The 50 Best TV Shows Streaming on Netflix (2015)

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The 50 Best TV Shows Streaming on Netflix (2015)

When we polled our writers about the best TV shows available for streaming on Netflix, we got nearly 100 different nominations. Netflix may have built its brand on movies, but it’s become the No. 1 source for binge-watching our favorite TV series. From iconic sitcoms and dramas to animated series and sci-fi to an increasing number of great Netflix originals, there’s likely something new for you watch on this list. Just remember to also sleep, eat and spend time with your loved ones.

This year’s poll brought several new shows into the Top 50 and also gave us a new No. 1, just edging out last year’s winner, Breaking Bad. Let us know your favorites we missed in the comments section below. Here are the 50 Best TV Shows of 2015:

50. M*A*S*H
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Creator: Larry Gelbart
Stars: Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, Mike Farrell, McLean Stevenson, Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr, William Christopher, David Ogden Stiers, Larry Linville, Gary Burghoff,
Network: CBS
M*A*S*H took the idea of tragedy plus time equalling comedy to new heights, turning the horrors of the Korean War into dark humor. Those first seasons in the 1970s, especially, were crowded with iconic characters and fast-paced jokes. By the time Reagan rolled into office, we’d already lost Henry Blake, Trapper McIntyre, Frank Burns and even Radar O’Reilly. But with replacements for all but Radar firmly in place, there was still enough momentum in the end to make the season finale the most-watched TV episode up to that point in history with 125 million viewers. Alda, as both star and executive producer, steered the show into more serious waters with episodes like “Follies of the Living” and “Where There’s Will, There’s a War” without ever losing the sharp wit at its heart.—Josh Jackson

49. Scrubs
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Creator: Bill Lawrence
Stars: Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, Neil Flynn, Ken Jenkins, John C. McGinley, Judy Reyes
Original Network: NBC
J.D. and the gang gave a completely absurd (and yet often the most realistic) look into the world of hospitals. Each episode didn’t center around some outlandish disease that everyone thought was lupus, only to find out it was something else in the last five minutes of the show. Instead Scrubs was character-driven. It was consistently overlooked by the Emmy Awards, and viewership dwindled throughout the seasons. Still, the witty writing and off-beat characters deserved more. When NBC canceled the show, ABC was confident enough to pick it up for two more (laborious, unwatchable) seasons. But in its prime, it was one of the best sitcoms on TV.—Adam Vitcavage

48. The Wonder Years
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Creators: Carol Black, Neal Marlens
Stars: Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Alley Mills, Olivia d’Abo, Jason Hervey, Danica McKellar, Josh Saviano
Original Networks: ABC
The Wonder Years is a family show, and yes, a few of its episodes inch dangerously close to after-school-special territory, but make no mistake: revisiting this late-’80s/early-’90s staple as an adult is just as—if not more—enjoyable than watching it the first time around. It’s unabashedly nostalgic, but it chronicles the ups and downs of Kevin Arnold’s, Winnie Cooper’s and Paul Pfeiffer’s adolescence against the backdrop of the Vietnam era and our nation’s changing social landscape with a maturity most shows geared towards kids lack. The tiny childhood moments that stick with us are treated with the respect they deserve. We laugh when Kevin’s brother Wayne gets him in a headlock and calls him “scrote” for the umpteenth time (try sneaking that by the Nick at Nite censors nowadays!) or when Kev squares off with his mortal enemy Becky Slater, and we cry when Kevin’s occasionally distant father struggles to relate to his teenage kids. And sorry, but if you don’t hold your breath when Kevin puts that letterman jacket over Winnie’s shoulders, you’re dead inside. Music geeks will appreciate the incredible soundtrack as well; the series was only just recently released on DVD because licensing all the songs that appeared on the show (a veritable greatest hits collection from the likes of Dylan, The Beatles and Motown’s finest) had proven nearly impossible. But if you don’t have the cash to throw down for the complete series box set, thankfully, there’s Netflix to keep this classic coming-of-age tale alive as well.—Bonnie Stiernberg

47. Frasier
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Creator: David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee
Stars: Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jane Leeves, John Mahoney, Peri Gilpin, Moose
Original Network: NBC
Frasier is arguably the best spin-off in television history. Kelsey Grammer played the character for 20 years, and made Dr. Crane the longest-running live-action character on TV. The show won more Outstanding Comedy Series awards than any other show with five, while Grammer won four Lead Actor awards. In total, the series won a record-tying 37 Emmy Awards during its run. Though it was about a psychiatrist, the heart of Frasier was Dr. Crane’s relationships with his father and brother. Like Cheers, it also produced one of the longest “will they, won’t they” relationships with Niles and Daphne. Of course, they will.—Adam Vitcavage

46. Peep Show
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Creators: Andrew O’Connor, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain
Stars: David Mitchell, Robert Webb, Matt King, Paterson Joseph, Neil Fitzmaurice
Original Network: Channel 4
Although Peep Show has a similar sense of humor to other British sitcoms that came in the wake of The Office, it uses the same sort of awkward comedy for a very different purpose. The show’s title comes from the peek we’re offered into its leads’ brains, as throughout the show we’re offered running monologues of their thoughts in a way that almost no other sitcom has tried. More important than this stylistic quirk, though, is Peep Show’s preference for long arcs, continuity and running gags of the sort Arrested Development and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia would envy. The show has a deep memory and an equally deep sense of morality, so its characters are never let off the hook, even if it takes a few seasons to see how their horrible actions karmically return for their undoing. Peep Show can be difficult to binge-watch, especially early on, but its short seasons make for filler-free writing, and Mitchell and Webb are so good that they lend their characters a strange likability that’s closer to the U.S. Office than the original.—Sean Gandert

45. Peaky Blinders
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Creator: Steven Knight
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Sam Neill, Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson, Iddo Goldberg
Original Network: BBC Two
Cillian Murphy and Sam Neill star in this rock ’n‘ roll gangster drama—music from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, PJ Harvey and the White Stripes adds a modern touch to the period proceedings—set in 1919 in the West Midlands industrial city of Birmingham. Murphy is a soldier-turned-ambitious kingpin of the Shelby crime family. Neill is the equally ruthless inspector out to dismantle his organization, who enlists a lovely mole (Annabelle Wallis, also of Fleming) to aid his campaign. (Tom Hardy joins the cast in the second season.) As the steely, azure-eyed Tommy Shelby, Murphy brings his trademark quiet intensity to a multidimensional antihero, one of several thoughtful characterizations in the Shelby clan. As for the gang’s/ show’s namesake, picture razor blades sewn into the brim of its wearers’ caps and you’ll get the head-butting, eye-gouging extent of Peaky Blinders’ viciousness.—Amanda Schurr

44. House, M.D.
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Creator: David Shore
Stars: Hugh Laurie, Lisa Edelstein, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard, Jennifer Morrison, Jesse Spencer, Kal Penn, Olivia WIlde, Amber Tamblyn
Original Network: Fox
Medical procedurals come and medical procedurals go, but few leave as deep an impression as the eight-season run of House. And the only reason it did endure for that long is the peerless work of Hugh Laurie as the title character, a prickly, pill-popping antisocial genius who relished in locking horns with hospital administration and solving the seemingly unsolvable mysteries of the patients brought before him. The trial-and-error of the doctors working to heal a mystery ailment is good fun, but you really stick with the show to hear another cutting putdown, witty aside or tart comeback from the mighty House, one of TV’s greatest antiheroes.—Robert Ham

43. Scandal
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Creator:   Shonda Rhimes?
Stars: Kerry Washington, Guillermo Díaz, Columbus Short?
Original Network: ABC
When so much of a show’s plot is made up of infuriatingly dramatic cliffhangers, it can be deeply satisfying to experience a series, like Scandal, on Netflix. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, have no clue what a Gladiator in a suit is, and don’t know whether you’re Team Jake or Team Fitz, there’s no time like the present. Kerry Washington plays Olivia Pope, a lawyer and crisis management expert who represents high-profile politicians and other clientele in Washington D.C. AKA the people running this great nation, who always seem to find themselves in the midst of a scandal. Based on real-life D.C. fixer Judy Smith (the former Bush Administration aide who has represented folks like Monica Lewinsky, Kobe Bryant, and former Senator Larry Craig), Pope is a formidable character, often as much of a scandalous megalomaniac as her clientele. Sure, Rhimes (also the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice) draws on many-a-cliche for this series—endless love triangles, characters killed off at a moment’s notice, etc. But Scandal is, simultaneously, a refreshing and forward-thinking experience, with a black woman at the head of a very bizarre Scooby gang (brought to us by Weeds actor Guillermo Díaz, along with Darby Stanchfield, Katie Lowes, and Columbus Short), one of the first gay villains on television, and a stark quality that seeks to peel the mask off of American politics. Funny, sexy, downright frightening at times, and complete with an amazing ‘70s soundtrack for every episode, Scandal is the stuff Netflix binge-watching dreams made of.—Shannon M. Houston

42. The League
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Creator: Jeff Schaffer, Jackie Marcus Schaffer
Stars: Mark Duplass, Nick Kroll, Stephen Rannazzisi, Paul Scheer, Jon Lajoie, Katie Aselton
Original Network: FX
Don’t let all the fantasy football talk deter you if you’re not into sports. For all its NFL-star cameos and inside-baseball terminology, The League, at its heart, is really just a show about a group of friends who like to compete with and talk smack about each other. It’s basically Friends, if Ross and Chandler were allowed to call each other “shit-sippers” on primetime network TV. This semi-improvised show is wonderful, weird and features a bunch of people who are very funny but usually relegated to more bit roles in TV and movies (Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer, Katie Aselton, etc.). And when it comes to the show’s smack-talking bros, there’s a favorite for everyone, be it crass, sex-obsessed loose cannon Rafi or Kevin and Jenny, who despite occasionally playing the goofy-dad/smart-mom TV-cleaning-product commercial dichotomy, will remind you of all the things you liked about the good relationships you’ve been in. The shortened first season plays more like a TV miniseries and will take you less than an afternoon. It’ll be worth it.—Lindsay Eanet

41. Undeclared
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Creator:   Judd Apatow
Stars: Jay Baruchel, Carla Gallo, Charlie Hunnam, Monica Keena, Seth Rogan, Loudon Wainwright
Original Network: Fox
Judd Apatow’s follow-up to Freaks and Geeks was unfortunately similarly doomed to last just one season, but Undeclared’s 17 episodes still manage to cram in a healthy amount of heart, hilarity and strong guest-stars. The series follows Steven (Jay Baruchel) and his pals (including Seth Rogen and Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam) as they navigate their freshman year of college, and it features appearances from Loudon Wainwright III, Jason Segel, Busy Phillips, Amy Poehler, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Jenna Fischer, Adam Sandler, Fred Willard, Felicia Day and Martin Starr, to name a few. Like its predecessor, Undeclared deals with the growing pains that go along with trying to figure out who exactly you are, but it handles the issue in typical Apatow fashion, never seeming inauthentic or after-school special-y and always doing it in a way that’ll make you grin.—Bonnie Stiernberg

40. The Guild
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Creator: Felicia Day
Stars: Felicia Day, Vincent Caso, Sandeep Parikh, Amy Okuda, Robin Thorsen, Jeff Lewis
Original Network: YouTube, Xbox Live
It’s no secret that we have a bit of a crush on Felicia Day. From her starring role in Joss Whedon’s straight-to-internet supervillain musical spectacular, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, to her more than two million followers on Twitter, she’s an Internet force to be reckoned with. She’s also a writer/co-producer/actress/etc. for a well-known and industry-defying web series called The Guild. Turns out, we might also have a crush on The Guild itself. The web series follows the sordid on- and off-line lives of a band of gaming misfits as they go from being anonymous avatars to being present in each others’ lives. The ensemble that Day and other producers scrabbled together are not only incredibly funny in their own individual rights, but they work together well—from snarky Amy Okuda as Guild dissenter Tinkerballa down to Sandeep Parikh’s obsessive, sheltered and socially-deficient gnome warlock Zaboo. Every character seems almost tailored to each actor/comedian’s strengths, which maximizes the potential for hilarity.—Whitney Baker

39. Luther
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Creator: Neil Cross
Stars: Idris Elba, Warren Brown, Paul McGann
Original Network: BBC One
Idris Elba as a sad, violent, and genius detective, tracking down the weird serial killers of London? It’s a formula that should work, and does. It was recently announced that the show is done after three series of three episodes each (though apparently there will be a feature film), and that length seems perfect. Also, Alice Morgan is one of the coolest criminals in any detective show.—Shane Ryan

38. United States of Tara
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Creator:   Diablo Cody
Stars: Toni Collette, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Corbett, Brie Larson, Keir Gilchrist
Original Network: Showtime
Created by Diablo Cody with support from Steven Spielberg, this edgy little comedy centers around Tara Gregson, a mother and wife with dissociative identity disorder, causing her alternate personalities to take over whenever she’s stressed. At the beginning of the series, Tara has three alters: Alice, a housewife straight out of a 1950s sitcom; T, a flirty, out-of-control 16-year-old girl; and Buck, a manly war vet. More personalities are introduced as the show progressed before its unfortunate cancelation after three seasons.—Riley Ubben

37. Portlandia
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Creators: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein
Stars: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein
Original Network: IFC
The greatest thing about Portlandia, IFC’s ode to the modern hipster, is the cavalcade of bizarro-world characters dreamed up by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein and unleashed in an endless stream of free-associating sketches: Toni and Candace, the fervently feminist clerks of Women and Women First Bookstore. Daniel and Meg, the ecology-minded dumpster-divers preparing a meal for their friends from the leftovers of the neighborhood garbage. The Harajuku Girls—Japanese tourists snapping photos of “Coffee Land” in an otherwise nondescript cafe to the utter bafflement of the locals who hang there. Peter and Nance, the cooing lovebirds asking about the precise provenance of their local chicken dish (right down to the diet and plot of land) over a dinner date. And of course Bryce and Lisa, the essence of Etsy, putting “birds on things” in a local boutique while all hell breaks loose around them. It’s creatively-superior, but self-effacing. Crically-acclaimed, but with the tags left on. Up-and-coming, but with a wink and a nod. This is all very Portland.—Corey duBrowa

36. Black Mirror
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Creator: Charlie Brooker
Original Network: Channel 4 (UK)
There are probably times in most of our lives when we see our technological world as more of a dystopia than a utopia. The way it curbs our freedom, diminishes our privacy, and subjects us to anonymous attacks can feel like an unforgivable violation. But the worst part is, we’re complicit—we’ve accepted the intrusion, and in some cases, or even most cases, we’ve become addicted. The ubiquity of technology is a reality that we can’t fight against, and to maintain our sanity, we have to accept it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth questioning, which is exactly what Black Mirror is all about. The title is nearly perfect, as explained by creator Charlie Brooker: “The black mirror of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.” The job of this show is to reflect our society in an unflattering light, and they do it with a new cast and a new story in each episode. This is not fun watching—it’s mostly horrifying—but even if our brave new world is inescapable, the show represents a kind of protest that feels more necessary than ever.—Shane Ryan