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The proliferation of quality genre projects – Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, comics – that are available on TV have grown almost exponentially over the last few years. And while there are networks that are geared specifically to genre TV, a great deal of quality stuff can be found on the broadcast networks, the future of the Movie Box is here!
This year, I’ve decided to place genre offerings on a separate list just to highlight how much good stuff is out there for fans of every genre. So, from The Doctor to Jessica Jones, from Supergirl to the Winchesters, follow the jump to my first annual Favorite Fifteen for Genre TV.
15. Grimm (NBC) – a unique take on Grimm’s Fairy Tales and mythology, this is such a well-developed world that it rivals Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel for depth and weird fun.
14. Outlander (Starz) – Probably the single most romantic series on television, but one of the darkest, as well. Time traveling Claire finds herself in 18th Century Scotland where she winds married to Jamie both for protection (not the most civilized century) and because she’s falling in love with him – despite being married in her own time of 1945.
13. Supernatural (The CW) – Sam and Dean Winchester keep screwing up and, in the 10th season finale did it up right, releasing The Darkness. Even better, she (or rather She) is God’s sister. And she’s pissed. As a result, the rules have changed and the stakes are the highest they’ve ever been. Plus, the son of Morning is back and more twisted than ever. Inspired stuff.
12. Penny Dreadful (Showtime) – Lush, operatic horror that takes famous (and not so famous) characters and develops them in unexpected and darkly delightful ways.
11. Into The Badlands (AMC) – a martial arts series that goes for it. Intriguing characters, a unique take on a feudal society, and those marvelous Hong Kong-style martial arts sequences all added up to a great deal of fun.
10. Arrow (The CW) – another comic book series that bounced back from an abysmal second half of the previous season, Arrow may have – along with The Flash – been setting up January’s DC’s Legends of time, but it has made that the basis of some very intriguing and enthralling adventures. Oliver Queen may be one of the best flawed heroes around (keeping that secret will not sit well with Felicity, Ollie!) and that keeps him from becoming too much of a stereotype. Plus, Arrow has a ridiculously good ensemble.
9. Agent Carter (ABC) – the love of Captain America’s life getting on with her life after Cap’s (apparent) death, Peggy Carter is the mainstream action hero that Marvel fans deserve. Smart, tough, wily and drop dead gorgeous, Agent Carter is constantly underestimated and knows how to take advantage of that. The show is delightful and Marvel-Weird. It’s a great combination.
8. The Flash (The CW) – sometimes you have to just have fun, and The Flash is the second-best superhero show on TV for that reason. Smart writing, a terrific ensemble and some surprisingly amazing VFX combine to entertain like mad.
7. The Leftovers (HBO) – for seventeen episodes I was oddly indifferent to The Leftovers – I wasn’t enthralled but I wasn’t repulsed, either – but for some reason I kept watching. Then came International Episode – possibly the most whacked out, yet brilliant episode of the year. Suddenly, I saw the whole series in a completely different light. And the second season’s final two eps were equally brilliant. Now I’m hooked.
6. Supergirl (CBS) – not quite mid-way through her rookie season, Supergirl has risen to the top of the superhero TV heap through a combination of fun (that almost matches The Flash), cultural awareness (the reason Cat Grant named her Supergirl; James Olsen’s reminder that he can’t get mad in public, and so on) and hero/villain clashes that are something different. Plus the whole Hank Henshaw mystery resolving in a way that probably had millions of fans Googling J’onn J’onzz!
5. Sense8 (Netflix) – The Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski created a fascinating, frustrating and frequently bewildering work of genius for Netflix. The idea of an evolutionary step that created unified, yet individual, beings out of groups of eight – with each having access to the entire life experience of all of the others – made for some mind shatteringly twisted television.
4. Humans (AMC) – an examination of what it is to be human, and whether artificial intelligence can attain that specific whatever-it-is that makes us human. Loosely based on a very cool Swedish series called Being Human.
3. Game of Thrones (HBO) – This season, GoT reached the end of the line in terms of George R.R. Martin’s published volumes of the series, but it didn’t matter. The series has been making changes ranging from the slight to the profound since the first season – so as long as adaptors David Benioff and D.B. Weiss for heading for Martin’s established conclusion (which he shared with them), it looks like the series won’t suffer (except that, now, fans will rad Martin’s next volumes and wonder why HE changed things).
3a. Daredevil (Netflix) – who would have thought that a show about a blind Marvel superhero would become the Mean Streets of superherodom? Not I. And yet, Daredevil. And then Netflix went one better…
2. Jessica Jones (Netflix) – So, a series about a superhero turned hardboiled (really, really hardboiled) private eye becomes an examination of women’s rights on the most basic level, and a look at the devastating effects of post-traumatic stress as a result of mental and sexual abuse – plus a treatise on the value of true friendship in a world where that is a rare commodity. Wow. Just wow!
And Krysten Ritter made it work on every level, while Rachael Taylor finally got a project that let her shine – and that’s even before Mike Colter’s Luke Cage appeared. Luke Cage and Iron fist will have to be beyond awesome to equal this.
1b. Doctor Who (BBC America) – the ‘angry eyebrows’ Doctor has fought his heroic nature as far as he can in the latest season of Doctor Who – and his companion, Clara, has become like unto a Doctor herself. Add in a dash of the immortal Ashildr and a darker, funnier season than we might have been expecting (and arguably, the best season so far for the rebooted series) and the result is everything you could ask for in a series that stars a runaway Timelord in a rackety old TARDIS.
1a. Orphan Black (BBC America) – two sets of clones, four times the intricacy of plotting, twelve times the depth of characterization required to pull it off. This series continues to amaze – and now we add Ari Millen to the intricacies of characterization that made Tatiana Maslany a geek goddess (and he pulls it off!). It’s just too bad that the Castor clones were a single season arc, but the Ouroboros plot revelations in the finale make everything old new again. Lovely.
Honorable Mentions in absolutely no particular order: Gotham (FOX), Dark Matter (Syfy), Galavant (ABC), Constantine (NBC), Limitless (CBS), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., From Dusk Till Dawn (El Rey Network), Ash vs. Evil Dead (Starz), Killjoys (Syfy), The 100 (The CW), iZombie (The CW),Heroes Reborn (NBC), Salem (WGN America), South of Hell (WE tv), The Returned (SundanceTV), The Man in the High Castle (Amazon), Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (BBC America), The Expanse (Syfy), The Librarians (TNT), Stitchers (ABC Family)
Photos courtesy of ABC, AMC, BBC America, CBS, The CW, HBO, NBC, Netflix, Showtime and Starz