You’ll know why I said “series” instead of “TV shows” right off the bat…
This is the first time I’ve tried to follow a web series as a web series (as opposed to the collected seasons of The Guild on Netflix streaming) and it’s actually quite tricky. I just forget to watch, and then I binge. And it’s not because the show isn’t exciting. I just haven’t figured out how to fit it into my regular media diet. In any case, it’s a groundbreaking, gripping tale of what’s going to happen to all of us when we all get the implant that puts an iphone in our brain that inevitably goes wonky and kills (almost) all of us. The storytelling style is well suited to the format, giving you five minute glimpses into different pieces of the story in a chronological shuffle. It’s too early to tell yet whether or not these pieces will cohere into a satisfying whole, but so far I’m enjoying the ride.
In 2012, Fringe finished out a stellar 4th season with a jaw dropping denoument leading into the beginning of their final season and in each season, as has come to be the norm, they utterly reinvented the show. I’m sad to see it go, but I’m glad it ended well.
8. Key & Peele
At first I was suspicious of this sketch comedy show given the somewhat middling reviews, but as more and more people seemed to say, yeah, no, it’s really good after all, I eventually tuned in and they’re right. Not every joke lands, but the ones that do land soooo well. In particular the slave auction and any Obama anger translator sketch. Yeah, slave auction. Nazi sketch is funny, too. Interestingly, some of the best bits occur between the sketches, with the duo just riffing with each other and the audience.
7. The Walking Dead
After a lackluster Season Two, it was unclear where The Walking Dead would go for Season Three. Two words. Guv. Nah. Actually, that’s just one word: The Governer (unless you count “The” and why would you?). In any case, David Morrisey crushed it this year as the iconic heavy from the comic and on top of that Danai Gurira delivered on the promise of Michonne who had the single most bad-ass entrance at the end of Season Two. No more sitting around on a farm. Shit just got real.
6. Bob’s Burgers
Season One was charming, but mad me chuckle more than laugh. Bob’s Burgers really found its groove this year in Seasons Two and Three, culminating in what may be one of my favorite holiday episodes of any show ever, dildo gags and all.
5. Parks and Recreation
It may be spoilery to say exactly why, but more than once in Seasons Four and Five Parks and Rec made me all verklempt while not once letting up on the funny. For all the reasons it got the top spot last year, it maintains its top ten standing this year, it’s just that some other really cool shit happened. To wit…
Another show with a meh Season Two (Placebo Effect notwithstanding) that completely brought it in Season Three with laughs-per-minute rates like a bass pedal in a Metallica song (y’know pre-Black Album) culminating in a hilarious two-parter season finale with none other than Bryan Cranston, whom we may see again on this list.
3. Game of Thrones
Season Two of Game of Thrones may be one of the best seasons of television I have ever seen. Completely riveting from one episode to the next, while maintaining thematic focus on a per-episode basis that made each one a little, bloody gem. And from a production standpoint, the next to last episode demolished the bar for what you could expect from a battle sequence on the small screen. And if you thought season one ended a “holy shit” note…
2. Breaking Bad
I finally got around to catching up on Breaking Bad this year and lemme tell ya, all the hype is true. And it’s just as true in season 5.1, which is all we got this year, which very cleverly distilled all that’s been building for the last four seasons into a handful of episodes that set up what looks to be a helluva showdown in the series finale. Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn and (maybe especially) Aaron Paul and every other motherfucker involved in this will go down as having produced some of the best television of all time. (As I said, the hyperbolic statements are true.)
It was actually a tough call between this and Breaking Bad for the top spot, but at the end of the day, Sherlock did more with three episodes of television (technically four and a half hours of programming, but still) than most series do with an entire run. Season One was fantastic, and this year, Season Two ratcheted up the stakes and the complexity (no mean feat) with a deeper dive into the vulnerabilities of our (anti?) hero, played to perfection by a now deservedly famous Benedict Cumberbatch. Bigger, more complicated roles for Mark Gatiss as Mycroft and the please someone give him an Emmy already Andrew Scott as Moriarty. All of which is counterbalanced by the beating heart of the show, Martin Freeman as Watson. Add to that the auspicious addition of Lara Pulver as Irene Adler. It’s all there. Tied together by whip-smart dialogue and plotting from Steve Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and Steve Thompson, and distinctive, doesn’t look like anything else on television direction from Paul McGuigan and Toby Haynes. To top it all off, one of the most frustrating cliffhangers of all time, if only because it looks like we’ll have to wait a year and change to figure out what happened.