by Julian Spivey
10. “Grace & Frankie”
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was the new Netflix comedy that garnered most of the headlines and acclaim in 2015, but I think it was actually outshined by the new Netflix comedy “Grace & Frankie” starring Jane Fonda and Golden Globe and Emmy nominated Lily Tomlin as two retiree ladies who recently found out their lawyer husbands (the brilliant Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) are gay and in love with each other and have been for years. Grace and Frankie previously didn’t care much for each other, but their unusual circumstance thrusts them into quite the hilarious and odd friendship.
ABC’s “Black-ish” was the best new comedy of the 2014-2015 network television season and has continued to be strong through the first part of its second season. The sitcom focuses on Andre Johnson (Anthony Anderson), who has made a successful life for himself, and the struggles he has with his kids being spoiled and trying to teach them how to at least live somewhat “black-ish.” The show is incredibly funny while also providing a much needed focus on race in America through episodes that approach such often controversial topics as the “N-word.”
8. “The Blacklist”
NBC’s “The Blacklist” was one of the two or three best dramas on network television over its first two seasons, but may actually be getting better in its third season now that Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) is America’s Most Wanted Woman and on the run with America’s Most Wanted Man in James Spader’s always brilliant Red Reddington. The hunt for these two before they are able to bring down the nefarious Cabal has made for heart-pounding action the entire third season.
7. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” continues to be the best sitcom on network television and the Fox comedy about a precinct of New York police detectives honestly has been at that level since it debuted in 2013. The ensemble is the best comedic ensemble not just on network television, but likely of any comedy on television in general. The always wacky Andy Samberg leads this ensemble perfectly, but the real highlight and the biggest laughs always come from Andre Braugher’s hilariously stoic Capt. Raymond Holt.
6. “Late, Late Show with James Corden”
I was a huge fan of Craig Ferguson and didn’t feel like anyone could adequately replace him. James Corden and Craig Ferguson are about as different as late night talk show hosts can be – Corden a boy-ish, jolly fellow who likes to sing and dance and be awe-struck by guests and Ferguson being sarcastic and not giving a damn about who he pleases – but Corden has done something incredibly interesting in his debut year as host of CBS’ “Late, Late Show.” Most late night talk show hosts struggle to gain footing in their first year, but Corden came blazing right out of the gate and has honestly hosted the best late night talk show since David Letterman retired in late May. His style of interviewing multiple guests at once has also rejuvenated a staled late night format.
5. “You’re the Worst”
I distinctly remember saying after the first two or three episodes of the sophomore season of “You’re The Worst,” which was my favorite new comedy of 2014, “the second season of the show has not been up to par with its first.” And, then the FXX show did something that we’ve never really seen a comedy do – it wrote depression into the script, and not in a comical way, but a realistic, rip your heart out and identify with kind of way. Aya Cash’s performance as Gretchen in the midst of a depressive meltdown for the remainder of the season completely changed the course of the season for the better and really the show, in general, adding a good dramatic factor to it. It’s a performance that I hope Emmy voters remember next year.
I remarked on Twitter a while back that if “Manhattan” were on AMC rather than WGN that it’d be nominated for all of the television awards (and if I may brag the tweet was ‘liked’ by “Manhattan” creator Sam Shaw). It’s the kind of superbly acted and written prestige time period drama, a la “Mad Men,” that should have everybody watching and talking, but because it was one of the first scripted dramas on WGN few seem to know it exists. The show, in its glorious second season, is about the race to build the world’s first atomic bomb in hopes of bringing World War II to a quick end. Season two sees our scientists getting closer and closer to the fruition of the Manhattan Project and with it the drama building more and more with each passing episode.
I never knew how much I really missed “Longmire” until I went a year and a half without it and it used its new found life of being saved by Netflix, after cancellation by A&E, to produce its best season yet. Season four of “Longmire” opens with the not-all-too-shocking death of Deputy Branch Connelly at the hands of his own father and our titular hero Sheriff Walt Longmire (the always fantastic Robert Taylor in a truly understated and yet macho performance) is thrust into another personal case. The performance of Taylor, which is old school heroism at its finest and reminds me of Gary Cooper at his absolute best, along with tightly wound mysteries of the Wyoming modern west really makes for a pleasant Netflix binge.
2. “Person of Interest”
“Person of Interest” continues to be the best drama on network television, despite the fact that CBS seems ready to put the show out to pasture due to declining ratings over its fourth season. The ratings might be going down, but the quality is still fantastic (if not actually better than ever) as the fourth season saw super computer Samaritan trying to hunt down fellow super computer The Machine, John Reese (Jim Caviezel), Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) and the gang before the season culminated in a string of incredibly action-packed and entertaining episodes that left everything in shambles going into a fifth season that CBS picked up, but for some reason is seemingly unwilling to schedule. Whenever the show does return it’ll likely be the final season, but it’s not too late to jump on board and try to rejuvenate the ratings.
1. “Late Show with David Letterman”
I’ve seen a lot of “best of 2015” television lists with “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” which I’ve found mostly disappointing at its start, among the year’s best shows. Shockingly, I haven’t seen a single one feature the final year of “Late Show with David Letterman,” which wrapped in late May after more than 20 years on CBS. The final few months of Letterman’s show were among the very best late night television I’ve ever seen (and I consider myself a late night connoisseur) and the television legend truly went out on top. Letterman visiting with some of his favorite guests from over his 30 years on television truly made for late night television moments that I will never forget.