Lists? Had enough of them yet? If not, then here's my list of the best TV series of the year 2015...
I struggled. This was a good year, a fine one in fact. "Mad Men" ensured that it was also a watershed year, for this was when one of the finest series in TV history came to an end. (Watershed? Or waterworks?)
Meanwhile, The Emmys -- now under new rules -- finally recognized what everyone else already knew ("Game of Thrones," the best drama of the year). Aziz Ansari and Ellie Kemper had career-defining series. "Fargo" got better (just as "True Detective" got worse; can't win 'em all).
And Bruce Campbell returned. Enough said.
A very good year indeed. You won't see other excellent series on this list -- "The Americans," "Rectify," "The Affair," "The Leftovers" -- simply because choices had to be made. Also, lists tend to be a reflection of the heart of the person who makes them. There's nothing truly "objective" here. But it is truly passionate.
And "passion," after all, is what this is all about.
1. GAME OF THRONES. Over a three-month span and 10 episodes, from “The Wars to Come” (April 12) to “Mother’s Mercy" (June 14), “Game of Thrones” waged a war of independence — from critics, fan expectations and even the mother country itself, George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire.” Always adventurous, “GoT” instead became outrageous — and courted outrage — during the fifth season, from the rape of Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) to the death of Jon Snow (Kit Harington). But beyond those divisive twists (the latter in the books, the first not), the TV show’s own lofty ambitions emerged. This is a classic that now demands to be taken on its own terms . . . demands a close and intelligent viewing . . . and demands respect. In 2015, those demands were routinely and resoundingly met.
2. MAD MEN, AMC. The final roundup, and a magnificent one, fulfilling a bargain with fans -- that intelligence, passion and sheer quality will prevail until the closing seconds, no matter what. It did. Don's Coke ad may have taught the world to sing; Matthew Weiner's masterpiece taught the TV world how to make rich, allusive drama over seven seasons, while never once -- once! -- calling it in.
3. WOLF HALL, PBS. From my review: "A considerable reputation precedes [lead Mark] Rylance, as one of the world's great stage actors who has mostly eschewed the temptations of Hollywood. That means he's a relative unknown to most viewers here, and heaven knows what they'll make of this performance. It is in fact magnificent, and a master class in control, subtlety, intelligence and interpretation."
4. THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST, HBO. HBO made TV history and a remarkable work of nonfiction that reopened the coldest of cases that had been in the deep freeze for years. Producers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling got what appeared to be a confession, profoundly incriminating evidence, and compulsively watchable TV, from start to shocking finish.
5. UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT, Netflix. Ellie Kemper's coming out party, establishing her as one of TV's finest comic actresses, plus an added (and equal) bonus -- Tituss Burgess, as one of the funniest people on TV.
6. HOMELAND, Showtime. The best -- that's right, the best -- season of "Homeland" so far. I came thisclose -- if you'll excuse the "thisclose" cliche -- to naming "Homeland" the best drama of the year, but then, there was Rylance, "Mad Men" and that little thing on HBO called "Game of Thrones." Nevertheless, heart-pounding all season, no doubt heart-busting this Sunday too, when the finale airs.
7. BETTER CALL SAUL, AMC. A remarkable case study of a man thought to be a clown -- also Walter White's punching bag -- who is, or was, instead a man with a complex, subtle mind and a moral compass. The question, a compelling one, now becomes: How did Jimmy become Saul?
8. FARGO, FX. In some ways superior to the first season (OK, and in some ways not), as creator Noah Hawley managed to yoke an homage to the Coen film, "The Man Who Wasn't There," to something entirely fresh and original. Another remarkable cast -- Jean Smart, Jeffrey Donovan, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Patrick Wilson, Ted Danson, Kristin Milioti and...how about Bokeem Woodbine and Zahn McClarnon?(!)
9. MASTER OF NONE, Netflix. Aziz Ansari proves here that he's absolutely not Tom Haverford -- or Jerry Seinfeld or Louis CK either, for that matter. He's an original voice, and an original comic, who brings a sharply human perspective to assimilation, cultural or otherwise.
10. ASH VS. EVIL DEAD, Starz. That's right! Bruce Campbell is one of the treasures of modern culture. There. I've said it. No apologies forthcoming. And he's glorious here -- as an older, wiser, vastly more ruthless "deadite" slayer Ashley J. Williams. This is a small comic-horror masterpiece, and also Starz' best series to date.