This year, I think I can identify a theme: Almost all of these shows have a woman as the main character. The ones that don’t are Mad Men, which is as much about the women as the men, and The Middle, a family show in which the mother narrates and the daughter is my favorite character. Also, THREE of these shows have a Jewish female lead.
Disclaimer: I only rank shows that I watch and I’m not a TV critic. Also, there are some spoilers. Read at your own risk…
1. The Americans
The show gets better and better every season, and Paige’s slow journey from season one paid off big time in season three. Plus, we got a stunning episode featuring Lois Smith and an episode built around the early 1980s band Yaz. This is the best drama on television.
2. Mad Men
Like many have said, Mad Men stuck the landing, which is important in a show that’s been building toward something for so many years. Though I may not agree with the reasoning behind what they did to Betty, the other characters had endings worthy of them.
3. The Middle
The Middle may not be the best comedy on television, but it is my favorite, and there have been some great episodes this year that put characters in situations I never expected to see them in (Sue having to tell her high school boyfriend that she did not want to marry him) and familiar situations that felt new (Sue going off to college).
UnReal was my favorite new show this year. It gave us a true female antihero and what I think is the first leading Jewish woman in a drama series. It also had so much to say about reality TV, relationships, and our responsibility toward other human beings.
5. Jane the Virgin
In its second season, Jane the Virgin continues to build on the telenovela-like story of a young woman accidentally inseminated. Many have praised the show this season for its accurate depiction of motherhood, but, for a show with the word “virgin” in the title, it should also be praised for being about a woman’s life and not about a woman’s sexuality.
As with season one last year, the family’s Judaism and the overall Jewishness of the show are what makes Transparent stand out for me, along with the focus on the trans experience. How many shows have a female rabbi as a recurring character and an entire episode built around Yom Kippur?
7. Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation was my favorite comedy for many years, but I was ready to say goodbye after 7 seasons. The series got a great send-off, however, with a final season full of both laughter and closure.
8. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
My second favorite new show of the year, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend combines some of my favorite elements: a Jewish female lead, a woman figuring out her life, a strong female friendship (and the different ages makes it all the more interesting), and musical numbers (although the musical numbers aren’t necessary for plot, they’re fun).
I love Sutton Foster on television, and Younger, about a 40-year-old woman passing for 26 in order to re-enter the workforce, says a lot about working mothers and how our society treats women. Even the supporting cast, including Hillary Duff, is both fun and grounded.
10. Agent Carter
Agent Carter had a great first season–I loved the mix of female superhero and post-WWII New York City–with Peggy working as an agent in an office of men who think she’s a secretary. She soon proves them all wrong. As a friend said, what is Agent Carter’s super power? She’s REALLY good at her job.
11. Fresh Off the Boat
I love family comedies, and Fresh off the Boat, about a Chinese-American family relocating to Orlando, is the perfect blend of traditional and subversiveness. Like everyone, I love the two younger brothers, but I also love Jessica’s friendship with her outcast neighbor, Honey.
12. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
This show was wacky in all the best ways, and Kimmy’s experience as a former mole woman made for a great, albeit unlikely, comedy. I’m still laughing about the Olsen Twins joke. Titus, Kimmy’s roommate, often stole the show, but when it was time to face her past, Kimmy, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, were triumphant.
Compare to Last Year’s Rankings
Other Shows I Watch(ed)
Once Upon a Time
The Mindy Project
Cougar Town (RIP)
Empire (some episodes)
Older Shows/Seasons I watched this year:
The Good Wife season 3
The Middle season 2