Slightly behind schedule, because I'm me, but after nearly two weeks since I posted my favorite TV shows, here are my picks for my favorite performances of 2015! Starting with my pick for best ensemble...
BEST ENSEMBLE: Sense8
Runner-Up: Orange is the New Black
Other Nominees: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Fargo, Fresh Off the Boat, Game of Thrones, Jane the Virgin, Mad Men, Parks & Recreation, Veep
The cast of each of these shows are fantastic and so picking a favorite from among them is actually quite ridiculous. But I gave it Sense8 which made use of its globe-spanning cast to such unique effect that even though they were mostly separated from each other by long distances, it all still gelled together as a whole. My runner-up is of course the wonderfully female-skewed ensemble of Orange is the New Black which somehow just keeps getting better and better every season. The rest of the shows I've singled out are not to be lumped as honorable mentions since all of them really take pride in creating an overall sense of community with their casts.
Runner-Up: Justin Theroux, The Leftovers
Other Nominees:Charlie Cox, Daredevil
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
The Hannibal boys were my top two picks last year which is probably why I decided to leave them off my list in spite of a final season that really got into their twisted relationship. Instead, I opted for newcomer Malek whose approachable strangeness is a perfect fit for the show, both giving off a coldness that's tempered with real beauty. Runner-up went to Theroux who anchored his own share of crazy (he literally died and went to limbo twice) in the bravura sophomore season of his show. Mazel tov to Hamm's final season, Cox's ability to act in those tight costumes, Odenkirk's new spin to a familiar character, and Rhys' chameleon-esque talents.
Runner-Up: Taraji P. Henson, Empire
Hayley Atwell, Agent Carter
Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
I honestly didn't know Ritter had it in her, which is my fault because her previous work most notably Apartment 23 and Breaking Bad showed she's more than capable at caustic realness and depth of emotion, which she deploys to brilliant effect in her show. Henson, in the meantime, gleefully plays one of the breakout characters of last year and is consistently the best part of her show. Shout out to Davis' courtroom dramatics, Maslany's TV-defying sister act, Moss' heartfelt goodbyes, and Atwell's ability to snark/fight in perfect hair and makeup.
Runner-Up: Adam Scott, Parks & Recreation
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Jonathan Groff, Looking
Randall Park, Fresh off the Boat
Joshua Sasse, Galavant
This was an interesting category for me, because it's usually such a BUMMER category when it comes to traditional award shows. It's gotten better with the recent Amazon 1-2 punch of Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent and Gael Garcia Bernal in Mozart Jungle (both NOT on my list because I haven't seen their sophomore seasons), but still lacking. My list, of course, shows what COULD BE and I wish more people would branch out a bit. My pick this year goes to Middleditch, whose show is popular and yet he hasn't been able to break through himself even though he's SO GOOD at the awkward-bumbling-genius role. Of course there's perennial favorite of mine Scott who, like most of the members of his cast, whisked into the sunset with absolute skill and class. Big props to Sasse's mad singing skills, Park's unrecognized hilarity, Ansari's delightful meanderings, and Groff's adorable cluelessness.
Runner-Up: Aya Cash, You're the Worst
Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks & Recreation
Constance Wu, Fresh Off the Boat
Unlike its male counterpart, this category is ALWAYS SO DAMN COMPETITIVE to the point that two years running and I still haven't made room for the AWESOMENESS of the Broad City ladies. But looking at my final short list and you can see the immense talent on display. Rodriguez was my runner-up last year, but she was certainly THE breakout actress of 2014 and has only solidified her status as one of the best actresses working today this past year. Meanwhile Cash catapulted herself in runner-up position by deftly handling a depression story arc that could've been made a mess if it weren't for her excellent performance. Give it up also for Louis-Dreyfus gut-busting intensity, Wu's pitch-perfect line deliveries, Kemper's unabashed positivity, and Poehler's presidential exit.
Now comes to Supporting/Limited categories for which I've decided to shortlist 10 people per category as opposed to just 6 with the Lead. This is #PeakTV people and there are A LOT of people doing amazing work. Rather than seeing this as a Everyone Gets a Trophy, see this as a Look at How Fantastic A Lot of People Are. And go...
Runner-Up: James D'Arcy, Agent Carter/Broadchurch
Aml Ameen, Sense8
Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
Burn Gorman, TURN
Joshua Jackson, The Affair
Matt McGorry, How to Get Away with Murder
Ari Millen, Orphan Black
Jussie Smollett, Empire
Martin Wallström, Mr. Robot
First, a bit of housekeeping. I'm considering all the main Sense8 characters as "supporting" the same way the Modern Family cast consider themselves that for awards. It's a bit of category fraud in my part, but I can live with it. With that said, Silvestre as the hot-machismo-soap-opera-stud on the outside but hot-mess-of-a-hopeless-sweetheart on the inside Lito is my top pick. Second place goes to D'Arcy playing two polar opposite characters in two very different shows (well they're both two GOOD shows). Also loving McGorry's dance moves, Millen's ability to keep up with Maslany, Banks' quiet intensity, Jackson's fiery arc, Gorman's unexpected redemption, Ameen's ridiculous smile, Smollett's coming out, and Wallström's own brand of crazy.
Runner-Up: Jamie Clayton, Sense8
Calista Flockhart, Supergirl
Lena Headey, Game of Thrones
Regina King, The Leftovers
Charlotte Rampling, Broadchurch
Molly Parker, House of Cards
Lana Parrilla, Once Upon a Time
Jean Smart, Fargo
Holly Taylor, The Americans
There were SO MANY choices in this category that I actually forced myself to not give one show more than two nods (or else you'd see more Sense8 ladies probably). Speaking of that show, Clayton was my runner-up invoking such genuine realness and vulnerability to her character. Tierney was my top pick since in a show that's all about The Acting, she seems to really play it in such a natural and effective way even when she's going Big and Dramatic. Big props as well to Flockhart's boss-level attitude, King's strong presence, Rampling's ball of pain and regret, Parker's combativeness, Headey's shame shame shamefulness, Taylor's revelatory story line, Smart's wisecracks, and Parrilla's unexpected Savior Moment.
Runner-Up: Andre Braugher, Brooklyn 99
Jaime Camil, Jane the Virgin
Brett Dier, Jane the Virgin
Lamorne Morris, New Girl
Timothy Omundson, Galavant
Jeremy Allen White, Shameless
Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo
Zach Woods, Silicon Valley
Steve Zissis, Togetherness
This was a fun list to put together, because with every name I just start smiling or laughing. Certainly the top spot was a no-brainer as Burgess came out, so to speak, with all the glitter and pinot noir that he deserves and more. My winner two years ago and runner-up last year Braugher isn't too shabby as his Holt character gets more and more in touch with his ridiculous side. Shout out as well to Camil and Dier's endlessly fun bromance, Morris hot mess hijinks, White's brooding intensity, Woods' uncomfortable cadness, Zissis' confidence in his schlubness, Woodbine's unspoken threats, and Omundson's glorious hair.
Runner-Up: Yael Grobas, Jane the Virgin
Donna Lynne Champlin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Kether Donohue, You're the Worst
Kirsten Dunst, Fargo
Allison Janney, Mom
Jane Krakowski, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Adrienne C. Moore, Orange is the New Black
Chelsea Peretti, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Lauren Weedman, Looking
The top two spots are held by actresses playing messed-up hard-to-love (actually VERY easy-to-love) women who keeps strong despite their circumstances. Manning in particular, thanks to her show's writers as well, has been able to really delve deeper into a character that was honestly intolerable just a couple of seasons ago. Grobas' meanwhile could've easily been stuck in such a one-note role and yet the show is able to take advantage of her great presence to make her such a complicated and fascinating character. All the love as well to Dunst's Minnesotan accent, Krakowski's TV comeback, Moore's touching Jewish conversion plot-line, Peretti's everything, Weedman's soulfulness, Champlin's voice of conscience, Janney's ability to hit funny/sad so effortlessly, and Donohue's line delivery of "New Phone, Who Dis?"
Runner-Up: Alfonso Herrera, Sense8
Raul Esparza, Hannibal
Noel Fisher, Shameless
Hugh Laurie, Veep
Ki Hong Lee, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Lars Mikkelsen, House of Cards
Nick Offerman, Fargo
David Hyde Pierce, The Good Wife
Conrad Ricamora, How to Get Away with Murder
Wong had two very short scenes in the entirety of the show's first season run and yet he made such a huge impact to not only the mythology of the show, but also to its overall strangeness. Then there's Sylvestre's (see above) other half and yes I couldn't not single him out in this small way. Shout out to Ricamora's ability to stay alive, Offerman's Reagan reactions, Laurie's unassuming appeal, Fisher's touching coming out, Esparza's face-twisting role, Lee's clueless adorability, Pierce's one-on-one with Margulies, and Mikkelsen's dark presence.
Runner-Up: Rosario Dawson, Daredevil/Jessica Jones
Tovah Feldshuh, Walking Dead/Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Kathryn Hahn, Parks & Recreation
Eréndira Ibarra, Sense8
Margo Martindale, The Americans/The Good Wife
Cristin Milioti, Fargo
Lois Smith, The Americans
Liv Tyler, The Leftovers
Cicely Tyson, How to Get Away with Murder
Agyeman has been a favorite of mine ever since her Doctor Who days and I was so happy to see her on TV again and her character in Sense8 is in line with all of the other wonderful, kick-ass ladies she is known for. Dawson in the meantime is playing double-duty as one character in two shows and excelling in both. Let's give her a starring role soon, okay Marvel? And finally much love to Hahn's absolute disgust, Martindale's professionalism, Feldshuh's whiplash of two roles, Ibarra's penchant for gay porn, Milioti's AND Smith's grace in death, Tyson's age-defying presence, and Tyler's violent transformation.
And scene. So now all that is left is my ranked list of my Top 35 TV Shows of 2015. Based on my picks above and last week, it's easy enough to figure out my favorites.