This past year was one of growth and revelation for me personally. I took several big risks, charted new territories and learned a helluva lot about myself. And from where I sit, I can say the same thing about many of the movies and TV shows that debuted and aired in 2015.
From ABC’s “Scandal” tackling abortion rights and BET’s “Being Mary Jane” addressing mental illness to Spike Lee’s artistic telling of Chicago’s street violence in “Chi-Raq” and Fox’s “Empire” taking everyone by surprise, there are plenty of reasons why these series and film along with others have made my Best of 2015 list. That’s right! See the 15 films and movies that I crowned the best of the year (they aren’t listed in any particular order).
1. “How to Get Away with Murder” – We predicted that this show would be a hit with Viola Davis as the star, and our intuition was correct. “How to Get Away with Murder” is like a good ol’ fashioned whodunit with crazy plot twists, untimely deaths and surprise endings. The supporting cast is great. Davis’s Annalise Keating is a no-nonsense attorney and law professor who’s extremely talented, attractive and terribly flawed. Like, really bad. Playing Annalise has earned Davis a best actress Emmy (the first black actress to win in that category) and landed her on the cover of the January 2016 InStyle magazine (she looks gorg!). “How to Get Away with Murder” will return on Feb. 11 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.
WATCH: “How to Get Away with Murder” winter finale
2. “The Walking Dead” – I have a confession: I haven’t watched any new episodes of “The Walking Dead” at all in 2015. That means I have to catch up on the second half of Season 5 that began in February and the first half of Season 6 that premiered in October. Just because I wasn’t in the mood to watch zombies (and in some cases, people) eat folks, doesn’t mean those episodes were a bust. As a matter of fact, several people have told me that the second half of Season 5 helped cement the entire season as the best one of the series so far. Wow! Guess I’ll be catching up on “The Walking Dead” over the holiday break … “The Walking Dead” will return on Feb. 14 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.
WATCH: “The Walking Dead” mid-season finale
3. “Scandal”– “Scandal’s” winter finale left several people’s mouth agape (mine included) as they witnessed America’s favorite fixer getting an abortion. Yeah, a lot of us didn’t see that coming. Creator Shonda Rhimes’s decision to tackle the abortion argument (clearly standing on the side of a woman’s right to choose) was hailed as “groundbreaking” and “bold” by many. Detractors, however, saw it as an example of “Hollywood’s moral depravity.” Either way, it definitely got people talking and is an example as to why Rhimes is where she is today — on top. “Scandal” returns Feb. 11 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
WATCH: “Scandal” winter finale
4. “black-ish” – This show is hilarious. Plain and simple. And if you haven’t been keeping up since the first season (which was good), then you’ll definitely want to give it another go with Season 2. The show has definitely found its stride. The writing is stronger, the acting is good and who doesn’t love watching Jenifer Lewis play Dre’s (Anthony Anderson) overbearing mother Ruby? It airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
WATCH: “black-ish’s” Christmas episode
5. “Empire” – I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted the amount of success that this Lee Daniels hip-hop drama would generate. The show, which became one of the most watched TV series (second to AMC’s “The Walking Dead”), had everyone tuning in weekly to witness the crazy shenanigans of music mogul Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) and his ex-wife Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) along with their three adult sons, their friends and their respective lovers, including Lucious’s ex-fiance Anika Calhoun aka Boo Boo Kitty (Grace Gealy). It airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.
WATCH: “Empire” winter finale
6. “Power” – Things got real last season when FBI agent Angela Valdez (Lela Loren) discovered that her boyfriend James St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick) really is the drug dealer Ghost she’s been chasing. But that was the least of Ghost’s problems. His mentor Kanan (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) is very determined to off him and his close friendship with Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora) is wearing thin. Oh, and did I mention his wife Tasha (Naturi Naughton) decided to get a little side action of her own… with Ghost’s “nephew” and driver? Yeah… The writing and acting were stronger during the second season and I’m hoping it only gets better when Season 3 premieres next summer. “Power” will return summer 2016 on Starz.
WATCH: “Power” Season 2 finale
7. “Being Mary Jane” – This BET drama starring Gabrielle Union has addressed tough issues since it debuted in 2013. But there was one episode from this past season that centered around black women and suicide that easily made it one of the best I’ve seen all year. Mental health and mental health treatment is a taboo topic for some within the black community. The rates of depression and other forms of mental health illness are growing among black American women, but they are less likely to seek or have limited access to proper treatment. That’s why I and many others championed the show’s writers and creators for using this platform to address this serious topic. “Being Mary Jane” will (hopefully) return Fall 2016 on BET.
WATCH: “Being Mary Jane” Season 3 finale
8. “The Wiz Live!” – More than 11.5 million people decided to ease on down the road with the cast of “The Wiz Live!” when the NBC musical event aired on Dec. 3. According to Broadwayworld.com, the telecast “generated NBC’s highest-rated night for any night of the week, excluding sports, in 11 years.” Not only did it introduce a new generation to “The Wiz” (the original production debuted on Broadway 40 years ago), but it reignited memories for old heads and set the bar much higher for NBC’s future musical productions. Plus, we heard some sangin’.
WATCH: “The Wiz Live!”
9. “Bessie” – I haven’t been a fan of many of the biopics about black musicians but HBO’s “Bessie” is a different story. Queen Latifah shined as the Empress of Blues, Bessie Smith, whose story wasn’t as well known as other artists of that time. Mo’Nique also did a great job as the Mother of the Blues, Ma Rainey, who was Bessie’s friend and mentor. “Bessie” received 13 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including ones for Latifah, Mo’Nique and Michael K. Williams who played Bessie’s husband Jack Gee. Definitely check it out!
10. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – This long-awaited reboot has had many people feigning. While many of the original cast members (minus Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian) are featured in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” it was newbie John Boyega’s role as Storm Trooper Finn that had many talking. I don’t want to give anything away (and I can’t since I haven’t seen the film yet), but critics are singing the film’s praises. It’s in theaters now.
WATCH: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” trailer
11. “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” – Larry Wilmore has written for iconic TV shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “In Living Color” but his biggest challenge yet came when he filled Stephen Colbert’s shoes. “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” debuted in January and, though it hasn’t garnered as many eyeballs as its predecessor “The Colbert Report,” it’s still a pretty good late night show. Comedy Central execs agree as they’ve renewed it through the end of 2016.“The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” airs weeknights at 11:30 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.
WATCH: “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore”
12. “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” – Like Wilmore, Trevor Noah has big, well, huge, shoes to fill as the new host of “The Daily Show.” Longtime host Jon Stewart’s final episode aired on Aug. 6 and six weeks later the South Africa native Noah took over. Many critics are sure that Noah will find his footing and that the show will evolve in the same fashion it did under Stewart. It airs weeknights at 11 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.
WATCH: “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah”
13. Dick Wolf’s Chicago Trio: “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Med”: If iconic TV producer Dick Wolf could turn “Law & Order” into a successful franchise with fifty ‘leven spinoffs based in New York City, surely the same could be done for the Chi, right? Yes! Wolf’s series “Chicago Fire,” which debuted three years ago, now has two sister shows: “Chicago P.D.,” which debuted nearly two years ago, and “Chicago Med,” which premiered last month. All three of the shows have received praise and have talented casts. That means lots of converging between the shows like the two-hour crossover event featuring all three series that airs Jan. 5 at 9 p.m. ET. (#OneChicago) Normally, “Chicago Fire” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m., “Chicago P.D.” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET and “Chicago Med” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
WATCH: “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Med” crossover trailer
14. “Chi-Raq” – Many people side-eyed Spike Lee when they found out “Chi-Raq” would be a modern adaptation of the ancient Greek comedy “Lysistrata.” Lee’s Chi-Raq is about a woman named Lysistrata (Teyonnah Parris) who persuades women to stage a sex strike until their male lovers stop engaging in street violence. Several respected actors are featured in this film alongside Parris including Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack and Wesley Snipes. Nick Cannon stars as Lysistrata’s rapper boyfriend Chi-Raq (I like him in this role). I’m a Chicago native and I actually liked the movie and would see it again. Now, it is different. Very artistic. So, if you plan on seeing it, keep an open mind. “Chi-Raq” is in theaters now.
WATCH: “Chi-Raq” trailer
15. “Straight Outta Compton” – Many people were skeptical about whether this long-awaited N.W.A. biopic would be any good. The answer: It is. “Straight Outta Compton” chronicles how N.W.A.’s five members came together, the group’s disbandment and its near reunion. It also highlighted the racial and social injustice its members and others living in Los Angeles faced. The acting was pretty solid with Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr. starring as him and Jason Mitchell, who plays Eazy E, being a scene stealer. “Straight Outta Compton” earned $60.2 million during its opening weekend, making it one of 2015’s biggest debuts.
WATCH: “Straight Outta Compton” trailer