In a world where the number of new television series has been seemingly increasing so much that even network executives are admitting there are far too many series on the air, it becomes more and more difficult to try and just pick ten great series every season. This year, in the tradition of the late Roger Ebert, a special jury prize of series that didn’t quite make the cut will be included among the most lauded series. But bearing in mind that this critic probably only watched a tenth of the available shows out there, here we go:
10. ‘Veep’ (HBO)
Considering the massive split among our politics with each passing year, it’s telling that one of the best political series out there is a comedy. Julia Louis-Dreyfus may be taking excessive rewards when it comes time for Emmys, but the fact remains this series has one of the greatest ensemble comedy casts in recent memory. And with additions like Hugh Laurie coming with each successive season, there is a good chance that it will become better the longer it lasts. Now, if only they would just get their act together and call this series ‘Prez’.
9. ‘Life in Pieces’ (CBS)
Without question, the best new series to appear on television in the 2015 fall season. This series takes an approach to comedy that is practically unheard of – splitting each episode into four small segments- and gives each part of a frankly incredibly incredible ensemble to shine. There hasn’t been a family series this well done since the recently departed ‘Parenthood’ , and this show, thankfully, doesn’t make you cry as much. All of the actors are at the top of their game (Colin Hanks and Thomas Sadoski in particular have never been better) and they manage to do a family comedy without pulling off any of the shenanigans that makes ‘Modern Family’ such a problem. This one’s a keeper.
8. ‘Bloodline’ (Netflix)
On a service that is quickly becoming one of the most daring networks available, the best offering on it this years was this undervalued drama from the brilliant team behind ‘Damages’ Dealing with a southern family flooded with secrets, ‘Bloodline’ dealt with the arrival and consequences of the eldest brother of renowned Miami family. All of the actors on the series, particularly Kyle Chandler, gave performances that demonstrated their ranges as actors even more than you think. And with a cast that was one of the finest assembled on any series, Ben Mendelsohn gave one of the most measured performances of villainy seen in awhile. I don’t know whether the show will come back for a second season, but it has earned it far more than some of the more established shows on Netflix this year.
7. ‘Better Call Saul’ (AMC)
One of the least likely spin-offs to emerge from one of the greatest series ever written, Vince Gilligan’s series isn’t nearly as good as ‘Breaking Bad’, but as it unfolded it quietly demonstrated layers to a character you didn’t think had any. Bob Odenkirk, demonstrated levels of compassion and earnestness that we didn’t expect of him, along with the con-artistry that we knew that he had. We also saw the compassion that we never suspected of former cop and future fixer Mike (Jonathan Banks) in one of the best episodes to air in the entire 2015. Jimmy McGill may not be anywhere near Saul yet, but we can see the road he’s on the verge of taking. And yet knowing his fate (the pilot showed us as much), we still can not turn away.
6. ‘Jane the Virgin’ (CW)
It should be noted that more and more often the Emmy judges are complete idiots. Exhibit A is the fact that this delightful comedy-drama-satire with one of the more amazing combinations of writing and acting was completely shut out by the powers that be even though the Golden Globes and the Critic’s Choice had twice listed it among the most delightful series of the year. Gina Rodriguez has already established herself as a luminary among a sea of fine actors, and yet she was ignored, probably because of the network the series in. Now that’s a twist that no one saw coming.