Premieres, Finales and Returning Faves of 2015

All of the things you should have been watching this year, from the best new and returning shows to final seasons.

Dec 23, 2015 at 11:06 am
click to enlarge The captivating Bokeem Woodbine (center) wowed in Fargo.
The captivating Bokeem Woodbine (center) wowed in Fargo.

Best New Shows

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst – If 2014’s Serial podcast whetted America’s appetite for long-form investigative journalism and the true crime genre, HBO’s The Jinx couldn’t have premiered at a better time. Exploring the life of eccentric Robert Durst and the various crimes he’d been accused of over the past several decades, Andrew Jarecki’s docuseries had us hooked through the finale — which flung Durst out of a TV show and onto the news.

And if you enjoy long-form, true crime documentaries that are truly stranger than fiction, look no further than Making a Murderer, a 10-part series that just premiered on Netflix.

Master of None – The ending of Parks and Recreation freed up star Aziz Ansari to focus on his own projects, and the result is this semi-autobiographical Netflix series he created with Parks’ writer and producer Alan Yang. The whip-smart comedy offers an authentic look at life as a Millennial, first-generation American, minority actor and New Yorker.

Better Call Saul – A Breaking Bad spinoff starring Walter White’s comedic attorney? The move was questionable,
even with a built-in audience and the talented Bob Odenkirk. But boy, did it work. Heisenberg fans and newbies alike can appreciate the sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-tragic underdog story of Jimmy McGill, aka Saul Goodman.

Honorable Mentions: AMC’s Humans, HBO’s Togetherness, MTV’s Scream, IFC’s Documentary Now! and AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead.

Best Returning Shows

Fargo – Inspired by the titular Coen Brothers’ film, the FX anthology series cemented its standing with a stellar premiere season in 2014. Season 2 served as something of a prequel, following Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson; portrayed by Keith Carradine in Season 1) as he juggles organized crime activity, decidedly disorganized crime activity, aliens, Ronald Reagan and more. Captivating storytelling and fantastic character acting by way too many stars to list make it a must-see.

The Leftovers – A new setting, new characters — hell, even a new intro — shook up this second season, but it all worked in favor of HBO’s The Leftovers, which follows the events after the mysterious, simultaneous disappearance of 140 million people. The introduction of the Murphy family (especially the talented Regina King) and the mysterious, spiritual land of Jarden, Texas upped the ante in an already complex, thought-provoking story.

The Knick – The idea of turn-of-the-century surgery might be enough to turn your stomach, but director Steven Soderbergh makes it so damn beautiful. The style, the drama and the stellar cast, led by Clive Owen, make The Knick reason alone to subscribe to Cinemax.

Honorable Mentions: Comedy Central’s Broad City, Inside Amy Schumer and Nathan For You; The Mindy Project on Fox, then Hulu; and HBO’s Game of Thrones and Project Greenlight.

Best Final Seasons

Mad Men – When critics talk about the new “Golden Age” of television we’re in right now, AMC’s Mad Men plays a huge part. From the flawed characters to the flawless costumes, the story of Don Draper and advertising’s heyday (not to mention general 1960s Americana) was endlessly compelling, down to the last drop.

Hannibal – Bryan Fuller’s take on Dr. Lecter never quite got the recognition it deserved, but went out in spectacular fashion. When you cut past the gruesome murder, the eating of human parts and the impeccably tailored suits, the NBC series was really a story about Hannibal and Will — and in the end, that was the focus.

Honorable Mentions: NBC’s Parenthood, Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, FX’s Justified and NBC’s Parks and Recreation.

CONTACT JAC KERN: [email protected]