, I'm rewarded.

I should note that I do like every show on here, otherwise, well, I wouldn't watch them.  The exception is Teen Wolf, probably the most inexplicable series on here for those who don't watch it.  I caught up with the first several seasons of it in autumn 2014, and mostly enjoyed them.  The show starts off with a goofy, pulpy, over-done premise, but it chases it with such gusto that it's easy to get sucked in.  Then, in the big two-part Season 3, it actually turned into something like genuinely excellent television, with a striking visual style, vivid, memorable imagery, and a number of uniquely structured episodes.  But Season 4 left behind key characters and fell apart, and the first half of Season 5, which aired last summer, are only slightly better-focused, and end up being both ridiculously bleak and surprisingly boring; instead of dashing through plot like it used to, it left the impression that hardly anything had happened after 10 episodes.  So I will no longer be following Teen Wolf in the future.

As for my quick-and-dirty opinions on the other series here, presented in one sentence each from the bottom of the list up: Archer is still funny, but the last few seasons have felt like treading water to me.  Arrow peaked in its second season, which was genuinely incredible, but it's third season was overstuffed and rocky and its fourth season has only partially improved.  Agent Carter has such a terrifically fun concept that I'm willing to almost completely overlook it's uneven execution and thematic heavy-handedness.  Agents of Shield took a huge step up in its second season and became something I have great affection for; it's third season has so far been a bit disappointing, but I think it will improve soon.  I have not often followed South Park in the past, but its incisive skewering of both PC-culture and the Trump backlash this year was absolutely brilliant.  The Flash was pretty up-and-down in its first season, but so far its second season has thrived with wacky comic-book concepts like time travel, parallel worlds, and doppelgangers, that keep it relentlessly fun and engaging.  Game of Thrones is still far more pulpy and disreputable than it's prestige status would suggest, and its constant foregrounding of rape and violence can be off-putting in the extreme--but then something like the 8th episode, "Hardhome," comes along, and you're left gaping on the floor with awe.  Orphan Black is just too much.  Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a wonderful adaptation of a masterful book--perhaps slightly more jokey than I would have preferred and missing a couple fine details, but overall highly satisfying.  iZombie is the most purely enjoyable thing on television right now, and it's second season is rolling right along, steadily expanding and improving on what the first season set up last spring.  Doctor Who is excellent as ever, Steven Moffat is a genius, Peter Capaldi is a fantastic Doctor, and all the haters should shut up and enjoy it while they can.  And finally, both Jessica Jones and Daredevil delivered just about everything I want in a TV show, with acting/shooting/directing/plotting/theme-ing all being top-notch.  If I give a slight edge to Daredevil, it's because the whole plot seemed to play out in a slightly more effective and satisfying manner, though Jessica Jones did probably have the edge in characters and ideas.

1. (tie)  Daredevil (Netflix)
1. (tie)  Jessica Jones (Netflix)
3.  Doctor Who (BBC America)
4.  iZombie (The CW)
5.  Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (BBC America)
6.  Orphan Black (BBC America)
7.  Game of Thrones (HBO)
8.  The Flash (The CW)
9.  South Park (Comedy Central)
10.  Marvel's Agents of Shield (ABC)
11.  Marvel's Agent Carter (ABC)
12.  Arrow (The CW)
13.  Archer (FX)
14.  Teen Wolf (MTV)

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