2015 Noteworthy TV Dramaby stephanieericsson | created - 21 Mar 2015 | updated - 05 Dec 2016 | Public
Television shows & mini-series that are intelligent, highly creative and original with excellent writing, directing & acting. Read my notes on the individual shows.
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1. Flesh and Bone (2015)
TV-MA | 60 min | Drama
A talented but emotionally troubled dancer runs away to New York City and quickly finds herself immersed in the cutthroat world of professional ballet.
Created by Moira Walley-Beckett, one of the top writers on Breaking Bad, F&B is the most audacious, original show ever aired on TV. It excavates taboo territory with fearlessness.Think Greek tragedy. But also -- think allegory. It is about a woman in a cosmic battle for her soul. The writing is sterling as are the acting & direction. After being exposed to such masterful artistry, it was hard to stomach regular TV.
2. The Man in the High Castle (2015–2019)
TV-MA | 60 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
In a dystopian America dominated by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, a young woman discovers a mysterious film that may hold the key to toppling the totalitarian regimes.
This is being billed as 'alternate history' but it isn't really, at least, not in the strictest definition of the genre -- and yes, Alternate History (AH) is a genre of its own. PK Dick's books usually challenge what we accept as real, and here, he uses the the 'what if the German's had won WWII? question as a structure to pose this challenge. Sterling cast, scripting & direction, it is also stunning in art direction and cinematography. This is a contender to Flesh & Bone for my pick of the best shows of 2015.
Free on Amazon Prime.
3. River (2015)
TV-MA | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
John River is a brilliant police inspector whose genius lies side-by-side with the fragility of his mind. He is a man haunted by the murder victims whose cases he must lay to rest.
Another new favorite show for me. Powerful writing, tour de force performances. Skarsgård, Walker & Akhtar are breathtaking. Eddie Marsan is unforgettable. The fantastic thing about this series is how the most dramatic parts are understated, giving them more meaning and impact.
Catch the whole series on Netflix.
4. Bloodline (2015–2017)
TV-MA | 60 min | Drama, Thriller
A family finds themselves forced to face their past secrets and scars when the black sheep returns home.
Excellent cast, compelling story, masterfully written & directed. Held me all the way through a full 1st season binge. The same is true for the 2nd season.
5. Indian Summers (2015–2016)
TV-14 | 52 min | Drama
Drama set in 1932 during the final years of British colonial rule in India.
I do not know why this series hasn't generated more talk because it should rank up there with Peaky Blinders and Downton Abbey. From it's spectacular opening titles (I could watch them over and over...) to the exquisite acting, to the genuinely interesting period in history, 1932, when India was asserting its independence, to the fabulous writing... I cannot say enough about this series. Julie Walters plays a deliciously evil old bitch, Jemima West is amazing, Henry Lloyd-Hughes does credit to a tough role to play, Nikesh Patel is a really fresh new talent to keep an eye on... Do not miss it...
6. The Last Kingdom (2015– )
TV-MA | 60 min | Action, Drama, History
As Alfred the Great defends his kingdom from Norse invaders, Uhtred - born a Saxon but raised by Vikings - seeks to claim his ancestral birthright.
Excellent. All around. I'm a big fan of Bernard Cornwell's books, so this was a shoo-in for me.
7. Wolf Hall (2015)
TV-14 | 360 min | Biography, Drama, History
After the downfall of Cardinal Wolsey, his secretary, Thomas Cromwell, finds himself amongst the treachery and intrigue of King Henry VIII's court and soon becomes a close advisor to the King, a role fraught with danger.
It surprised me that I liked this because Henry VIII is so overdone, but this series was really about Thomas Cromwell, who IS not so well covered. Mark Rylance has spectacular charisma.
8. Secrets and Lies (2015–2016)
TV-14 | 43 min | Crime, Drama
Each series, a detective focuses on the prime suspect in a murder case; but everyone has something to hide.
Good cast but Juliette Lewis's over-acting REALLY tips the show out of balance like a single choir member singing over the rest of the choir. Her portrayal of the lead detective is one-dimensional and extremely annoying so there isn't a single likable aspect to her character. Maybe this is more of a directorial flaw because, in the end, it totally detracts from the story, which is actually compelling.
9. Mr. Robot (2015–2019)
TV-MA | 49 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
Elliot, a brilliant but highly unstable young cyber-security engineer and vigilante hacker, becomes a key figure in a complex game of global dominance when he and his shadowy allies try to take down the corrupt corporation he works for.
Brilliant at first but lost steam.
10. Poldark (2015–2019)
TV-14 | 60 min | Drama, History, Romance
Ross Poldark returns home after American Revolutionary War and rebuilds his life with a new business venture, making new enemies and finding a new love where he least expects it.
Good period piece. Aidan Turner isn't just another pretty face...
11. Fortitude (2015–2018)
TV-MA | 60 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery
Perched on the edge of the Arctic Circle, Fortitude is one of the safest towns on earth. There has never been a violent crime here. Until now.
Okay, this show isn't for everyone. It's slow, plodding, and very weird. Fortitude is a planned community that looks like it's supposed to be a utopia but the starkness of the location, weather & remoteness give it an ominous taint. As a mystery, it floundered a bit in one of the middle episodes, but recovered right away. Excellent cast, Michael Gambon & Stanley Tucci are superb. Spanish actress, Verónica Echegui is captivating. I've never seen her before but will look for her in the future. Cinematography & art direction are exquisite. But some things are just too out-there to get me to buy the story. If you like weird, you'll like this. I'm not sure yet if it ranks above a 7.
12. Bosch (2014–2021)
TV-MA | 51 min | Crime, Drama
An L.A.P.D. homicide detective works to solve the murder of a thirteen-year-old boy while standing trial in federal court for the murder of a serial killer.
Great cast with the classic meme of a detective who plays by his own rules. Great writing. Titus Welliver is perfect. Based on the books.
13. American Odyssey (2015)
TV-14 | 60 min | Action, Drama, Thriller
Three families are torn apart when a stranded female soldier, a disillusioned corporate attorney and a disrespected political activist are pulled into the same shocking international military conspiracy.
The lead, Anna Friel, is really good in this series, but she's surrounded by some pretty 2nd rate acting. Or maybe it's the writing... for sure, it could have used better direction... Still, it's an interesting premise with lots of twists, some more believable than others. However, Friel gives a strong, compelling performance throughout.
14. X Company (2015–2017)
44 min | Drama, War
Set in the thrilling and dangerous world of WWII, follows the stories of five highly skilled young recruits, torn from their ordinary lives to train as agents in an ultra-secret facility.
This one starts off slowly, but be patient. Acting, scripting is superb and it keeps getting better until you're left at the edge of your seat until the next episode.
15. Sons of Liberty (2015)
TV-14 | 270 min | Drama, History
The story of a group of very different men fighting in the American Colonies for freedom, and how they will shape the future for the United States of America. Based on true stories.
A great addition for us historical drama lovers.
16. Better Call Saul (2015–2022)
TV-MA | 46 min | Crime, Drama
The trials and tribulations of criminal lawyer Jimmy McGill in the time before he established his strip-mall law office in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Still on the fence on this one because Saul (Jimmy McGill) bores me... 3/31/15
17. Hiding (2015)
After a botched drug deal, Troy must take his family into Witness Protection in exchange for giving evidence against his former employer.
Aussie show. Well-balanced cast who is working together. Solid acting, writing & direction. So far, so good.
18. Code of a Killer (2015)
65 min | Biography, Crime, Drama
The story of Sir Alec Jeffreys' discovery of DNA fingerprinting and its first use by DCS David Baker in catching a double murderer.
Typical British mystery with a twist - about 1st time DNA evidence was used forensically t solve murder in 1984.
19. Madam Secretary (2014–2019)
TV-PG | 45 min | Drama, Thriller
A political drama which looks into the life of the Secretary of State as she tries to balance work with family.
I like Téa Leoni's performance so much that I may not be the best judge on this show. For sure, it's formulaic, rah rah the US is great, but the stories have been interesting so far. Geoffrey Arend & Patina Miller are just awful but the rest of the cast is good, although I have a hard time believing Keith Carradine as President. Still, I bet this one gets renewed.
20. Banished (2015)
60 min | Drama, History
British convicts have been sent to Australia as punishment for their crimes. As they try to live their new lives, they have to live with the new rules. The soldiers also have to adjust.
Really promising. Period drama about Australia's first penal colony. Great premise, interesting setting & time, excellent acting.
21. Arthur & George (2015)
60 min | Biography, Crime, Drama
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle recaptures his zest for life by pursuing and challenging a notorious miscarriage of justice.
For Sherlock fans.
22. American Crime (2015–2017)
TV-14 | 43 min | Crime, Drama
Seasonal anthology series. Season 1: The lives of the participants in a trial with significant racial motives are forever changed during the legal process.
This is a tough watch because it pulls no punches and nobody's riding off into the sunset, but it's real. Tim Hutton & Felicity Huffman are superb, as are the rest of the cast.
23. Penny Dreadful (2014–2016)
TV-MA | 60 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Explorer Sir Malcolm Murray, American gunslinger Ethan Chandler, scientist Victor Frankenstein and medium Vanessa Ives unite to combat supernatural threats in Victorian London.
For someone like me who has studied British literature, this series is delightful because it's a mash-up of great Gothic characters like Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and Dracula characters, all thrown together in the same story. Really fine writing, acting & production.
24. Stonemouth (2015)
TV-MA | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Stewart Gilmour returns to his childhood home and tries to discover the truth behind his best friend's death.
Based on Iain Banks' novel.
25. The Bastard Executioner (2015)
TV-MA | 42 min | Action, Drama, History
In the early 14th century, several oppressed Welsh commoners unite to take revenge on the ruthless nobility.
Watchable. Although I'm still trying to believe Katey Sagal as a Slavic Catholic Delphic Oracle priestess in Wales...
26. The Principal (2015–2016)
50 min | Drama
The Principal is set in a notoriously violent and difficult Australian high school. Matt Bashir is promoted to Principal of Boxdale Boys High because of his different and radical approach to reform.
27. Unforgotten (2015– )
TV-MA | 45 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
London detectives investigate crimes from the past, unravelling secrets left buried for years.
Fabulous cast. Nicola Walker is one of my favorite actors and her chemistry with Sanjeev Bhaskar is perfect.
28. Code Black (2015–2018)
TV-14 | 42 min | Drama
The staff of the LA County Hospital emergency room treat patients under difficult circumstances.
This is a strong maybe. Love the cast. I'm not a big fan of hospital dramas, having a weak stomach, but there are some strong characters here that have me really intrigued to see how the writers grow them over the first season.
29. Spotless (2015)
TV-MA | 60 min | Crime, Drama
The law-abiding owner of a crime scene cleaning service is forced into business with a powerful mob boss thanks to his irresponsible older brother.
Great premise with excellent writing, well-developed characters and plenty of hairy complications. Originally released in France (even though it's mostly in English) so only two episodes made it to British or American audiences in 2015 but the rest are now available. The second season will be coming out in 2017.
30. The Last Panthers (2015–2016)
48 min | Action, Crime, Drama
Independent Claims Specialist Naomi (Samantha Morton) is given the job by her boss, Tom (Sir John Hurt), of recovering stolen diamonds, no matter what it takes. Also on the trail of the ... See full summary »
Pilot showed promise.
31. Dig (2015)
TV-14 | 60 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Peter, an FBI agent stationed in Jerusalem who, while investigating a murder of a young female archaeologist, uncovers a conspiracy 2000 years in the making.
Jason Isaacs is superb as the flawed, obsessed and brilliant detective. A fascinating mystery about the modern day fulfillment of ancient Jewish messianic prophesy. Set in Israel. Gritty.
32. London Spy (2015)
60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
A chance romance between two men from very different worlds, one from the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service, the other from a world of clubbing and youthful excess, leads into mystery after one of them is found murdered.
Ben Whishaw brings his signature intensity to this intriguing mystery and Jim Broadbent delivers his usual brilliant characterization. Charlotte Rampling lends star weight, particularly on the heels of her brilliant performance in "45 Years" (2015). Written by Tom Rob Smith, the novelist who wrote Child 44 and a relative newcomer to writing for the screen, London Spy is tight, taut and tense. Best of all, it's original. I was hooked from the 1st episode.
It premiered in the US on Jan. 21 on BBC America and is available on Amazon as well.
33. The Frankenstein Chronicles (2015–2017)
TV-MA | 48 min | Crime, Drama, Fantasy
Inspector John Marlott investigates a series of crimes in 19th Century London, which may have been committed by a scientist intent on re-animating the dead.
For lovers of Gothic literature, variations on Mary Shelly's idea are always intriguing. This seems to be done with some intelligence too.
Caveat: Given that he's the main character, I doubt Sean Bean will die in this mini-series until the last episode... ;-D
34. Jessica Jones (2015–2019)
TV-MA | 56 min | Action, Crime, Drama
Following the tragic end of her brief superhero career, Jessica Jones tries to rebuild her life as a private investigator, dealing with cases involving people with remarkable abilities in New York City.
Fantastic premise and plot. Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones is very believable as is David Tennant as the evil Kilgrave. I'm not normally a fan of super-hero stories, but this series by Netflix is well done, although a couple of episodes too long.
35. Versailles (2015–2018)
TV-MA | 52 min | Biography, Drama, History
In 1667, 28-year-old all-powerful king of France, Louis XIV, decides to build the greatest palace in the world - Versailles. But drained budget, affairs and political intrigues complicate things.
Excellent in every aspect. Great characters and, of course, gorgeous surroundings. One of the best historical dramas I've ever seen.
"Co-creator Simon Mirren is best known for writing British TV series like “Spooks” and “Waking the Dead,” as well as writing and producing for American shows like “Without a Trace” and “Criminal Minds.” Meanwhile, David Wolstencroft is known for creating “Spooks” and creating and writing the recent British drama “The Escape Artist” starring David Tennant of “Dr. Who” fame." (quoted from) ~ Vikram Murthi on IndieWire
36. Suspects (2014–2016)
Not Rated | 48 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
An unscripted crime/drama series centered on a team of three detectives - each with their own distinctive style of working.
For the first half hour of this series, it was so real that I thought it was cinéma vérité documentary like Cops, with real police and real criminals. The only reason I doubted that was because I recognized a couple of the actors. This series is really fresh, compelling and captivating.
37. Sense8 (2015–2018)
TV-MA | 60 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
A group of people around the world are suddenly linked mentally, and must find a way to survive being hunted by those who see them as a threat to the world's order.
Masterfully written & directed, particularly considering the incredibly complex story, which takes place all over the world with fantastic characters, I'm not normally a fan of science fiction because it's so seldom done well, but Sense8 is the perfect example of how it should be done. This is a Netflix Original and Netflix is known for leaving the art to the artists and this has resulted in their shows being some of the best television ever made. Sense8 will go down in TV history as one of the best dramas ever made.
The second season premieres of Dec. 25. Can't wait.
38. Narcos (2015–2017)
TV-MA | 49 min | Biography, Crime, Drama
A chronicled look at the criminal exploits of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, as well as the many other drug kingpins who plagued the country through the years.
I kept having deja vu during this series until I realized that nearly the exact story was covered by the movie that came out at the same time, Escobar: Paradise Lost.
39. Daredevil (2015–2018)
TV-MA | 54 min | Action, Crime, Drama
A blind lawyer by day, vigilante by night. Matt Murdock fights the crime of New York as Daredevil.
Not normally a fan of comic book character, but this is really good.
40. The Leftovers (2014–2017)
TV-MA | 60 min | Drama, Fantasy, Mystery
Three years after the disappearance of two percent of the global population, a group of people in a small New York community try to continue their lives while coping with the tragedy of the unexplained nature of the event.
Lots of people loved this series but it left me lukewarm... Unique premise but the writing, acting & direction were very middle-of-the-road.
41. Luther (2010–2019)
TV-MA | 60 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
DCI John Luther is a near-genius murder detective whose brilliant mind can't always save him from the dangerous violence of his passions.
Season 4 of this fabulous show premiered in Dec. 2015 with only a two episode special. Too bad, it was a great series.
42. Tut (2015)
88 min | Biography, Drama, History
A mini-series concentrating on the youngest Pharaoh to rule Ancient Egypt.
This was surprisingly good.
43. The Book of Negroes (2015)
265 min | Drama, History, War
Kidnapped in Africa and subsequently enslaved in South Carolina, Aminata must navigate a revolution in New York, isolation in Nova Scotia, and the treacherous jungles of Sierra Leone, in an attempt to secure her freedom in the eighteenth century.
A bit predictable but the performances were excellent. Definitely worth a watch.
44. No Offence (I) (2015–2018)
TV-MA | 42 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama
Follows a group of police officers on the front line wondering what they did to end up where they are now, on the ugly side of Manchester.
If you don't get dark, twisted, sardonic British humor, you'll miss the major appeal of this female gang of coppers. All are wildly flawed and brilliant at the same time. Great acting, writing (the best dialogue I've heard in ages) and direction.
45. House of Hancock (2015)
Gina Hancock is a much-loved daughter of her mining magnate father, Lang Hancock, who would become the richest man in Australia. It is 1967 in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. As ... See full summary »
Based on a true Aussie family and events that became a national soap opera of epic proportions, this series is well done, even if there are no surprises. The characters are a bit stereotypical and the plot cliche - but hey -- it happened.
46. Saints & Strangers (2015)
192 min | Drama, History