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The 25 Best TV Shows of 2015

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The 25 Best TV Shows of 2015

Every year, this list gets a little harder to present. There are so many great TV shows that just didn’t break into the top 25, and it hurts us—as much as it will undoubtedly hurt you—to see some of our favorites that didn’t get the votes. Seriously, why aren’t more people watching You’re the Worst? Amazon’s Catastrophe offered up an incredible take on the traditional romantic comedy, and The Knick is in the midst of another strong season—but they didn’t have the votes. Meanwhile, if more people—especially those interested in the changing shape of women characters on TV—don’t start watching Being Mary Jane, I know one Paste assistant editor who’s going to quit TV, and feminism and everything else for good.

The bottom line is that there is just way too much good television right now. And even on a list like this, we don’t have room to celebrate them all—and not enough time in the world to really, truly explain why the shows in our Top 10 are exceptional works of art that’ll go down in history. But we’ve done our best to pay homage to our beloveds, so here they are: the 25 best TV shows of 2015.

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BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-justified.jpg 25. 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

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best-tv-shows-2015-halt-and-catch-fire.jpg 24. Halt & Catch Fire
Network: AMC

In the wake of Mad Men’s celebratory victory lap, Halt & Catch Fire has slowly emerged as AMC’s—and indeed one of television’s— most intriguing dramas. Adopting lessons from its somewhat patchy inaugural season, the Halt creative team thoroughly trimmed the fat this year, choosing to hone in on the show’s more compelling components—namely, housewife-turned-businesswoman Donna Clark (Kerry Bishé) and her, at times, contentious relationship with punk coder, Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis). Scoot McNairy and Lee Pace likewise deliver excellent performances, with Pace’s Joe MacMillan pivoting from one of TV’s most infuriating jerks, to one of its most sympathetic and tragic figures. Against all odds, the show survived abysmal ratings and secured a third season. Certainly, AMC’s insistence on keeping it around should speak volumes about its quality. In the wake of noisy, yet hollow cable entries and high-profile remakes of familiar properties, television needs the likes of Halt & Catch Fire.—Mark Rozeman

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BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-broadcity.jpg 23. 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

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best-tv-shows-2015-inside-amy-schumer.jpg 22. Inside Amy Schumer
Network: Comedy Central

Trainwreck might have gotten the most attention, and her HBO stand-up special might’ve felt more, well, special, but the key to Amy Schumer’s huge year was her Comedy Central sketch show. Its third season was its smartest, funniest, most fearless yet, highlighting the bullshit that women continue to have to deal with in society today with deep insight and brutal efficiency. Even fans of the show might’ve gotten annoyed at the ecstatic praise websites heaped on the latest best sketch ever every single week, but there’s no denying that brilliant gems like “Last Fuckable Day,” “Football Town Nights” and “I’m Sorry” tackled issues that most comedy shows would avoid, with both great humor and great truth. And the episode-length sketch “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer,” where a murderer’s row of guest actors deliberate beauty standards, might have been the best half-hour of television this year.—Garrett Martin

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BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-bettercallsaul.jpg 21. Better Call Saul
Network: AMC

To misquote The Simpsons’ Troy McClure, “Spinoff—is there any word less thrilling to the human soul?” Better Call Saul began its first season with the tricky task of using characters from one of the best TV series ever created while simultaneously forging its own identity. Fortunately, Saul’s long gestation time was evidence of the seriousness with which creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould took these goals, and while the resulting program has some of its progenitor’s stylistic trademarks, if anything it gets off to a smarter, stranger start than the first season of Breaking Bad. Without an easy hook like Gilligan’s “Mr. Chips to Scarface” pitch, the show is forced to delve into murkier moral territory, eschewing easy forms of evil like violence in favor of petty crime and fraud. Saul is intentionally slow, resistant to easy characterization, and aside from the miserable white male protagonist at its center does a good job of sidestepping the tropes of typical “prestige” television. In the process of differentiating itself from Breaking Bad, Saul also managed to differentiate itself from everything else out there, too, and the resultant show is the smartest drama currently being made.—Sean Gandert

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BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-OITNB.jpg 20. 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

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best-tv-shows-2015-wet-hot-american-summer.jpg 19. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp
Network:   Netflix  

When a follow-up comes along for any project with a huge cult audience, it seems doomed to disappoint. Arrested Development’s fourth season’s breaking apart of the cast was bound to frustrate, and Anchorman 2 could never reach the surprising joy of the original. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp obviously came with a certain amount of trepidation. But instead of trying to recreate the glory of the last day of camp, as seen in the 2001 film, First Day of Camp added a considerable amount of depth to the original film and explained aspects of Camp Firewood that never needed to be understood, but make the entire history of these characters feel more whole. The Netflix series managed to redefine these characters that we fell in love with over a decade ago, all while giving us laughs and immense heart as well.—Ross Bonaime

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best-tv-shows-of-2015-Nathan-For-You.jpg 18. Nathan for You
Network: Comedy Central

For two seasons, Nathan for You was something warped and uncomfortable—but actually, ultimately refreshing. As the titular Nathan (Fielder) claims during the show’s intro every week, he “graduated from one of Canada’s top business schools with really good grades,” a statement evidenced by an actual shot of one of his report cards (showing solidly B- average grades), as if the whole series itself, despite Fielder’s appointed mission statement that he’s trying to help struggling businesses thrive, is intended to prove that those “good grades” were no joke: Nathan is a real-life, talented business-gentleman.

The first two seasons did this surprisingly well, helping ideas like “Dumb Starbucks” go viral, and making it increasingly difficult for Fielder to use relative anonymity to convince his “clients” to go along with his disturbingly effective ideas. It wasn’t totally original TV, but there did seem to be a certain sincerity under it all—Fielder doing his best to never exploit the people he helped for the benefit of a good joke, hoping that somehow, at the very least, he could drum up attention for the suffering businesses.

But the third season of Nathan for You is obviously something so much more sublime: Over the course of seven episodes (the eighth of which will air after this list goes up), Nathan has contrived a fake exercise program replete with a fake creator to dredge up free labor for a moving company, created a sound-proof box for imprisoning children while their parents have sex in hotel rooms (which he tested with a porn star orgy), and devised a way for a dive bar to allow smokers inside through turning a typical night of patrons into an experimental bit of theater—all the while transforming each client interaction into a desperate bid to make a friend. It’s even in “Nail Salon/Fun” that Nathan finally admits he doesn’t have many friends, even though he’s actually a really fun guy to hang out with, so he concocts a plan to scientifically validate he’s an entertaining guy—which of course involves stealing the urine of his new friend and suggesting on a lark they go get blood drawn together. It’s all so much more than cringe-worthy faux-documentary pranking; in season three, Nathan for You has stumbled into the sublime, taking to task the pathetic, empty human connections at the heart of even the most basic tenets of capitalism.—Dom Sinacola

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best-tv-shows-2015-narcos.jpg 17. Narcos
Network:   Netflix  

One popular line of criticism has it that Narcos romanticizes the violence and degradation associated with the Colombian drug wars—and drug culture in general—and I would agree that the excellent Wagner Moura plays kingpin Pablo Escobar so engagingly that he becomes a sort of Walt White-esque antihero. And the rhythms of the documentary-style narration are fast-paced in a way that’s reminiscent of Guy Ritchie, whipping us along at an almost breakneck speed. Nevertheless, this valid criticism misses the important point that we are watching a work of fiction based on historical figures—not a realdocumentary. And when viewed that way, Narcos was one of the most successful new shows on TV, in how it managed to flesh out some very dark characters and tell a complicated story with such urgency and clarity. This is not the hyper-realist drug fiction of Traffic or 2015’s wonderful Sicario, but as conflict entertainment goes, it succeeds wonderfully.—Shane Ryan

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best-tv-shows-2015-review.jpg 16. Review
Network: Comedy Central

Returning for his second year of reviewing/punishment, Andy Daly’s Forrest MacNeil remains as determined as ever to deliver inspiring television via critiquing various life experiences—even if it means torpedoing what’s left of his own life and general mental stability. As expected, ill-conceived review ideas (leading a cult) go hilariously awry, while even seemingly innocuous ones (taking a relaxing row boat trip) quickly transform into horrific ordeals. At the center of it all is Daly, who manages to make Forrest eminently watchable and entertaining, despite his frequently monstrous behavior. One of Comedy Central’s greatest programming achievements, Review is as funny as it is painful; in order words, it’s really, really ‘effin funny.—Mark Rozeman

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best-tv-shows-2015-jessica-jones.jpg 15. Jessica Jones
Network:   Netflix  

Marvel’s first team-up with Netflix, the excellent Daredevil early in 2015, took the shiny Marvel Cinematic Universe and rubbed much needed dirt on it. Jessica Jones furthers the trend with a psychological thriller that is, somehow, more brutal and dark than its Hell’s Kitchen contemporary. Unlike Daredevil, Jones not only redrew the lines for a Marvel production, but redefined what a comic book show could be. The emphasis is not on the physical, but instead the mental destruction caused by Kilgrave (the phenomenal David Tennant), a sociopath with mind-control powers. Netflix’s binge model is used to its full-effect, each episode’s conclusion begging the viewer to let the train roll on. And, like a victim of Kilgrave, its impossible not to abide. Jessica Jones keeps the viewer guessing, leaving them suspended in a state of fear and anxiety for 13 perilous, but wonderful hours.—Eric Walters

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best-tv-shows-2015-john-oliver.jpg 14. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Network:   HBO  

My abbreviated description of Last Week Tonight, to anyone who asks about it, is that it is like Democracy Now! with a sense of humor. That may be reductive, but how else to describe a show that, each week, takes a deeply researched and thoughtful look at some of the world’s most pressing issues (this season, alone, they tackled the tobacco industry, the struggles that prisoners face reentering society, televangelism, and LGBT rights… and they scored an interview in Russia with Edward Snowden, to boot) in a manner that inspires action and elicits deep belly laughs? Oliver and his team are providing a great public service to their viewers and the series is on its way to bringing about some much-needed and positive changes on our world.—Robert Ham

BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-americans.jpg 13. The Americans
Network: FX

Season three of The Americans featured some truly iconic moments and jaw-dropping reveals. I could say two words to you—tooth extraction—and that scene alone would be reason enough to watch. Undercover KGB spies Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) are at the center of this incredible thriller. This season was brought to new heights as their daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) grew increasingly suspicious of her parents. Philip’s new target was an impressionable and lonely teen. Elizabeth’s devotion to the cause almost trumped everything else, and poor Martha (Alison Wright), who entered the season having no idea she was “married” to a spy, once again mistook Philip’s deception for true love. The Americans will make you think and over-think. It will break your heart. And, perhaps most importantly, you’ll never see what’s coming next.—Amy Amatangelo

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BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-veep.jpg 12. Veep
Network:   HBO  

Veep is the smartest, best comedy on television, and I don’t say this lightly: I’m ADAMANT. On the macrocosmic level, it nails American politics—the amount of corruption and incompetence, along with a thick web of conflicting interests, which makes it impossible for anything real to be accomplished. More often than not, Selina Meyer ends up backing a position directly opposed to her true beliefs, and the goal shifts from political progress to mere survival. Finding a scapegoat or dodging a crisis is vastly more important to a politician’s life than passing a law or aiding the country, and no show looks at this reality with a more cutting kind of cynicism than Veep. On a microcosmic level, it’s a show that’s absolutely packed with comedy. This is like Aaron Sorkin if he were funny—overlapping, interrupting dialogue flies in at a lightning pace, chopping down egos, exposing insecurities, and generally adding layers of the most hilarious cruelty to a bitter, cutthroat world. It can be high-brow, and it can be low: One of the funniest recurrent bits this year involved Patton Oswalt’s slimy character grabbing Jonah by the balls. “Political comedy” is not an easy genre to pull off, but Veep has made it an art form, and the show’s fourth season was its best yet.—Shane Ryan

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BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-silicon.jpg 11. Silicon Valley
Network:   HBO  

Though this HBO sitcom did a great job skewering the doublespeak and hyper-positivity of the tech world, the second season of Silicon Valley shone the brightest by putting the antisocial misfits of startup Pied Piper in more and more ridiculous situations. We watched as they tried to appease the grumbling jocks that populate an energy drink company and butted heads with the bloviating bro more concerned with maintaining his status as a billionaire, than actually doing anything with his life. This provided ample opportunity for some amazing comedic performances by Thomas Middleditch as the twitchy, nervous head of Pied Piper and T.J. Miller as his perma-stoned co-founder. continue to hide in plain sight but the stakes during the third season are raised exponentially.—Robert Ham

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best-tv-shows-2015-game-of-thrones.jpg 10. Game of Thrones
Network:   HBO  

It’s hard to know what to write about a universally praised show like Game of Thrones after five seasons. We all understand why it’s so great—the way George R.R. Martin and his HBO writers explore the gray areas of morality, the sense that even though “Westeros” is a fictional place, it reflects the behavior and patterns of real life better than most shows on television, and the insanely, insanely great storytelling. But the truth is that there was something new for a certain group of viewers this year, and it’s a group to which I belong: The book readers. The show finally caught up to all the major events written thus far, and in some cases went beyond. For the first time since season one (I binged on all five of Martin’s ASOIAF books between seasons one and two), I was watching like everyone else—with total fascination and suspense. Seeing Tyrion in Daenerys’ court, for instance, was one of my top, visceral TV-watching thrills of the year. The renewed presence of the unknown reminded me yet again of just how excellent this show has been, and how much we have to look forward to in 2016.—Shane Ryan

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best-tv-shows-2015-last-man-on-earth.jpg 9. The Last Man on Earth
Network: Fox

So, the title The Last Man on Earth turned out to be a bit of a mislead. That’s for the best, because, as ambitious and fascinating as it was to watch the show in its early moments when it was just Will Forte ambling around an empty landscape, more people in the cast, including the excellent Kristen Schaal, has benefited the series by giving it actual human dynamics. The shift also gives Forte other people to bounce off of with his particularly brand of unhinged comedy.

The first season was strong, but it had its flaws—like almost every show does. It had, at a certain point, become a fairly formulaic sitcom, only lifted by the talent of the cast, and the post-apocalyptic landscape. However, the second season has really seen The Last Man on Earth take it to another level. The rough edges have been sanded down, the dynamics of the group have grown in interesting ways, and most importantly, it has become even funnier. Who knew so much humor could be mined from a show about the vast majority of people on the planet dying off?—Chris Morgan

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best-tv-shows-2015-brooklyn-nine-nine.jpg 8. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Network: Fox

“Consistency” might not be the most flattering virtue you can ascribe to a sitcom, but consistency is a big part of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s greatness. Week in and week out, Dan Goor and Michael Shur’s half-hour cop comedy manages to hit just the right notes without losing its groove. Some episodes hit higher notes than others, and yes, in the series’ three-season lifespan, there have in fact been a few off-key episodes intermingled with the others. But when Brooklyn Nine-Nine is good, it’s good, and it’s good with an impressive regularity. When it’s great, it’s the best sitcom you’ll find on network television, thanks in part to sharp writing, but mostly to an even sharper cast. Consistency is what fuels Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s motor, but the characters are the ones steering the ship. The show is enormously diverse in terms of not only gender and ethnicity, but also in terms of comic styles: There’s career sad sack Joe Lo Truglio, the stoically hilarious Andre Braugher, king of the clowns Andy Samberg, master of badassery Stephanie Beatriz, and that only covers a little less than half the team. Since Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s debut back in 2013, each character on the show has developed and grown, and in the process we’ve come to care about all of them in equal measure. At the top of its game, Brooklyn Nine-Nine harmonizes our attachment to these people with great gags, and occasionally even sharp (if brief) action. There’s a lot the series has to offer, in other words, and that just drives home how vital its constancy really is to its success. Never underestimate well-regulated humor.—Andy Crump

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BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-kimmy-schmidt.jpg 7. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Network:   Netflix  

NBC has made any number of mistakes over the years, but few bigger than shelving Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s 30 Rock follow-up, before punting it over to Netflix. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt wound up becoming one of the highlights of a great year for TV comedy. The fast-paced and flip sitcom featured breakout performances by Office vet Ellie Kemper as the titular former “mole woman” trying to make it on her own in New York, and Tituss Burgess as her flamboyant and put-upon roommate, Titus Andromedon. (NBC has recently tried to make it up to Kemper for dropping the ball on this by planting her in the guest host chair at Today—too little, too late, peacock peddlers.) Throughout the first season’s run, some writers and critics seemed dead set on finding some kind of flaw to pounce on with the show, zeroing in on how the minority characters are represented. This may be a wild generalization, but I think this was a natural reaction to one of the most overtly feminist sitcoms ever produced. Kimmy Schmidt is most certainly upsetting the natural order of your typical network sitcom. The show’s titular character is defining her life on her own terms and by her own standards. For some reason that still freaks some people out so they dismiss it or find some way to poke holes in the vehicle for that idea. That is what makes the prospect of a second season so exciting. Just as the show can go in a myriad of different directions, so too can Kimmy Schmidt. Now that she has put the awful time in the bunker to bed, she can face a new day with that infectious smile, bubbly attitude, and enthusiastic embrace of life experience. Sorry nitpickers and network executives; Kimmy Schmidt is going to make it after all.—Robert Ham

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best-tv-shows-2015-the-leftovers.jpg 6. The Leftovers
Network:   HBO  

To say that expectations were low for the second season of this supernatural drama would be one of the bigger understatements of 2015. Even fans of The Leftovers were left baffled and bemused by the initial 10-episode run that wrapped up so nicely that Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta could have easily walked away from HBO. Instead, the pair expanded upon the universe of the show, shifting the action to a blessed yet troubled town in Texas where the main characters, The Garveys (now joined by The Murphys), are forced to confront their deepest fears, frustrations, and failings in the wake of “The Departure.” Unlike most other TV dramas, the show’s success this year has been due to the writers narrowing each installment down to the bare minimum of plot. The story arc of season two has been slow to unfold, yet completely engrossing. They’ve also done the right thing by not letting us get any closer to understanding what would cause a huge percentage of the world’s population to simply vanish. This mystery is integral to both the characters and the audience. Never before have I wanted to remain in the dark this much.—Robert Ham

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best-tv-shows-2015-parksandrec.jpg 5. Parks and Recreation
Network: NBC

This beloved comedy accomplished the near-impossible and went out on top. Comedies, in particular, have a difficult time knowing when it’s time to take a bow. But Leslie Knope and her merry band of friends kept us laughing (and crying) right up until the series finale. NBC burned through the final season, airing two episodes per week through January and February. But the accelerated schedule didn’t stop us from savoring every last moment with the Pawnee crew. The seventh season, set in the year 2017, also has the distinction of being a rare TV time-jump that really worked. But the piece de resistance was the series finale which, as Leslie gave each one of her friends a hug, flashed forward to show us what the future held for every character and hinted at an amazing career for Leslie (was she President?!). All in all, it was a powerfully good farewell to one of the most creative and beloved network series in a long time.—Amy Amatangelo

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best-tv-shows-2015-fargo.jpg 4. Fargo
Network: FX

After the ignominious flop that was the second season of True Detective, and the wobbly foundation on which American Horror Story was built, anthology series looked like a risky proposition in the mind of some TV viewers and critics. But we should have known to trust the capable hands and nimble mind of Noah Hawley, the man behind Fargo. In this second run, he played gently with the threads that connected the series to the Coen Brothers movie that inspired it, while also give little thrums to tie it in with the first season. But otherwise, he let these 10 episodes remain very much their own thing: a novelistic crime story with a dark sense of humor and characters so richly drawn that you almost want some savvy authors to continue their stories in book form. Couple all that with one of the best casts on television, that includes reliable vets like Kirsten Dunst, Ted Danson, and Jesse Plemons, with career-best turns by Jeffrey Donovan and Bokeem Woodbine, and surprises like Brad Garrett and Nick Offerman, and you have a series that leaves a deep mark on the hearts and minds of its many fans.—Robert Ham

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best-tv-shows-2015-mr-robot.jpg 3. Mr. Robot
Network: USA

“Offbeat” has long become a tired buzzword in the TV lexicon. That being said, if any new show this year deserved that very label, it’s USA’s Mr. Robot. Indeed, few things in 2015 dominated the cultural conversation quite like the story of a mentally disturbed, drug-addicted hacker looking to take down an evil, Enron-esque corporation and bring about a new world order. Tackling his first leading role, Rami Malek is nothing short of a revelation; more surprising, the show also blesses Christian Slater with his best role in years. Though not without its occasional bumps along the way, Mr. Robot has the potential to be the latest entry in the ongoing narrative of this current Golden Age of Television. If nothing else, the show has successfully shifted USA’s brand away from “blue sky” procedurals, towards more prestige-worthy dramas. Season Two can’t come fast enough.—Mark Rozeman

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best-tv-shows-2015-master-of-none.jpg 2. Master of None
Network:   Netflix  

Like its creator and star, Master of None is stylish, smart and clever—a half-hour comedy that ranks as one of Netflix’s best efforts in original programming. Following the trend set by Louie, Transparent, You’re the Worst and many other modern sitcoms, Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang built a show that doesn’t mind the occasional laugh hiatus. Instead of pushing the joke quota to astronomical levels, Master of None is content to find poignancy amid the humor, and if the former outshines the latter, so be it. The result is a show that is fun to watch, emotionally satisfying and thought provoking. It’s also been paramount in furthering the discussion about race and representation on television, both with its own casting and the topics it addresses. There is so much to say about this show, and these few hundred words are a pathetic attempt to do it justice. Master of None is not only one of the best shows of 2015, but one of the most important in a long, long time.—Eric Walters

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BEST-TV-SHOWS-OF-2015-so-far-madmen.jpg 1. Mad Men
Network: AMC

I’d like to believe that Don has achieved the impossible and become one of TV’s first antiheroes to get a truly happy ending, just like I’d like to believe that Pete will never cheat on Trudy again, that Joan’s new production company will be an enormous success, that Peggy will marry Stan and become a creative director by 1980, just like Pete predicted. But we don’t know for sure, and in many ways, that’s the beauty of a show like Mad Men. It’s not all black and white; just like in real life, sometimes people change, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they try valiantly, but slip up and revert to their old ways. But either way, life, like Don Draper, keeps on moving. That Kodak Carousel keeps spinning. We can put on as many masks as we want, dress it up however we please, but as those hippies shilling for Coca-Cola from atop a mountain sang, “what the world wants today is the real thing”—and that’s what Mad Men gave us, why it’ll go down as one of the greatest TV dramas of all time.—Bonnie Stiernberg

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