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10 Gifts That TV Gave Us in 2015
December 22, 2015  | By David Hinckley  | 3 comments

As the annual holiday march of the reruns takes over television for the next two weeks, we should remind ourselves that TV has never saved its gifts for the end of the year.
It spreads them out, which is exactly the right way to do it. So in that spirit, let’s pause a moment to recall some of those gifts –most of them shows, but a couple of them individuals – who got it just right in 2015.
The shows aren’t necessarily the year’s best, though some are. But they all offered a level of delight, fun, truth, insight or sheer entertainment that reminded us why, no matter how much we grumble about it, most of us watch television.
In no order except alphabetical:
1. American Crime. ABC’s anthology series started with a disturbing, uncomfortable drama about crime and race. It featured terrific performances by Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton (left) and to the great credit of ABC, the series was renewed despite modest ratings.
2. Blindspot. Jaimie Alexander climbed out of the duffel bag in Times Square, put some clothes on and became the toughest chick on prime-time TV. NBC gets another action-thriller show right.
3. Downton Abbey. Entering its sixth and final season next month, Downton has drawn the inevitable backlash. It’s lost its edge, it’s too soapy, it’s run its course. There’s a simple answer to those criticisms: They are all untrue.
4. Empire. One of those rare soaps, like Dallas or Desperate Housewives, where things all just came together. The reasons include Taraji P.Henson, Terrence Howard and the very smart decision to use legitimate music. Empire may not last 10 years, but it made this year brighter, and not just for Fox.
5. Fargo. Where True Detective stumbled in its second season, FX’s unique crime saga Fargo hardly missed a step with a strong new story set in the same North Country. Credit writer Noah Hawley with walking the line between keeping the aura and making the story fresh.
6. Grantchester. One of the quietest and best new PBS series as the network enters the post-Downton Abbey era. Grantchester revolves around a small-town clergyman who helps solve crimes, and it succeeds by giving us charming characters who say interesting things. What a concept.
7. Mad Men. There’s still some murmuring about the final scene, where Don Draper (Jon Hamm, top) seemed on the brink of epiphany that would lead him to create the famous :Coca-Cola “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” spot. But hey, what better ending for a man who had advertising ink running through his veins? There haven’t been many better shows in TV history.
8. Mark Rylance in Wolf Hall. Rylance played Thomas Cromwell in this PBS adaptation of the best-selling book. A Shakespearian institution in the U.K., he gave a master class here in the power of underacting – speaking whole chapters with the lift of an eyebrow.
9. Power. One of the big, tense and raw shows that Starz has been betting on lately. It might look like the other show about a rich, successful and shady black family (Omari Hardwick, left)  but while it doesn’t do soap quite as lavishly as Empire, it handles some other issues even better.
10. Unreal.It might seem impossible for a show to send up reality TV, which has already lurched through every barrier. Unreal found a way to do it, thanks largely to a superb performance by Shiri Appleby as a producer who utilizes some of her own neuroses in creating reality TV winners.
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Toby T.
All Top 10 lists this year should start at number 11, because the 10 episodes of "Making a Murderer" were that good! By far the best television dropped in 2015.
Jan 2, 2016   |  Reply
George Ashur
American Crime? No, no, no. Unwatchable characters.

Thank you, though, for recognizing Grantchester, a very worthy choice which didn't get as much attention as it should have. Quality TV.
Dec 25, 2015   |  Reply
I'd add amc's better call saul, cw's izombie, and abc's agent carter.

I'm far from being in cw's 20-something and marvel's fan-boy demographics but liv moore and agent carter are fun to watch.
Dec 22, 2015   |  Reply
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