The Shows You Should Have Streamed This Year

18 December 2015 | 2:52 pm | Mitch Knox

Consider your summer's binge-list sorted

Australia's television viewing landscape underwent a radical shift in 2015, as streaming services finally made their debut appearance in the national mainstream. Three separate platforms — local contenders Presto and Stan, and international flag-bearer Netflix — launched within weeks of each other, and suddenly Aussie audiences were blessed with a far broader spread of (legal) small-screen excellence than ever before.

It's entirely plausible that, confronted with so much new content, you might have been overwhelmed by all the options suddenly at your fingertips; not me, though. I lapped that shit up. I parked myself on the couch and wilfully ignored occasional automated concern about my health to power through as much TV as I could over the past several months, not least of all because 2015 coincidentally was also the year that I irreversibly came to believe that hell is absolutely other people and going out in public is, with few exceptions, a waking nightmare.

Still, if you've been contentedly continuing to live on a diet of Q&A and The Block, then let me bring you up to speed, in alphabetical order, on what you've been missing (on Stan and Netflix, at least, because I am not made of money over here), because it's been a hell of a year for lovers of quality viewing and it's well past time to get on board.

Better Call Saul


Better Call Saul always had its work cut out for it. It can't be easy being the immediate follow-up to world-beating Best Show Ever Breaking Bad, but show creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould clearly had good reason for their faith in the character of hard-done-by lawyer Saul Goodman, whose pre-Walter White days are the focus of this truly excellent companion series. We meet Saul when he's still Jimmy McGill, a struggling reformed con-man trying his best to make it as a lawyer in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he looks after his far more successful brother, Chuck (a revelatory Michael McKean), who suffers from a rare, debilitating sensitivity to electromagnetism. Far from the gleeful scheming we see Saul engage in come Breaking Bad, here, McGill is honestly trying to leave his shady ways behind him, before darker forces and grander plans take hold and set him on the path to being everyone's favourite slippery legal eagle.

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Impressively, the show doesn't need to rest on Breaking Bad's laurels. Sure, there are overt references, such as an early appearance from fan-favourite drug lord Tuco — not to mention the standout performance from Jonathan Banks as future 'cleaner' Mike Ehrmantraut — but Better Call Saul's creative team and, importantly, series star Bob Odenkirk have given it more than enough legs to stand on its own as we stare down the barrel of season two in 2016.

BoJack Horseman


Netflix arrived in Australia a couple of months before the season-two premiere of its acclaimed in-house comedy-drama animation, BoJack Horseman, but it came freshly loaded with the already-released first season of Raphael Bob-Waksberg's biting satire of show-business in the era beyond the heady days of the '90s and all its booze-and-coke-fuelled decisions and lifestyles. Arrested Development alum Will Arnett demonstrates wonderful versatility in the title role as a washed up, anthropomorphic ex-sitcom star, lending BoJack at once obvious degrees of cynicism, arrogance, belligerence and intolerance — but flecked with vulnerability, poignancy, affectation and lament.

Like Adult Swim's Rick & MortyBoJack is a prime flag-bearer for a new school of adult animation that is unafraid to go for the laughs as well as the jugular and the heart, usually all within the same half-hour block. Exemplary performances from supporting cast members Alison Brie, Paul F Tompkins, Aaron Paul and Amy Sedaris make missing this series practically inexcusable.



Community's final set of episodes — produced by online company Yahoo as a hail-mary effort to ensure the cult-favourite comedy made it at least to the 'six season' mark of its famed '...and a movie' catch-cry — came and went this year with comparably little hullabaloo, considering the tantrum thrown by its audience over two previous potential cancellations and a creative team changeover (and re-changeover) to ensure that they got these episodes. But, even if the fan base let it down a little in terms of trumpeting the series' ultimate triumph, the writers, cast and crew of Community's sixth season knocked it out of the park. 

This final small-screen run stands as the show's most self-referential yet, with Chang (Ken Jeong) at one point even making explicit reference to his character's arc since stepping down from his Greendale teaching post in the show's early seasons ("Haven't been well utilised since"). Meanwhile, study group/Save Greendale committee mainstays Jeff (Joel McHale), Britta (Gillian Jacobs), Annie (Alison Brie) and Abed (Danny Pudi) all reach points of bittersweet finality and realisation about the fleeting nature of their relationships, and newcomers Paget Brewster and Keith David do utterly admirable jobs of making their characters, Frankie and Elroy, slot right into the existing group dynamic while helping the audience come to terms with the notion that all good things must come to an end one way or another.



US network The CW has been doing a damn fine job with its DC Comics adaptations of late, already boasting two of the best in The Flash and Arrow. But iZombie shouldn't be discounted, either; the quiet achiever, (very) loosely based on a series of the same name that was published by Vertigo, DC's adult imprint, is a surprisingly high-quality blend of cop procedural, comedy, drama, horror and camp that works remarkably well to buoy the original premise. In summary, the show follows former medical student, now recently turned zombie, Liv (Kiwi actress Rose McIver) as she struggles to navigate the new world of being undead, taking a job at the local coroner's office to ensure easy, regular access to the brains she needs to retain the remaining shreds of her humanity (no Romero-style moaning zombies here, unless they're starved of brains for an extended period).

Of course, it's not that simple — each brain she eats leaves an imprint of memories and behaviours from its owner, meaning that, naturally, Liv uses her new insight to help put-upon detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin) solve crimes, all the while looking for a cure with her dreamboat boss, Ravi (Rahul Kohli), looking out for her deer-in-the-headlights of an ex-fiance, and derailing the nefarious plans of undead crime lord Blaine DeBeers (the excellent David Anders).   

John Mulaney: the Comeback Kid


Last year was not the greatest for stand-up comedian John Mulaney; yes, he started 2014 with the world at his feet, with an eponymous sitcom on the way and an army of dedicated fans earned over exemplary specials such as New In Town and The Top Part. It all got derailed slightly when the sitcom, Fox's short-lived Mulaney, ended up being portrayed as a middling Seinfeld remake, all bright colours and safe gags — a fate also experienced by a pre-Louie Louis CK, if you remember the painful Lucky Louie — leaving the TV world a little soured on the 30-year-old former Saturday Night Live writer (and co-creater of beloved Bill Hader character Stefan).

That said, you'd never know he experienced the hiccup watching his 2015 Netflix comedy special, The Comeback Kid. Easy though it would be to draw a parallel between the show's title and Mulaney's brief dalliance with disappointment in 2014, that's not actually from where the name derives; rather, we'll leave that explanation for you to find out as you reacquaint yourself with one of this generation's finest stand-ups. Here, Mulaney is in top form — in fact, he doesn't even mention his experiences in sitcom land — as he riffs on all manner of topics from his new status as a married man and the dark side of Back To The Future to house-hunting, getting schooled by sneaky changes in church, and his family's surprising connection to a certain one-time President Of The United States. 

Marvel's Daredevil


Drew Goddard's small-screen addition to the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe was regarded as a revelation for comic-book storytelling when it made its debut in April. Series stars Charlie Cox and Vincent D'Onofrio are simply outstanding as respective hero and villain Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk (not to mention the wider ensemble cast, who are all fantastic), while the season's presentation — from a markedly darker aesthetic than we'd previously seen in any MCU property to its utterly gorgeous choreography, powerful dialogue and gleeful hints at the now-on-the-ropes Iron Fist series — is nigh cinematic in its execution. Ask a single person who watched this show about the hallway scene in episode two, Cut Man, and prepare for a gushing assault of praise, because that sequence — a three-minute-long single-shot tour de force of martial arts choreography — is easily one of the most beautifully executed fight scenes in living memory

Season two, Daredevil Vs The Punisher (featuring ex-The Walking Dead main eventer Jon Bernthal as the gun-happy anti-hero), stands to raise the stakes even further. Get on board.

Marvel's Jessica Jones


Before we get to Frank Castle and Matt Murdock pummeling each other in the streets, though, there are other corners of Netflix's pocket of the MCU to explore — and they couldn't have picked a better follow-up than the heavy-drinking, no-nonsense badass that is superhero-turned-alcoholic-private investigator Jessica Jones. Even more so than DaredevilJessica Jones takes the MCU to much darker places than it has previously ventured, providing what has been resoundingly hailed as one of the most realistic, respectful depictions of post-traumatic stress as well as dealing with issues such as rape, abuse, recovery, and all manner of other ugly symptoms of the human condition — and it uses superhumans to make its point with fearsome precision and poignancy.

Like its sister show, the performances here are sublime — Krysten Ritter gives a career-best as the titular Jones, while ex-Doctor Who star David Tennant provides a stunningly repulsive turn as the spoiled sociopath known as Kilgrave, a shadowy, terrifying figure from Jones' past who has no qualms about leaving a trail of bodies in his wake on the way to obtaining whatever he wants. Meanwhile, the ensemble supporting cast — including The Matrix's Carrie-Ann Moss, Aussie export Rachael Taylor, young standout Erin Moriarty, the eminently likeable Eka Darville and future Marvel-Netflix star in his own right Mike Colter — are all excellent. There are a pair of characters, who I don't really want to bother wasting too many words on, who come dangerously close to ruining everything simply by virtue of being painfully annoying, but other than that, this is an almost flawless example of exactly how brilliant TV programming can be.

Orange Is The New Black


After two years of being widely pirated by Aussie fans, local audiences were finally given the legal opportunity to fall in love with the acclaimed cast of prison drama Orange Is The New Black in April this year. The show arrived on the newly launched Netflix just ahead of its third-season premiere, setting us up for binge-watching habits nice and early as we marathoned (or, in some cases, re-marathoned) the first two seasons of Jenji Kohan's lauded series, which has already been tapped for a fourth season starting in 2016.

The premise is approaching its twilight — especially for central character Piper Chapman, who has engaged in some disturbingly shady behaviour as the series has progressed, while her sentence can't possibly sustain the series indefinitely — but there's still plenty of life in this boundary-breaking ensemble show, and it's well worth seeing what all the fuss is about. 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt


Un-BREAKABLE! With one word, Tina Fey's first foray onto Netflix — the tale of an optimistic, indomitable, objectively adorable 29-year-old learning to make her way in New York City after 15 years of being held captive in a bunker by a dangerously charismatic religious leader — captured an army of fans with nearly no effort at all. It's unsurprising, too; not only is series lead Ellie Kemper simply infectious and a joy to watch as the eponymous Kimmy, her supporting cast — Tituss Burgess as her flamboyant, aspiring-thespian housemate, Titus Andromedon, and the ever-radiant Carol Kane as not-all-there landlord Lillian, plus 30 Rock alum Jane Krakowski as Kimmy's outlandish employer — are all simply brilliant (Burgess even nabbed an Emmy nomination for his contribution).

The season at large is an absolute delight to behold, balancing the kind of madcap hilarity championed by Fey's acclaimed 30 Rock with a genuine sweetness at its centre, making for one of the most beautifully spirited shows of the 2015 viewing schedule. The fact that its theme song and opening sequence are simply magnificent is merely the icing on an already hilarious, eminently devourable cake of a series.

W/ Bob & David


In 1998, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross wrapped up a little program called Mr Show With Bob & David, which has, over the past 17 or so years, developed into something of a cult hit among aficionados of absurdism and sketch comedy. In 2015, we were blessed with a four-episode spiritual sequel of sorts, W/ Bob & David, which reunites not only the central pair of Mr Show but several of their previous collaborators, including Paul F Tompkins, Brian Posehn, Jay Johnston, Dino Stamatopoulos and others. With executive production coming at the hands of, among others, anti-humour heroes Eric Wareheim and Tim Heidecker (of Tim & Eric fame), there's an added degree of surrealism to the reunion, but this is still Bob & David at their core — two very funny friends, and a group of their friends, writing sketches to make themselves laugh — and, if you get a giggle or two out of it in the process, then all the better.

The only downside is the length of the series — just the four episodes and a fifth, eye-opening behind-the-scenes look at how it all came together more than 15 years after the conclusion of Mr Show — but any self-respecting fan of oddball comedy will appreciate even getting the handful we received, just in case Odenkirk, Cross and their talented crew of collaborators never manage to pull the whole band back together again. Think of it as your own personal Christmas miracle.

Honourable mentions

There was so much good stuff on our local streaming services this year that it would be criminal to not mention the similarly stellar efforts from the following programs:

A Very Murray Christmas (Netflix)

Ash V Evil Dead (Stan)

Aziz Ansari Live At Madison Square Garden (Netflix)

Beasts Of No Nation (Netflix)

Chelsea Peretti: One Of The Greats (Netflix)

Master Of None (Netflix)

Narcos (Netflix)

Tig (Netflix)

Transparent (Stan)

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp (Netflix)

Whitey: United States Of America V. James J. Bulger (Netflix)