It would be lying to say that 2015 was the first year for quality TV; we’re on season 3 of Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, and they’re still as wonderful as ever. Consistently, though, this year Netflix produced some of the finest television, film and comedy specials that superceded even the biggest of cable networks’ best shows.
On the television end, we had the beginning of Marvel’s new superhero universe being developed online. Daredevil, starring British actor Charlie Cox (most notably known beforehand for his roles in Stardust and Boardwalk Empire), was the first in a four-show arc that introduces to the heroes who will eventually find their way into the Avengers universe. Dark, brutal, and very much rooted in the real world of crime, the Hell’s Kitchen-based drama showed a new side to Marvel, one able to engage with its older demographics whilst still tying them to the blockbuster movies that have come to dominate recent cinema.
This was followed by the second instalment in the arc, AKA Jessica Jones. Featuring a female protagonist and dealing adeptly with issues of sexual assault and post-traumatic stress, Jessica Jones expertly took on the tone of Daredevil and multiplied it tenfold. David Tennant’s Kilgrave, a slimy, lecherous but charming psychopath was the perfect antidote to a recent wave of one-dimensional movie villains; continually toeing the line between horror and humour in parts, his character, in combination with Krysten Ritter’s Jessica, gave a new edge to ever-expanding universe, as well as setting up Luke Cage for his own spin-off series too.
On a slightly lighter note, Netflix also gave us the triumphant new comedy from Aziz Ansari, Master of None. Starring the Parks and Recreation star alongside Saturday Night Live alum Noël Wells and a wonderful ensemble cast including Ansari’s parents, who easily have some of the funniest scenes in the show, Master of None navigates subtle humour and real world issues in tandem. There are episodes focusing on feminism, racism in show business, as well as presenting a realistic relationship with all its pitfalls – all trademarks of Ansari’s observational humour, and it’s this fused with lighthearted moments of slightly surreal comedy that gives the show its charming edge.
But Netflix originals don’t just extend to television. 2015 brought with it the Netflix Original movie; Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba, follows a young boy who is adopted into the ranks of the NDF, a guerrilla rebel faction. Brutal, hard-hitting, yet beautifully shot (thanks to the direction of Cary Fukunaga of True Detective fame), Beasts of No Nation is a masterclass in filmmaking – and only further testament to the ever-expanding abilities of Netflix. Developing a reputation for producing nuanced, poignant pieces, Netflix have here put their name to something remarkable.
2015 also saw the continuing success of the Netflix comedy special. Following on from 2014 and the likes of Nick Offerman’s American Ham and Chelsea Perretti’s One of the Greats, this year, in the same trend, gave us more. Aziz Ansari seems to have had a Netflix-driven rise to success in 2015; his Madison Square Gardens stand-up is as eagle-eyed as his show, and is funny to boot. The best show of the year, however, has to go to John Mulaney’s The Comeback Kid. An hour of continual laughs, Mulaney’s show is wonderful; featuring pieces on zany office bosses, house-hunting, dog training, and Bill Clinton, Mulaney has a wonderful way of delivering his jokes. Winding stories, with just the amount of digressions, combined with a wicked but charming humour, The Comeback Kid is masterful comedy, a clever show that never isolates its audience.
This is certainly not all that Netflix has offered us this year; Sense8, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day at Camp, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt are other favourites that dominated the internet. With the number of Netflix originals set to double in 2016 (31 TV shows alone, on top of all the specials and films), including the return of this year’s top works, it’s looking likely that Netflix’s domination over the traditional television line-up isn’t going to expire anytime soon.