This was a great year for television. Let’s start there. There are so many quality shows on so many outlets that people actually spent a solid few months complaining that there was “too much TV.” We made our list of Top 10 Shows of 2015 and someone showed up in the comments to list 11 shows we snubbed, and he was right. (Kind of.) Point being: If you like good television, this was another great year for you.
It was also a year in which we lost a pretty staggering list of shows. And not just any shows, either. Good shows. Our shows. And so, with that in mind, it’s only right that we take a brief break from our Best Ofs to pay tribute to some of them. My advice is to blast “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men while you read this. Yes, technically, my advice in most situations is to blast “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men, but this time there’s a good reason. We’re grieving here, people.
Mad Men, Parks and Recreation, Justified
Losing Mad Men, Parks and Recreation, and Justified in the same year was just painful. Mad Men was one of one our best dramas of the past 10 years, and a show that was a blast to write about and discuss. Parks and Recreation was a comedy that was almost Cheers-like in its ability to be warm and sweet and still wickedly funny, and which had an ensemble cast so deep that a guy who was like fifth or sixth on the call sheet is now the biggest movie star in the world. And Justified kind of swung in between them with a cowboy hat on, flipping back and forth between funny and serious while periodically taking breaks to just blow a whole ton of stuff up. They were, and still are, three of my favorite shows ever, and I developed a real attachment to them over the years. I suppose you could say we dug coal together, these shows and I.
And it wasn’t just that we lost these three shows this year. That would have been bad enough on its own. What really hurt was the speed with which we lost them. Parks and Rec ended on February 24. Justified ended on April 14. Mad Men ended on May 17. That’s less than three months. It was 82 days, to be exact. That was not enough days.
Two and a Half Men and Community (Probably)
A study in contrasts. One, a standard network sitcom that, in general, went for the low-hanging fruit on the humor tree and then tried to sweeten the juice with a laugh track, to the delight of millions and millions of fans every week. The other, an inventive, often weird, often brilliant single-camera comedy that bent and sometimes flat-out broke storytelling rules, to the delight of a substantially smaller, but substantially more passionate audience. One, a show that pulled in the type of ratings that help vault an entire network to number one. The other, a show that pulled in the type of ratings that left it constantly in danger of being canceled, and that resulted in it airing its final — possibly, probably — season on Yahoo!, of all places.
And yet, also a study in similarities, mostly in that behind-the-scenes drama between their mercurial creators and one of their stars — in both cases, a movie star from the 1980s with a history of making trouble — led both to make cast changes midway through their runs. It was almost like Two and a Half Men was Community‘s evil, less funny twin. It’s almost fitting that they ended together.
Key & Peele and The Soup
Key & Peele and The Soup did the same thing, basically, just with very different tactics and targets. Key & Peele took on social issues like race, gender, and sexuality (in addition to lighter, sillier targets like funny names and movie cliches and the film catalog of “Liam Neesons”), and the show did it using sketch comedy that relied on high production values and laser-precise satire. The Soup made fun of crappy television using a green screen and a man in a bikini. That last part isn’t a putdown. Quite the opposite, actually. Both shows provided hilarious checks on different strains of bullshit in their own, distinct, singular way. We — you, me, society as a whole — are worse off without them.
The League and Kroll Show
If you were to chart out a line graph representing quality over the life of the runs for The League and Kroll Show, what you’d probably end up with is a giant “X.” The League started out hot, with a clear premise — It’s like your fantasy football league! But with funnier and more horrible people! — but really sputtered out near the end, save a few episodes featuring Rafi and Dirty Randy. Kroll Show, on the other hand, started more slowly, which was less a result of lack of vision than a result of worlds under construction. Once all the pieces started coming together, around the beginning of the second season, with the characters from the layers upon layers of shows within the show getting fleshed out and interacting with each other, the series really hit its stride and became unlike anything else on television. I still randomly shout “You’re going to London!” sometimes, and then start giggling to myself about it. I might always do this. Too soon to rule it out, honestly.
Hannibal and Aqua Teen Hunger Force
Hannibal and Aqua Teen Hunger Force didn’t get the high-profile, ticker-tape send-off most of the other shows on this list got, for different reasons: Hannibal, because it didn’t get to go out on its own terms, as NBC canceled it after bouncing it around the schedule for three low-rated seasons (although, honestly, maybe the real story here is that NBC deserves credit for airing a cinematic and absurdly violent cannibal drama at all, even if it only lasted 39 episodes); and ATHF, probably, because it aired in the middle of the night on a deep cable channel mostly watched by college students and/or stoners. Doesn’t mean they both weren’t great in their own way. And it also doesn’t mean I wouldn’t watch a one-time crossover episode where Dr. Lecter ate the main characters of ATHF. Is it still cannibalism if the food can talk? A question that needs an answer.
Late Night Hosts Galore
This was a weird, tumultuous year in late-night. Four longtime hosts left the shows they were on (Letterman, Stewart, Colbert, Ferguson), three of their shows continued on with new hosts (The Daily Show, The Late Show, The Late Late Show), two of outgoing hosts have started growing weird gray beards (Letterman, Stewart), and the host of the show that didn’t survive his departure (Colbert) moved to a new network (CBS) to take one of the other open gigs (Letterman’s). Like I said, it was weird. And that’s before you even get deep into the part where David Letterman and Jon Stewart aren’t on television anymore, which I didn’t even know was allowed. And before you get to the thing where Jimmy Kimmel is the longest-tenured network host by more than five years and I still sometimes think of him as “the new guy.” I’m still getting used to Conan being on TBS. This simply won’t do.
Dog With a Blog
We now — as of September 25, when Disney’s Dog With a Blog ended its three-season run — live in a world where there are no shows on television about talking dogs that operate websites. The cruelest cut of all in a cruel, cruel year.