The Best Shows of 2015

Inside-no-9

Inside No. 9

Having assembled another rotating cast of impeccable performers, League of Gentleman co-conspirators Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton unleash a second run of twisted tales, each set in some sort of No. 9. The scripts are endlessly inventive, bounding between found-footage chills, slapstick witch hunts and a heartbreaking supernatural drama from episode to episode, and it’s all scored through with Shearsmith and Pemberton’s trademark macabre wit.

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Narcos

Better known these days for the havoc his wild breed of hippos wreak on the Columbian countryside, Pablo Escobar was once the world’s most feared drugs kingpin, as Netflix’s stylish drama deftly chronicles. Though it sometimes moves too fast for it’s own good, José Padilha’s blending of archival footage and unflinching violence makes this stranger-than-fiction tale frighteningly real.

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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Rescued after 15 years ‘trapped’ in a bunker with a handsomely unhinged Jon Hamm, adorably upbeat Kimmy tries to navigate life in an unforgiving New York City armed only with a perma-smile, a back-pack and a fetching array of floral blouses. Blessed with Tina Fey’s wit and originality, it’s as odd as it is hilarious, with Ellie Kemper nailing her unabashedly kooky lead role. P.S. Watch out for the disarmingly catchy theme song – you’ll be singing it in the shower (and on the train) for months to come.

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Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

This adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s best-seller, about two English magicians at war during the early 19th Century, doesn’t get off to the best start. In rejigging and compressing the narrative into something resembling a BBC miniseries, screenwriter Peter Harness loses much of the novel’s dry wit. It improves immeasurably as it goes on, however, transforming, as if enchanted by some ancient spell, into a dazzling romp that combines elements of old-school ghost stories with outlandish spectacle. The special effects are exquisitely executed and Eddie Marsan and Bertie Carvell deliver winning performances in the title roles.

MARVEL'S DAREDEVIL

Daredevil

The first offering in a series of interlocking shows leading to a Defenders cross-over, this gritty origin story charts blind lawyer Matt Murdock’s tumultuous ascension to the mantle of Hell’s Kitchen’s resident masked vigilante – a role secured mostly by pummelling all challengers into the asphalt. With its visceral fight choreography, morally conflicted characters and no-nonsense dramatic flair, this is a superhero show meets hardboiled crime saga, proving definitively that the world of spandex-clad do-gooders isn’t just for kids anymore.

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Doctor Foster

Now dubbed the unofficial Fatal Attraction spin-off, this glossy and absorbing drama stars Suranne Jones as a jilted wife whose idyllic life is brutally shattered when she suspects her husband (played with a squirming charm by Bertie Carvell (yes, him again)) is having his cake and eating it too with a much younger woman. It might be too melodramatic, unhurried or just plain bonkers for some, but those who click with it will find an edgy nail-biter about a marriage being slowly poisoned. And no bunnies get boiled alive, promise.

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Fargo

After defying expectations by delivering a TV spinoff of a movie that wasn’t completely terrible, Noah Hawley returns to blood-splattered, folksy Minnesota to unfurl another sinister yarn about evil lurking in the most ordinary places. This time, we’re in the 1970s – with the flares and split screens to prove it – with a clutch of (mostly) new characters to play with. But in Fargo, some things never change, namely: dark humour, stylish violence, quirky characters and incredibly odd twists. Simply put, this is the most brilliantly idiosyncratic show on TV right now.

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Catastrophe

Sharon Horgan’s young(-ish) Irish woman meets a handsome(-ish) American stranger in a bar and embarks on a week-long hump-a-thon they both know will end when he heads back to the US. Problem is, she falls pregnant and they decide to stay together and keep the kid. Thus begins TV’s most charmingly realistic romantic comedy. It’s grown-up, rude, uproariously filthy and has a genuine warmth that flows from its two leads’ rootable chemistry.

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London Spy

Do you really know the person you love? That’s the insidious question that hangs over this elegantly elliptical story of love in contemporary London. Danny is a wayward romantic thrown into a whirlwind romance after a chance encounter with tightly-wound virgin Alex. But when his new beau disappears, Danny must venture into the murky world of espionage to discover what happened, and what he finds makes him doubt whether he really knew Alex at all. Led by Ben Wishaw’s tender and compelling performance, the drama unfolds at a languid pace, but each episode ends with a dark sting in the tale to ensure you’ll keep watching till the bitter end.

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Humans

Taking the age-old fear that our increasing reliance on those glowing gadgets stuffed into our pockets might backfire on us, this stylish remake of Swedish drama Real Humans centres around the unnerving idea of what could happen if mechanical pals became as commonplace in our homes as our iphones? The result is a deeply disturbing domestic drama that skilfully weaves several intriguing threads into a grand overarching plot via many interesting analogies and stylistic flourishes that instantly grab the audience’s attention.

 

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