Kevin Koeser's Best TV of 2015

There’s a good chance, years from now, we’ll see 2015 as a turning point for TV. This year was a bumper crop of great new shows. The future of what we’ll consider years from now to be all time great shows were being forged in some way this year. To help you figure out what to catch up on, I’ve highlighted four new shows below that in my opinion could be the Great TV of the Future. At the very least all are great examples of TV creators doing something really unique on television, and worth your time checking them out.

Sense8 (Netflix)

TV and movies are glutted with superheroes these days, and it’s easy to think that pretty much every wish fulfillment fantasy has been covered by them. What sets Sense8 so apart is it gives you the wish you never thought to ask: what if you always had a friend? What if, no matter how down you were, how lonely you felt, you could reach out and find someone who knew you, someone who could lend an ear to listen, a shoulder to lean on, or master class martial arts skills to fight off a dozen bad guys?

Okay, the last part is obviously the flashier hook to the show, but exactly what makes it such a unique work of art is it doesn’t lose sight of how empowering all the other perks are, or lose sight of how they fulfill the characters.

Sense8 focuses on eight men and women scattered across the world that find themselves slowly telepathically connecting, and soon learn how to share thoughts, experiences, and skills. Each character deals with their own struggles each conflict across the season coming back to family and each time ending with either a reconnection or a severing of ties as they embrace the new family they’re forming. 

In a world that’s becoming globalized, Sense8 reflects a bold optimism in how personal connections strengthen us, even if they’re with people we’ve never met. It’s also the fullest embracement of diversity I’ve ever seen on a show, with characters from all countries, classes, and sexualities representing a rich diversity in human experience. It’s shocking to see a show with such an out there premise focus more on its characters and their growth over flashy action scenes, but it’s all about the build. By the last trio of episodes all the groundwork laid pays off in some of the most beautiful and outrageously insane action I’ve seen, a fitting return to form for The Matrix directors The Wachowskis.

Mr. Robot (USA)

No show is as devoted to breaking the basic rules of television as Mr. Robot. Immediately from the opening the show’s distinctive visual style is on display. The colors are washed out and septic. Instead of occupying the center, characters are pushed off to the side of the frame, sometimes with characters they’re interacting with being completely obscured from view. Elliot’s voiceover drones in the background, narrating his unstable mind that lays out the show’s philosophy to us.

On paper the Mr.  Robot team (spearheaded by showrunner Sam Esmail) is breaking basic rules of the medium, but with all the elements working in concert, the show’s amazing team of directors behind the camera and impeccable lead Rami Malek in front of it, all of it clicks. Mr. Robot breaks the rules with precision and purpose, each violation revealing more and more about these characters and their screwed up world. Mr. Robot’s story about a group of hackers trying to bring down the upper class could be ridiculous, but it’s full of confidence and purpose that makes it one of the most unique and compelling shows on TV.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a show all about the bait and switch, starting right with the title. It takes a term that’s both sexist and insensitive to the mental health community, but no show on television acts as aware of its main character’s troubled psychology or the privilege she lacks because of her gender.

The show follows Rebecca Bunch, a lawyer who moves across the country in search of a high school boyfriend because being with him was the last time she was happy. In the starring role, Rachel Bloom is consistently delivering one of the best portrayals of anxiety disorder I’ve seen, with every panic attack  and impulsive burst of bad decisions coming from a place that feels very painfully true. It’s a show that would be a lot darker if it wasn’t so funny, with a ten laughs a minute joke pace and high energy musical numbers (you read that right) suffusing the show with a disarming lightness.

Sometimes the musical numbers ride the line of being too over the top, but fly by being pure expressions of just how insecure Rebecca is in her head without ever having to directly say it. Bloom (also the creator and showrunner with Aline Brosh McKenna) has the fantastic ability to turn emotions on a dime, where a funny cutaway joke brought by bad decision making can turn into a dark examination of how broken and off inside Rebecca feels. Every episode also brings slow but steady progress though, as each week Rebecca chips away at her denial and emotional barriers a bit and finds more and more support with her developing friendships. It really sucks this show has such a mean title, cause no there’s no other show as empathetic or supportive.

iZombie (The CW)

Unlike the above shows, iZombie isn’t rewriting the book on TV. It’s just combining several different books in fantastic fashion, all the parts clicking together in beautiful harmony.

Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright have created a great take on the supernatural drama, with the powerlessness Liv feels about her undead condition forming the show’s core. Taking a job at the coroner’s office gives Liv access to the brains she needs to eat to stay sane guilt free, and this is where the detective element comes in.

As the brains she eats lets her see visions into the victim’s past, Thomas and Ruggiero-Wright stretch the detective story muscles they built on Veronica Mars to build some compelling mysteries. And with each case Liv and those around her she tries to protect are drawn further and further into Seattle’s seedy zombie underworld, letting the showrunning pair throws in tropes ranging from mob drama to superhero soaps, and fill the show with a cast of dozens of moving pieces. It’s a rush of a show that’s constantly advancing both overarching story and smaller characters arcs every episode, with an eye on how to subvert expectation at every turn.  The notes may be familiar, but the tune iZombie plays is really like nothing else

 

By Kevin Koeser

Check out Kevin's overview of CBS' Supergirl