By Neal Justin Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
As the second half of the television season wraps up this month, here are some standouts who deserve to take a bow:
The Grim Reaper. Unexpected departures on “The Good Wife,” “The Walking Dead,” “Scandal” and “Game of Thrones” gave us a proper jolt and a reason to watch in real time so we could safely play on Twitter. Now if only the Angel of Death could do something about “Two and a Half Men.”
Noah Hawley. Where did this guy come from? Before this year, he was best known for contributing stories to “Bones” and creating TV shows nobody saw. All that changed when he created FX’s “Fargo,” a series that manages to channel the Coen brothers without stealing from them. Might have to find some time for reruns of “Bones.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The actress retained her title as the funniest actress on the planet with another terrific season of HBO’s “Veep” and a promotional campaign that included comically erotic photo spreads in GQ and Rolling Stone. At 53 years old, she’s never been sexier or more sensational.
Jimmy Fallon. His monologue is the weakest on the air, and as an interviewer, he’s about as hard-edged as a reporter from Tiger Beat magazine. So why is he the king of late night? Because Fallon is killing it with kindness. In this snark-infused climate, what’s so wrong with that?
Leslie Moonves. Smart network executives save the drama for their programs. There’s no one smarter than the Godfather of CBS. It’s clear that Moonves was more than prepared for Dave Letterman’s retirement announcement, sliding Colbert into the hold position within a week. That eliminated a lot of jockeying and speculating that would have interfered with our full enjoyment of the last year with the most influential comedian of this generation.
Tatiana Maslany. You’ve heard about her amazing ability to play multiple characters on BBC America’s “Orphan Black,” seen her on the cover of Entertainment Weekly and been charmed by her appearances on late-night talkers. Now all you have to do is actually watch her show.
Chris Licht. Just when morning TV was starting to feel like artificial sweetener in your coffee, Licht was hired to executive produce “CBS This Morning” and give us the best reason in years to get out of bed. The former “Morning Joe” creator is proving that you don’t need concerts and cooking segments to make a compelling program.
Cary Fukunaga. It’s rare that one person will direct every episode of a series. It’s even rarer when he can make each hour feel like a big-budget movie. That’s exactly what Fukunaga pulled off with HBO’s “True Detective.” Matthew McConaughey may get the red-carpet treatment, but Fukunaga deserves a few “all right, all right, all rights” of his own.
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. Women may still be underrepresented on late-night TV, but they made considerable strides this past year in prime-time comedy. Leading the pack are these two Upright Citizens Brigade veterans who created Comedy Central’s “Broad City,” the Amy Poehler-produced sitcom in which two best friends take the slacker life to a whole new level.