Sunday, December 13, 2015

My Favorite TV Shows of 2015

Daredevil (Netflix)

Starting off its run of Marvel series, Netflix picked my favorite Marvel hero, Daredevil. Lawyer by day, vigilante by night, blind lawyer Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) uses his uncanny abilities -- to see using soundwaves -- to fight crime and bring justice to his neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen. This adaptation follows closely to Brian Michael Bendis' epic run on the comic -- the dark, grittier, more realistic tone -- as opposed to the current, flashier, swashbuckling, rollicking adventure which is currently being headed by Mark Waid. Netflix and the producers didn't waste any time throwing audiences into the major threat of Wilson Fisk a.k.a. Kingpin (Vincent D'Onofrio), Daredevil's main antagonist. What I love about Daredevil's comic as well as the series is he's not all flash and bang like Marvel's other major films. This series is more steeped in real day-to-day living and seems all the more realistic. But it's not all serious drama. Murdock's best friend and law partner, Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) is there to add some needed comedic support and their secretary Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) is there to bring in some light. I was extremely happy to hear the series got picked up for a second season and that there will be appearances by legendary Daredevil characters Elektra and The Punisher! 2016 is shaping up to be a great year in television!

The Flash (The CW)

Hands down, the BEST superhero adaptation on television! What started off as somewhat of a spinoff of The CW's preceding superhero series, Arrow, has now surpassed it to become one of the most entertaining series on TV! The show follows pretty closely to Flash comic book lore, and, even better, all of the characters are here! Unlike ABC's boring Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Flash delves deep into its universe full of heroes, villains, and -- even better -- introduced the concept of DC Comics' infinite earths this season! The first season was flawless as far as network television series go, with the acting, writing and production were all pulled off so brilliantly. I especially loved that the villain the producers used to initiate the series was one of the Flash's most deadly -- and one of the most underrated in comics -- the Reverse Flash! Now, in the current second season, not only does Flash have to fend off a bevy of his usual rogues gallery: Captain Cold (portrayed so damn well by Wentworth Miller), Heatwave, Weather Wizard, Golden Glider, Trickster (a nice Easter egg from the 1990 The Flash series, with Mark Hamill reprising his role!), Gorilla Grodd, King Shark and many more, but his main adversary is Zoom, another deadly foe. Lead actor Grant Gustin does a great job with portraying Barry Allen, capturing Allen's humor and unrelenting hope while also showcasing Allen's frustration of being a new hero. The dramatic moments on the show are even touching without getting pretentious and the show is a fun watch. This show is probably the one I look most forward to from week to week! I love the inclusion of Earth-2 characters (Jay Garrick!) and am looking forward to the emergence of Wally West! If there is one primetime network superhero series to devote your time to, The Flash beats all the rest.

Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)

Based on the book by Eddie Huang, who is currently a successful restauranteur, Fresh Off the Boat takes a beat from its successful predecessor, The Goldbergs (also on my list here), and takes place in the mid-1990s. The show is about the Huang family, who move from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida, so patriarch Louis (Randall Park) can run his own successful steakhouse restaurant. Along for the ride are his wife, Jessica (Constance Wu); his oldest son, a laidback, yearning-to-be-cool rap fanatic, Eddie (Hudson Yang), the one who wrote the book upon which the series is based; his middle son, the nice, amicable "ladies man who respects the ladies," Emery (Forrest Wheeler); his youngest son, the super-smart, super-sweet Evan (Ian Chen); and Louis' mother, Grandma (Lucille Soong). The entire cast is funny, working off their character's own respective eccentricities, but it is Constance Wu's "tiger mom" Jessica who steals the show. I honestly don't know why Wu was neither nominated nor won an Emmy for best comedic actress, but she should've been given both this past award season! From the 90s fashion and rap music to the references to all of the pop culture of the time, Fresh Off the Boat is a hilarious series that isn't going off air anytime soon!

The Goldbergs (ABC)

If you grew up in the 1980s (whether as a teenager or kid), then The Goldbergs is essential viewing! Currently in its third season, The Goldbergs has taken what started as a show primarily about the youngest member of the family, Adam (Sean Giambrone), and has expanded its storylines to focus on the rest of the hilarious family members. The other two kids, Barry (Troy Gentile) and Erica (Hayley Orrantia) provide plenty of laughs, but it's the kids' (s)mother, Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey), who steals the show! Just like Fresh Off the Boat's Constance Wu, McLendon-Covey should have been nominated and won (over Wu) for best comedic actress in a series. The show continues to up its family love factor while still maintaining the comedic, shouting dialogue its known for. Plus, every 80s fad, toy, music, movie, and fashion is covered -- some even getting their own episode devoted to them (i.e., The Goonies episode, the Risky Business episode, the Ferris Bueller episode, etc.). While the show is still no Wonder Years (although there was a moment in the season two episode, "The Lost Boy," that comes close), it still has a heart all its own ... and it's funnier than a lot of other shows on TV right now.

Gotham (FOX)

FOX's prequel series, Gotham, which delves into the world of Gotham City back when Bruce Wayne/Batman was a kid and James Gordon was a new hire detective to the GCPD, started out a bit slow in its first season. However, halfway through that season and with the beginning of season two, it has upped its game tremendously. When subtitling the second season "Rise of the Villains," introducing Batman's major villains and some new ones, how can it not make good television!? The series perfectly captures the world of Gotham, a city which seems to be stuck in the past with its noir fashion and architecture, but has the contemporary technology. Especially impressive to the show is Robin Lord Taylor's portrayal of The Penguin. He takes a laughable comic book character and turns him into one of the most formidable of villains, making him both repulsive and sympathetic to audiences. What has been most cool to watch this current season has been the emergence of The Riddler and other various villains. DC Comics' television division has dominated the TV universe -- a feat Marvel Comics has yet to do -- masterfully balancing its use of the classic characters of Batman's world while also keeping the style more like a noir cop procedural. With the way the show's mid-season finale ended, I can't wait to see what the new year brings!

Grandfathered (FOX)

On paper, this series' premise seems somewhat ... played-out. And maybe it is. But, to me, there's something that just seems to work. John Stamos portrays Jimmy Martino, a successful womanizing restauranteur who finds out one random day that he's a father of a twenty-something son, Gerald (Josh Peck), who has a toddler daughter, making Jimmy an awestruck grandfather. There is no grand story arc to the show, just a man trying to retrofit his life to now include his new family -- including Gerald's mom, Sara (Paget Brewster), the only woman Jimmy's ever loved. Each week is a new experience for Jimmy and family but it's fun to watch and has a lot of heart.

Jessica Jones (Netflix)

The CW's The Flash may be the best comic book adaptation on TV -- especially network primetime -- but a very close second (almost a tie!) is Netflix's second installment of its Marvel Comics Defenders broadcasting, Jessica Jones! Taken from the very underrated, almost unknown Marvel comic, Jones stars Krysten Ritter as the titular character. I have to admit I was very wary of the casting of Ritter as the tough-as-nails private investigator since she is mostly known for the goofy female sidekick roles in most films and shows. But she has more than won me over with her portrayal of Jones! What I love most about the character is she is a formidable superhero with impressive powers, but chooses not to use them like her famous counterparts, The Avengers. In the comic, she used to be with The Avengers for a time and some of the big names even make appearances from time to time. But what her comic -- and story -- are truly about is her place in a noir detective world which just so happens to have run-ins with superheroes and villains from time to time. To me, Netflix's Marvel series are the only good television Marvel is putting out. Their decision to make the main protagonist Kilgrave a.k.a. The Purple Man is genius! Kilgrave is a major villain in Daredevil's comic book world and I've always believed him to be one of the most dangerous villains. Think about it. A man who can make anyone do anything just by speaking it? The shame of it all is that, in the comic, he's treated like somewhat of a joke. But the Netflix series took the true essence of that concept and ran with it in all the right directions, making his true power the kind of fear which is equal to that of a rapist! David Tennant's portrayal further exemplifies the actor's ease at making an evil character almost relatable. I also enjoyed the inclusion of Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), who most don't know goes on to be Hellcat. While The Flash is bathed in light and hope, Jessica Jones explores more of the seedy underbelly, which is a testament to Marvel's Marvel Knights/MAX imprint run of comics (Daredevil, Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Punisher), which was a hit during its heyday in the early 2000s. The best thing about this series, though, is the cast, which is composed mostly of women -- strong, smart, confident. I can only hope that Netflix picks up another season like they did with its other hit, Daredevil!

Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

Netflix had a banner year with its programming and is quickly becoming a wonderful alternative to network television. Case in point is my final pick: Orange is the New Black, based on the book, which aired its third season this year. What made this season so much more impressive and enjoyable for me was the fact that the writers used most of its 13 episodes to move away from the show's protagonist, Piper (Taylor Schilling) -- my least favorite character in the show -- and instead explore the lives of the ensemble cast of inmates and how they landed in prison. The actresses who portray the inmates are all so well diversified and complex, plus the writers are damn good at their jobs, that you start to feel a comradeship with these women. This season you begin to root for them and every dramatic turn brings you all the more willingly into their world, with the end of the season delivering a satisfying emotional payoff. I'm not sure where the show will go from after the end of this past season, but if it's anything like season three, then audiences are in for more fascinating, emotional storytelling!

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

By far one of the funniest shows with the sickest sense of humor, Netflix's comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt follows a former cult follower, Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper), who is rescued along with her three other sister wives of cult leader Richard Wayne Gary Wayne. Upon her rescue, she decides to take her court settlement money and move to New York City to see what she's missed over the year since she's been in an underground shelter since the age of 14 and was told the outside world had suffered an apocalypse with her, her "sisters," and Wayne as the only remaining survivors. This may sound like some intense, gritty drama, but it's anything but. With SNL alumni Tina Fey as creator and producer, the show has too many jokes and dirty humor to take it too seriously. The series follows Schmidt as she tries to begin a life for herself with the help of her roommate, Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess), her landlady Lillian (Carol Kane), and her employer who she nannies for, Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski). This show does not disappoint when it comes to laughs. And if you aren't singing the theme song by the end of the first episode, I'll have to highly question your taste in music! UnBREAKable! They alive, damnit!

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Every year, AMC's crown jewel series just gets better and better! In season five, I lost one of my favorite characters, then our favorite band of survivors has discovered a new secure community. If you're asking, Shouldn't they just stay away from communities after what happened with the Governor's people, the hospital, and Terminus?, then you won't be surprised by Rick and company's wariness when they come to Alexandria. They come the closest to dying -- not from zombies -- but from basic needs, and it rocks each one of their personal worlds. So much so that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) slowly begins to become similar to one of the cold, heartless scavengers he's encountered in past seasons. The way the fifth season came to its finale was so well-executed, also bringing back fan favorite Morgan (Lennie James). When season six came on the new threat came in the form of the mysterious attackers known as the Wolves. The Walking Dead continues to lead the way in terms of writing, acting and production! If you don't watch the show simply because "it has zombies in it," then you're truly missing out on one of the best dramas currently on TV, as well as ever!

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