2015 has been a week old and there are already a few of TV shows and performances that have set the bar for the upcoming year. With that said below are my top performances of the year in their respective categories starting off with my pick for Best Ensemble...
Best Ensemble: Jane the Virgin
Runner-Up: Orange is the New Black
Other Nominees: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Fargo, Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, The Leftovers, Parks and Recreation, Shameless, Veep
The cast of freshman show Jane the Virgin is from top to bottom excellent. From the delightful title character played by Gina Rodriguez to the wonderful unseen narrator. The women are the MVPs and yet the men are pretty damn wonderful as well in what could've been trickier roles. In any case, I realize I had to pick this cast considering I wanted to nominate ALL of them below and I nearly did. Meanwhile my pick last year Orange is the New Black is still the prime example of diverse female characters on the air (or streaming, in this case) right now and their sophomore season just solidified how great they all are.
Best Actor, Drama: Hugh Dancy, Hannibal
Runner-Up: Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Luke Pasqualino, The Musketeers
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
The one-two combination of Dancy and Mikkelsen enabled the sophomore season of Hannibal to reach the next level as their escalating cat and mouse games really heat up. Mikkelsen has been predictably delicious as the cannibal mastermind, but it's Dancy who really dug into a much darker place to match and even surpass his co-star last year. Hamm and Rhys expectantly did well in their solid shows by falling headlong into their fatherly ennui while Spacey chews scenery like no one else. Finally, Pasqualino is pretty and charming befitting someone playing d'Artagnan. Honorable mentions go to the McConaughey/Harrelson team in True Detective and Justin Theroux's penchant for shirtlessness and not wearing underwear in The Leftovers.
Best Actress, Drama: Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder
Runner-Up: Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Keri Russell, The Americans
Robin Wright, House of Cards
Davis' line delivery alone of her show's title in the pilot is enough to push her to the top of this stacked category, but she also followed that up with her wig-removing crackling delivery of "Why is your penis on a dead girl's phone?" that had everyone talking. Meanwhile Maslany yet again does double, triple, sextuple, octuple duties playing god knows how many characters and does it so superbly. It's literal sorcery! Margulies went through a ringer this past year with her character going through a loss and building herself up to an almost different character while Wright delved deeper into her character's dark past in order to forge ahead even stronger. Russell and Moss continue to excel as well. Honorable mention goes to Ruth Wilson doing her best to make us believe that anyone could find Dominic West more attractive than Joshua Jackson in The Affair.
Best Actor, Comedy: Chris Messina, The Mindy Project
Runner-Up: Jonathan Groff, Looking
Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation
Martin Freeman, Fargo
Thomas Middleditch, Silicon Valley
I honestly think I'm giving Messina the win just for this scene alone as he channels his stripper past for all of our delights. But his elevated role on the show as Mindy's now boyfriend has been a wonderful delight through and through. Groff, meanwhile, like the other nominees, are playing a version of awkward/dorky that I find very endearing and it's nice to see this from him especially after his slight miscasting in Glee a few years ago. Samberg is a lovable doofus, Scott is sexily dorky, Middleditch is funnily awkward, and Freeman is hilariously disturbed. Honorable mentions go to the new and older Doctor Peter Capaldi, the queen bees of Vicious Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi, and the horse-riding sexily dorky king himself John Cho in Selfie.
Best Actress, Comedy: Lisa Kudrow, The Comeback
Runner-Up: Gina Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Emmy Rossum, Shameless
Rita Volk, Faking It
To be honest, this category is as close as to a 6-way tie for me as it gets since these six wonderful actresses deliver six such indelible and incredible performances that I really hesitated picking a winner, but Kudrow's biting and welcome return to television takes my top honor especially after that absolutely breathtaking (series?) finale. Of course, I can't talk enough about how fantastic newcomer Rodriguez is on her show which seems like the perfect match of actor and program, both so full of heart and charm. I've talked about the awesomeness of Rossum, Poehler, and Louis-Dreyfus before (all previous winners of mine) so I'll just say watch Faking It if you haven't and you'll see how great Volk is in it as well. Honorable mentions go to the very funny ladies of Broad City and Tracee Ellis Ross' colorful Rainbow on Black-ish.
Best Supporting Actor, Drama: Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Runner-Up: Dylan O'Brien, Teen Wolf
George Blagden, Vikings
Matt Czuchry, The Good Wife
Jack Falahee, How to Get Away With Murder
Joshua Jackson, The Affair
Yes, I know what you're thinking. I just created a Guys I'd Like to Fuck List. There are some very, very attractive men here not going to lie. My top pick is of course the brilliant Dinklage who was constantly on the defensive this past season until he went on the offensive and blew everyone away. O'Brien was my next pick since I highly enjoyed his time possessed by an evil spirit enabling the actor to really stretch himself in new, fun ways. As for the others... all talented, all cute. Blagden was crucified, Jackson was cuckold, Czuchry was framed, and Falahee was rimmed... a lot. Honorable mentions go to Jordan Gavaris' ass, Josh Charles' dramatics, Robin Lord Taylor's limp, and Iain De Caestecker's hallucinations.
Best Supporting Actress, Drama: Melissa McBride, The Walking Dead
Runner-Up: Hayden Panettiere, Nashville
Annaleigh Ashford, Masters of Sex
Carrie Coon, The Leftovers
Maisie Williams, Game of Thrones
Katheryn Winnick, Vikings
Sure McBride played such as bad-ass hero in the fifth season premiere, but it was her gut-wrenching scenes in the late fourth season episode "The Grove" which haunted me all year. She's also been a consistent highlight this season and it's been great seeing her character's development most of all. Then there's Panettiere who is literally the best thing about her show and she handles all of its soapiness with such real emotion that you just feel for her. Ashford's role was thankfully expanded this season though I wish she was actually in more while Williams, Coon, and Winnick all displayed such resiliency amidst sucky circumstances. Honorable mentions go to the most sympathetic Evil Queen Lana Parilla in Once Upon a Time, the fiercest fish Jada Pinkett Smith in Gotham, and the liveliest zombie Emily Bevan in In The Flesh.
Best Supporting Actor, Comedy: Jaime Camil, Jane the Virgin
Runner-Up: Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Reid Scott, Veep
Jeremy Allen White, Shameless
Michael J. Willett, Faking It
Parker Young, Enlisted
Braugher should get all of the awards, but he's had a season and a half to delight us all with his increasingly more expressive Captain Holt so that's why I gave this to Camil who, in just a handful of episodes, turned what could have been such an irritating one-dimensional character into someone completely opposite of that. He has great writers, of course, but there's just something so natural and straightforward in how he plays his ego-driven telenovela superstar making it so much fun to watch. White really doesn't belong in the Comedy category, but he was SO affecting this season that I would've nominated him in Best Actress. Young, Willett, and Scott are witty bon-mots machines in already fantastic shows. Honorable mentions go to steamy Raúl Castillo in Looking, Tony Hale's bathroom scene in Veep, and Billy Bob Thornton's weird hair in Fargo.
Best Supporting Actress, Comedy: Cristin Milioti, How I Met Your Mother
Runner-Up: Samira Wiley, Orange if the New Black
Anna Chlumsky, Veep
Andrea Navedo, Jane the Virgin
Chelsea Peretti, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Lorraine Toussaint, Orange if the New Black
While the final season of HIMYM was largely a failed experiment, it at least gave us Milioti. My favorite episodes last year where ones that featured her, especially the 200th episode where we saw 9-years worth of her stories condensed in one beautiful, way-too short episode. As I was making my picks for this category, I realize I could've easily filled this up with actresses from Jane the Virgin, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Orange is the New Black. I split the difference picking one for each show (two for OITNB). Wiley is my MVP last year as she really stepped up though Toussaint came so close playing such a great villain. Navedo's scenes with Gina Rodriguez are my favorite aspects in that show and Peretti is always, always a highlight. Chlumsky as Selina's campaign manager was expectantly hilarious. Honorable mentions goes to ALL of the other ladies from the aforementioned shows, because seriously wow.
Best Limited Role, Actor: Pedro Pascal, Game of Thrones
Runner-Up: Michiel Huisman, Orphan Black/Games of Thrones/Nashville
Noel Fisher, Shameless
Anthony Mendez, Jane the Virgin
Conrad Ricamora, How to Get Away With Murder
Andrew Scott, Sherlock
Damn, I made a sex list again. I mean, yes all of these men caught my attention for one reason or another. Pascal was the easy top pick for me as he was unforgettable in the role, but Huisman did his best appearing briefly in three shows the past year with hot and bothered ladies in his wake. Mendez's role as the unseen, but sassy narrator in Jane the Virgin is a delight as is Ricamora's brief (usually shirtless) scenes in his show. Scott probably appeared not even 30 seconds all season and yet he still made the requisite impact. Fisher's character's evolution was my favorite part of the show last year. Honorable mentions goes to the Super Bowl Prince in New Girl, Michael Pitt eating his face on Hannibal, and Russell Tovey's huge... ears in Looking.
Best Limited Role, Actress: Julianne Nicholson, Masters of Sex
Runner-Up: Gillian Anderson, Hannibal
Ann Dowd, True Detective/Masters of Sex/The Leftovers
Rhea Perlman, The Mindy Project
Carrie Preston, The Good Wife/True Blood
Barbara Rosenblat, Orange is the New Black
We get to the final category and like last year I'm giving it to a veteran actress playing sick on Masters of Sex. Nicholson's plight wasn't any less harrowing than last year's Allison Janney and I truly was so emotionally attached to her character that when she left midway through the season I kinda stopped caring about the show. My runner-up I think only appeared in two episodes, but her brief scenes with the two leads crackled and popped all the same. Preston is an old-hat in this category and every day I wonder why no one has given her a leading role of her own. Perlman is as refreshing an addition to her show's ensemble as Rosenblat is needed. Finally, Dowd was busy, busy, busy this year with three very different and complicated characters. Honorable mentions go to the other ladies--"alive" or dead--on Hannibal, Palicki's heroic hair flip on Agents of SHIELD, Natalie Dormer's mischievous half smile, and Kate Walsh for sexily slaying it on Fargo.
Whew! And now all is left is my ranked list of TV shows which I hope to get posted before this weekend's Golden Globes. Refresh your memories on my pick for Best Drama, Comedy, and New Show here. Happy watching all!