Hello, it’s me. I was wondering if with the end of 2015, you’d like to join me to go over everything?
The year 2015 was the year of Adele, and Cookie. Game of Thrones won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama. Fantastic Four bombed at the box office and a Clone Club got even crazier. Here is my Best and Worst of 2015 in Pop Culture.
I warn you, the list is as long as a Westeros winter.
A Tale of Two Empires
The rulers of TV weren’t in a galaxy far, far away, but an Empire certainly struck back for Fox. The hip-hop soap set ratings records and Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) joined the ranks of iconic pop culture superdivas.
Season one had every juicy, dramatic twist a soap fan could want. Cookie, freed from prison, set out to reclaim what was hers. Lucious (Terrence Howard), a musician-turned-mogul, pitted sons Andre (Trai Byers), Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) against one other. Jamal came out as gay. Hakeem slept with his father’s girlfriend. Andre and his wife, Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), covered up the murder of Vernon (Malik Yoba). Cookie almost killed Lucious by snuffing him out with a pillow. Every episode was an adventure, and let’s not forget the music!
So far, Season 2 has suffered a proverbial sophomore slump in creativity. There are guest stars galore. Anika (Grace Gealey) has gone crazy —and not the good kind of soap crazy. The feud between Empire and Lyon Dynasty has been palatable, but only delicious when Cookie and Lucious share scenes. Andre’s obsession with religion is nowhere near as interesting as his battle with being bipolar. Jamal's status as a gay role model was torpedoed by having him hook up with a woman. Becky (Gabourey Sidibe) and Porsha (Ta’Rhonda Jones) have been afterthoughts. Many times I feel like I’m watching vignettes instead of an actual story.
Soap clichés that were cleverly executed in season 1 were groan worthy in the first half of season two. Who didn’t know the very pregnant Rhonda was going to take a tumble down the grand staircase, the moment Lucious gave her and Andre the tour of their new home?
Ironically, the character I liked least during season one, Hakeem, has been one of the best things about Season 2. I am hopeful Empire fixes its problems when it returns in 2016, otherwise Fox might see its golden goose become the next The O.C. or Glee, shows that never lived up to their fantastic first seasons.
Oh No They Didn’t!
Game of Thrones went there in 2015. They killed Jon Snow (Kit Harington), or did they? He can’t really be dead. No way is he dead. I refuse to believe he’s dead. There are pictures of Harington on the Game of Thrones set. He isn’t dead! I hope…
Honorable mention goes to The Walking Dead for making us believe Glenn (Steven Yeun) was dead.
I Should Have Seen it Coming, but Didn’t
Everyone saw Jon Snow die (or did he?) in the season finale of Game of Thrones. Very few people had the privilege of seeing Black Sail’s double barreled shockers.
For a season and a half Black Sails made viewers believe—complete with flashbacks—it was an affair between Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and his best friend Thomas Barlow’s (Rupert Penry-Jones) wife Miranda (Louise Barnes) that was a catalyst of Flint’s eventual piratehood. In one episode the Starz series flipped the script on everything by revealing it was Captain Flint and Thomas Barlow who were the actual lovers. Every flash back for a season and a half had been a slight of hand.
The connection we’d seen between Flint and Miranda was really the shared pain of two people who’d lost the same man. The revelation was one of the most satisfying surprises of 2015. In the same scenes, Black Sails killed Miranda. WTF?!
Biggest F*** Yeah!
Game of Thrones wins the Outstanding Drama Emmy. Genre shows like Battlestar Galactica and Buffy the Vampire Slayer almost never win the awards they deserve, but in 2015 Game of Thrones avenged its predecessors by winning the TV Academy’s game of ballots.
There were three times I shouted “F*** Yeah!” at my TV in 2015: Maura West winning Outstanding Lead Actress at the Daytime Emmys, Nebraska beating Michigan State by one point after countless close scoring season losses and Game of Thrones winning Outstanding Drama.
I’m So Over It!: Arrow Flashbacks (The CW)
If I see another island flashback on Arrow I’m going to get Lex Luthor on the phone and beg him to have a minion fly over that island and nuke it. Arrow has been really, really good this season. I’ve enjoyed the introduction of characters for the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow. The Flash/Arrow crossover was excellent and the midseason finale was jaw dropping. However, every time Arrow is gaining momentum, it shoots an “arrow” through the episode by flashing back to the island. Enough already.
Most Delicious, Uncomfortable Dinner: Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
Grey’s Anatomy is “comfort food” TV. I keep watching because of the character’s I’ve loved for years.
There was nothing comforting, however, about “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” The revelation that Callie's (Sara Ramirez) new girlfriend, Penny (Samantha Sloyan), was the doctor Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) blames for Derek’s (Patrick Dempsey) death was epic.
The Fine Wine of Primetime: The Good Wife (CBS) and Suits (USA Network)
Primetime’s best legal dramas, The Good Wife and Suits, are about so much more than the law. The cases are just the window dressing for the rich character driven relationships both dramas excel at.
Survived the Sophomore Slump: Sleepy Hollow (Fox)
There was magic in Sleepy Hollow during its first season, but its second season was so bad I stopped watching half way through. It rebounded in season three by refocusing on tthe relationship between Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie)
Better than the First: Gotham (Fox)
I watched, but didn’t love Gotham’s first season. Unlike The Flash, it was too dark. It had little humor and it felt more like a villain of the week procedural than an actual continuing story.
I stuck with it because I’ve been a fan of Ben McKenzie since The O.C. and I really enjoyed Bruce Wayne’s (David Mazouz) relationship with Alfred (Sean Pertwee) and Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova). Most weeks, Gotham was the last thing I watched on my DVR. Things changed in season two.
Gone is the episodic, “villain of the week” aspect, replaced with a strong umbrella storyline that introduced The Shield’s Michael Chiklis as James Gordon’s new chief and a slew of new supervillains.
I Confess! I’m Watching Again: Scandal (ABC)
I almost dropped Scandal from my DVR at the end of last season. I didn't have the patience for Crybaby-in-Chief Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) and his many Olivia (Kerry Washington)-related tantrums. I’m glad I didn’t drop the political soap, because the first half of the 2015-2016 season has been a wild ride.
I am loving the bigger role for Portia de Rossi’s Elizabeth North. Having former Vice President Sally Langston (Kate Burton) become a Fox News-esque talking head was a fantastic way to keep the character relevant. The "break up" of Cyrus (Jeff Perry) and Fitz was well done, and I’ve really enjoyed Abby (Darby Stanchfield) coming into her own as White House Press Secretary. Best off all has been the evolution of Mellie Grant (Bellamy Young). The former First Lady is now a Junior Senator to be reckoned with! Mellie’s filibuster episode was my favorite too date. All hail Queen Mellie.
Late to the Game: Being Mary Jane (BET), Kingdom (Direct TV) and The Librarians (TNT)
I watch a lot of TV. Sometimes great shows are overlooked, or they slip through the cracks. Thanks to Netflix, I'm almost caught up completely with Being Mary Jane and love it! I binged the entire first season of The Librarians on Hulu in two days. It is a light, fun fantasy adventure. I highly recommend to anyone who was a fan of Warehouse 13.
Then there is Kingdom. Thankfully, the first season of the DirecTV series is available for free on iTunes. I binged this one in two days too! Needless to say I am hooked. Jay (Jonathan Tucker) is one the Top 5 characters currently on TV.
Spoiled Crybaby of 2015: President Fitzgerald Grant, Scandal (ABC)
No explanation needed.
Hello, Grizzly Adams! Best Beard of 2015: Frank Delfino (Charlie Weber), How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)
Shave it Off! Worst Beard of 2015: Barry Al-Fayeed (Adam Rayner), Tyrant (FX)
Best Hair of 2015: Tie-Steffy Forrester, Bold and Beautiful, Leila AL-Fayeed, Tyrant (FX) and Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)
Best Couple of 2015: Datak Tarr (Tony Curran) and Stahma Tarr (Jamie Murray), Defiance (Syfy)
The couple that back stabs one another stays together. There is nothing like ruthless love and no one did it better than Defiance’s Datak and Stahma Tarr.
I have a love/hate relationship with Defiance. It hooked me in its first season because of the characters Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler), Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz), Datak Tarr and Stahma Tarr and their story.
When season three premiered, my enjoyment for Definance’s storytelling vanished and I found myself fast-forwarding almost every scene that didn’t involve those four characters. The season finale felt like a series finale and when Syfy canceled it, I wasn’t sorry. Datak and Stahma Tarr’s was the highlight of an otherwise terrible season. No two cunning, ruthless and manipulative characters deserve each other more.
Sexiest Couple of 2015: Connor (Jack Falahee) and Oliver (Conrad Ricamora), How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)
How to Get Away With Murder is a storyline labyrinth. Every episode is a maze of twist, turns and dead ends.
When Connor Walsh (Jack Falahee) was introduced in Season 1, he was the self-assured, cocky gay character with more than a few notches on his bedpost. As he and his fellow classmates were sucked deeper into the murder mystery, Connor became more and more desperate to escape.
His hookup with Oliver (Conrad Ricamora) became something more and their connection intensified. Like all great TV relationships, they broke up. Realizing his mistake, the guy who could have any man he wants, suddenly only wanted one man.
Connor's playboy bravado vanished with the realization that he was in love with Oliver. Unfortunately for the budding legal eagle, reuniting is never easy on TV. Oliver’s admission he contracted HIV while they were broken up could have been a deal breaker. However, love triumphed with an assist from PrEP. Now the connection these two men share is the lifeline Connor clings to while lost in Annalise’s (Viola Davis) maze.
Rockiest Relationship of 2015: Neil (Matt Passmore) and Grace (Stephanie Szostak), Satisfaction (USA Network)
When the best thing for a marriage is the husband becoming an escort and pimp, and the wife shacking up with a manipulative madam, there are problems. Big problems.
Character(s) Whose Death I Dream Of, but Will Never Happen:
Frank, Shameless (Showtime)
Arizona, Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
Quinn, Scandal (ABC)
Fitz, Scandal (ABC)
I can dream, can’t I?
Favorite New Fall 2015 Drama(s): Tie-Quantico (ABC) and Limitless (CBS)
My two favorite fall dramas have much in common. Each stars a hot actor. Quantico has Priyanka Chopra as Alex Parrish. Limitless has Greek alum Jake McDorman as Brian Finch.
Both Alex and Jake work for the FBI. Alex is an FBI recruit trying to solve the mystery of who framed her for a terrorist bombing. Jake is an FBI consultant who uses a pill called NZT to help solve crimes for the FBI. Both have strong supporting casts. That’s where many of the similarities end.
Quantico is a Grey’s Anatomy-style primetime soap. Limitless is a crime-of-the-week drama that balances the seriousness of the case with lots of humor. At the beginning of the Fall TV season I was looking forward to both Quantico and Limitless. I didn’t expect them to be my favorites, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
Mad Men Award for Critically Acclaimed Drama Everyone Else Loves, But I Don’t: Mr. Robot (USA Network)
I love computers. I love geeky things. I love corporate intrigue. I don’t love Mr. Robot.
Best Comedy: Episodes (Showtime)
My best comedy of 2015 was Showtime’s Episodes. It is sharp. It is sly. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Matt LeBlanc deserves every award nomination he gets for playing this exagerrated version of himself. Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan’s British sensibility is refreshing. Kathleen Rose Perkin’s portrayal as Carol, an executive who will do absolutely anything to make a deal, is inspired.
I do have to give an honorable mention to VEEP. White House intrigue has never been so hilarious.
Best Network Comedy: Black-ish (ABC)
ABC’s Black-ish has hit its stride. Every week is hilarious. The realization of how good Black-ish is snuck up on me when I discovered I was watching it before Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory.
Best New Comedy: Casual (Hulu)
Hulu’s Casual is a gem. You should be watching, if you aren’t already. It isn’t the broad comedy of a The Big Bang Theory. It’s a comedy about two adult siblings—one a single mother, the other a bachelor—who must deal with their relationship, her daughter and their mother. I am not doing Casual justice, so I’ll say it reminds of me the funny, but sometimes sad The Big C that aired on Showtime.
Most Disappointing Comedy: The Muppets (ABC)
Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. The Muppets are about as nostalgic as one can get. Yet, after three episodes of the ABC comedy I found myself over it. Is it because the show broke up Kermit and Miss Piggy? I don’t know. All I know is I’d hoped for more. .
The Office Award for Critically-Acclaimed Comedy Everyone Else Loves, But I Don’t: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
I tried. I really tried, but I just don’t get it. I just don’t.
Best Sci-Fi Show: Orphan Black (BBC America)
The 2015 Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category had so many deserving nominees. Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany didn’t go home with the award, but her portrayal of each clone is flawlessly unique. Orphan Black is one of the most complicated dramas on TV and yet it is effortless to enjoy.
Best New Sc-Fi Show: Killjoys (Syfy)
Bounty hunters in space have never been so fun. There isn’t a thing about Killjoys I didn’t love. The episodic tales, the umbrella storylines, the actors and characters, the action and the relationship drama. It had everything. If Killjoys hadn’t been renewed for a second season I’d have seriously considered taking out an intergalactic warrant.
Worst Sci-Fi Show: Dominion (Syfy)
I enjoyed season one of Dominion, but in the words of Daytime Confidential’s Melodie Aikels, season two "was a mess from the M to the S." I wasn’t surprised when, after its season finale, Syfy decided to cancel it. This is a show that didn’t go to TV heaven after it died. It went to TV hell.
Best TV Show Based on a Comic Book: Tie- The Flash (The CW) and Daredevil (Netflix)
The Flash and Daredevil exemplify the best of both sides of a comic book cover. Each had excellent seasons.
The Flash is humorous; while Daredevil is dark. The Flash often explores a “villain of the week”. Daredevil featured the Kingpin as its primary villain the entire season. The Flash is the youthful fascination of a kid entering a comic book store for the first time. Daredevil is the graphic novel he’s old enough to read several years later. I struggled to pick just one, but I couldn’t.
Best Series Finale: Justified (FX)
Justified was a brilliant show that never received the awards it so richly deserved. The modern day cowboy drama never lost its step. The finale was the perfect culmination of Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder’s (Walton Goggins) friendship/feud.
Worst Series Finale: Falling Skies (TNT)
In the immortal words of Deanna Carter “Did I Shave My Legs For This?”
TV Hero of 2015: John Oliver, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
He reunited Days of Our Lives’ EJami and for that John Oliver will always be my hero. However, last week in and last week out he spotlights injustices and absurdities by breaking the topic down in a way the masses can understand. Who knew educational TV could be so entertaining?
TV Villain of 2015: Ramsay Bolton, Game of Thrones (HBO)
Scene Stealer of 2015: Cicely Tyson, How to Get Away with Murder (ABC)
Best Drama: Game of Thrones (HBO)
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has listened to the Pop Confidential podcast. Game of Thrones was the best drama of 2015. From Jon Snow’s (Kit Harrington) battle with the White Walkers to Cersei Lannister’s (Lena Headey) walk of shame, the HBO drama was epic.
Brienne of Tarth’s (Gwendoline Christie) quest to save the Stark daughters was at times heartwarming, sad and brutal. Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) burning his daughter was shocking. Ramsay Bolton's (Iwan Rheon) torture of Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) and rape of Sansa (Sophie Turner) were brutal. Peter Dinklage and Diana Rigg were brilliant as Tyrion Lannister and Olenna Tyrell respectively. And our Daenerys (Emilia Clark) finally flew on one of her dragons.
Worst Drama: The Bastard Executioner (FX)
Everything that Game of Thrones isn’t.
Why, Just Why?: Terminator: Genisys
Whoever owns the rights to the Terminator franchise just needs to put it on the shelf. This movie completely damaged the brand.
Overrated Action Film: Avengers Age of Ultron
The gang was all back together, but the Avengers’ magic wasn’t. It was an okay film. It certainly wasn’t awful like Catwoman or X-Men: Last Stand or Elektra, but I expected more from the Avengers franchise.
Movie I Enjoyed, But No One Else Did: Jupiter Ascending
It wasn’t a good film, but I didn’t have high expectations going in. It’s a cheesy sci-fi film I’ll probably end up watching every time it re-airs on TV like I do Fifth Element. That’s if Jupiter Ascending makes it to regular cable.
Best Comedy: Spy
I’ve been a fan of Melissa McCarthy since Gilmore Girls and have cheered her TV and film successes. I’m also a sucker for spy movies and Jason Statham action movies (Except Crank. I do not like the Crank movies.). Getting all three in one film, what could be better?
McCarthy was hilarious agent Susan Cooper. She had laugh-out-loud moments, action scenes and didn’t take herself too seriously. Jason Statham was Jason Statham playing Jason Statham as spy Rick Ford and it was awesome. Jude Law was suave as ever as super spy Bradley Fine. Rose Byrne was my villainess everything as Rayna Boyanov. You must watch Spy.
Worst Comedy: Mortdecai
It’s a good thing Johnny Depp has Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice in Wonderland franchises, because flops like The Lone Ranger and Mortdecai sure haven’t lit up the box office. The American public loves Depp to a point. He passed that point with Mortdecai.
Tear Jerker: Furious 7
I dare you to find someone who didn’t choke up at Furious 7’s final tribute to Paul Walker. I dare you.
Worst Sequel: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
The perfect example of a studio backing the money truck up to the Box Office and driving over its franchise in the process. Mockingjay 1 and 2 should have been edited down into one kick-ass film. Instead, we got two bloated and often boring films.
Best Franchise Reboots: Jurassic World and Creed
Can Chris Pratt do anything wrong? In 2015, he faced down dinosaurs as Jurassic fans returned to Isla Nublar. The continuation of the popular franchise clawed its way back into moviegoers’ hearts with cool dinosaurs killing countless humans. Isn’t that all we really need from a Jurassic reboot though?
It’s a little ironic that former All My Children star Michael B. Jordon starred in both my Best Franchise Reboot and my Worst Franchise reboot of 2015. He was fantastic as Apollo Creed’s son Adonis Johnson. He had great chemistry with Sylvester Stallone, Adonis's mentor, Rocky Balboa. The film was true to the heart and soul of the original Rocky movie and is being recognized with award nominations. What more could we ask for?
Worst Franchise Reboot: Fantastic Four
You knew Fantastic Four was going to be bad when its own director dissed it. It was worse.
Best Action Film: Kingsman: The Secret Service
Take everything you know about spy films from James Bond (Daniel Craig), Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), mix in a lot of laughs, a ton of action, heads blowing up like champagne corks and Taron Egerton as the latest Kingsman recruit Gary ‘Eggsy’ Uwin, and you have the making of a thoroughly enjoyable spy movie. It also doesn’t hurt that Colin Firth got to be bad ass as Eggsy's mentor Harry Hart. By her Majesty the Queens decree, you must watch Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Best Film: Sicario
Sicario, starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro, is my pick for Best Film of 2015. The film centers on idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer (Blunt), who is enlisted in a task force fighting the war on drugs along the United States and Mexican border.
The performances made me think “Oscar bait” while watching. However, so far it has been snubbed by mainstream awards such as the SAG Awards and Golden Globes. It has been nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Benicio Del Toro), Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Cinematography by the Online Film Critics Society.
If you are looking for a gritty drama in the vein of Traffic you’ll definitely want to watch Sicario.
Worst Film of 2015: Spectre
Disappointment is a cold-hearted lover and the more time you spend with it the further away you want to be. After Skyfall, I had high expectations for Spectre. It disappointed.
I am convinced Daniel Craig's James Bond movies suffer from an even number curse. Only the odd numbered films are good. Casino Royale was a Bourne-style evolution that successfully modernized the 007 franchise. It was followed by Quantum of Solace, which is the worst of Craig’s Bond films to-date. The franchise rebounded with Skyfall, which is not only the best of Craig’s Bond films, but I'd argue is Top 5 film in the franchise’s storied history.
Visually, Spectre was everything we expect in a James Bond film. However, the script was soggy and the dialogue lacking. Spectre tried to make us believe Bond and Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) shared the ultimate romantic connection, a difficult task when the pairing had no chemistry.
Anyone who remembers Bond with Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale knows Madeleine isn’t even in Vesper’s league. Then there was the villain, Blofeld, and his plot to take over the world. Not even Christoph Waltz—who was brilliant as Inglorious Basterd’s maniacal Nazi villain Hans Landa—could salvage such a badly written villain.
Adele’s “Skyfall” soared as a Bond theme song. Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” was woeful for Spectre. Make that lame. It may be the worst James Bond theme song ever.
The cherry on top of my disappointment with Spectre was that Craig looked bored and/or constipated in every scene . His well-documented desire to escape his contract bled onto the screen. The franchise deserves an actor who embraces the character.
Earworm of 2015: Good to be Alive by Andy Grammer
Viral Sensation: Hotline Bling Dancing Memes
I Can’t Help Smiling Every Time I Hear It: “Downtown” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
It’s About Time: “WTF” by Missy Elliot
Worst Song of 2015: “Writing’s On the Wall” by Sam Smith
Best Song of 2015: “Hello” by Adele
If you've survived my Pop Culture countdown, share your Best and Worst moments in the comments below!