It’s December, and the thing the internet loves the most at this time of year is the end-of-year Best Of list, so they can disagree with them. This is my first time writing such a list, and it’s difficult. I thought about writing a separate list for Australian shows, but I don’t want to ghettoise them, so they’re in here too. There are things that aren’t on here because I don’t watch them (The Walking Dead, Hannibal) or haven’t had time to catch up (Transparent, The Leftovers, Parks and Recreation), so just know I haven’t forgotten them. I didn’t forget anything, there’s a reason I left it off. Fargo isn’t on here because while I thought it was very good, I didn’t love it – although Kirsten Dunst did give one of the best performances of the year. My favourite show of the year has the top spot, everything else is in alphabetical order. Hopefully the shows I’ve collected here are a good range of the different things I’m enjoying right now. Writing a Top 10 list is hard, and while I’m only super passionate about half to two-thirds of the shows on this list, they’re all here for a reason. I’ve written about all of these shows previously, so there’s just going to be a paragraph about why each one is there, with some links to some things I’ve written. My only warning is that if you watch the “Best episodes” of the show, you will be spoiled for some plot developments.
I have no idea why I didn’t watch the second season of Please Like Me (it may have aired on Thursdays, which is when I have choir), but I’m so glad I watched the third season. This is a show that knows that comedy and tragedy aren’t that far apart, teaches mental illness with respect, and has an abortion storyline that ended on a sadly triumphant note. The second half of the season wasn’t as strong – it would have been much better if Ben was just a one episode character – but everything involving Ben’s coming out, Gina Riley. “Pancakes With Faces” was beautiful, and “Christmas Trifle” was an appropriately melancholic end to the season.
Best episode: “Pancakes With Faces”
I never would have checked out The 100 if it wasn’t for Mo Ryan’s constant praise of the show. Of all the shows on this list, The 100 has been off the air the longest, and I’m really excited for its return on January. It’s a show where every choice is worse than the previous one, and it doesn’t bend itself backwards to give its characters an out. This is much braver than shows on The CW’s sister network, Showtime. I stopped watching Homeland long ago, but it would have been great if they didn’t chicken out on the finale of the first season.
Best episode: “Spacewalker”
It’s so weird to think that iZombie is a new show in 2015. It was a midseason show for The CW (as was The 100 in its first season, and is again in its third), and became part of the fall lineup in the 2015-2016 season. It’s similar to the first two seasons of Veronica Mars (given that the shows share a showrunner), but is definitely its own show. Yet another show in which people’s actions have consequences, but it’s also fun. It’s inconsistent when it comes to the case of the week stuff, but when those cases are thematically tied to the main characters’ arcs, there’s nothing else like it.
Best episode: “Dead Rat, Live Rat, Brown Rat, White Rat,” the first season’s penultimate episode.
This is the final blurb I’m writing for this particular post. I love this show, and I’ve written so much about it that I don’t have much more to say. We all know I’m steadfastly #TeamMichael and I was misguided when I shipped Jane and Rafael early to midway through the first scene. I actually shipped them until they got together literally five minutes after Jane broke up with Michael. Michael was being a jealous douche there for a while, but he got over himself, and then Rafael decided to propose, which was really not a good idea. The love triangle is fun, but where this episode shines is its characters and the Villanueva family. The scenes on the porch are the best on the show.
Best episode: “Chapter Twenty-Two”
I was listening to the final episode of The Station Agents on Christmas Eve, and Justified was on Joanna Robinson’s top 10 list – at that point I was worried that I’d left this off. I’ve had a draft of this list for about three weeks now, but I forgotten what I’d put on and left off. The next show on this list also ended its run, but I thought the final season of Justified was a much better final season (mainly for structural reasons), and the finale ended in an Elmore Leonard-ian fashion. The last two lines were perfect, and are very close to the ending of Leonard’s short story Fire in the Hole.
Best episodes: If you just want to watch an episode to get an idea whether or not this show is for you, watch the fourth season’s “Decoy,” which is fantastic. From the final season I’d recommend “The Trash and the Snake,” one of the episodes that shows of Kaitlyn Dever’s incredible talent, and there’s other great stuff in there too.
One of the things i plan to do with all the points I’ve racked up on my Dymocks card from my Christmas shopping is buy Matt Zoller Seitz’ book on Mad Men. This was the show I was least sure about ending up on this list (okay, it’s ranked too, it’s at number 10), but I couldn’t leave it off because it marks an end of an era in television, the so called “Golden Age”, of manly men being flawed and stuff. Aside from Mad Men and Justified, none of these shows have more than three seasons, and Please Like Me is the only one with three. The problems I had with Mad Men are largely structural, as AMC decided to split the seventh season into two halves, which worked for Breaking Bad but didn’t suit Mad Men quite as well. Then again, that still of Peggy walking down the corridor of McCann has been my desktop since that episode aired, so it deserves to be here.
Best episode: “Lost Horizon”
When I started writing this list, I knew that I wanted Master of None to be on it. The problem is that I’d only seen the first half of the season, which is fantastic, but the second half is even better. Dev’s relationship with Rachel is one of the most realistic relationships I’ve seen depicted on a television show, and the characters seem like real people.
Best episode: “Ladies and Gentlemen”
The first season of Mozart in the Jungle is technically a 2014 show, but it was released in the last week of December, after everyone had already written their lists, so it counts. Also the second season will be released on the 30th or 31st of December depending on your time zones, so next year it totally counts as a 2016 show. Inspired by a memoir of the same name, Mozart in the Jungle follows a number of musicians in the New York Symphony, and it’s this perfect view into this world that goes on strange tangents directed beautifully by Roman Coppola, and it’s a joy to watch. I really wanted Flesh and Bone to be the Mozart of the Jungle of the ballet world, and it failed on that level because it was more interested in manufactured drama than what it takes to work for the ballet. Lola Kirke is fantastic as Haley, just as she was in Mistress America, and I’m really looking forward to season 2.
Best episode: “You Go to My Head”
People say that Mr Robot was the highlight of the “summer” season (it was winter here), but first of all, I haven’t seen it, and secondly, I found UnREAL to be incredibly satisfying. We got a team of female antiheroes in Rachel and Quinn, who were played superbly by Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer, and the show was always aware of the image of women presented in shows like The Bachelor, where creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro had her first job as a producer. Rachel looked like I feel when I haven’t had much sleep, which is perhaps the most refreshing thing of all.
Best episodes: “Truth”, which shows off the talent of the hilarious Breeda Wool, and the finale “Future”
Someone I met in August at volunteering had just left their job with the public service. Here’s what they said about Utopia: “That show’s not a comedy for me, it’s a documentary.” Utopia gets a lot right, considering it’s written by a group of people who have never been in the public service. The buzzwords are spot on, HR is suitably frustrating, and sometimes you have to suggest something worse than you actually want to get the people who work for the politicians to compromise. Also Celia Pacquola won the AACTA for best performance in a comedy, which was 100% deserved
PSA: This show is titled Dreamland in the US and UK and is available on Netflix. I’m not sure if the second season is up yet, but the first is fantastic as well.
Best episode: “Starting the conversation,” which was like watching my Masters Degree as the environment was debated, but no decision was actually made.
I don’t know if I’ll do any more lists for the end of the year. I haven’t seen too many 2015 films, so that’s a bit difficult, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something. I’d definitely like to do some honourable mentions in television.