Best new show:
A father decides to come out to her children and live the life she never could. It affects each of the three profoundly, and Transparent somehow manages to capture what it means to share a life with people, in all its beauty and horribleness. Sometimes it hits where it hurts, and that's what's so good about this show (also mostly everything else).
A show about friendship and the deep profound and unquestionably supportive love of two women navigating life in New York City. I initially didn't give it a chance because I couldn't get over Fred Armisen in episode one but it's LOVELY, and endlessly quotable, and relatable in a way where you end up wondering why exactly but then just blindly embrace the joyful experience.
(also: The Honourable Woman, Happy Valley)
(also: The Honourable Woman, Happy Valley)
I often think about shows in terms of potential, and this is why I sometimes follow them for longer than my heart tells me to - but none of that is necessary with Orphan Black, since it lives up to its potential entirely, fulfils it, embraces it. One of the smartest shows about identity, gender, science and religion, I can't wait to see where it goes in its third season.
I almost gave up on this show after its first season, filing it in the same category where I store Warehouse 13, but then the second season and its focus on Stahma Tarr and Irisa blew me away in terms of what science fiction still can achieve.
Probably one of the most solid single seasons of television in a while, and even better than the first one the show had to offer, cathartic, beautifully acted, grand in vision and scope.
I am quietly confident that Gillian Anderson's Stella Gibson is the kind of character that will show up on all sorts of lists for years to come. She is fierce, competent, focused, on a show that manages a weird balancing act between portraying what it means to objectify women totally, while still also objectifying women, while also objectifying the male lead, which mainly has the effect of making the viewer self-question, rather than question the show itself (it's like a mirror except deep down you expect Stella Gibson staring at you through one-way-glass). Along with pretty much every other show on this list, profoundly about what it means to be female in this society.
This show is insane, and plays the long game, and it's all about Alicia Florrick BECOMING Alicia Florrick, more and more, wherever that may lead. Like Parks, a show that has a set endgame and is clearly working towards it, and now that it is afforded all the time it needs, it seems to become smarter and more playful by the hour (and is therefore always a joy to watch, but somehow even more so when I'm not forced to summarize what actually happens, because THIS SHOW IS INSANE). Killed off a major character. Will probably not kill off another major character.
My Mad Fat Diary
In its second season, still a show that I wish had been around when I was younger, a show so reminiscent of Skins at its best, but somehow more trustworthy - like others on this list, about the beauty of friendship and the occasional cruelty of friends, especially in the crosshairs of whatever it means to be a teenager, and stuck in a particular place with particular people (and being stuck in a body).
Parks and Recreation
I will never be capable of writing about this show properly, because the simple effect that is has on me is fill me with joy and awe. A collaborative project in the best way, both in the way it is realized and in what it portrays, and every time, a light at the end of the tunnel (the unity concert! The time jump! The sheer ambition! Being certain that there is a grander plan, once the show wraps up and Leslie Knope accomplishes whatever she sets out to do!).
I spent a lot of time this year thinking about a detectable current in pop culture, somewhere between Megan Abbott and Tana French's outstanding The Secret Place, and interest in female teenagers and female teenage friendship and the darkness that lurks there, a darkness that exists there because of how the world is (and also an awesomeness, and undeniable strength) - so it is all the more fitting that Twin Peaks is coming back for another round soon, except maybe, Pretty Little Liars is already achieving everything Twin Peaks could ever hope to, especially in how willing the show is to chase the darkness (but never without focusing on the strength of its central friendship). Mona Vanderwaal and Alison DiLaurentis, possibly two of the most intriguing and complex characters currently on television, up against (not always, but mostly) four of the most easiest to root for (yes, yes, even Aria Montgomery).
(also: Game of Thrones (with qualms and hesitation), Mad Men, Parenthood, The Americans, Vikings)
The Bletchley Circle
(quit watching Elementary, Masters of Sex, Justified, Boardwalk Empire)