Best and worst 2015: Television

BEST

• The Producers

KBS World

What can't Park Ji Eun do?

After the massive successes of her 2012 long-lost-son K-drama My Husband Got A Family and 2013 marooned-alien hit My Love From The Star, the South Korean writer is back this year with The Producers, a perfect little mockumentary on variety show workers.

On one level, the show (starring Cha Tae Hyun) is a tricky love story that plays like an elaborate prank in a reality programme. On another level, it is a soulful look at a segment of the business that is considered a poor cousin to K-drama.

• Crescendo

Channel 8

What a fitting present for the nation's 50th birthday. WaWa Pictures' xinyao drama, filled with songs, singers and actors old and new, evokes not only nostalgia, but also pride and hope.

The show imagines the songs being sung on every occasion - tentatively, achingly, tearfully - from the school canteen to the grave. May xinyao go on enlivening the Singaporean experience for many more years to come.

• Second Twenties

VV Drama

Parents' unlived lives cloud their marriages and their children's futures.

This has been South Korean writer So Hyun Kyung's subject in the great drama Seo Yeong, My Daughter (2012) and, now, a cute companion comedy, Second Twenties. The show has given actress Choi Ji Woo, as a naive housewife who returns to school, a chance to be more adorable than you think possible.

WORST

• The storm in a teacup about the cleavage in The Empress Of China

Chinese television became an international joke when censors cut revealing Tang-inspired costumes out of actress Fan Bingbing's palace drama. What real progress can the industry make when the regulators are still stuck in the Stone Age?


BEST

• Humans

AMC

The story of the Hawkins family's complex relationship with their beautiful humanoid servant Anita brings fresh insights to the topic of artificial intelligence.

Like the movies Ex Machina (2015) and Her (2012), Humans is all the more chilling for being set in the near future - in this case, one where people are slowly realising they can be replaced by machines, some of which may not stand for being treated like slaves.

• Project Greenlight

HBO

What began as a docu-series about a film-maker being mentored by stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck became an unintentional expose of bias and privilege in Hollywood.

The controversy came from Damon; another mentor, director Peter Farrelly; and first-time director Jason Mann repeatedly clashing with producer Effie Brown, a black woman, over everything from the race of the cast and crew to whether to shoot digitally.

Then came accusations of "white privilege" and "mansplaining" (term to describe boorish men who felt the need to correct what a woman said, according to Urban Dictionary).

A must-watch if you love movies and have an opinion on whether the race and gender of those who make them matters.

• Master Of None

Netflix

Tired of seeing Asian actors relegated to playing the wisecracking or eccentric best friend? Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang's edgy yet sweet-natured comedy is just the ticket.

Ansari is Dev, an aspiring actor, son of Indian immigrants and a New York singleton whose struggles are the canvas for some very sharp observations about race, gender and the generational divide.

This is easily the best of the current crop of sitcoms starring Asian Americans, but to pigeonhole it as such would be a disservice to Ansari and Yang, who also have a unique talent for capturing millennial quirks and obsessions.

WORST

• Quantico

AXN

Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra's charms are squandered in this shallow action whodunit in which she plays a rookie federal agent accused of being a terrorist.

If you can leave your brain at the door, there are some mildly entertaining distractions: an attractive cast, lashings of sexual tension and pseudo-edgy flashbacks to her time at the FBI academy as she tries to work out who framed her.

But nothing can hide the cheap scares, implausible plot twists, egregiously cliched dialogue and profound lack of originality.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 27, 2015, with the headline 'Television'. Print Edition | Subscribe