Favorite 35 TV Shows of 2016

The Golden Age of Television lives on, even after Walter White and Don Draper. Storytellers and innovators are finding new and exciting ways to keep us at the edge of our seats, wanting more after the closing credits of every episode. Sometimes we have to wait a week. Sometimes we just hit “next episode” until we’re met with the disappointment of the season being over.

I listed out every TV show I watched in the last year and it came out to being upwards of 50 (yes I watch a lot of television). It wasn’t easy cutting the list to only 35. I also say “Favorite” instead of “Top” because I’m just not that full of myself…I

t also may come as a surprise, but I haven’t watched EVERY TV show that aired this past year. So recommendations are more than welcome on the Facebooks or Twitters.

35. The OA

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Netflix – Brit Marling, Emory Cohen and Jason Isaacs

The OA is a very weird show. It’s complicated, hard to follow, strange, and sometimes fights you when you want to keep spending time on it. Somehow, someway though, every episode gives you a reason to continue binge-watching. The last 5 minutes of the first season make it all worth it, on an emotional level. Emory Cohen also gives a performance that makes you wonder why he wasn’t chosen to be “Young Han Solo”, with an excellent follow up to his part in Brooklyn.

34. Banshee

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Cinemax – Antony Starr, Ivana Milicevic and Ulrich Thomsen

I have to admit, I was pretty late to Banshee but I did binge watch the entire series in nearly a month’s time. I wouldn’t call it a “good show” but it’s so absurd that you can’t look away. Banshee is like a lovechild of True Blood and Into The Badlands, and it’s supremely more fun than both.

33. Orange is the New Black

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Netflix – Uzo Aduba, Kate Mulgrew and Taylor Schilling

So far I’ve felt that OITNB’s best season was their 2nd, but their latest certainly knew how to throw the haymakers to your emotions. Some of your favorite characters became easy to turn on. Others became more important than the original stars, including Piper. And then there was the one that completely tore your heart out…

32. Ash vs. Evil Dead

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STARZ – Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless and Ray Santiago

This show is gross, cheesy, and kinda REALLY dumb…but that’s also why it’s so much fun. It’s hard to deny that when Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi team up on either big or small screen. Warning: There is blood…LOTS OF BLOOD (That’s for the kids who didn’t like how gory The Walking Dead premiere was).

31. Supergirl

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The CW – Melissa Benoist, David Harewood and Mehcad Brooks

If there was a Most Improved Player category for TV shows, Supergirl could be at the top of the list. The move from CBS to CW was more than necessary for its tone and overall quality.  The show hasn’t held back on it’s commentary of topical social issues and it did something that the DC films have failed to as of late…make Superman likable.

30. Vice Principals

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HBO – Danny McBride, Walton Goggins and Kimberly Hebert Gregory

It should be noted that our two stars play absolutely terrible people on this show. Danny McBride is an expert at making bad guys almost worth rooting for (i.e. Kenny Powers) and Walton Goggins is simply one of the best actors in television today (watch Justified, if you don’t believe me). The under-the-radar sweetness of Shea Whigham, which is a complete opposite of McBride’s character, is reason enough alone to watch this show.

29. House of Cards

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Netflix – Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and Michael Kelly

House of Cards lost a bit of mojo once Frank Underwood made it to the oval office. Once he became president, he was no longer hunter but rather playing survivor instead. Robin Wright carries the 4th season much more than her male counterpart and Joel Kinnaman makes for an awesome heel as the adversary candidate in their race for reelection. What makes me hopeful for the 5th season is how scary both Francis and Claire are by the end of 4th.

28. Preacher

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AMC – Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga and Jackie Earle Haley

Preacher had of the best pilots of the year, written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. It matched the crazy and action that’s packed in the comic series, and set the tone for what should be a wild ride of a series. The season itself had its ups and downs, sometimes standing in place and other times with the pedal to metal. It never lacked suspense or humor though, due to the unpredictable nature and writing of the characters.

27. The Crown

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Netflix – Claire Foy, Matt Smith and John Lithgow

The Crown is absolutely stunning. The cinematography, the costumes, the pageantry, and the acting are all top notch. The real life story of Queen Elizabeth and her royal family are fascinating too but there was a disconnect for me…It’s hard to be emotionally invested and sympathetic in the problems of British Hierarchy. But Lithgow as Winston Churchill is inspiring.

26. Black Mirror

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Netflix – Bryce Dallas Howard and Michael Kelly

This British anthology series is the modern Twilight Zone, with technology, and it’s terrifying. Excellent and recognizable actors in each story/episode and themes that make you question your own behavior when it comes to, well, everything…

25. The Flash

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The CW – Grant Gustin, Candice Patton and Tom Cavanaugh

Everyday I wonder why Warner Bros. doesn’t just let the TV DC universe carry over to their film universe…Grant Gustin belongs there and they are making a big mistake by not capitalizing on the charm, fun and popularity he has brought with Barry Allen.

24. Insecure

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HBO – Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji and Jay Ellis

Issa Rae is awesome. The show is comfortable and honest. It doesn’t try hard to speak on behalf of its audience yet is still relatable. It was also refreshing after every half hour following Westworld episode trying to blow your mind.

23. Grace and Frankie

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Netflix – Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterson and Martin Sheen

I love Grace and Frankie. Ever since Sam Waterson and Martin Sheen chose to come out to their wives (Fonda and Tomlin) in the show’s first episode, it’s been an absolute delight. Can’t wait for the third season.

22. Veep

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HBO – Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale and Anna Chlumsky

It shouldn’t be news to anyone at this point that Veep is really good, and will probably be especially relevant in the next couple years. When you have Gary Cole, Kevin Dunn, Diedrich Bader and HUGH LAURIE as recurring supporting characters, what’s not to love?

21. BoJack Horseman

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Netflix – Will Arnett, Alison Brie and Aaron Paul

BoJack is Netflix’s best comedy and that’s really saying a lot. All I have to do is point to the episode that was set in 2007 (WOW, TEN YEARS AGO NOW) and how effective every episode specific to that year was.

20. Last Chance U

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Netflix

It’s the one docu-series that I have listed here but it’s a great one. Following a junior college school of student athletes trying to overcome their personal and academic issues and catch the eye of D1 programs (while also dealing with their egotistical head coach) is some of the most compelling television you’ll find in the last year.

19. Bosch

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Amazon – Titus Welliver, Jamie Hector and Lance Reddick

Related to the Lincoln Lawyer universe of novels, Bosch is an adapted Michael Connelly detective series that plays like a modern noir. Titus Welliver has always been “that guy” on TV shows, usually a supporting or guest villain, but shines when given the spotlight as the title character. If you were a fan of The Wire, then you are going to LOVE all the alums who star and appear on the show.

18. Mozart in the Jungle

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Amazon – Gael Garcia Bernal, Malcolm McDowell and Lola Kirke

How this series hasn’t received love from the Emmys is beyond me (at least on thing the Golden Globes gets right). One of the easiest binge watches you could ask for, with great writing and soul-searching music. Bernal is also one of the best actors you’ll find on television today and makes you feel as romantic the maestro he portrays.

17. Ray Donovan

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Showtime – Liev Schreiber, John Voight and Steven Bauer

Now that we’re moved on from Bryan Cranston’s Walter White and Jon Hamm’s Don Draper, it’s time to start recognizing Liev Schreiber’s Ray Donovan as one of the most complex and well-acted characters on current running series. It took a few years, but the show is now hitting its stride in writing, acting, and casting…while the soundtrack to Season 4 could be pound-for-pound as good as any.

16. Billions

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Showtime – Damian Lewis, Paul Giamati and Maggie Siff

Maggie Siff is the x-factor to a show that already features two heavyweight lead actors. Don’t get me wrong, Lewis and Giamati definitely fit the bill. But Siff goes well beyond what we remember from her character, Tara, on Sons of Anarchy, and deserves as many nominations as she can get. The show itself is like if The Big Short didn’t treat its audience like a bunch of idiots and faster paced. Great Metallica appearance too.

15. The Americans

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FX – Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Noah Emmerich

I’ll be honest, I’m still catching up on The Americans. It’s well-regarded as being one of the best shows today, if not THEE BEST, but it took me a while to get interested enough to check it out. I’m sure by next year it will be significantly higher on the list.

14. Silicon Valley

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HBO – Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller and Kumail Nanjiani

I don’t know if there is a show that has a better sense of humor than Silicon Valley. Every episode oozes with Mike Judge’s cynicism, nature and experience in the industry and it’s fantastic. Is it a little exhausting that guys of Pied Piper continue to get crapped on after they find success? Yes…but that’s the heart of its story: overcoming the continuous struggle.

13. The People vs. OJ Simpson

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FX – Cuba Gooding Jr., John Travolta and Courtney B. Vance 

The very first episode of American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson reminded us how great Ryan Murphy can be as a director and storyteller. You knew what was going to happen, but the suspense was absolutely killer and he let the evidence tell the story. The acting was superb by a great cast, but then Murphy couldn’t get out of his own way. Yes, Robert Kardashian’s friendship was significant to Simpson, but did they have to be so gratuitous with the attention to his ex wife and daughters? And why was every extra or background actor more annoying and awful than the next? Courtney B. Vance, Sterling K. Brown and John Travolta made the miniseries every bit as compelling as it was though.

12. Daredevil

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Netflix – Charlie Cox, Jon Bernthal and Deborah Ann Woll

Season 1 of Daredevil was an absolute adrenaline rush that was capable of doing what the Marvel Cinematic Universe hadn’t accomplished yet: like give us a memorable and even sympathetic villain (Vincent D’onofrio). This time, it was an antihero that took The Defenders series to the next level…Jon Bernthal’s variation of The Punisher is dark, brooding, heartbreaking, badass, and even more interesting than the title character.

11. This Is Us

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NBC – Sterling K. Brown, Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia

One of the best new shows on television, This Is Us has this uncanny ability to make you laugh, cry and repeat over and over every episode. It’s honest, it’s smart, and it’s one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. The show also never ceases to keep you on your toes.

10. The Night Manager

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AMC – Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Elizabeth Debicki

Sexy, suspenseful and super unpredictable, The Night Manager was unbelievably good, even by AMC’s standards. If it was an audition for Tom Hiddleston to play James Bond, he passed. If Hugh Laurie was trying out to be a Bond villain, he’d be way better than most…Rather than go with the obvious Bond girl comp, I’ll just say Elizabeth Debicki is my new TV crush and I feared for her life the entire miniseries.

9. Narcos

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Netflix – Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook and Pedro Pascal

The best way I can describe how good Narcos S2 was, I literally couldn’t close my laptop while streaming it…I actually let it play on top of my washer while I did my laundry because I couldn’t hit pause on the action that was cranked to 11, compared to season 1. Wagner Moura as Pablo Escobar is more than award worthy as well.

8. Atlanta

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FX – Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry and Keith Stanfield

Donald Glover is making a really strong case for coolest dude on the planet. Even cooler might be Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12, Straight Outta Compton) and everything his character does on Atlanta. Every episode is different in its own way but they are all consistently real and also surreal at the same time.

7. Better Call Saul

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AMC – Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks and Michael McKean

Better Call Saul is proof of 2 things: Vince Gilligan is a genius and comedic actors are brilliant in dramatic settings. It’s incredible to see how enthralling the stories can be of Breaking Bad’s supporting characters. The shows are very different in tone, but the suspense, cinematography and classic Gilligan wit are all there…sometimes better. Oh, and it look’s like Gus is coming next season.

6. Luke Cage

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Netflix – Mike Colter, Rosario Dawson and Theo Rossi

While watching Luke Cage, I couldn’t help but think it was my favorite of The Defenders  series. Mike Colter’s Luke Cage isn’t afraid to be the hero, nor does he hide behind an alias and that avoids the unnecessary drama that you find in Daredevil. The show doesn’t hold back on facing social issues and the women on the show are all complete badasses in their own way. Also love the music and how Harlem is treated like a character itself.

5. Westworld

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HBO – Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins

The mystery of Westworld’s end game throughout the first season was so enthralling that you couldn’t help but keep watching until it came to fruition. Every twist kept you on your toes, the setting was gorgeous, and the music was haunting. Almost every character was dynamic, man or machine, and whom you were rooting for was entirely up to you.

4. Stranger Things

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Netflix – David Harbour, Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown

Stranger Things was the new show that many of us geeks needed over the summer. Sci-fi, horror, 80’s references, adventure, action and all the wonderment through the eyes of kids of that era made this show worth binge watching over an entire weekend.

3. Game of Thrones

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HBO – Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke and Lena Headey

Television’s most talked about show gave us its biggest payoff of a season. Every episode gave fans a win, whether it was characters being reunited, the advancement of a few others, or the death of a few hated ones…Don’t forget, I had Power Rankings for the entire season too.

2. The Night Of

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HBO – Riz Ahmed, John Turturro and Bill Camp

After every episode, week to week, I couldn’t help but say that The Night Of was the best show of the summer. It was. From the premiere, which made you scream “NO NO NO NO NO!” with everything Riz Ahmed did, to John Turturro’s amazing performance, to the back-and-forth “Serial Podcast” style guessing of who-done-it…every episode was worth the wait. Would have loved to see what the first one would have been like with James Gandolfini in Turturro’s role.

1. Goliath

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Amazon – Billy Bob Thornton, William Hurt and Maria Bello

I haven’t seen it on many year-end lists, but here I have it as my #1. Why? If you’re a Billy Bob Thornton fan, everything you like about him is on display in Goliath. He’s funny, commanding, and unbelievably easy to root for. The battle between a giant corporation and the “little guy” victims was too good to pause during a weekend to myself. It was also the most fulfilling of any series I have listed above. It’s the first thing I suggest to anyone who asks for a recommendation too.

 

If you have any thoughts or recommendations for next year’s list, let me know on Twitter or Facebook. Stay tuned for the Favorites of 2016 Movie List. 

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Piffcast: Chris Petlak and Jim Kozyra Kick Out ‘THE JAMZ’ on Netflix

The creators/writers/co-executive producers/stars of The Jamz, Chris Petlak and Jim Kozyra, join the show! We discuss how the workplace comedy came together, the New York Television Festival and Indie TV, influences for the show and characters, plus filming in and identifying with Chicago. Jim, Chris, TJ and I also hold a “Favorite Chicago-based Films and TV shows Draft”. You can let us know who won and also watch the show on Netflix, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and XBOX. (23:17 mark, if you want to jump ahead)

Meanwhile, a congratulations is in order for TJ, spoiler-less reaction to Game of Thrones, superhero show rankings, and a preview of the upcoming Summer TV that we’re looking forward to.

Follow for more on Facebook or Twitter. You can subscribe to The Piffcast on iTunes too.

Daredevil Season 2 Trailer: Part II

“The yakuza never left…”

“They just hibernated and watched you take out all their enemies.”

Part II of Marvel’s Daredevil Season 2 trailer is here and it’s as full of action as the first. We see that The Punisher is far from Matt Murdock and Co.’s only problem. We get to know Elektra (Elodie Yung) a little better and why the assassin is in Hell’s Kitchen. Obviously some of the old sparks are there between her and Daredevil.

Stick (Scott Glenn) also reemerges from the shadows to clarify that The Hand either have something to do with the Yakuza presence, or they’re an even bigger threat. The Hand are a supervillain organization of evil mystical ninjas with powerful occult magic that can bring their villains back from the dead and join them.

Two things to keep an eye out for with The Hand at play, according to the comics:

  1. A primordial demon called “The Beast” could be the end game for The Hand to bring back. Hence the supernatural presence in Season 1.
  2. Stick could be leading them at some point…or has been the entire time.

So there’s a lot to look forward to when Season 2 hits Netflix on March 18th.

Share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter!

New Daredevil Season 2 Trailer: Meet The Punisher

For months, Netflix has teased what’s to come for Matt Murdock and Hell’s Kitchen. Following the first seasons of Marvel’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones, a new face isn’t just knocking on the door…

He’s blowing up your whole damn block.

Enter Frank Castle aka “The Punisher”, portrayed by The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal. Castle is a vigilante, like Murdock, but fueled by revenge over the death of his family and has no problem dishing it back to anyone in his way. Bernthal has a knack for characters of serious conflict, and that appears to be a central theme as Daredevil and Punisher clash over how to deal with the scum of Hell’s Kitchen

The storyline comes at an interesting time as the landscape of two highly anticipated superhero films are centered around similar rivalries, i.e. Batman v. Superman and Captain America: Civil War. The Punisher can be considered more as an anti-hero, almost in a Dexter Morgan light, but he’s a character from the comics that fans obviously sympathize with. Comparing how Punisher and Daredevil deal with baddies will be interesting, as will the perception of Castle’s actions by both characters in the show and the audience. If Foggy hated Matt’s version of justice, he’s going to LOVE Castle.

If you’ve followed the Netflix “Hell’s Kitchen” series over the past year, the success of Deadpool as a hard Rated-R Marvel film shouldn’t shock you. Daredevil and Jessica Jones proved to be very excellent television for Netflix, thanks in part to not holding back in violence and adult themes. While both shows make multiple nods to characters and events from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, there’s no way Disney will allow Hulk to decapitate someone with a car door…like Wilson Fisk did. Fans can also recall The Punisher with Thomas Jane in 2004 being an R-Rated Marvel film, 4 years before The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man kicked off the MCU series.

Also introduced in the trailer is Elektra (Elodie Yung), an assassin and love interest from “Matthew’s” past. One could assume we will get more of her story in the next trailer that is set to be released February 25th, but she can also be a big part of the battle between Daredevil and Punisher.

We’ll be keeping an eye on more developments before the Daredevil S2 Netflix release on March 18th. Check for updates on Facebook or Twitter

 

My Favorite 25 TV Shows of 2015

In case you weren’t already aware, I watch A LOT of TV. If you asked me what shows I like, I could list off my weekly schedule with multiple programs every night (and I have). Let’s jut say my DVR gets a lot of usage.

In the post-Breaking Bad era, the quality television has hardly dropped. If anything, TV has stepped its game up across the board and we’re all better off for it. With it now being “Best of” list season, it’s time to sort through all the great shows and some how rank them.

Rather than say “Best” or “Top” though, I have to say “Favorite”. Even if I could name at least 35-40 TV shows that I watched in 2015, I haven’t watched them all. If you get worked up because Transparent, The Americans, or The Leftovers aren’t included, it’s because I didn’t watch them but fully intend to. Unfortunately, I wasn’t thrilled with either The Walking Dead or Homeland’s recent work. And no, I don’t watch American Horror Story anymore. Call me when Ryan Murphy decides to tell better stories and not just be F’d up for F’d Up’s sake.

Now for the TV shows from 2015 that kept me wanting more week to week, or forced me to binge within 24 hours!

25. Bloodline (Netflix)

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Netflix had a KILLER year with their programming in 2015 and Bloodline was very nice surprise from the streaming service. Kyle Chandler cemented himself as this generation’s new TV All-American (on top of Friday Night Lights) and Ben Mendelsohn cemented himself as a pure on-screen asshole (see also Mississippi Grind). Bloodline starts out with a bang, tests your patience in the middle, and then pulls you by your “you know whats” for the home stretch. You get a feeling, Season 2 could be even better. 

24. Gotham: Rise of the Villains (FOX)

Gotham Rise of the Villains

If we were handing out a “Most Improved” award for TV in 2015, Gotham would be strong contender. Season 1 was campy, fun, but not something I would necessarily prioritize my Monday nights for. Rise of the Villains changed all of that. From Cameron Monaghan’s take on the Joker felt perfect (including his shocking plot twist), to young Bruce Wayne’s maturation/Jim Gordon’s descent from innocence, to actually rooting for The Penguin and the cold midseason cliffhanger…Gotham’s finally finding it’s footing in the superhero TV genre. 

23. BoJack Horseman (Netflix)

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This show is dumb for all the right reasons. I like to think Will Arnett’s BoJack is what happened to Bob Saget after Full House went off the air, in half horse-half man form. The ensemble cast of voices, including Aaron Paul, Alison Brie, Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins and JK Simmons, is about as good as there is in animated comedy. And when you think you’re just going to watch for an episode or two, you find yourself losing about 3 hours without even realizing it because it hooked you. 

22. Agent Carter (ABC)

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Agent Carter in a short “special event” season was able to do what Agents of SHIELD couldn’t in its first 2 seasons…separate itself from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and still advance the story. Of all the Avengers heroes, I always found Captain America’s plot to be the most interesting and Peggy Carter is somehow able to continue that from the 1940s-50s by making it her own. It’s also not so dependent on the supernatural but more so on spy and noir storytelling and human action.

21. Mr. Robot (USA)

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Mr. Robot had probably the best pilot for a new TV series in 2015. Unfortunately it never matched that intrigue for the rest of the season, with maybe another episode or two coming close after the halfway point. Rami Malek carries the show as an the incredible introvert a lot of us sometimes feel like. The brutal commentary on modern society feels brilliant at times but then you feel like you saw a lot of this plot in Fight Club…because you did. 

20. Jane The Virgin (CW)

Jane The Virgin

I have to admit, I was pretty late to Jane The Virgin. I loved seeing Gina Rodriguez in her late night appearances and her acceptance speeches at award shows. Then as soon as it was recommended to me, it may have been the quickest 20+ episode binge watch on Netflix I had ever done. It’s fast paced, goofy, and full of cliffhangers. Most soap-style shows would probably be better off with the Jane the Virgin narrator as well. 

19. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Ellie Kemper should be getting way more love with awards show nominations than she has. If you wanted to know what a TV show anchored by Erin from The Office being freed from a cult “doomsday” bunker was like, now you do and it’s hilarious. The cameos get better and better as the season progresses and I was really rooting for Jon Hamm to win a second Emmy for guest appearance. 

18. Archer (FX)

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If there is an animated show that has taken the torch from South Park for better running jokes and one-liners, it’s Archer. H. Jon Benjamin also has this insane ability to make you laugh with just his voice and no context at all.

17. Daredevil (Netflix)

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I personally love the MCU but I understand the criticism that its villains lack the kind of presence that DC movie villains (i.e. Joker and Bane) have. *Enter the Netflix Hell’s Kitchen Series* Daredevil takes place after the events of the first Marvel’s Avengers aftermath and it isn’t as pretty as you’d think. Daredevil himself gives and takes some gruesome beatings with amazing stunts while Vincent D’Onofrio makes “The Kingpin” Wilson Fisk into one of TV’s best modern villains. It’s a great start to series of one-off seasons for Jessica Jones (scroll further down), Luke Cage, The Punisher and eventually The Defenders.

16. Silicon Valley (HBO)

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When Silicon Valley hit in 2014, I thought it was the best new comedy of the year. It’s a hilarious take on the tech world with Mike Judge’s (Office Space, Beavis and Butthead) own personal experience as a Silicon Valley tech engineer in the 80’s telling the story. The show didn’t slow down at all in S2, even though the “Pied Piper” guys got shit on in every way possible.

15. Narcos (Netflix)

Narcos 2015

If you were curious how dangerous and powerful Pablo Escobar was, or how a show that’s mostly in subtitles is so compelling, Narcos is for you. It’s a very cool mix of suspense and dramatized documentary-style storytelling. A little Scorsese-like, in that regard. 

14. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix)

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The prequel series to the cult classic was BETTER than the movie. Yeah, I said it. Mostly because I couldn’t get enough of 40 year-olds acting like high schoolers and the eventual eruption of crazy Christopher Meloni. 

13. House of Cards (Netflix)

HOC S3

House of Cards is still an excellent show and Frank Underwood is one of the best characters on TV today. But now that he’s at the top, it feels like “now what?”. Claire Underwood’s arc and power plays in S3 was the most interesting to me, and it felt like a big set up for an epic showdown in S4. 

12. Show Me A Hero (HBO)

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The HBO miniseries went a little under-the-radar over the summer, but it was both powerful and relevant to political issues today. If you’re a fan of The Wire, you’ll notice all the parallels David Simon uses in style, cinematography and storytelling. There are also plenty of Wire-alums to get you excited throughout the series. And I have to say Oscar Isaac is reaching modern Al Pacino status with his recent performances, including this.

11. Hannibal (NBC)

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One of TV’s most visually impressive and goriest shows didn’t get much respect from its own network. Hannibal occupied at least 4 of the 7 nights of the week without announcements of scheduling changes and that made it tough to really build an audience. Regardless, every episode made you ask out loud, “HOW DID THEY GET AWAY WITH THAT ON NETWORK TV?” Mads Mikkelsen was haunting as Hannibal and Hugh Dancy complimented him perfectly when hunting  him as Will Graham all the way to the bittersweet end.

10. The Muppets (ABC)

The Muppets ABC

This is probably the grown-ass child that I am talking, but I think The Muppets is perfect. It’s an awesome blend of the characters you grew up with, today’s pop culture, and witty/not-so-subtle adult humor that makes it worth watching every week. The Muppets have surpassed Modern Family as ABC’s best sitcom.

09. South Park (Comedy Central)

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In it’s 19th season, South Park did something it really had never done before…It kept a continuous ongoing story, with a plot, arc and character development…and it did so making fun of gentrification, Whole Foods, Yelp, Donald Trump, Caitlyn Jenner, sponsored content, Ex Machina, guns and so much more. It was genius.

08. Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation 2015

Like Hannibal, NBC didn’t give Parks and Recreation the respect it deserved. There aren’t many shows that you can say got better as they went on, but that’s exactly what Parks and Rec did. It went from feeling like a spinoff to The Office to it’s own show with arguably better writing and characters that can all be invested in.

07. Justified (FX)

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We all have our shows that feel like OUR shows, the ones that only a few of your friends watches and you persistently recommend to everyone else. Justified will always be that show to me. It was never full of itself. The hero/antihero relationship between Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) was unlike any other. And the finale will go down as one of the best in television history.

06. Master of None (Netflix)

Master of None 2015

Aziz Ansari’s Master of None was my favorite comedy of year. It was honest, unique, and way too easy to binge in one evening. I might have laughed at everything that came out of Arnold’s mouth (Eric Wareheim) and I’m also am keeping the “getaway flight to somewhere awesome” date in my back pocket…for someone special and willing to take me up on it.

05. Jessica Jones (Netflix)

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While Daredevil was excellent for it’s action, Jessica Jones stood out even more as a detective noir/horror/superhero series. Kilgrave raised the the ante for Marvel villains in the scariest way possible, mind control, and that made the season that much more gripping and suspenseful. Just a few words and anything could happen to anyone…Can’t wait to see where they go with the series next.

04. Better Call Saul (AMC)

Better Call Saul

The concern before Better Call Saul premiered was that it was too soon after Breaking Bad to do a prequel. The body wasn’t even cold yet, as they say. That’s fine because the story of Jimmy McGill, before taking on the Saul Goodman moniker, and Mike has proven to be almost as compelling as Walter White’s in its own way. Like Walter, Saul’s transformation is slow but it clearly takes a lot to get from McGill to Goodman. Mike’s subplot may be even more badass than it was in Breaking Bad.

03. Mad Men (AMC)

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The Mad Men final episodes were perfect sendoff for all-time character Don Draper. Hero, anti-hero, villain…I even recall Draper referred to as “The Devil”…an argument can be made for it all, and he made it look cool. Season 7 also wrapped everything up nicely for an ensemble you grew to love for the better part of a decade, that helped the current generation of TV viewers feel historic events and milestones in advertising as they happened in the 1960s. 

02. Game of Thrones

Jon Snow 2015

Was there a fictional TV Show more controversial this year? Fans got angry. Really angry. Publications swore it off. Horrible characters did really bad things to innocent characters (deep, I know)…but you were still invested. We’ve also been debating and speculating on the ending to the season finale ever since it aired, and we’ll do so till S6 premieres. And dragons…F’n dragons. 

Game of Thrones Dragons

 

01. Fargo (FX)

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The finale for S2 airs tonight and I can’t help but be confident it will be as good as the entire season has been. Every episode has been better than the one before it. The character development has been unreal, especially for Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons’s accidentally murderous couple. Nick Offerman shows off some amazing range beyond Ron Swanson. Cristin Milioti pulls your heart strings again (HIMYM, Never forget). And Bokeem Woodbine might be the breakout star of the year. If you haven’t watched…do it, do it now!

 

What does your 2015 Favorite Shows list look like? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter!

 

The 2016 SAG Award Nominations and My Thoughts

The 2016 SAG Award nominations were announced Wednesday morning, and two things struck me:

  1. The Screen Actors Guild LOVED Trumbo, maybe a bit more than me.
  2. I don’t think they’ve seen Fargo yet on FX. Seriously…

This is just one of several award shows (which airs Jan. 30th on TNT and TBS), but it’s one of the few that gauges my interest more than others because it acknowledges both the film and TV world. Here are the nominees and some quick thoughts on each category.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

  • Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
  • Johnny Depp – Black Mass
  • Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

I really have no problem with this category. I have yet to see Revenant or The Danish Girl, but I don’t doubt the performances of DiCaprio or Redmayne carry their films like the other nominees. If there was someone that I would like to see get more credit, it’s Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace in End of the Tour. It didn’t take much transforming, aside from the obvious hair and glasses, but Segel’s performance is as engaging and natural as any from the summer…especially in his interactions with Jesse Eisenberg.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

  • Cate Blanchett – Carol
  • Brie Larson – Room
  • Helen Mirren – Woman In Gold
  • Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
  • Sarah Silverman – I Smile Back

I can’t get upset about this category because I think it’s Brie Larson’s award to lose, and hers alone. However, I’m surprised Jennifer Lawrence was left out after another highly anticipated David O’Russell  role. Of course the film hasn’t hit theaters yet, so I can’t really talk..Alicia Vikander deserves more love for Ex Machina because she still haunts my dreams for her performance.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Christian Bale – The Big Short
  • Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
  • Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
  • Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
  • Jacob Tremblay – Room

This category is HEAVY. Even without Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Sylvester Stallone (Creed) or Paul Dano (Love & Mercy), it looks stacked…but I’d like to see them all in it.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
  • Helen Mirren – Trumbo
  • Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

Helen Mirren has 3 nominations here and I’m not sure she’s winning any of them. It will be fun to see what her batting average is though by the night’s end. I would be interested to see what kind of buzz Jennifer Jason Leigh gets after Hateful Eight is released.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

  • Beasts of No Nation
  • The Big Short
  • Spotlight
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Trumbo

Spotlight is my favorite film from this year and it deserves all the good things that come its way. I am surprised both The Martian or Steve Jobs were left out of this category, considering how star studded their casts were. Their performances didn’t disappoint either.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

  • Idris Elba – Luther
  • Ben Kingsley – Tut
  • Ray Liotta – Texas Rising
  • Bill Murray – A Very Murray Christmas
  • Mark Rylance – Wolf Hall

I don’t have many thoughts on this other than (1) Luther rules, (2) I turned off A Very Murray Christmas after 10 minutes and (3) Where is Oscar Isaac for Show Me A Hero. 

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

  • Nicole Kidman – Grace of Monaco
  • Queen Latifah – Bessie
  • Christina Ricci – The Lizzie Borden Chronicles
  • Susan Sarandon – The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
  • Kristen Wiig – The Spoils Before Dying

I literally have zero thoughts about this one, because I haven’t seen any of the nominated performances yet.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

  • Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones
  • Jon Hamm – Mad Men
  • Rami Malek – Mr. Robot
  • Bob Odenkirk – Better Call Saul
  • Kevin Spacey – House of Cards

I’m happy to see Rami Malek get props for playing the best introvert on TV, but this is Don Draper’s victory lap and I don’t see anyone getting in his way. I’m also always shocked to not see Mads Mikkelsen ever nominated for Hannibal. I guess that’s for fringe loving types like me.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

  • Claire Danes – Homeland
  • Viola Davis – How To Get Away With Murder
  • Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife
  • Maggie Smith – Downton Abbey
  • Robin Wright –House of Cards

Viola Davis has the momentum from the Emmys but I will always maintain that the past two seasons of House of Cards have been great nearly because of Robin Wright as much as Spacey.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Ty Burrell – Modern Family
  • Louis C.K. – Louie
  • William H. Macy – Shameless
  • Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory
  • Jeffrey Tambor – Transparent

Modern Family to me is “What Will Phil Dunphy Do Next?” because that’s all I watch for now, but Jeffrey Tambor holding a torch for the transgender community has become way more important.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Uzo Aduba – Orange is the New Black
  • Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie
  • Ellie Kemper – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep
  • Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation

Poehler Thug

That is all.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

  • Downton Abbey
  • Game of Thrones
  • Homeland
  • House of Cards
  • Mad Men

If you’ve been watching the second season of Fargo, you’re probably wondering if perhaps the actors didn’t know how to spell it filling out their nominations, considering every Monday night feels like the show’s best episode…If you’ve been watching Homeland this seasonyou might be wondering why it’s on here. The season finale is in a week and I still have no idea if it was good or not this year.

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Key & Peele
  • Modern Family
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Transparent
  • Veep

I would love to see Key & Peele ride off into the sunset with some hardware.

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

  • Everest
  • Furious 7
  • Jurassic World
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Fury Road is one of the best films of this year and a modern classic. Pick against it and you lose.

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series

  • The Blacklist
  • Game of Thrones
  • Homeland
  • Marvel’s Daredevil
  • The Walking Dead

I just watched end Episode 2 of the first season again. This is why I love Daredevil.

How are you pulling for this Awards season? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter.

 

It’s Good to be a Geek

I envy everyone who attended San Diego Comic-Con 2015 this past weekend. Attendees were lucky enough to witness first looks at upcoming Star Wars, DC, and Marvel films. Fortunately, those of us who couldn’t attend have the internet and access to the streaming of panels, and releases of footage (official or leaked). Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice finally gave us their first full trailerDeadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Suicide Squad headlined with panels and trailer presentations that made their way to the internet shortly after. Even THE MUPPETS made their presence felt, discussing their mockumentary series that will air on ABC later this year. The biggest takeaway from the SDCC weekend may have been exactly what all of us young (and old) padawans have been waiting for…Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens coming to life.

If you’re like me, you salivated at the idea of “real sets” and  “practical effects”, which were missing from Episodes I-III…and Jurassic World for that matter. (CGI takes the magic away from things, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

This past weekend, overall, was an excellent reminder of how good it is to be a geek these days. A generation that grew up on comic books, video games, and Superhero cartoons are now being treated to a Hollywood that appreciates those mediums. Before the first Iron Man movie, did you expect to see a full timeline of Avengers/Marvel films scheduled through May 3rd, 2019? Following Revenge of the Sith, Did you imagine Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford would team up again as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo? You’re lying if say you did…Or have a time-traveling DeLorean in your garage.

While we have new Superhero films hitting theaters every 3-4 months now, television has caught up to the big screen as an excellent resource for geek entertainment (and distraction). What Marvel has accomplished with feature films and creating an epic universe for the Avengers, DC has done on the CW network with Arrow, The Flash and the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow…

Fox’s Gotham and ABC’s Agents of Shield series are fun, but not nearly as compelling as the stories presented in the Arrow/Flash universe (which I wish the DC film division took notice of). Meanwhile, Netflix has entered the ring with excellent original programming. The first season of Daredevil cleansed the pallet of a fans who were left with a bad taste after the previous adaptation, starring Ben Affleck. It also opened the door to a universe that will involve 4 other Marvel series on Netflix, including Jessica Jones later this year, then Luke CageThe Iron Fist, and then The Defenders. 

Recently, I’ve noticed a contrarian and trendy narrative in TV shows, such as Community and Mr. Robot, that suggest people are suckers for enjoying Superhero films. In the writers’ opinion, we’re all lemmings for going to the movie theater and paying money for these films, and that’s just simply wrong. Just about every one of the Marvel films consist of better stories and dialogue than you’ll find in any of other franchises getting recent installments (looking at you Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys and ALL of the Transformers films). I also think those are counter-culture comments being made for the sake of being counter-culture. Consider that a win, Geeks. You are today’s “culture”, and it’s wonderful.

Have you ever Googled the definition of “Geek”? The definition isn’t particularly flattering and may have been written by Biff from “Back To The Future”…

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Yep. straight from Google. (Google is a jerk sometimes). Those who believe in the “unfashionable” and “carnival performer” assumptions are the same people who made fun of you to feel better about themselves and are probably looking forward to their high school reunions way more than the average person should. 

The truth lies somewhere in the sub-definitions. “A knowledgeable enthusiast” (obsessive is a bit strong) or one who “becomes extremely excited about a subject” sounds more like a typical fan than a “socially inept person”. It also applies to more than comic books, video games, and superheroes. If you are amped up for next seasons for The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, or even less fantasy-driven shows like House of Cards or Empire, you are indeed a geek. If you are checking every new beer you try on the Untappd app, you are a geek. If you are over-preparing for your upcoming fantasy football draft or really looking forward to when Blackhawks tickets go on sale, you are a geek…not a freak.

Geek is fun. Geek is chic. Geek is “normal”…I use the term “normal” very loosely because I don’t think there is such thing as normal. We all have different backgrounds, different interests, different hobbies, and different experiences. When we can bond on any of those different things, then maybe we start to feel “normal”. Being a geek is sort of like that.

I love that I can discuss the things I get excited about on this website like movies, music, TV, sports and food, because I know there are many who share these same interests…many of whom, are in fact geeks (whether they identify as such or not). It’s a community that grows everyday thanks to social media and the ever-evolving entertainment culture, one that can be both appealing but sometimes over-critical.

For now, it’s just simply good. I mean, who ISN’T geeking out about Star Wars returning this Winter?

[Update]

Of course as soon as I mention it in this post, Warner Bros releases the Suicide Squadtrailer. Enjoy!

Have something to add? Continue the conversation on Twitter @Mike_PiFF03