Best TV of 2015: The ballots

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Embed was removed for legal reasons
The A.V. Club’s list of 2015’s best TV programming came together with the input of more than 30 staff members and contributors, who singled out 105 different shows, miniseries, specials, and telefilms as the year’s best. (A few quick words on the voting process: Participating writers were asked to make a top 15 list, with their No. 1 pick getting 15 points, No. 2 getting 14, and so on.) Only 40 could make the final cut, so read on to find out what other TV our writers made time for this year.

Erik Adams

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1. The Americans
2. Mad Men
3. Silicon Valley
4. The Leftovers
5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
6. Mr. Robot
7. Fargo
8. Parks And Recreation
9. Hannibal
10. Better Call Saul
11. Fresh Off The Boat
12. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp
13. The Carmichael Show
14. You’re The Worst
15. Review

Honorable mentions: Black-ish, iZombie, Master Of None, Broad City, Catastrophe, With Bob And David, UnREAL, Nathan For You

The most painful cut: Community
Greendale Community College was never hard up for accolades from this corner of the internet (discounting the year it sprung a gas leak), but I was hoping we’d be able to give its adventurous, bank-busting sixth season a proper sendoff. Then it wound up being the last show to get the boot from my ballot. Oh well: Maybe our film colleagues will right this wrong whenever season six gets its prophesied cinematic follow-up.

Shows whose most recent seasons felt like the prelude to something bigger next year: Transparent and Rectify
Maybe it was the way I watched these two (downing each in a single weekend), maybe it’s just the nature of their intimate, family-centric setups. But on both of these shows this year (which I liked, but wanted to love), it felt like a second act was being constructed, to be paid off at a later date. (Transparent’s season premiere, “Kina Hora,” however, counts as one of the best episodes of any series I’ve ever seen.)

Joshua Alston

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1. The Leftovers
2. Fargo
3. You’re The Worst
4. The Americans
5. Master Of None
6. Show Me A Hero
7. Black-ish
8. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
9. Nathan For You
10. Broad City
11. Parks And Recreation
12. Power
13. Difficult People
14. How To Get Away With Murder
15. Fresh Off The Boat

Victor Beigelman

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1. The Americans
It took me 1,500 words to really do it justice—The Americans is just the most agonizingly thrilling show on TV today. For three seasons, showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields have methodically cranked up the pressure bit by bit, aided by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell’s multilayered performances, horribly awesome (awesomely horrible?) wigs, and the very best in ’80s pop music. Sure, maybe being a first-generation Russian-American naturally draws me to this cold world, but I’m definitely not the only one weakened by the undeniable charms of the mail robot.

2. Mr. Robot
I feel pretty strongly that Mr. Robot should be renamed Rami Malek’s Eyes. Along with everything about the show, he was a whirlwind surprise in the best way over the summer.

3. Mad Men
It’s impossible to end a show perfectly, but the last 10 minutes of “Person To Person” absolutely skyrocketed from its rather average first 45 minutes to give Mad Men the complex, impactful sendoff it deserved. What’s more is each of the six episodes that led us there in the show’s final half-season didn’t waste a single minute. Sad, sharp, hilarious, thick with symbolism—they were everything about the show we loved and may never see the likes of again.

4. Fargo
As a big Coen brothers fan, I was as skeptical as anyone else when this distant cousin to their original Fargo was announced. But if season one was great TV, season two can only be described as excellent. The cast is firing on all cylinders and Noah Hawley clearly knows what he’s doing. Okay then.

5. Transparent
Maura Pfefferman is an incredibly flawed, self-conscious person. So are her ex-wife and all three of her children. That Jill Soloway continues further down the path of simply letting Maura be one of the moving parts in a highly dysfunctional family throughout season two is why Transparent is among the best TV has to offer. It’s not the “transgender show.” It’s a funny, painful half-hour family drama that includes transgender struggles as one of the many real issues people deal with on their quest for identity, sexual or otherwise.

6. Game Of Thrones
7. Veep
Hopefully the ship keeps steering in the right direction after Armando Iannucci’s exit, because with Parks And Rec done, this is easily the funniest show on TV.

8. Master Of None
9. You’re The Worst
10. Better Call Saul
Similar to Fargo, I was worried about a spinoff expanding the universe of a near-perfect drama. Why risk diminishing Breaking Bad’s status and the kind of breathlessness “Ozymandias” left us with? Because when you’re Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, you’re just plain good at making compelling television. Shouldn’t have doubted them.

11. Show Me A Hero
12. Broad City
It’s impossible not to have fun watching Abbi and Ilana run around their much-brighter-than-Girls New York.

13. BoJack Horseman
14. Catastrophe
15. Togetherness

Honorable Mentions:
Parks And Recreation
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Man Seeking Woman
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp
Nathan For You
The Man In The High Castle

Dan Caffrey

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1. Nathan For You
In his increasingly bizarre mission to help out small businesses, Nathan Fielder pushes the boundaries of politeness, his own loneliness (he’s a wizard of it), and how much bullshit people are willing to buy until it becomes literal performance art.

2. Bloodline
The performances are layered enough to give even the most mundane plot twist a jolt of surprise, plus it’s one of the few shows to get Florida (and dysfunctional families) right.

3. South Park
Recent seasons have felt like a warm-up to this, in which Trey Parker and Matt Stone perfect their long game by centering all 10 episodes on PC culture and the ballooning urban epicenter of SodoSopa. It’s as captivating for its plot as it is for its satire.

4. On Cinema At The Cinema/Decker
It’s hard to tell a novice where to begin when it comes to the expansive mythology of Abso Lutely Productions. In 2015 alone, it produced two shows that were symbiotic of each other: the newest season of Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington’s mundane movie-review series, On Cinema At The Cinema, and the duo’s intentionally incompetent attempt at an action franchise, Decker. The tension between them during On Cinema informs the plot of Decker and vice versa, culminating in a failed horror mashup where they take on Dracula and—Jesus Christ—the death of Heidecker’s infant son. If you want the full experience—one that skewers narcissism, ugly patriotism, holier-than-thou film buffs, and even holistic health—it’s essential to watch both. Following Heidecker’s and Turkington’s Twitter accounts helps, too.

5. Show Me A Hero
A miniseries about the controversy surrounding a housing project in upper-middle class Yonkers (based on a true story, no less) could have been morally preachy under the pen of Paul Haggis. Luckily, he has two screenwriters (David Simon and William F. Zorzi) who draw from their experience at the Baltimore Sun (not to mention The Wire) to make sure the story applies nuance and empathy to all of their characters, even the jerky ones.

6. Tim And Eric’s Bedtime Stories
The creators of Awesome Show take their penchant for the unsettling and apply it to the kind of horror you’d find on ’90s cable. They even take a stab at Mafia films along the way, realizing that satire can work just as well when it has good production values and actors who actually know how to act.

7. Transparent
The rare show that explores trans culture without fetishizing it or making it the sole focus of the narrative.

8. Fresh Off The Boat
In its second season, one of the only network sitcoms (ever) about an Asian-American family finds its own identity by separating itself from the darker aspects of Eddie Huang’s memoir. The result was a show that was far more consistent, intelligent, and narratively satisfying.

9. Hannibal
Michael Mann’s more sterile take on the source material remains the best, but Red Dragon got an appropriately theatrical adaptation for Hannibal’s third season. Even when the show took liberties with the story, it still felt very much in the gothic world of Thomas Harris.

10. Game Of Thrones
Despite a flat episode here and there, the HBO series pulls off the near impossible task of adapting the novels before two of them have been published.

11. Marvel’s Daredevil
The perfect superhero series for anyone sick of The Avengers’ cartoonish sensory overload. Hopefully it can retain its grit when Daredevil becomes more closely connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

12. Mad Men
Matthew Weiner and company buck cynicism for a final season that’s surprisingly kind to most of its characters, even if some of them might not deserve it.

13. Bagboy
Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, and John C. Reilly’s take on a TGIF-style sitcom is as awkward, nightmarish, and funny as you’d expect. It’s as if you actually got to see the show that follows Too Many Cooks.

14. Girls
It had its problems this year, but Girls continues to be a painfully accurate study of entitlement and getting lost in young adulthood. If nothing else, the season was worth it just for Ray’s invigorating takedown of Desi.

15. The Walking Dead
AMC’s unstoppable zombie series dropped its spaghetti during the home stretch, but outside of the finale, its slowed-down pace made way for some compellingly insular storytelling, especially with the salvation of Morgan.

Les Chappell

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1. Show Me A Hero
When it came time to select the best show of the year, on top of all my normal questions about quality and how much I personally loved the shows, I asked one question: “What is the show I’m most grateful this world of so much TV has allowed to exist?” And this was it. A series about a housing crisis in Yonkers produced stellar writing from David Simon and William Zorzi, stellar directing from Paul Haggis, and stellar acting from an ensemble where Oscar Isaac was only the tip of the iceberg. I looked more forward to new episodes of this than anything else, and I was not disappointed.

2. Banshee
Reviewer bias aside, this was the most ambitious show on TV this year, striving for things on a technical level that nobody else is doing and still managing to tell a coherent and gripping story at the center of it. The fight scene in “A Fixer Of Sorts,” the siege of “Tribal,” the technical achievements of “You Can’t Hide From The Dead” and “We All Pay Eventually”—this show tried so many things and succeeded at all of them.

3. The Jinx
I watched the entirety of this on a flight from Europe, and had a hard time looking away at any point. This was a show where the years spent putting it together were on full display, and it was an exemplar of the true-crime format. Few ways of closing a series will ever hit as hard as “Killed ’em all, of course.”

4. Mad Men
An all-time pantheon show that came to an end, and did so in a phenomenally satisfying way. Whether or not you disagree with where they ended up, every character got their chance to shine, and did so in all the ways that reminded us why when this was on TV no show was better. Roller-skating, swaggering, smoking, Coca-Cola excellence.

5. Fargo
Season two feels like it’s truly found its footing this year as its own entity, rather than an adaptation/homage in the way the first season did. All the performances are colorful, the atmosphere is perfect, and it genuinely feels like a show where every piece is working in sync. There’s little I enjoy watching more than this.

6. Justified
Another final season that propelled the entire show by proxy, Justified found a tremendous way to end: colorful villains, sterling dialogue, and a reorientation of the relationship between that had always been at the show’s center. The last moment represents the year’s best TV dialogue: “We dug coal together.” “That’s right.”

7. Parks And Recreation
A tremendous swan song that made use of a time jump rather than relying on it as a gimmick; after a year or two of being merely okay, Parks And Rec returned to greatness. All the relationships between characters paid off, it was funny and heartbreaking every week, and it gave us all the Ron Swanson we could want. A perfect end to an all-time classic.

8. BoJack Horseman
A tremendously funny and devastating story, featuring some of the best work that any of the cast members has ever done. It’s a perfect mix of Hollywood satire and legitimate examination of fucked-up people that’s not weakened in any way by the fact that the majority of its characters are half-human.

9. Hannibal
This one took a topple down the list after being my pick for best show of 2014, thanks to some wonky plotting and the fact that it felt a bit too much in love with itself at times. Yet this was still the best-looking show on TV, and its rendition of the Red Dragon story proved to be tremendous in the arc of its own Hannibal/Will story.

10. Rectify
Daniel Holden’s struggle to return to reality only gets better as it goes on, and so much of this kept being transcendent. Amantha’s speech to her management seminar, Teddy’s recounting of losing his virginity, Daniel painting the pool—devastating and enlightening in equal measure. Still a show that grabs you and doesn’t let go.

11. Better Call Saul
A spin-off of Breaking Bad didn’t have the right to be this good or to eke out its own territory to the degree this one did. It grabbed a lot of the things people loved about Breaking Bad and and gave them its own spin, producing tremendous work from Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks. Knowing where the story’s going doesn’t in any way detract from it.

12. Steven Universe
This show is ascendant in the world of animation, and like Adventure Time has gone from being a great kids show to being a great show, period. It’s the most sex-positive show on TV, full of great relationships and a fascinating mythology, and buoyed by a tremendous upbeat energy that you can’t help but enjoy it. A show that has definitely gone to a new level in 2015.

13. Penny Dreadful
There’s some fantastic gothic madness going on here, between the way it mixes and shakes the original stories and the way it’s reoriented to be a story about a group of societal rejects. Everyone on this show is giving a great performance, and Eva Green deserves every award for how she’s leaned into the madness of it all.

14. Silicon Valley
This HBO show elevated itself in its second season, finding ways to rely on its already tremendous ensemble and doubling down on the complications of being able to succeed in this environment. It’s possessed of a certain energy and worldview that feels like it’s only going to get better.

15. iZombie
The CW has been on a crazy hot streak in terms of making fun and engaging programs, but this was my favorite. It’s the Veronica Mars energy for the present-day, powered by an increasingly interesting take on a zombie invasion and Rose McIver’s ability to tonally shift as the story demands. It subverts genre in a way that’s tremendous.

Danette Chavez

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1. Show Me A Hero
2. Steven Universe
3. Rick And Morty
4. Bob’s Burgers
5. Silicon Valley
6. Marvel’s Jessica Jones
7. Transparent
8. Empire
9. Justified
10. Black-ish
11. Marvel’s Daredevil
12. How To Get Away With Murder
13. The Flash
14. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
15. Man Seeking Woman

Marah Eakin

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1. Parks And Recreation
2. Better Call Saul
3. The Jinx
4. Documentary Now!
5. Veep
6. Halt And Catch Fire
7. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp
8. Kroll Show
9. John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid
10. Mad Men
11. Game Of Thrones
12. Outlander
13. The Grinder
14. Silicon Valley
15. Inside Amy Schumer

Molly Eichel

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1. Hannibal
2. Fargo
3. Mad Men
4. Transparent
5. Jane The Virgin
6. Broad City
7. The Americans
8. UnReal
9. Justified
10. Master Of None
11. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
12. Better Call Saul
13. Veep
14. Louie
15. Silicon Valley

LaToya Ferguson

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Disclaimer: Knowing how much these best-of lists can be fairly repetitive, I tried to make sure my list would have some “underdog” picks. After all, the great balance of best-ofs wasn’t going to be disrupted if I, and I alone, neglected to mention obvious choices like Mad Men and the most important show of all time, Fargo.

1. You’re The Worst
Every single review and thinkpiece about how You’re The Worst tackles depression pretty much covers it, but somehow this amazingly underrated comedy became one of the most honest shows on all of television. The show belongs in this spot for “LCD Soundsystem” alone.

2. Review
Review’s mix of world-building and cruel and unusual punishment has made it one of the most brilliant comedies on television, if not the most brilliant comedy on television. Andy Daly has been a comedic genius for ages, but the intricacy of Review has made that genius even more apparent. Season two somehow managed to outdo the first season in terms of genuine terror, Forrest’s descent into madness, and the pain that all of his work can cause. Six stars.

My top three picks are probably three of the most brutal shows of the year (that don’t involve cannibalism) and ones that people don’t automatically think of when they think “brutal.” UnREAL kind of came out of nowhere, in the best way possible. After a decent first season of Girlfriends Guide To Divorce, Marti Noxon made that all seem like child’s play with UnREAL. The dynamic duo of Sheri Appleby and Constance Zimmer started the conversation on female antiheroes in modern television (though I’d argue that Salem had it covered already), and the show brought an honesty to reality television that has long been gone.

4. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp
I don’t typically have time to binge-watch something as soon as it drops on Netflix, but this was the exception. After a long, hard day, I watched every episode of this as soon as I got home. It was worth it—and a long time coming.

5. iZombie
The spirit of Veronica Mars will never die as long as iZombie (and Jessica Jones) exists.

6. Banshee
Allow me to be the thousandth person to link to the Nola/Burton fight scene. Then allow me to praise a show as visceral and pulpy as Banshee for being so much more than expected “trash.”

7. Hannibal
Hannibal was never a ratings juggernaut, but it was always ambitious. The fact that it got to go out during its most ambitious season is absolutely fitting.

8. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
This goes out to all the people who still have “Peeno Noir” stuck in their head. (So, everyone.)

9. Rectify
Rectify remains the most hauntingly beautiful show on television.

10. Steven Universe
You’re not supposed to cry this much over a children’s cartoon!

11. Man Seeking Woman
The premiere of Master Of None has taken over the pop culture conversation, but I would like to believe that Man Seeking Woman actually started that conversation. It’s basically Master Of None as a genre show (and a whiter show), but both work as great companion pieces about dating in the age of the millennials.

12. Mom
What will it take for you all to watch Mom? Seriously, the best way I can think to sell it (besides the fact that it stars Allison Janney and Anna Faris) is by acknowledging that it’s one of those shows that “tricked” CBS into airing it, like Person Of Interest, The Good Wife, and Limitless. Don’t let preconceived notions about Chuck Lorre/CBS/multi-camera sitcoms deter you from watching this show.

13. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
On lists of the best TV characters of 2015, there will be a huge disaster if any of them are missing either two of these characters: Gretchen Cutler (You’re The Worst) and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rebecca Bunch. Consider this a reminder that The CW isn’t a punchline—it’s one of the best networks on all of television.

14. Big Time In Hollywood, FL
In one of my reviews for Big Time In Hollywood, FL, I called the show a “precious gem” that people would only appreciate after the fact. I stand by that statement.

15. Weird Loners
I cast this particular vote knowing it would ultimately be a throwaway, but I don’t care—justice for Weird Loners! Marry Me and Weird Loners worked their best to fill the void left by Happy Endings, but the latter actually came the closest (despite only lasting for six episodes). The characters were irredeemable, self-involved, and no one learned anything—the way hangout comedies should be.

Kyle Fowle

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1. Banshee
2. You’re The Worst
3. Looking
4. Justified
5. BoJack Horseman
6. The Flash
7. Mad Men
8. Mr. Robot
9. Hannibal
10. Transparent
11. Broad City
12. UnREAL
13. The Last Kingdom
14. Master Of None
15. Community

Zack Handlen

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1. Rick And Morty
2. Fargo
3. The Americans
4. Better Call Saul
5. Doctor Who
6. BoJack Horseman
7. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
8. Marvel’s Jessica Jones
9. The Flash
10. Wolf Hall
11. Mr. Robot
12. iZombie
13. Hannibal
14. Master Of None
15. Key & Peele

Gwen Ihnat

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1. Mad Men
2. Gravity Falls
3. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
4. You’re The Worst
6. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
7. Master Of None
8. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp
9. The Affair
10. The Flash
11. The Americans
12. Orange Is The New Black
13. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
14. Togetherness
15. Steven Universe

Kevin Johnson

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1. Fargo
This season is simply knocking it out of the park. “Loplop” was the best episode of all of TV in 2015. Comic, tragic, harrowing, creative, incredible.

2. The Amazing World Of Gumball
I’ve been a huge supporter of Gumball for years now, and the current season has been its strongest yet, with “The Egg” and “The Money” being some of the best animated episodes ever. Gumball is weird and wacky, but also a sharp satirical look on family, suburbia, financial instability, and, with a bit of a meta twist, how such ideas tend to be presented across all forms of media. Most of all, its positivity matches that of Steven Universe and Wander Over Yonder.

3. Better Call Saul
There’s something to be said about telling a pretty basic story about a basic sibling conflict within the context of a basic legal procedural, but Better Call Saul makes it look and sound like the best thing on Earth.

4. Review
This play on reality TV and how it destroys one man’s life is the funniest, bleakest thing on Comedy Central right now.

5. Hannibal
The slow start to its third season doesn’t make one of the most beautiful show ever any less excellent.

6. Steven Universe
What can be said about this show that hasn’t been said before? Its gender/relationship politics are brilliantly executed.

7. Orange Is The New Black
Not a single story told on this show feels unnecessary, a tall order from a show with so many rich, vibrant, unique characters.

8. The Americans
The slow burn intensity of this show makes every second a nail-biting experience. Also, the finale is a legit game-changer.

9. South Park
South Park’s foray into serialization is pure success, with a clear voice directed at PC-culture, gentrification, and trends. A rarity for South Park, to be sure.

10. Bob’s Burgers
The Belchers are amazing in every way.

11. Rick And Morty
12. Gravity Falls
We’ll miss you, Gravity Falls. You brought wonder, humor, and mystery to “kids” animation, when no one else would.

13. Wander Over Yonder
Another overlooked great cartoon, Wander Over Yonder deserves points just for its pitch-perfect use of storyboarding, framing, and colors.

14. BoJack Horseman
15. Louie
It feels like a lot of people dismissed this season due to its shortness, but Louie is still in prime form, it’s experimental, rambling form perfect for creepy but funny “Untitled.”

Kate Kulzick

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1. The Americans
2. Review
3. Rectify
4. Looking
5. The Leftovers
6. Broad City
7. Cucumber
8. Mad Men
9. Hannibal
10. Steven Universe
11. BoJack Horseman
12. Jane The Virgin
13. You’re The Worst
14. Justified
15. Sense8

Alex McCown

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1. The Leftovers
2. Mr. Robot
3. Fargo
4. The Americans
5. Hannibal
6. Rick And Morty
7. Mad Men
8. Marvel’s Agent Carter
9. Bates Motel
10. Bloodline
11. Wayward Pines
12. Better Call Saul
13. Penny Dreadful
14. Game Of Thrones
15. Marvel’s Jessica Jones

Myles McNutt

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1. The Leftovers
2. Transparent
3. The Americans
4. Please Like Me
5. Jane The Virgin
6. You’re The Worst
7. Orange Is The New Black
8. Master Of None
9. Game Of Thrones
10. BoJack Horseman
11. Mad Men
12. The Carmichael Show
13. UnREAL
14. Fresh Off The Boat
15. Mom

Josh Modell

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1. The Leftovers
2. Nathan For You
3. Fargo
4. Better Call Saul
5. Rectify
6. Kroll Show
7. The Jinx
8. With Bob And David
9. Mad Men
10. Louie
11. Game Of Thrones
12. Justified
13. Veep
14. Mr. Robot
15. The Walking Dead

Noel Murray

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1. Better Call Saul
It didn’t take long for Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould to develop their Breaking Bad spin-off/prequel into a drama as artful and engaging as its parent show, looking at the temptations of criminality through the eyes of a tragicomic figure who’s looking for excuses not to break the law, even as circumstances keep nudging him toward his pathetic destiny.

2. Fargo
It’s not surprising that Fargo was able to extend its first-season creative success, given how confident that first run was; but it’s still been a treat to see how creator Noah Hawley has found a new socio-historical context for his Coens-derived examination of pure-hearted heroes, incorrigible villains, and the ordinary folks who sometimes wait too late to pick a side.

3. Jane The Virgin
Here’s another 2014 freshman that hasn’t missed a step in its sophomore season, maintaining its remarkable juggling act by making sure that every outrageous telenovela-esque plot twist is balanced by down-to-earth stories about a stressed-out young mother who’s just trying to be a good person.

4. Show Me A Hero
Proving once again that sometimes the best way to understand the present is to look at the past, this David Simon/William F. Zorzi/Paul Haggis miniseries takes the true story of a late 1980s public housing controversy in Yonkers and uses it to show how political pandering can make difficult situations impossible.

5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Perhaps because of its origins as an NBC sitcom, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the rare streaming show that works spectacularly as television, with characters that pop, punchlines that land, and stories that satisfy, 22 minutes at a time.

6. The Leftovers
Nothing against the first season, which was some of 2014’s most thrillingly bold television, but The Leftovers’ second year has built confidently on its predecessor’s embrace of the episodic, delivering hours that start small and then build into emotionally powerful, philosophically complex mini-movies—as draining as they are astounding.

7. The Flash
The second season so far has tilted the “setup” to “payoff” ratio a little too far toward the former, but taken in total, the 2015 Flash episodes represent some of the best—if not the best—TV superhero storytelling ever, mixing eye-popping action sequences with genuine all-ages fun.

8. Other Space
Yahoo did TV fans two favors this year: Bringing Community back for one last (great) season; and taking a chance on this smart, strange Paul Feig science-fiction sitcom, which both riffs on Star Trek-style earnestness and tells its own twisted tales of intergalactic explorers on the edge.

9. Game Of Thrones
Sometimes this show’s habit of defaulting to ugliness smacks of a lazy shock tactic, but it’s hard to hold that against a drama that’s otherwise so fantastic, with a richly populated world of wonders surrounding a fascinating, entertaining study of how long-range political maneuvering changes in an instant when a monster attacks.

10. Mom
In the second half of season two and the first half of season three, the recovering addicts of Mom have dealt with death, relapse, unstable employment, and awkward family reunions, all in masterfully acted little comic playlets that continue to move and delight, week after week.

11. The Carmichael Show
NBC pretty much dumped stand-up comic Jerrod Carmichael’s lively sitcom, burning off all six of its episodes over three weeks in late summer; but the show found an audience anyway, because something so funny and so engaged with modern life is too good to disappear.

12. Transparent
If the first season of Transparent was akin to a shaggy indie movie, full of memorable characters and minimal plot, then season two is like an assured, ambitious art film, examining the mysteries of identity with a sense of scope and a keen eye.

13. Black-ish
ABC’s best current family sitcom really started to find its voice in the back half of season one, and since coming back this fall Black-ish has rolled from one classic episode to the next, tackling (among other things) racially coded language, subtle class distinctions, church etiquette, and the codes and rituals of black barbershops.

14. Difficult People
Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner have been funny in lots of different contexts, but they’ve never had a better vehicle than this sitcom about two lovably pissy New Yorkers who eviscerate modern trends and celebs, in between working crummy jobs and hustling to get famous themselves.

15. The Jinx
The finale of HBO’s docu-miniseries raised more questions than it answered, at least regarding the timeline of when exactly its footage was shot; but that last dyspeptic interrogation of Robert Durst was still a riveting capper to a tangled true-crime story, speaking volumes about what wealth can and can’t buy.

Vikram Murthi

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1. Mad Men
On life as a perpetual outsider wearing the mask of the Establishment. On the 1960s from the perspective of those outside of it. On fighting obsolescence through co-opting the youth. On the struggle to find connection through any means necessary. On existential angst and how it lives in your soul. On living and dying in America from now until the end of time.

2. Review
Maybe the only show on television that has a profound understanding and respect for irony. The story of a guy who reviews “life” and destroys his own in the process, Review’s drama and comedy derives from a very American conception of professional ambition. It’s the ugly side of what happens when you privilege your job over all else: It ends up killing you. Made me laugh and cringe as hard as anything ever has. If the series ended after this season, it would easily rank as one of my favorite shows of all time.

3. The Leftovers
It’s kind of astounding that a show that disregards narrative logic in favor of emotional logic is even on the air. I absolutely loved the first season and found criticisms of its “bleakness” to be pretty lame—as if a series about global trauma was supposed to be a barrel of laughs—but its second season is a gigantic step forward and demonstrates Damon Lindelof and company’s willingness to take their series into the Great Unknown. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is arguably the most topical show on the air with relation to capturing the feeling of living in the aftermath of global horror.

4. The Americans
On a formal and narrative level, The Americans is casually masterful. I love the way the series takes traditional family stories—parents vying for attention of their child, child discovering the truth about her parents, etc.—and filters it through the lens of espionage. Watch the pre-credits sequence of the first episode of the season and tell me television is visually inert. Also, Keri Russell gets the lion’s share of acclaim, but Matthew Rhys impresses with minute changes in expression that would be missed if you looked away for a second.

5. You’re The Worst
6. Rick And Morty
7. Justified
Pulp fiction at its finest. Always loved the series, even the dull fifth season, but the sense of finality added a tragic edge that this show desperately needed, a season-long kiss off to the Good Times. I’d stack Raylan Givens, Boyd Crowder, and Wynn Duffy up against any of the very best characters on television. I honestly believe season six is the series’ best.

8. BoJack Horseman
“It gets easier. Every day, it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.”


9. Louie
10. Show Me A Hero
David Simon’s worst effort by a mile and it was still one of the very best things on TV this year. I could have easily watched five seasons of this, but I’m someone who would place Treme as one of the best shows of this decade. Oscar Isaac is phenomenal, but that’s not a huge surprise seeing as he’s one of the best actors alive.

11. Better Call Saul
It reminded me how much I loved Vince Gilligan and his unique vision. Funny and tragic in equal measure, like the best of Breaking Bad. Bob Odenkirk was always a fantastic actor with plenty of range going as far back as Mr. Show, but the bingo scene proved to me that he was capable of far more than I had ever imagined.

12. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
It made me laugh. A lot. I mean, a lot. I thought about Elizabeth Banks describing proto-punk as “the past, present, and future of music” the other day and cracked up by myself, and that doesn’t break the top 50 best jokes in the series. It had no right to be this good.

13. Mr. Robot
Sure, it can be groan-inducingly on the nose, and sometimes its politics make me want to claw my eyes out—not necessarily because I don’t agree with them, but their articulation is one level above the Stoned Marxist in sophomore year of college who won’t shut up and pass the joint—but at its best it was fun. Can’t remember the last time I burned through a series in a day because I genuinely wanted to see where it goes. Rami Malek’s bug-eyed expression is fantastic. I’d like to imagine Michael Cristofer’s character is just Truxton Spangler from Rubicon in an alternate universe. Plus, I don’t know if Christian Slater has ever been better, but then again, I never really liked True Romance.

14. Togetherness
I don’t know, I could talk about how its empathetic portrayal of competing agendas in close relationships feels honest and personal, but the truth is that I just enjoyed it, plain and simple. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Duplass brothers’ work more so than any other mumblecore directors because they just seemed like good dudes. Plus, a tour-de-force performance from Melanie Lynskey who plays quiet desperation like no other. And if Steve Zissis isn’t in every single Apatovian comedy in the next few years, we have all let him down.

15. Documentary Now!
I didn’t think a one-joke SNL premise could be stretched this far with such integrity and respect, but Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers, and national treasure Bill Hader proved me wrong. The Nanook Of The North episode was one of the funniest things I’ve seen this year.

Honorable mentions:
Jon Stewart’s last episode on The Daily Show
The “Indians On TV” episode of Master of None
The “After Hours” episode of Red Oaks
John McEnroe in 7 Days In Hell
The “Leslie And Ron” episode of Parks And Recreation
Silicon Valley / Veep
The Jinx

Shows that I haven’t caught up with that would have most likely affected my list:
The Knick
Nathan For You

Brandon Nowalk

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The top five are the trailblazers, looking and moving like nothing else. The next four are essentials. The bottom six come from a cloud of a dozen, any of which would have been worthy candidates.

1. Mad Men
A curtain call for the best (richest, realest, rewardingest) show on television since it began eight years ago. Love isn’t a big lightning bolt to the heart invented by guys like Don to sell nylons. It’s Peggy thinking about Stan all the time because he makes everything okay. And they say the ending’s cynical.

2. Looking
Andrew Haigh made one of the best movies (45 Years) and one of the best TV shows of the year, a coming-of-age story that cycles through a campout, a cringe comedy, a road trip, a romance, a fight, and beyond, all with the sharpest visuals and deepest silences on television. The height of “cinematic” TV.

3. Wolf Hall
The real game of thrones. Littlefinger has nothing on Cromwell, the best Mark Rylance performance of the year.

4. Documentary Now!
Contagious cinephilanthropy, a love of movies leading to a love of humanity.

5. Please Like Me
In season three, the coming-of-age comedy got over puppy love and found a captivating balance of friendship, family, and romance as the characters, and the show, grew up.

6. Other Space
A space show by the creator of Freaks And Geeks is a dream come true for him and us alike. Production nerdiness and a cast of ninjas combine to deliver baffling sci-fi stories on an underdog survival drama that’s the funniest sitcom of the year. Too bad you have to be a 22nd-century engineer to tame Yahoo!’s streaming platform.

7. Catastrophe
Couple of the year, but more importantly: Mad Men joke of the year.

8. Adventure Time
Phenomenal cosmic powers, itty-bitty living space.

9. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Face with no good gesture, carousel horse, top hat, ghost, lollipop, two women holding hands.

10. Manhattan
Time’s the enemy on this dense atomic bomb drama; the season should have been twice as long.

11. Getting On

12. Nathan For You
Capital In The Twenty-first Century.

13. UnREAL
You had me at the limo of dolled-up Bachelor contestants marking their territory outside their dream mansion, dog-style.

14. The Middle
The middle-aged family sitcom got through its season six growing pains to blossom in season seven, pushing itself in all kinds of ways from a spooky Halloween episode to the kids growing in unexpected (and expected) directions. It took everyone losing themselves for The Middle to find itself again.

15. Sense8
The next stage of the “we’re all connected” drama is, naturally, a kitsch monument to kitsch—karoke, wrestling, fireworks, dorm-room convos, television fiction itself—shedding the husk of boring backstory to focus on what really matters: sex, love, and liberation, or at least the aesthetics of sex, love, and liberation. I should have put this one higher.

Dennis Perkins

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1. Rectify
The highest compliment I can pay this mesmerizing crime drama/character study is that I watch it unlike any other show on television. Rectify simply commands my attention, not through histrionics or plot twists, but in stillness. The third season saw Rectify’s crime plot become more prominent, but not at the expense of the show’s deep, abiding humanity.

2. Rick And Morty
A show with a character named Mr. Poopy Butthole, an episode about a reality singing show determining the fate of the Earth, and deep, often suicidal despair among most of its characters also remained one of the most complexly, darkly hilarious shows of the year. Creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland might simply be alien-parasite-induced figments of our imagination, but they deserve Emmys nonetheless.

3. Better Call Saul
The final, irrefutable refutation to the idea that sequels and spinoffs are necessarily a bad idea. Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks turned in two of the best performances of the year, and Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould turned this Breaking Bad follow-up into not only its own animal, but one of the best television dramas in years.

4. Review
Andy Daly made the escalating absurdity of Forrest MacNeil’s uncompromising quest to objectively evaluate life a wrenching, catastrophic plunge into the depths of one very strange man’s soul.

5. Master Of None
Louie just missed my list—Aziz Ansari’s similarly funny, thoughtful short-story series took its place.

6. Parks And Recreation
Sure, it was cozy. Yes, it made sure every one of Pawnee’s many characters got an affectionate sendoff. But who’d have it any other way?

7. Mad Men
Don Draper found his bliss and denied us the easy resolution no one should have been expecting.

8. Fargo
Despite increased callbacks to the source material, the second season of this Coen brothers-inspired crime series has turned into a chilling examination of the gosh-darned banality of evil.

9. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Tina Fey and Robert Carlock gifted us with the perfect 30 Rock withdrawal program.

10. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
Pulling off 10 years of one of the most deceptively delicate comic balancing acts ever deserves some serious recognition.

11. Married
Judy Greer, Nat Faxon, Brett Gelman, John Hodgman, Jenny Slate, Sarah Burns, and Paul Reiser formed the core of the sort of smartly funny relationship sitcom that’s guaranteed to be canceled after two seasons.

12. With Bob And David
Penalized only for being significantly shorter than Mr. Show.

13. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp
Conceptual comedy, callbacks to the cult comedy classic—call it a fan-service goof, but I was thoroughly serviced.

14. Bob’s Burgers
Consistently delightful, hilarious, and weird in their sixth season, the Belchers are the animated Fox family the Simpsons wish they could be these days.

15. The Spoils Before Dying
This absurdist goof sequel was genre parody at its height, with outstandingly on-point turns from Michael K. Williams, Kristen Wiig, Michael Sheen, Maya Rudolph, Haley Joel Osment, Marc Evan Jackson, and Will Ferrell, presiding over the whole enterprise with tightly controlled insanity.

Carrie Raisler

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No other show possessed me more this year than this cynical, smart, brutal look at reality television and the people who sell their souls to make it. In a year where smart, complicated female characters were more prevalent than ever, no show embodied this ethos more than UnREAL. Rachel (Shiri Appleby) is simultaneously passive, active, remorseful, manipulative, happy, and sad, and it makes for one of the most interesting central characters of the year.

2. Rectify
The most singular show on television, full of grace and emotion and forgiveness and pain and love. No other show makes me feel so human, and no other show makes me feel so hopeful about humanity. We are so lucky Rectify exists.

3. The Leftovers
Season two is bold, challenging, and relentlessly in your face, in the best way, and there are no two better actors working than Regina King and Carrie Coon. That The Leftovers gets to use them in scenes together is almost unfair, as their intense emotional showdown in episode six illustrated, resulting in the best scene of 2015 in any show.

4. Looking
The most devastating cancellation of the season. Even if HBO gives us a movie to say goodbye to the characters, it can never be enough.

5. Halt And Catch Fire
As one of the rare few who loved the first season, even I wasn’t prepared for season two’s immensely satisfying leap in quality. Refocusing the show on the female characters is one of the smartest mid-show course corrections ever made, and Mackenzie Davis and Kerry Bishé made the most of their expanded roles.

6. Please Like Me
The television landscape’s most hidden gem. A wonderful blend of humor, friendship, and coming-of-age-type stories about characters of all ages and stages of life.

7. Sense8
Probably the weirdest, most wonderful show about the connection between people to ever exist. There are moments and stories that don’t quite work, but the overall season is such a singular vision, and so deeply felt. And weird. And good. And did I mention weird?

8. Marvel’s Daredevil
Any show that can make its villain as well drawn and wonderfully well rounded as its hero is something special, and Daredevil does this tremendously—all while examining how fine the line between hero and villain actually is. Also, the fight scenes are just killer.

9. Better Call Saul
A show that should not have worked at all, but ended up being one of the best shows of the year, full of great performances, great writing, and great direction.

10. iZombie
How great is it to have Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright making television shows together again? No show more consistently nails both its episodic and season-long arcs, all while being one of the funniest shows on television, week in and week out.

11. The Jinx
Compelling, meticulously crafted, and thrilling, and one of the best communal viewing experiences of the year. Plus it got Robert Durst arrested! Probably!

12. Justified
A great goodbye to a great series. The final scene between Raylan and Boyd is one of my favorite moments of the year, in any show.

13. Jane The Virgin
The most creative, clever, wonderfully constructed show on any network. Insanely funny and full of heart.

14. Banshee
Brutal, brutal television—but brutally captivating. Banshee has always had the best fight scenes out there, but what was most impressive about this season were the elevated emotional stakes. No other show wrecked me more with one single moment.

15. The Flash
Consistently the most fun show on television, without sacrificing real emotional stakes.

Michael Roffman

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1. Show Me A Hero
2. Togetherness
3. Nathan For You
4. Bloodline
5. South Park
6. Mad Men
7. Key & Peele
8. Fargo
9. Halt And Catch Fire
10. Ash Vs. Evil Dead
11. Louie
12. Better Call Saul
13. Conan
14. Comedy Bang! Bang!
15. The Walking Dead

Kyle Ryan

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1. Review
2. Married
3. Silicon Valley
4. Parks And Recreation
5. Game Of Thrones
6. Veep
7. Bob’s Burgers
8. Fargo
9. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
10. With Bob And David
11. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
12. Togetherness
13. Orange Is The New Black
14. Playing House
15. The Leftovers

Oliver Sava

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1. Jane The Virgin
2. Marvel’s Jessica Jones
3. Transparent
4. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
5. Halt And Catch Fire
6. The Flash
7. The Last Man On Earth
8. Silicon Valley
10. Catastrophe
11. Steven Universe
12. Marvel’s Agent Carter
13. Adventure Time
14. Last Week Tonight Wtih John Oliver
15. Mad Men

Allison Shoemaker

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1. The Americans
When I sat down to make this list, I started by thinking of the moments on TV this year that I just can’t escape, the images or scenes or sounds that haven’t faded from memory, even a little. There are lots—duh, great year for TV—but The Americans had more than in this season than many other shows have in years. Reliable supporting players (Holly Taylor, Costa Ronin, the incredible Alison Wright) got a chance to do their best work of the series so far, new members and remarkable guest stars (Frank Langella, Lois Smith) joined the ranks (some very briefly), and Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys easily proved again that they’re two of the best actors working in this or any medium. Add in the best writing of the series and consistently excellent direction and it’s no surprise the show’s stayed so firmly in mind. (For the record, the first moment that came to mind was the look on Wright’s face as Rhys pulled off his wig. Ryan Murphy, take note: It was the most horrifying thing I saw this year, no contest.)

2. Transparent
The Pfeffermans: still amazing.

3. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
I’m a sucker for a good adaptation, and this is one of the best I’ve ever seen. First take a long, long book that seems basically unadaptable (read it! it’s great! full of footnotes!) and make it a miniseries that somehow never feels remotely rushed. Then, cast it perfectly. Finally, because you can, take the female characters, mostly opaque in the book, and make them dynamic, engaging, well-rounded characters that do much, much more than move the plot. It’s a simple recipe, but one that’s fiendishly hard to pull off. Like a soufflé. JS&MN is a great, great soufflé. (Moment: first appearance of Marc Warren’s Gentleman With The Thistledown Hair).

4. Mad Men
Moment: Peggy and the cigarette, obviously.

5. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
I cover this one weekly, so I have rhapsodized aplenty, but let me just say that this is a great musical every week—and that’s a thing that’s hard to do once. (Moment: the reprise of “West Covina.”)

6. Mr. Robot
7. Outlander
Another great adaptation filled with great performances and the best sex on TV. (Moment: Geillis Duncan’s “Why are you here?”)

8. Jessica Jones
An incredibly thoughtful and unsparing look at abuse and its aftermath (and the abusers—David Tennant gave one of my favorite performances of the year) that also includes superhero sex and a irresistible neo-noir vibe. (Moment: Krysten Ritter, Tennant, and the nosy neighbor.)

9. You’re The Worst
10. Casual
I already called the sequence where Valerie laughs and cries in an elevator the best 40 seconds on TV this year, and I stand by that. I’m not surprised it didn’t make our list, but Michaela Watkins, Tommy Dewey, and creator Zander Lehmann are so, so good, and now that it’s possible to binge all 10 episodes, I hope many people will.

11. Hannibal
12. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Inconsistent but often brilliant.

13. Better Call Saul
14. Doctor Who
If you quit when Matt Smith did, it’s time to get back on board. Doctor Who just aired one of the best episodes in the show’s history, and it’s driven by a performance I can’t even comprehend.

15. Orphan Black
Just because she’s been doing it for awhile doesn’t make Tatiana Maslany’s performance any less staggering.

One last note: I somehow completely forgot about UnREAL, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Jinx, and Broad City while writing this list. My excuse: I’m forgetful. But in my defense, how on earth could anyone possibly remember all the good shit that’s on TV right now?

Caroline Siede

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1. Jane The Virgin
No show has ever made me laugh louder or cry harder (often at the same time) than Jane The Virgin. But the best thing about this show isn’t its unique telenovela structure or even the stunning central performance from Gina Rodriguez, it’s the empathy it finds for every single character that inhabits its deliciously heightened universe.

2. Marvel’s Jessica Jones
I’m not sure Jessica Jones is the best live action superhero property ever, but I’m pretty sure it’s the smartest. Every choice it makes feels intentionally designed to comment on or subvert the traditional gender dynamics of “serious TV.” That it’s also a captivating piece of entertainment is just icing on the cake. (Either that or binge-reviewing all 13 episodes in three days has blinded me to its faults.)

3. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Troll the respawn, Jeremy!

Who would have thought the best psychological thriller of the year would be a Lifetime original series about the making of a reality show?

5. Marvel’s Daredevil
I’m very confused as to why the once effusive praise of this Netflix series has waned over time. I personally think it remains one of the most thematically rich, visually stunning superhero series around.

6. Sense8
The problem with Sense8 is that a) its first episode is virtual nonsense, and b) it doesn’t really get good until episode four. That’s a long time to expect viewers to sit around in confusion, but those who did were treated to a completely original sci-fi property that’s equal parts compassionate, philosophical, and batshit crazy.

7. The Carmichael Show
It seems slightly insane to rank a show so high on my list when it’s only aired six episodes. But few shows debut as confidently as The Carmichael Show did. Creator and star Jerrod Carmichael uses the old-fashioned format of a multi-camera sitcom to tackle incredibly contemporary issues. What other show can say it examined Black Lives Matter protests, gun control, transgender identity issues, and religion all within the span of three hours of genuinely funny comedy?

8. Mr. Robot
I’ll be curious to see how self-serious this show gets in the future because the first season struck the perfect balance between dark comedy and psychological thriller. It also deserves a place on this list just for establishing a completely unique aesthetic in a year oversaturated with “cinematic” TV.

9. Master Of None
Master Of None is the rare comedy that feels both incredibly specific and incredibly universal. There’s something immensely satisfying about its episodic structure, and the fact that I immediately whipped up homemade pasta sauce after finishing the season means it must have hit me on a visceral level as well.

10. Doctor Who
With the introduction of Peter Capaldi last season, Doctor Who tried a little too hard to reinvent itself. But after last year’s Christmas special established a more relaxed tone, season nine has been one of the most consistently strong runs the show has had in years. Episodes like “The Witch’s Familiar,” “The Woman Who Lived,” and “Face The Raven” are highlights for this particular TARDIS team while the groundbreaking “Heaven Sent” ranks among the best Doctor Who episodes ever.

11. Fresh Off The Boat
Constance Wu. Constance Wu. Constance Wu. Also Fresh Off The Boat is a sharp, sweet comedy with a specific point of view and a willingness to change up its format to play to its strengths.

12. The Flash
It’s amazing how much a cheerful tone and a stellar cast can bolster a solid if slightly predictable superhero procedural. Grant Gustin and Carlos Valdes are particularly standouts, but Jesse L. Martin (still wearing that beanie from Rent) is the giggling glue that holds The Flash together.

13. The Walking Dead
It’s an unfashionable time to be a Walking Dead defender, but there are few shows I find as consistently compelling in terms of visuals, world building, and action set pieces. In addition to airing some clunkers, the back half of season five and the first half of season six also featured some of The Walking Dead’s finest moments: fake suburban Carol, Rick shaving his beard, Daryl and Aaron trapped in a car, the Morgan flashback episode, and the genuinely thrilling attack on Alexandria.

14. Orphan Black
Even a bad episode of Orphan Black is better than the vast majority of stuff on TV. The addition of the male clones (all played by Ari Millen) provided an interesting foil to the show’s exploration of female agency, and Tatiana Maslany continues to turn in the best performance (well, performances) on TV—particularly as brand new clone Krystal.

15. The Great British Bake-Off
Alternatingly silly, inspiring, and all-around heartwarming, I’m pretty sure The Great British Bake-Off (or Great British Baking Show, as it’s dubbed by PBS) is the best reality competition I’ve ever seen.

Shows that should probably be on my list: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Community, Silicon Valley, and Difficult People

Shows I love but feel fine not having on my list: I Am Cait (really, it’s an amazing exploration of issues affecting the trans community), Agent Carter (which I find both fascinating and flawed), The Astronaut Wives Club (which I like more in concept than execution), and Grantchester (hot British vicar solving mysteries in the 1950s—need I say more?)

Emily L. Stephens

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1. Review
Andy Daly makes Forrest MacNeil’s misadventures brutally funny, painfully human, and heartbreakingly easy to empathize with, and the second season arc is simply breathtaking.

2. Rectify
With its meditative vitality and trenchant, sympathetic wit, Rectify is like nothing else on TV.

3. Rick And Morty
Rick And Morty’s the kind of emotionally searing, hilarious, compulsively watchable TV viewers jones for… and the writers know season two’s “a year and a half—or longer!” stinger really did sting.

4. Hannibal
In its third season, Hannibal metamorphosed from a dark, arty thriller with elements of the procedural to an operatic fairy tale, an expressionist romance consummated in horrific, passionate violence.

5. Bob’s Burgers
Bob’s Burgers deserves the affection and respect The Simpsons used to garner because it’s what The Simpsons used to be: a reliably bright spot of absurdity between beloved characters, ready to please the whole family.

6. Broad City
Brash and often surreal, Broad City continues its unabashed celebration of female friendship and the rich comic sensibilities of its creators.

7. You’re The Worst
This show does more than fulfill the promise of its strong first season; season two broadens and deepens its characters without sacrificing its comedy.

8. Master Of None
I expected a confident debut, but this perfectly assured show took me by surprise with rich, varied stories about well-defined characters right from the start.

9. The Americans
In its third season, The Americans’ nerve-plucking combination of superb spy story and domestic drama raises the stakes higher—and closer to home.

10. The Spoils Before Dying
In an unexpectedly layered, sustained masterpiece of metafictional incompetence, The Spoils Before Dying transcends mere parody to become a weirdly affecting elegy to artistic vision.

11. Girls
Girls performs a fascinating magic trick, transforming infuriating, self-centered, frankly unsympathetic protagonists into riveting dramatic characters.

12. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
It’s heady, it’s spectacular, it’s silly, it’s unexpectedly relatable. Rachel Bloom is one of a kind, and so is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

13. Key & Peele
Writing a blurb for Key & Peele’s final season feels uncomfortably like writing a eulogy for a beloved friend, which reflects my feelings for the series as accurately as any paean.

14. Drunk History
Drunk History sounds like a dopey premise, but the guests’ hilarious accounts of events let it sneak in quirky, even subversive ideas of what history is and who makes it.

15. Parks And Recreation
Parks And Recreation understands its characters—their foibles and flaws, not just their strengths—as well as any show ever has, and its final season jumps ahead to show them navigating new circumstances with the same sweet, silly optimism they’ve had since the show found its feet (and its heart) in the first season.

Eric Thurm

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1. Steven Universe
In part, Steven Universe is my top pick because I think it’s criminally underwatched (even with an already-substantial fanbase, it doesn’t get quite as much critical recognition as it deserves). But it’s also doing genuinely exciting, often shocking things that most other shows on television could only dream of pulling off. From musical numbers that condense an entire cable season’s worth of plotting into two minutes of air time to beautifully executed, just-slippery-enough metaphors about the power of romantic intimacy and healthy emotional connections, Steven Universe isn’t just putting on a master class in how to make television—it’s putting on a master class in how to live.

2. The Americans
3. Transparent
It feels almost cruel that this season of Transparent premiered so late—not just for viewers, but also for the rest of the TV shows laboring under the delusion that they could slide into people’s year-end lists. I know Transparent isn’t for everyone (the show certainly has some class issues, and while I love all of the Pfefferman children, I can’t blame anyone for hating them), but every episode continues to elicit a strong, earned, and borderline-hysteric emotional response from me. The second season—particularly in its beginning and ending stretches—is a collection of people at the height of their artistic and human powers, and the result is unlike anything else.

4. BoJack Horseman
The cycle of consuming streaming TV can be kind of exhausting, especially when critical consensus quickly calcifies, then erodes in just as much time. (Remember the frenzy over the fourth season of Arrested Development?) In turn, I’ve noticed that I tend to get deeply invested in these shows for a week or so, then draw a blank when I try to remember why I liked them. This is especially apparent with something like Master Of None, which I loved when I watched it in two or three sittings, left an increasingly bitter taste in my mouth, and I’ve now forgotten almost entirely. The only Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon show that’s stuck in my mind for more than a few months this year? BoJack Horseman, which burrowed its way deep into my head (and my heart).

5. Mad Men
6. Mr. Robot
UnREAL is great for a lot of reasons, but the one that appeals to me most is its behind-the-scenes look at just what goes into manipulating viewers. The various producers of Everlasting, the show’s Bachelor stand-in, are painfully aware of their control over reality show archetypes, the “likability” of all of the contestants (whatever that means), and what kind of people they think viewers will accept, and use this sense to cruelly manipulative (and racist) ends. The cynicism at play is breathtaking, but it’s also a phenomenal look at how TV is often made, and the kinds of assumptions that producers make about their audiences. What I’m saying is this: UnREAL should be taught in media literacy classes as a way of encouraging more thoughtful engagement with entertainment—which is why I’m heartily recommending it to my Bachelor-obsessed teen sister.

8. Hannibal
The last season of Hannibal had eyes too big for its stomach—it ran through, among other things, a protracted story about grief after the end of a long-term relationship, dug into Hannibal Lecter’s childhood and family background, and snuck in the entirety of Red Dragon in a few episodes. The finale was a mess, devolving into unadulterated (and unearned) fan service. But when Hannibal hit its mark (as it did often, even at its most indulgent), it was unlike anything else on TV. Not much art has made my blood quicken the way the opening credits of a new Hannibal did, and for that I’ll be grateful to Bryan Fuller and company for a long, long time.

9. Rick And Morty
Pound for pound, joke for joke, no show has made me laugh more this year than Rick And Morty. I don’t know how quickly this season will date, given how specifically calibrated a lot of the references feel, and how uncomfortably timely it is (a lot of Community already feels like it’s showing its age), but when I need a pick-me-up and some quick laughter, I turn to “Get Schwifty” and Mr. Poopy Butthole. Maybe I just have a bad case of Jan Quadrant Vincent fever, but I can’t wait for season three.

10. Review
11. You’re The Worst
12. Parks And Recreation
13. Better Call Saul
14. Looking
I’m pleasantly surprised by how high Looking ended up on the final list, because I was a bit concerned it would slip through the cracks. It aired back at the beginning of the year, and the show’s primary pleasure (for me, at least) is in how low-key it is, how willing to simply observe its characters trying to find their way. (That, and the often-lovely direction.) It’s nice to see recognition for a show so committed to not being flashy.

15. iZombie
It’s a little surprising to me that iZombie didn’t make it onto the list, if only because it feels like the closest thing we’ve got to something like Buffy The Vampire Slayer on the air right now. Between the end of its first season and the beginning of its second, the show has managed to perfect the blend of procedural and serialized drama, formal zip, and snappy dialogue that characterized Buffy and so many beloved series. Through a combination of fun police work, memorable villains, and the startling transformation of one Major Lilywhite, iZombie has made itself one of the most purely enjoyable shows on TV.

Most exhausting network: Netflix. It was definitely Netflix’s year to drop an ungodly number of shows—many of which were good—but by the end of 2015 (some time during, like, the 11th episode of Jessica Jones) I just started getting deeply tired of the release model. Most of these shows are good, and some of them are on the verge of great, but the incentive to binge in combination with the fact that most people ported in from cable and network television still don’t quite know how to pace a season (or write an episode) means that they all blur together into a single mass of “Yeah, that was pretty good.”

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

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2. Transparent
3. Jane The Virgin
4. Marvel’s Jessica Jones
5. You’re The Worst
6. Black-ish
7. Fresh Off The Boat
8. BoJack Horseman
9. Girlfriend’s Guide To Divorce
10. Empire
11. Odd Mom Out
12. Veep
13. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
14. Documentary Now!
15. Outlander

Genevieve Valentine

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It took me (and everyone else) by surprise, but this Lifetime series about a reality dating show, featuring two pitch-black antiheroes at its center, is my show of the year. Not only does it condemn the “reality” of reality TV with a specificity so bleakly funny that the host of The Bachelor tried to condemn it, its two lead performances—Shiri Appleby as amoral disaster zone Rachel, and Constance Zimmer as Quinn, a producer so amoral she makes Rachel look like Bambi—are a perfectly parasitic symbiosis that grounds this show in every dreadful moment and turns it into one of the year’s most nail-biting series. Rachel’s consuming guilt makes it one of the year’s most heartbreaking. And a season of behind-the-scenes shenanigans that create narratives about how we create narratives? That makes it the most satisfying.

2. You’re The Worst
In its first season it was a sometimes-biting, sometimes-cringey youth-of-today comedy that occasionally revealed the sap hiding deep in its center, which made its leads sympathetic despite the title’s claims to the contrary. But even with such a promising first season and this delightful cast at its disposal, the second season was a pleasant surprise, as Gretchen suffers a bout of depression that singlehandedly reframes the season and everyone in it. Suddenly, all their try-hard misanthrope antics became a desperate, floundering attempt at connection, and what had become vicarious misbehavior. That dose of newfound pessimism only made the show cut deeper; “LCD Soundsystem” is one of the most devastating episodes of the year.

3. Show Me A Hero
About as compelling a case for moving all biopics to miniseries as you could make. With its film talent (particularly the absorbing Oscar Isaac, compelling and pathetic by turns), the series laid out issues of institutional racism at work, and ruthlessly dismantled them in a way that felt as if it had little fanfare—how many political series have spent quite so much time huddled in city council meetings that can’t quite get started because of petty standoffs? But its one-man tragedy and cynicism about how sweeping change is implemented (an attitude that carried all the hallmarks of co-writer David Simon) had a strong current of optimism held just enough in check not to be preachy. People can be kind, after all—unless they’re in politics.

4. BoJack Horseman
Of all the excellent TV shows that devoted themselves to studies of depression, one of the most unflinching featured a world in which a cat has an ongoing affair with three kids in a trenchcoat. And such surreal gags were great, because they signaled a break in the unpeeling of everyone’s hopes and dreams forever. Not that the show isn’t funny—at least once an episode you get a knee-slapper, and that’s before Todd joins the improv cult—it’s just that creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg is more than happy to examine the fallout of depression by lingering in the awful moment of realization for so long it becomes physically painful. By the time BoJack and company come close to some kind of absurdist absolution, you’ll be more grateful for jogging monkeys than you ever thought you could be.

5. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Take an extremely dense novel that satirizes both Jane Austen’s social commentary and the usual trappings of fairy tales, cut down its 700-plus pages into seven hours, and retain the elusive sense of magic that made Susanna Clarke’s novel such a blockbuster success? No problem, apparently, for writer Peter Harness and director Toby Haynes, who presented an almost surprisingly satisfying adaptation for the BBC this year. Its note-perfect cast (particularly Eddie Marsan, whose inevitable exclusion from awards ballots this year was a crime), its pitch-perfect production design and cinematic geographies both real and imagined, and a pace that managed to leave quiet beats even while it raced through major events made for a breathless, captivating whole.

6. Wolf Hall
Echo everything I said above for Jonathan Strange in terms of marvelously lean adaptation in the face of staggering scope with a chronically circumspect character at its center, except replace all those breathtaking vistas with a visual and thematic claustrophobia in which the double meanings behind anything out of anyone’s mouth seem to palpably pile up in every frame; it’s a miracle Mark Rylance (with another of the year’s best performances) can even breathe enough to function. Never has the Tudor court felt so viscerally stifling.

7. The Americans
On the surface, there’s so much plot happening in any given episode of The Americans that it almost maintains its cover as a spy show; certainly it knows exactly how to build dread. But at heart it’s always a show about something else, and this season played out with painful commitment the idea that every parent will eventually ruin their child; the idea that at some point intimacy between two people on opposite sides of an ideology becomes impossible as if through the action of a third party; it reminds both its characters and its viewers that only thing worse than not having the truth is having it—and, the light at the end of the tunnel, the ways that some people are forged through all this pain and become, if not themselves, someone who can survive. It’s a painful lesson, beautifully delivered.

8. Halt And Catch Fire
The second season of this AMC show is an impressively agile pivot off its original premise, which got (quite fairly) dinged for trying to reverse engineer Mad Men using tech companies and offbeat ’80s tracks. In a rare instance of a show realizing exactly what’s working, it shifted the focus of the series to Donna and Cameron working together on their gaming startup, and used Gordon and Joe as figures of unintentional destructive chaos. Practically overnight, the show became an exploration of social power that, despite the unavoidable on-the-nose factor of any tech proclamations, managed to deliver its week-to-week problems with an almost painful immediacy.

9. Mad Men
Mad Men’s last season took no prisoners. Though its second leg never quite reached the quiet confidence of the first half (for many people, myself included, the real thematic closure of the series is in that office scene with Peggy and Don when they realize that family is what you accept when you’re just too tired to deal with anything else), it refused to put on any rose-colored glasses about its characters or their hope for the future (except maybe about Peggy and Stan), and ended almost as abruptly as life does.

10. Babylon
Did anyone watch this show? No. But that was their loss. Babylon is a bone-deep satire of police politics, the kind where every laugh is wrenched from you only because you can see disaster coming and there’s nothing you can do. Boasting an impressive cast (with standout turns from Bertie Carvel and the sublime Nicola Walker), a suitably doomed nest of intertwining plots, and some chewy insight about the intersection of decency and the PR machine, Babylon was one of this year’s best-kept secrets.

11. Master Of None
It felt almost too comfortable with itself for what it was doing to register, but Master Of None feels like a prime example of what the Netflix model can get away with. Every episode is an extended riff, with characters bickering back and forth on the topic of the half hour (parents, feminism, Indians on TV), and as often pointed as it is funny (the “walking home from a bar” bit is Aziz Ansari’s stand-up with a big-budget, and it works perfectly). It’s a quiet show, but an example of the small stylistic shifts forward that Peak TV has room for.

12. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Sometimes a show gets points just for consistency, and I am still a fan of Last Week Tonight’s long-form journalism, delivered with necessary earnestness and minimal smarm. The show’s segment on televangelists was proof positive that their slow take on sidelong subjects doesn’t just have a place in pop culture—it’s necessary.

13. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
This show is essentially a 27-minute bear hug, and since that’s all it was ever intended to be, we could consider that mission accomplished. But Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t resting on its adorable laurels; it’s begun to branch out in the security of its third season, leaping over the Jake/Amy will-they/won’t-they in a single bound, gently unrolling character development amid the jokes, and even making the cutest cops on TV admit they’re living in a world that doesn’t trust cops. The ensemble and the writers are firing on all cylinders, and though it can occasionally be a little too twee for its own good, it knows you secretly love that.

14. Marvel’s Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones came to the table under a lot of pressure. The dearth of women superhero shows meant that this was going to land hard in a very open field, and the offbeat heroine it followed ran the risk of being a figurehead more than a character. And while Jessica Jones did launch a thousand think pieces (many of which had good points about the coding of femininity and the weirdness of condemning Jeri Hogarth more strongly than Kilgrave), and at times felt a little embarrassed about its own comic-book roots, but it delivered a staunchly fucked-up antiheroine and an unflinching examination of the aftermath of rape.

15. Drunk History
Snarking on historical figures before it was cool. The show’s decision to focus on particular themes in every episode has really paid off, with historical footnotes coming to light in ways that are savvy and even enlightening—creator Derek Waters may look quietly aghast that he signed on for another season of getting wasted and encouraging drunk people to deliver Harriet Tubman’s speeches to the Union troops, but the show’s still committed to making history come alive, one near-barf at a time.

Scott Von Doviak

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1. Hannibal
2. Mr. Robot
3. Mad Men
4. Fargo
5. Better Call Saul
6. Justified
7. Veep
8. The Jinx
9. Banshee
10. With Bob And David
11. The Leftovers
12. Halt and Catch Fire
13. BoJack Horseman
14. The Flash
15. Game Of Thrones

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