The Jinx – Welcome to the future of journalism, documentary filmmaking, and distribution. This HBO crime documentary miniseries was brilliant, breathtaking, and impossible to stop watching. It of course didn’t hurt that it had the on-screen moment most documentarians would literally consider killing for as its climax. Think of it this way: how often does a piece of art like this actually move the dial in the criminal justice proceedings it portrays? If you don’t know what I’m talking about (I’m looking at you cool peeps who don’t own TVs), you need to Google the name Robert Durst and then find a friend with HBO Go and watch this thing.
Narcos – Netflix’s crowning achievement in its biggest creative year yet, Narcos is almost perfect. A fabulous and detailed period-drama about corruption, violence, human nature, and history, it tells the story of the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar. It’s as if they simply acted out every single anecdote and story in a brilliant feature-length documentary, creating 10 episodes of near perfection. The obnoxious but probably necessary narration and questionable acting by the American side of the cast is more than made up for by Wagner Moura’s portrayal of Escobar which is transcendent, and the general production and execution of this ambitious project. Netflix is now making programs far more complex and successful than anything the networks attempt.
Powers – Daredevil was the most strangely and undeservedly overrated shows of the season. And Jessica Jones is very good, but not great. Meanwhile Playstation went ahead and made the most ambitious and, against long odds, successful superhero shows and comic book adaptation of the year. It was also one of the most enjoyable all around sci-fi efforts. It’s not without its problems, which mostly lie in the dialogue and acting, but it also did sport some of the best TV turns of the year including Eddie Izzard and the great Noah Taylor. If it can retain the spirit of the comic as it did for season one in season two, we’re in for a crazy ride. I can’t wait.
Sense8 – I gushed about this show in my review over the summer. In retrospect I may not have been effusive enough. I loved the absolute sh*t out of this show. It was genuinely innovative and interesting, for which I will forgive a show for way more shortcomings. This show also managed to be more progressive and futuristic, without resorting to hoverboards, than most of the sci-fi we saw this year. Fun and thought-provoking stuff from a team of masters, including the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5), and thankfully it was re-upped for a second season coming in 2016.
Bosch – I predicted this show would have trouble because of its underlying premise, about a cop investigating a mystery while defending himself from a wrongful death lawsuit in the shooting of a suspect. It turned out nobody seemed to care about the insane timing of a show like that premiering in 2015. It also turned out to be one of the more enjoyable detective shows on TV by sidestepping shocks and overt thrills for a more introspective and deliberately paced story. Titus Welliver was one of the biggest treats of the year as the cranky and crafty Bosch, investigating a cold case and a very hot one at the same time. Great to see it coming back for a second round of jazz soundtracked moroseness.
Better Call Saul – Obviously I left the best for last. Bob Odenkirk had some misses along with his hits this year (w/Bob & David was a disaster), but nothing hit as hard as this spinoff of Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece, Breaking Bad, that followed sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman in his pre-Walt adventures. It was everything fans of Breaking Bad and good television in general could have hoped for. Funny, thrilling, complex, beautiful, and hard as hell. Season two is at the top of everyone’s can’t-wait-for-2016 list. Can you name another show that made you laugh, almost cry, and pause the TV for a second to appreciate the brilliance as often as this one did? Bravo, Mr. Gilligan.
By Ygal Kaufman