The 20 Best TV Shows of 2015 (So Far)

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We’re halfway through 2015 and many of us still haven’t recovered from this incredible, unforgettable season of television. This year will go down in television history as the season of the Empire premiere and the Mad Men finale. We said goodbye to some of the greatest series characters the world has known, with the departure of Justified, and we made bizarre new friends who introduced to important phrases and questions like, “What is this white foolishness?” (Titus Andromedon, forever). Comedies became sharper and dramas more poignant. We lost and found religion, and issues concerning politics, race, feminism, and intersectionality became a greater part of TV dialogue than perhaps ever before. It’s safe to say we are, indeed, working towards a TV world that embraces and celebrates diversity in the truest sense of the word, with characters who are not only varied in background and physical makeup, but are also complex—just like real people! Here are our picks for the best TV shows of 2015 (so far).

BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-empire.jpg 20. Empire
Network: Fox

The logline for this drama—hip-hop meets Dynasty—was, on its own, enough to perk up the ears of network TV viewers bored with middling criminal procedurals and dull three-camera sitcoms. Then you throw in some radio-ready jams produced by Timbaland, a strong anti-homophobia storyline, snappy hashtag-friendly dialogue, and an electric performance by Taraji P. Henson as the matriarch of a family musical kingdom—is it any wonder that this show destroyed all expectations and nearly doubled its viewership from the first episode to the season finale? Empire was the show you didn’t know you always wanted: an empty calorie feast of soap opera tropes with an ear for how the real world speaks and acts.—Robert Ham

BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-louie.jpg 19. Louie
Network: FX

The definition of a critical darling with low viewership, Louie remains relevant for the risks taken by its visionary creator, Louis C.K. If you’ve read anything about this show, you’ve seen it compared to French film, and the reason that analogy is so ubiquitous is because C.K. is a legitimate filmmaker, and his medium is melancholy. That’s the driving emotion behind the comedy and tragedy that duel for primacy in each half hour—in every moment of defeat and triumph, there’s a lingering sadness that is portrayed as an inescapable component of the human condition. It’s a complicated pallor, often presented obliquely, and frequently disguised in an absurdist approach that will never resonate with a large audience. As long as it lasts, Louie will be a niche show, and it all stems from the zealous commitment of its auteur, who has proved, five seasons in, that he will not be compelled to appeal to any audience beyond the strange, morose little artist inside his own head.—Shane Ryan

BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-goodwife.jpg 18. The Good Wife
Network: CBS

Coming off a stellar fifth season, The Good Wife had much to accomplish in the sixth season, as the show and Alicia (Julianna Margulies) continued to adjust to the new normal—life without Will (Josh Charles). The back half of the season had Alicia winning the State’s Attorney Election, only to lose the position almost instantly. At times it felt like the show was constantly pressing the reset button. Somehow, by the end of the season, Alicia was back in her old office with her old job contemplating once again starting her own firm. But the larger story of Alicia’s further descent into corruption was fascinating. What won’t she do to win? As an added bonus, we got to see a lot more Lemond Bishop (Mike Colter) one of the most fascinating, intricate and innovative criminals on television. We also had to say goodbye to Kalinda (Archie Panjabi), in a way that was final, but also left the door open if Panjabi ever decided she wanted to return. To put it simply, The Good Wife is network TV’s best drama. If you’re not watching, you’re missing out.—Amy Amatangelo

BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-hannibal.jpg 17. Hannibal
Network: NBC

Hannibal’s third year stands as its strangest yet—and that’s certainly saying something. Equal parts horror, art film and European travelogue, the season begins with Hannibal gallivanting through Europe, all while his previous victims band together, determined to finally bring the monster down. The series’ creative reformatting brings with it a doubling-down on all the jaw-droppingly gorgeous imagery and surreal nightmare logic that gives Hannibal its cinematic zest. Likewise, the season also benefits from Gillian Anderson’s beefed-up role as Hannibal’s lover/prisoner, Bedelia. And there’s still much more to come, with the season’s latter half designed as a six-part retelling of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, the novel that began this whole perverse affair. Time will tell whether or not this is the last we’ll be seeing of the good doctor and company, but—whatever the case may be—there’s no denying that Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal has been a strange, bloody ride, the likes of which we’re not likely to see again anytime soon.—Mark Rozeman

BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-broadcity.jpg 16. Broad City
Network: Comedy Central

For the last few years, Comedy Central has consistently presented us with great comedy duos: Key & Peele, Kroll and Daly, and now Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. Broad City presents us with two unforgettable characters who are desperately trying to become the boss bitches they are in their minds. This epic friendship is instantaneously contagious, and the brilliant plots, centered on the two twenty-somethings scraping by in New York City, makes this one of the great, most promising new-ish series. This year Broad City seems to have discovered how to keep its slacker-powered comedy machine firing on all cylinders, resulting in some of the season’s most successful episode yet.—Ross Bonaime and Hudson Hongo

BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-lastman.jpg 15. The Last Man on Earth
Network: Fox

The last time Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Will Forte teamed up for a show, it was the brilliant but short-lived Clone High, an animated teen comedy parody about a school filled with clones of historical icons. Over a decade later, Lord, Miller and Forte reunited on TV once again for another high-concept idea, The Last Man on Earth, about Phil “Tandy” Miller, who lives in Tucson, Arizona and as the title implies, believes himself to be the last man on earth. Phil Miller started off as a sort of wish fulfillment surrogate for its audience, but quickly became an anti-Walter White, constantly digging himself into worse situations, but without the quick-on-his-feet thinking to get him out of his growing problems. Forte – one of the most underrated comedians to ever come out of SNL – makes Miller despicable, while also understandable, lovable and hilarious in his constant spiraling down that made the end of the world look like the easy part. The Last Man on Earth is one of the most original, exciting and unpredictable shows to come out of network television in years.—Ross Bonaime

BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-walkingdead.jpg 14. The Walking Dead
Network: AMC

The original Night of the Living Dead wasn’t just a zombie movie—it was a frightening depiction of how humans behave in crisis. That’s always been part of the fun with zombie tales, and what’s so awesome about The Walking Dead is that it’s taken these themes and matured them. Whether it’s the brutal inhabitants of Terminus, or survivors of the Alexandria Safe Zone, the way people deal with the end of the world is much more interesting than the walkers who have caused it. This season, once again, The Walking Dead managed, through its horror, comic book-based form, to really examine the human psyche in a way that remains unrivaled by most other shows on TV today.—Leland Montgomery

BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-justified.jpg 13. Justified
Network: FX

The last decade is littered with very good shows that missed greatness by collapsing at the finish line. Justified will not be added to that list. Instead, the show overcame a rocky fifth year and presented a sixth season that was not only excellent, but possibly even the show’s finest overall. Though no single performer could match Season Two All-Star Margo Martindale, the ensemble elevated their game. Each week it seemed that a different actor took the show on their back and willed it to victory. In the end, as ever, Justified succeeded by leaning on its Big Three. Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, and Joelle Carter literally carried the show all the way to its final moment. Always difficult to pin down, to the very end the show was a study in opposition. It was simultaneously hilarious and heart wrenching. It was of the moment, but elegiac. It was a classic western, but completely revisionist. It felt as familiar as an old pair of jeans, yet we had never seen anything like it. And we may never see its like again.—Jack McKinney

BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-OITNB.jpg 12. Orange is the New Black
Network:   Netflix  

No show remains as compulsively watchable as Orange is the New Black. The third season took on the weighty topic of religion and faith and brought some previously background characters into the forefront. Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) truly became the breakout character of the season, while we also learned why Norma (Annie Golden) never talks and how Bennett (Matt McGorry) always chooses himself over others. Along the way Nicky (Natasha Lyonne) broke our hearts, as did the backstory of a character who was, in past seasons, incredibly difficult to understand or identify with—Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning). Spending time with Orange is the New Black can be like hanging out with life-long (foul-mouthed) friends. Sometimes theses characters annoy you to no end (like the increasingly narcissistic Piper), but it doesn’t make you love them and the stories they bring into your life any less.—Amy Amatangelo

BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-daredevil.jpg 11. Daredevil
Network:   Netflix  

Daredevil represents a brand of adaptation that Marvel aficionados have been awaiting for some time, particularly in the wake of Fox’s disastrous handling of the character back in 2003. Having proven it can successfully translate its light, colorful comic book fare into equally light, audience-pleasing blockbusters, the Marvel Studios machine took a major step out of its comfort zone with this serialized take on Stan Lee and Bill Everett’s iconic character. In a landscape where “dark and gritty” has become a hollow buzzword, Daredevil actively pushes the envelope in what’s expected of “mature” superhero content. This is not the standard “characters-brood-and-discuss-serious-moral-issues” school of thought, but more along the “holy-crap-a-guy-just-got-decapitated-by-a-car-door” variety. All that said, Daredevil is so much more than the sum of its broken bones. Like the best Marvel properties, the intense spectacle serves as an organic extension of the story’s emotionally grounded, character-based center. Boasting a near pitch-perfect cast—Charlie Cox beautifully embodies the titular character, while Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin is nothing short of pure genius—as well as some of the greatest action set pieces ever put on television, Daredevil marks a new creative high for Marvel. The Man Without Fear is back and better than ever.—Mark Rozeman

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