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It wasn’t just a great year for new shows: Many returning programs turned out excellent seasons in 2015 as well. Here are twenty that are worth singling out.
By the way, all of the returning programs on my overall Top 20 of 2015 should be thought of as additional entries on this list, but for space reasons, those 13 shows are not mentioned here. In any event, if you need input on what to watch or catch up on this holiday season, check out the comedies and dramas mentioned below, look for more suggestions in my Top 20 and check out my Best New Shows roster.
“Banshee,” Cinemax: This underrated drama is of the most consistently taut and entertaining program on TV, and this year, “Banshee’s” terrific take on a film and TV standard, the big-money heist, contained more invention, excitement and gleeful filmmaking than many big-budget movies.
- Maureen Ryan
A quick review of tonight's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" coming up just as soon as I can prove intent to fart... By now, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is a stage where it has a lot of old reliables, joke-wise. Anytime a scene needs a laugh, the show can always lean on Terry announcing his like of something unexpected, or Holt uttering an amusing word or phrase (or, really, Holt saying any words at all, as we saw last week with "Paaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiin"), or Santiago struggling to contain her enthusiasm for something no one else cares about. Or, as we got throughout the very funny A-story of "Boyle's Hunch," the show can always go to Boyle being disgusting on the subjects of food and/or sex. The week after one of Charles' flings was ruined because Lt. Singh turned out to be a vegan, he runs into an attractive woman (played by Chloe herself, Mary Lynn Rajskub »
- Alan Sepinwall
We'd waited months, debated Twitter fouls and argued over the too-much-too-soon of it all — finally, last week, we got a taste of what a Trevor Noah-led Daily Show would actually be like. The South African comedian had the tall task of replacing Jon Stewart, who over a decade ago turned the politically savvy late-night show into a nightly ritual for many Americans (and more recently, a reliable source for "so-and-so destroys such-and-such" articles on the Internet). The first few nights mostly inspired a lot "he seems unflappable" comments — and »
Funnyman James Urbaniak, who stars as a reserved television producer named Grant on Review, shared 25 hilarious facts about himself with Us Weekly. The season finale of Review airs Thursday, Oct. 1, at 10 p.m on Comedy Central. 1. I come off like a Felix Unger (from The Odd Couple) but I’m really a slob like Oscar Madison. 2. I auditioned and was called back for the role of Dwight on The Office. I didn’t get it but I did get to play Dwight’s crazy friend Rolf in [...] »
Episodes: Ongoing (half-hour)
TV show dates: August 5, 2015 -- present
Series status: Has not been cancelled
TV show description:
Billy (Billy Eichner) works as an unenthusiastic waiter while he tries to get work in comedy. Nate (Derrick Baskin) and Denise (Gabourey Sidibe) are the married couple who co-own the cafe where Billy works. Matthew (Cole Escola) is a co-worker that Billy despises.
Read More… »
“It’s easy. You find some vulnerable people, you isolate them, you exploit them financially. Then, rivers of blood.”
Lucille calls it right from the get-go. When a man about to open a CrossFit gym asks Forrest what it’s like to be a cult leader he might as well start chiseling tombstones. Forrest himself even admits, all of five minutes into ‘Cult; Perfect Body,’ that founding a vapid, financially predatory cult with the assistance of his girlfriend(whose death he mourns while still referring to her as “Mrs. Greenfield”) has driven him mad with power. The cult itself is a fabulous joke, Forrest’s unconscious sublimation of his show’s pointlessness into an equally pointless quest to “live a five-star life.” He mocks their credulity while feeding them the same ethos he uses to justify his monstrous behavior as the host of Review, everything in his life twisted and absorbed by his television persona. »
- Gretchen Felker-Martin
“Well, I’m off to, uh, I’m off to cure a gay person.”
With those words of trepidation, Forrest embarks on another adventure to do something he’s ignorant of in the extreme and clearly, deeply doesn’t want to do. His approach to “curing” Tim, a young man rejected by his family over his sexuality, is a stomach-churning brew of therapeutic quackery, projection, and intensely bleak denial. Again and again Forrest relates Tim’s struggle to avoid sexual attraction to his own struggle to forget his ex-wife, Suzanne. Forrest believes he’s moved on, but even Tim can see through Forrest’s rickety and recursive justifications to the ongoing hurt in the bumbling reporter’s heart. Forrest’s staggering lack of self-awareness is one of the show’s linchpins, and ‘Curing a Gay; Joining the Mile-High Club’ plays it for all that it’s worth.
Forrest’s running »
- Gretchen Felker-Martin
Throughout TV history, there have been plenty of duos who've had the sort of close-knit, we-can-finish-each-other's-sentences friendships you don't often see in real life: Mary and Rhoda, Chandler and Joey, Abbi and Ilana. Add Difficult People's double act to that list — although the lead characters' Bff bond may be the only good thing they have going for them. Part of Hulu's latest round of original series (the first two episodes start streaming today), the cringe-comic sitcom stars Billy on the Street's Billy Eichner and comedian Julie Klausner as thirtysomething pals who are trying, »
Over the past few years, as the popularity of various streaming services has grown, so has the emergence of original offerings from them, with Netflix coming up with shows such as Daredevil and Orange is the New Black, Amazon releasing series such as Transparent and Bosch, and Yahoo picking up on the sixth season of cult hit Community alongside Other Space. Hulu is among the key participants in this trend as well, and is poised to become bigger, with numerous original series in development from acclaimed figures such as Jason Katims and Jason Reitman.
One of their more notable upcoming series is Difficult People. Executive produced by Amy Poehler, whose previous credits wearing that hat include the Comedy Central series Broad City, the show stars Poehler’s Parks and Recreation co-star Billy Eichner as one of the leads, opposite Julie Klausner. The series, which revolves around a duo of thirty-something »
- Deepayan Sengupta
The premiere party for Hulu’s new original comedy series “Difficult People” went off without a hitch on Thursday evening at New York’s School of Visual Arts Theater despite rain, 90-degree heat and extreme humidity. Executive producer Amy Poehler was all smiles as she stepped out onto the red carpet to support Billy Eichner, best known for his popular man-on-the-street game show “Billy on the Street,” and author/podcaster Julie Klausner, who co-star as struggling comedians who hate everything in the world except for each other and pop culture. The two caustic pals frequently land in awkward situations as a result of their brash behavior.
Klausner began writing the series pilot in the winter of 2012 and sent it to Poehler for some input. Klausner, who met the ‘Saturday Night Live’ alum while enrolled at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, said Poehler immediately loved the show’s storyline and was »
- Paul Chi
Hulu has made only modest noise with original programming, a situation that could change, and should, with “Difficult People.” Produced by Amy Poehler, this tart, very funny comedy stars Julie Klausner (who created the show) and Billy Eichner as bitchy pals who don’t really have a good word for anybody, except each other. TV has reveled in such self-absorbed characters, but these two are so perfectly loathsome and oblivious to the feelings of others, it’s almost hard not to root for them. Consider it a half-hour that proves bad company, TV-wise, can be good fun.
At the least, viewers should feel like they know the pair almost instantly. Both Julie and Billy (yes, they kept their first names, but changed their last) are aspiring comedians, but they’re being forced to work other jobs while pursuing those dreams. He’s an awful waiter, while she recaps and brutalizes TV programs, »
- Brian Lowry
With the San Diego Comic-Con International set to get underway next week, Idw and Top Shelf have announced their full schedule of panels for the convention; check them out here…
Thursday July 9th
God Is Disappointed in You
Thursday, 7/9/15, 11:00a.m. – 12:00p.m., Room: 28De
Hey, nothing personal — that’s what the book says! Writer Mark Russell (Prez) and Eisner Award winning artist Shannon Wheeler (The New Yorker, Too Much Coffee Man) bring to life their hilariously irreverent retelling of the Bible, God Is Disappointed in You (published by Top Shelf). They’ll perform their infamous “Bible in Ten Minutes” slide show and play a selection from the God Is Disappointed in You audiobook, as read by James Urbaniak (The Venture Brothers), recently nominated for an Audie Award for Best Comedy Audiobook. They will also give a sneak preview of the hotly anticipated sequel, Apocrypha Now.
The One »
- Gary Collinson
Lenny Bruce: Dustin Hoffman in the 1974 Bob Fosse movie. Lenny Bruce movie review: Polemical stand-up comedian merited less timid biopic (Oscar Movie Series) Bob Fosse's 1974 biopic Lenny has two chief assets: the ever relevant free speech issues it raises and the riveting presence of Valerie Perrine. The film itself, however, is only sporadically thought-provoking or emotionally gripping; in fact, Lenny is a major artistic letdown, considering all the talent involved and the fertile material at hand. After all, much more should have come out of a joint effort between director Fosse, fresh off his Academy Award win for Cabaret; playwright-screenwriter Julian Barry, whose stage version of Lenny earned Cliff Gorman a Tony Award; two-time Best Actor Oscar nominee Dustin Hoffman (The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy); and cinematographer Bruce Surtees (Play Misty for Me, Blume in Love). Their larger-than-life subject? Lenny Bruce, the stand-up comedian who became one of the »
- Andre Soares
Back in the 1990s, Hal Hartley was one of the signature directors of American independent cinema. His films weren’t for all tastes, but they sure were distinct: His aesthetic was colorful, but calm; his actors deadpan, but articulate. The films were often ironic romances, with bursts of casual criminality and tossed-off philosophy. Godard was clearly an influence, as was Jim Jarmusch. But Hartley’s voice was very much his. And, as evidenced in films like The Unbearable Truth and Simple Men, it was perfect for those jaded, scare-quote-friendly times. That’s not a knock: I watched those movies religiously, and I still occasionally revisit them.In 1997 Hartley made what was probably his greatest film, Henry Fool, a surprisingly complex, ambitious comedy about a mysterious, charismatic, but largely talentless novelist (Thomas Jay Ryan), who befriends and inspires a garbage man (James Urbaniak) and romances his sister (Parker Posey). The garbage »
- Bilge Ebiri
In 1997, writer-director Hal Hartley's "Henry Fool" took the filmmaker's career to new heights with the story of the titular novelist (Thomas Jay Ryan), a garrulous, self-involved man of the world who befriends garbageman Simon Grim (James Urbaniak) and seduces Simon's sister Fay (Parker Posey), who gives birth to a son, Ned (Liam Aiken). The movie was acclaimed on the festival circuit and developed a cult status among cinephiles hip to Hartley's ironic dialogue and inventive characters. But the story didn't end there: In 2006, Hartley made "Fay Grim," an innovative sequel that took the mold of a spy thriller and focused on Fay's life after Henry disappears. This week, the trilogy comes to a close with "Ned Rifle," which shifts focus to Aiken's character — now all grown up and himself eager to confront his father's neglectful tendencies. Read More: Review: 'Ned Rifle,' Starring Aubrey Plaza, is a »
- Eric Kohn
Hal Hartley's trilogy is finally complete with the release of Ned Rifle. Ned Rifle continues the story of an immensely dysfunctional family, Ned (played by Liam Aiken), the son has turned eighteen and is out of witness protection and has revenge on the brain. His goal? To find his father, Henry (played by Thomas Jay Ryan), and kill him. Cinelinx had the chance to discuss the film with Hal Hartley and one of the film's stars, Aubrey Plaza.
The trilogy began with just the addition of the sequel, Hartley wanted to work with Parker Posey again after the first film and while bouncing off a bunch of scripts they just decided to make a film based on her character. "I knew though, I had to make it a trilogy though once I made the sequel," said Hartley and he did just that.
Ned Rifle, follows Ned, the son of Henry and Fay, »
- email@example.com (Kelly McInerney)
Eighteen years after Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) turned lowly garbageman Simon Grim (James Urbaniak) into an accomplished poet and nine years after Henry got Fay Grim (Parker Posey) involved in an international security conundrum, writer-director Hal Hartley is wrapping up his Fool/Grim trilogy with Ned Rifle. This installment centers on Henry and Fay’s son, Ned (Liam Aiken). With his mother in prison and his father’s whereabouts unknown, Ned is sent to live with Reverend Daniel Gardner (Martin Donovan) and his family. However, when Ned turns 18, he decides it’s time to head off and kill the person responsible for ruining his mother’s life, his father. With Ned Rifle screening at SXSW in the Festival Favorites section, I got the opportunity to discuss the film with Hartley and Aubrey Plaza who steps in as Susan, the underage girl Henry slept with prior to the events of Henry Fool. »
- Perri Nemiroff
Nobody’s Fool: Hartley Concludes His Grim Trilogy
While it may be wholly unnecessary to see the two preceding films in the loosely knit Grim trilogy that Hal Hartley began back in 1997 with Henry Fool, at least in order to comprehend what’s going on in Ned Rifle, the final chapter of the bizarre familial saga, your opinion of the previous installments will definitely help you navigate his typically odd universe. While all three films are similar in tone, this latest feels appropriately like an intermingling of the first two, filled with overzealous monologues that can easily be dismissed as arch pretense and a droll, deadpan wittiness that manages to be charming despite its highly artificial tableau.
About to turn eighteen, Ned Rifle (Liam Aiken) wishes to leave the haven of witness protection and reach out to his incarcerated mother, Fay Grim (Parker Posey), convicted of terrorist activities and serving a life sentence. »
- Nicholas Bell
Cinema Retro has received the following press release:
The Cinefamily presents
A Hal Hartley Film Retrospective
April 2nd - 4th, 2015
*Additional Saturday matinee screenings throughout April
• Featuring eight career spanning films, with Hal Hartley in attendance, April 2nd - 4th
• An exhibition of limited edition photographic prints of stills from his films
• Retrospective is the kickoff of a weeklong Cinefamily run of Ned Rifle (April 3rd - April 9th)
"Unbelievable Truth". (Photo: copyright PossibleFilms).
Cinefamily presents the first-ever West Coast retrospective of the works of iconic film auteur Hal Hartley. Hartley’s stylized, deadpan screwball dramas, taut dialogue and offbeat characters helped define classic American independent filmmaking, and his films offered breakthrough roles to numerous actors, including Parker Posey, Edie Falco, Adrienne Shelley, Pj Harvey, and Martin Donovan. »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Cinema Retro)
I have never seen a film by Hal Hartley. He's a filmmaker who has been maneuvering around the independent film scene for decades, and he's just a blind spot for me. Consequently, I've never seen the previous two entries to the trilogy Ned Rifle serves to conclude, those being 1997's Henry Fool and 2006's Fay Grim. In a way it seems he's taking a page from Richard Linklater's Before series and releasing a new entry every nine years. If this film did anything, it made me interested in checking out Hartley's other films, particularly the two I mentioned, but despite my enjoyment of hearing this deadpan dialogue excellently delivered (mostly) by a talented ensemble of actors, the film is so dry it made it difficult to connect with some of its characters, mainly the titular lead. Ned Grim (Liam Aiken) has taken up the persona "Ned Rifle", and has »
- Mike Shutt
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