With over 400 scripted television programs on the air in the past year, it was harder than ever to narrow it down to just the top 10 shows of 2015. From returning favorites that were better than ever to new instant favorites, it was a great year for shows to make us laugh and cry, and sometimes throw things at the screen in frustration. In only the best ways.
Check out our final Top 10 below, and let us know your list in the comments!
10. The Affair
Season 2 of “The Affair” started on shaky ground, as the addition of two additional POVs to the sometimes already confusing dual perspectives of the first season seemed like a recipe for even more of the same, but the second season finale certainly felt earned. We’ve spent two seasons on the mystery of who killed Scott Lockhart, and season 2 felt like a calculated, measured reveal. However, the best part of this show is still the characters, relationships and performances of the core four characters, who now all feel more integral to the story than ever, against all odds.
9. Game of Thrones
In terms of pure quality, “Game of Thrones” is perhaps past its peak, but the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s long and extensive series of books gets props here for starting to diverge sharply from the source material. It’s a risk that’s paid dividends, putting die-hard book fans and TV-only viewers into the same boat of suspense, keeping its appointment-television status. And Dany finally riding off that dragon was a long time coming.
8. Master of None
Sweet and subtle aren’t exactly words one would associate with Aziz Ansari, but for his first leading role on his own series, that’s exactly the sort of pleasant surprise that awaited in every episode of “Master of None.” Revolutionary for its well-rounded portrayal of an aspiring Asian actor, it managed to tackle real issues like generation gaps, racism and sexual politics while being very, very funny.
7. The 100
Season 2 of The CW’s darkest show grew in both scope and ambition, and took our beloved delinquents to even more gut-wrenching places. The season seemed to head one direction, towards an uneasy alliance with an outside group of characters, and then made a sharp left in the final episodes that allowed Clarke and Bellamy to take the destinies of their friends into their own hands – and make a decision that they may never be able to come back from. All part of the beauty and pain of watching “The 100.”
6. Jessica Jones
Marvel’s first female-led superhero show did not disappoint, and Krysten Ritter was a revelation as the haunted and self-destructive NYC detective. She had superpowers, but her fight against the mind-controlling villain Killgrave was much more of a mental chess game that ratcheted up the tension in every episode. “Daredevil” had its hallway fight, and “Jessica Jones'” elevator execution wasn’t far behind in terms of iconic moments.
“The Bachelor” wishes it could be as watchable as Lifetime’s very dark parody of dating reality shows. The women on “UnREAL” are certainly more multi-faceted than anybody’s who’s ever appeared on Chris Harrison’s show. In the dozen years of ABC’s long-running show, it’s also never produced as compelling a would-be couple as Adam, the troubled bachelor, and Rachel, the self-identified feminist producer whose ambitions sometimes outweigh her conscience.
It was the year that the Veep in “Veep” was no longer Veep, but POTUS, and it was also the last year of showrunner Armando Iannucci’s time with the show, and boy did he leave on a high note. The 2016 election will have a hard time living up to the absurdity, compelling craziness of the HBO sitcom, which just seems to get better year after year. Hugh Laurie was a fantastic new addition, and didn’t miss a beat getting in on the signature razor sharp wit of the show.
The hallway fight in the show’s second episode is enough of a reason to add “Daredevil” to any Top 10 of the year list, but luckily, Netflix’s first Marvel show excelled on many other levels as well. Charlie Cox made for a new lovable superhero, one more grounded in reality, and the show also introduced us to Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple, just about the most welcome addition to the Marvel cinematic universe in years. Along with “Jessica Jones,” Netflix’s “The Defenders” team is shaping up fantastically.
2. Fresh Off the Boat
The first Asian family sitcom in 20 years had a lot riding on it, but “Fresh Off the Boat” more than delivered. Chock full of 90s nostalgia that makes it compulsively watchable for audiences whether they’re Asian or not, the show also introduced us to Constance Wu, whose character Jessica Huang is the very definition of HBIC – in mom jeans. In Season 2, the writing towards Wu’s comedic talents have become even more pronounced as the show clearly realized they captured lighting in a bottle with their breakout star.
It’s hard to believe that Season 1 of “Fargo” could be topped in any way, but Noah Hawley managed it in Season 2, a perfect season of television that felt effortless, yet offered up every myriad of quality, enjoyable facets. The bumbling reluctant criminals married couple played by Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst, clumsily outrunning local law enforcement and two truly terrifying crime syndicates, made the show hilarious, touching, scary and deeply, deeply satisfying.