Question of the week: what were you favourite shows of 2015? Here’s my Top 9!

TMINE’s about to take its traditional Christmas and New Year break. I’ll be back on January 4th with the Daily News, reviews, a competition, event round-ups and more. But I’m going to leave you with a question to keep you occupied: what were your favourite shows of 2015? They can be old shows or new shows, but let everyone know your reasons below or on your own blog.

For the record, here’s my Top 9 (yes, 9), in no particular order other than the order I remembered them in…

1. Limitless (US: CBS; UK: Sky Living)

Initially, a rather derivative proceduralised version of the Bradley Cooper movie of the same name, in which a down-at-heel schmuck takes a somewhat lethal drug so he can access 100% of his brain capacity, Limitless more or less dumped its dark, dramatic format from episode two to suddenly become a comedy – a new and improved version of Chuck. It’s also routinely come up with a new way to tell proceduralised stories every week, ranging from puppets, montages and talking to camera, through to full-scale lifts of Ferris Bueller’s Day OffPulp Fiction and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Genuinely one of the most innovative shows on TV.

Reviews: First episodethird episode

2. Legends (US: TNT; UK: Sky1)

I’m more or less going to repeat what I said last week on this one: six months ago, if you’d told me that one of this year’s best shows would:

  1. Be Legends
  2. Have reasonably good flashbacks to the University of Leeds in the 80s

I’d have smacked you in the face with my gauntlet. But it is, thanks to a ‘hard reboot’ between seasons one and two in which virtually all the cast were dumped, location changed and format ditched to make it less NCIS, more The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. While arguably the change of Sean Bean’s character from super-chameleon to an almost Callan-esque weary spy, trying to protect the innocent from the clandestine world of spy agencies that he can’t control but want to control him, has made him a lot less interesting and robbed the show of a lot of its narrative drive, it is equally arguably one of the best, most realistic spy shows US TV has produced in decades (bar perhaps Rubicon), all the more surprising in that it’s now set in Europe. It even feels like a European show. Shame it’s been cancelled, really.

Reviews: 2×1-2×2

3. The Bridge (Bron/Broen) (Sweden: SVT1; Denmark: DK1; UK: BBC4)

Third seasons are rarely good, particularly of ‘high concept’ shows, but Sweden and Denmark’s Bron/Broen (aka The Bridge) continues to excel, despite having lost 50% of its main cast at the end of the second season. Largely, that’s down to the acting Sofia Helin, who plays the iconic Saga Noren – it’s notable that neither the US nor the UK/French adaptations have even close to matching her, both in terms of character and performance – but the writing manages to tread a thin line between sublime and ridiculous, the photography continues to weep beauty, and more importantly for Nordic Noir, it’s also funny.

Reviews: First episode

4. Fortitude (UK: Sky Atlantic; US: Pivot TV)

I’m not sure that Fortitude is as much a great show as a brave show. But what bravery. A prestige, beautiful-looking, Icelandic-shot, star-filled show designed to be Sky Atlantic’s calling card to the world, Fortitude is absolutely bonkers, the closest thing to Twin Peaks since Twin Peaks. It switches between genres from episode to episode seemingly at the toss of a coin, becoming murder-mystery, then fish-out-water drama, then comedy, then horror and even science-fiction show. Almost as impressive was its propensity for killing off its big names almost at random. Truly mind-boggling.

Review: First three episodes

5. American Crime (US: ABC)

An anthology series about the American crime justice, depicting how events spiral out of control as systems and ideas force events to take place that no one truly wants. Had it been on premium cable, it would rightly be hailed as probably the true heir to The Wire, unremitting in its dedication to realism, telling it ‘like it is’, its grimness and lack of hope, with scenes every bit as devastating as those in Requiem to a Dream. Instead, airing on the ABC network, it was largely ignored by everyone. But that shouldn’t diminish its power.

Review: First episodethird episode

6. Mr Robot (US: USA Network; UK: Amazon Instant Video)

Probably the best show of the year, but also one of the most bewildering. Told from the viewpoint of a vigilante hacker who’s recruited by an underground society to destroy a multinational corporation, it takes the concept of the unreliable narrator to the max, giving us a show where literally nothing that you see can be trusted and which knows what theories you’re probably going to have and is happy to play with them – and you. As well as copious Fight Club homages, it also features a wonderful dedication to technical accuracy, some magnificent acting and a truly fabulous soundtrack.

Review: First episodethird episode

7. Glitch (Australia: ABC)

The latest and probably the best of the “dead are coming back to life shows”, Glitch gave us a relatively unique slice of ‘Australian gothic’, where the returned came back to tell us something about Australian history, as well as people and possibly about the importance of death itself to the universe, with a bad guy who might have a point. With some genuinely spooky moments, its second season is going to be much anticipated.

Reviews: First episode

8. Narcos (Netflix)

Slipping under most people’s radars like so many Cessnas heading into Miami from Colombia during the 1980s, Narcos is a dramatisation of the story of Pablo Escabar’s reign as a drugs lord, starting from the late 1970s when he sees the potential in exporting new drug cocaine into the US before making its way through the events of the 80s and early 90s that rocked Colombia and eventually other parts of the world.

Initially, the show feels like GoodFellas, with DEA agent Boyd Holbrook providing a helpful voiceover that’s at times comedic. But while it does occasionally jump around in time, the show quickly becomes almost documentary-like, with little of the standard tropes of drama: there’s no strong narrative drive, no “good guys win, bad guys lose” and no themes illustrated by suitably balanced scenes.

Instead, Narcos retells the events in all the real-world’s messiness, showing just how much of a war was going on in Colombia in the 80s, a war almost reminiscent of the IRA’s similar campaigns in England at the time. Perhaps the show’s only real directorial flourish is the use of the original photographs and footage from events, rather than mock-ups featuring the actors, whenever they appear in the story. And Holbrook’s narration quickly becomes hardened and surprisingly anti-Reagan for a show that’s made in a time when half of America seemingly reveres the former president in the same way they revere Jesus.

Like a lot of other Netflix shows (eg House of Cards, Marco Polo, Daredevil – which almost made it to the coveted tenth spot of this Top 9), Narcos revolves around one absolutely stonking central performance – in this case, Wagner Moura, who plays Escobar. It’s a mesmerising affair that manages to convey Escobar’s friendliness, ambitions and his capability for extreme violence that makes him seem like a modern day Kublai Khan, despite being perpetually clad in tatty shirt and trainers.

What’s even more extraordinary about Moura’s performance is this is effectively Netflix’s first Spanish language show, with about 80% of the dialogue in Spanish, and Moura is Brazilian and didn’t speak any Spanish until six months before production started. The show’s come in for some criticism from Colombians, because despite being lavishly shot in Colombia and the rest of the cast being almost universally Spanish speakers, they’re either not Colombian or not doing the right accents. Nevertheless, it’s to Netflix’s credit that it’s making something so heavily subtitled because the story demands it.

With Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones)’s more nuanced DEA agent providing a strong counterpoint to both Holbrook and Moura, this was Netflix’s best new show in quite some time and heartily recommended. Season two’s already been commissioned, in case you were worried.

9. Jessica Jones (Netflix)

Possibly the first superhero TV show or movie made by and for women, Jessica Jones is a tour de force subversion of the superhero genre that makes all other such shows look like childish male power fantasies. It gives us a former superheroine turned PI (Krysten Ritter), traumatised by a supervillain (David Tennant) with the power to make others do whatever he wants them to do just by speaking to them. A metaphor for rape, abusive relationships and more, the show is particularly notable for eschewing fight scenes and the other trimmings of superhero shows, in favour of the horrifying claustrophobia of being on the receiving end of a stalker and the real-world problems of the use of (super)power.

Review: First episode




  • benjitek

    Hmmm… Fortitude… that's a new one — looks good.

    No Badlands…? 😉 The finale was good, it alone is worth a watch if you're bored. Only 5 episodes with a multi-pronged cliffhanger(s) ending — I hate cliffhangers…

  • GYAD

    I can't even think of nine shows worth watching this year…

    LONGMIRE – The last stand of the strong, silent Gary Cooper type. A savage, almost Biblical, landscape scarred by past violence and tempered by the shows interest in other cultures and a humanism that transcended the “cowboy procedural” it initially appeared to be.

    DETECTORISTS – A quiet, gentle and very English comedy which was also better shot and written than almost anything else on British TV this year. A rare and affectionate glimpse of “normal” England.

    1992 – After a shaky start this settled down into a gloriously cynical and adult glimpse of Italian politics and culture. Beautifully filmed, morally complex and sometimes even genuinely sexy.

    ENGRENAGES – Just about 2015. Anyway, sublime as always. Intelligent, surprising and above all else realistic. I wish British TV could produce a cop show that was even half as good.

  • bob

    My mum told me about The Detectorists after it left bbc iPlayer so I was thrilled when I saw it on Netflix. And yes, it was very good. I laughed a lot and was interested in the characters. It was perfectly charming.

  • Mark Carroll

    “Favourite shows” is an interesting question as, in trying not to waste time on shows, I've been thinking about why I watch them. Some are genuinely enjoyable, whether through just being fun, or more intellectually stimulating, or whatever: those I really should bother to keep watching. Some, like “Game of Thrones” or “The Americians”, while well-made, might at this point be more about just wanting to see what happens, which is less good a reason to stick with them, but probably still one I'll indulge. Some might, frankly, be partly about that there's an attractive actress who helps to make it pleasant viewing, that could be anything from “The Affair” to “Homeland”.

    There are shows that I do feel are good but that I don't actually enjoy, like “Gotham”, or wouldn't expect to, like “American Crime”. There are actually a few acclaimed shows I've not added to my to-watch list because I am not sure that I would actually enjoy them, ranging from “Manhattan” to “Longmire” to “Halt and Catch Fire”. There's some I'll postpone my actual viewing of until next year, ranging from the latest “The Bridge” to “Deutschland 83”. So, with what does that leave me?

    Of old things, I did enjoy rewatching “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”; there was variety among the episodes, and the characters were generally fun, or at least not too annoying. I also enjoyed the first couple of seasons of “In Treatment”: again, the variety among the patients helps, and the script and acting stayed rather good. I'll get around to its third season next year.

    I've liked this season of “Doctor Who”. For me, it wasn't actually great at any point this year — none of my favourite stories of the revived series are much recent — but I have hope for Peter Capaldi, if we can manage some plots that are actually interesting and world-building rather than trying to be clever and amazing.

    It wasn't the best season of “Hannibal” for me, that was the first, but the quality was still good on average and great at times, so it certainly deserves a mention.

    “The Man in the High Castle” was both interesting and engaging. I'm not sure it knows where it's going or if the payoff will end up being worth the time and the mystery, but I like some of the characters and the imagined world, especially in exploring culture.

    “Banshee”'s generally been fun. The characters are generally good and it strikes a great balance by being engaging without taking itself too seriously. I'm starting however to suspect that at some point after a further season or two it'll be like “Justified” where I feel like it's now offered me about all it's ever going to.

    So, nothing great yet. That must mean that a highlight of the year has been “Mr Robot”. I liked the characters, the subversiveness, and the playing with our perceptions of reality. I'm not actually desperate for another season but I'll watch it in the hope that they really do have a good plan for it, we might actually get a bunch more worthwhile story.

    That also leaves among the best, two superhero shows. We had “Daredevil”, which I found well-made, but I wasn't wholly engaged by the lead. Wilson Fisk, on the other hand, I did enjoy watching, and learning about. This worked well for the first season, but of course leaves me unsure how much I'll like the next. Still, I'll certainly give it a try. Also, “Jessica Jones”, which was certainly well-written and well-casted with engaging characters and a coherent plot. Overall, pretty good stuff.

  • tobyob

    I'll go with my Super Six list style. That way I won't get carried away with too many choices, especially if I started revealing the guilty pleasures that would be too embarrassing…..

    1) You're The Worst
    2) Doctor Who
    3) The Librarians
    4) Fargo
    5) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
    6) Jessica Jones/Daredevil (I see them as part of a whole)

    I have simple requirements – is it something I look forward to, is it something I dread finishing, would I watch it again……

  • Andy Butcher

    Hey – been lots going on, so this is a little late. In no particular order:

    * Jessica Jones
    * Daredevil
    * Mr Robot
    * Arrow
    * The Flash
    * Ash vs Evil Dead
    * You're the Worst
    * Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

    Honorary mentions for Doctor Who, Agent Carter, Person of Interest, The Good Wife and the first half of season three of Agents of SHIELD (finally seems to be finding its feet, and not before time).

    I am probably forgetting things, but those are the ones that occur to me at the moment. 🙂

  • Fortitude's a bit Marmite – you'll either love it or hate it. But I guarantee you won't have seen anything else like it.

    They're working on a second season. God knows how they're going to top the bonkers for that one

  • Engrenages is awesome. I'm hoping that amping up the season rate won't spoil it though

  • You're The Worst and Daredevil should probably both have been on my list. But then it would have been out of 11 which would have been ridiculous

  • GYAD

    Inshallah.

    Still, at least it would have served to have kick start the Frogs into making decent TV. I'm looking forward to several of their series.

  • It's nice that they now have several series fit for international consumption. I'm surprised that some haven't been. I'd quite like to see “Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie”:

    http://tattard2.blogspot.fr/20

    I imagine it would have some appeal in Britain, too. But I've not noticed it anywhere in the UK. I'm thinking Canal+ (and to a lesser extent TF1) have much better international distribution contracts; maybe France 2 can't be bothered with anywhere except France.

  • benjitek

    Watched it… Didn't love or hate it, didn't really see much commonality with Twin Peaks other than a rural setting with an out-of-town detective. Found the ending a little disappointing — but overall it was OK…

  • GYAD

    Yeah, I can see that doing well in the UK too. It's always surprising how many dramas slip through the cracks. I'm watching “Pigalle, la nuit” right now, which would be a perfect late night drama for C4 (or maybe More4 these days).

  • There's not a huge overlap, but you have the strange locals, the Inuits and their shaman (he's not quite the Log Lady, but…), the FBI agent coming to investigate a local mystery, the equivalent of a Black Lodge (the wasp cave), the murders being committed by 'possessed' people and so on. It's more the combination of that and the genre shifts between comedy, horror, cop show, etc, that make me think Twin Peaks.

  • JustStark

    I'm supposed to remember 2015?

    Okay I've been through the archives and these are the ones I left comments about that I now consider worth mentioning:

    Comedy

    Brooklyn Nine-Nine
    W1A
    Peter Kay's Car Share
    The Muppets

    Bubbling under:
    Scream Queens

    Drama

    The Americans
    The now almost totally inaccurately-named Homeland
    The Enfield Haunting

    Bubbling under:

    The Saboteurs
    Humans (mainly for its audacity in just presenting a sci-fi alternate present and then getting the audience to just go with it, than for the actual drama)