While picking 2015’s Best Television Shows, I discovered that this was an exciting, diverse year for shows that obliterated the conventional ideas of drama—“UnReal’s” drama felt like TV-ception as it focused on the making of a reality dating show; BET’s “Being Mary Jane” found its niche just as the do-gooding but volatile Mary Jane tried to find her bliss; and “Jane The Virgin” offered the most unflinchingly realistic look at motherhood in TV history. Let's break it down!
Season 3 found Mary Jane recovering from the car accident cliffhanger that closed out the second season. Through the death of a close friend, Mary Jane struggled to reconnect to herself and her family, understand her worth, and to amplify her true voice. I’ve said that Mara Brock Akil’s show is therapy for (single) black women, and this season was no different than the stellar sophomore season. Starring the bafflingly un-nominated Gabrielle Union, Mary Jane is what other sophisticated dramas should aspire to be.
Despite a rocky start to season 2—Cookie in a gorilla suit— “Empire” has maintained the soapy, gasp-worthy and sometimes inadvertently hilarious tone of its record-breaking freshman season. Cookie Lyon (Henson) still sizzles as a live-wire matriarch whose fierceness masks serious trauma. Terrence Howard is just as devious both an enemy and a soulmate. The rest of the cast, especially Jussie Smollett and the bonkers-but-brilliant choice of Marissa Tomei, have worked to create a massively entertaining show. The music is just the icing on the golden Lyon cake.
I’ll be the first to admit that I assumed, based on the past executions, “The Flash” would be a hot cheesy mess of a superhero show. And it is, but in a million little heart-eyed ways. Thanks to a sickeningly talented cast led by Grant Gustin and Jesse L. Martin, skillful writing and slick special effects, “The Flash” has turned out to be one of the best things to happen to a Tuesday night. I admire that Barry Allen is still learning, leaning into happiness, and not above being demoralized and brutalized by this season’s epic big bad, Zoom.
Who would have thought that one of the best shows this season would come from Lifetime—the channel determined to destroy celebrities one poorly researched biopic at a time? “UnReal” is a gritty and provocative departure for the channel where awful made-for-TV movies go to die. Starring Shiri Appleby (“Rosewell”, “ER”) and Constance Zimmer (“House Of Cards”), the show follows the behind-the-scenes drama in producing a “Bachelor”-esque TV show. It explores how far producers will go to make a name for themselves, and how arrogant they become once they do.
“black-ish,” starring Critics Choice Awards nominees Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, is one of the most underrated comedies on television. It flawlessly and hilariously mixes witty, cultural humor with a bit of history and real life issues. Broadcast television desperately needed a show centered on the lives of a successful black family that embraces their freak flags: Junior is an unabashed geek; Zoey is the “It Girl”; and Rainbow is a biracial doctor raised by hippies. In addition to the laugh-til-you-cry hilarity, the show is packed with little scene-stealers, namely, Diane Johnson, played with enviable and astounding deadpan by 11-year-old Marsai Martin.
Jane The Virgin
There are thousands of unspoken truths about motherhood that no one ever talks about, and “Jane The Virgin” openly discusses them (clogged milk ducts; pain after childbirth; the rigors of breastfeeding and pumping). And these important truths are spoken in a sassy narrator voice on a telenovela about a pregnant virgin airing on The CW. I know, I couldn’t believe it either. The heart-warming show led by Golden Globe winner and current nominee Gina Rodriguez is an adventure with love, scandal, intrigue and of course, accidental insemenations. Its second season is just as addictive as the first, possibly more with the addition of one of television’s most adorable babies.
Master of None
Did you ever think “Parks And Recreation’s” Aziz Ansari could make you cry? Probably not. Enter Netflix's “Master Of None,” a brilliant and touching comedy series created, written and directed by Ansari. In a series of related vignettes, Master tackles everything from diversity on entertainment to birth control with uproarious honesty. For a show entitled “Master Of None,” Ansari seems to be winning everything.
Season 5 of ABC’s political drama had to accomplish a lot to get back on track after a disastrous fourth season. And it did it on with more wicked highs and lows than the Shondaland rollercoaster. This season gave the fans what they wanted: their OTP finally got together! Like most affairs, it was doomed from the start implodes in a fantastically visceral way. I’m pretty sure everyone will be digging out of the rubble well into 2016. "Scandal" barely made it onto the Best 9 list, and it's all because of the incendiary chemistry between stars Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn (Must Watch: “Baby It’s Cold Outside”).
While the nation seems to teeter of a precipice of democratic breakdown, thanks to a gaggle of gun-toting presidential nominees who haven't even read the constitution, Fox’s embattled “Minority Report” offers a glimpse at a much brighter future: healthy fried foods; money bearing President Obama’s face, and psychic siblings who can prevent violent crimes. The TV exploration of the world that Steven Spielberg built in the movie of the same name is a sci-fi gem to be treasured. Unfortunately, it’s saddled with a weak lead-in, "Gotham," and crazy competition in Monday Night Football, The Voice and Dancing With The Stars. Hopefully the future contains a second season of this fall’s coolest new show! #RenewMinorityReport
What were your favorite shows of 2015?