We’re in the heart of what is known as ‘Peak TV‘. There is, quite literally, too much great TV for any one person to watch. Try as I might, there were a long list of TV series I just didn’t have time to watch in 2015 (you can see this list at the end). Part of that had to do with my decision to watch ~400 movies this year, but most of it has to do with the fact that there’s just too much great TV. Between traditional broadcast TV, premium cable channels, and streaming services, you really need to double down and COMMIT to watching all the TV that’s worth your time.
Of all the TV series I watched in 2015, there were 54 that I considered for this list. I decided to go for a Top 20 list, because only doing a Top 10 wouldn’t really do things justice. Note that the headline is kind of a lie, and these aren’t really the “best” TV series, but rather my favorites. I think “best” lists are boring; instead, these are my favorites. Without further ado, here are the 20 TV series I liked most this year — and 20 I feel are truly worth your time!
Rectify is one of the best-made shows on television right now, and it’s an utter shame that more people don’t watch it. I understand why: it’s very slow and covers some pretty grim subject matter, but that’s no excuse. Rectify was renewed for a fourth season before its third season premiere, which gives you plenty of time to catch up before it airs. Do it.
19. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
Watching Robert Durst’s life story unfold over The Jinx’s six hours was like watching a car accident happen in slow motion. Everything was horrifying, but you couldn’t look away. Was the show’s final hour potentially manipulative? Maybe. Did Andrew Jarecki withhold evidence from police to create a compelling final hour? Probably. But what an hour of TV it was!
18. Playing House
Playing House is the little TV show that could. Fueled almost solely on fan fervor and creative ad placement, this show pulled a second season out of thin air. Will it get a third? I don’t know, but I sure hope it does — it’s still one of the funniest and most heart-warming shows on TV, and every character is terrific. Sisters be doin’ it for themselves.
In an era where many of the all-time best TV shows were on TV during its run, Justified never got the love it truly deserved. It was never as good as a show like Breaking Bad, but it was still great, with terrific characters (heroes and villains alike) and a wonderful sense of humor. Its final season wrapped everything up in the way the show so deserved.
16. W/ Bob and David
I feel bad having W/ Bob and David so low on my list because it’s wonderful from start to finish. The only reason it’s not higher is because there were only four episodes. The fact that they were able to get just about every major player back from the Mr. Show days is a miracle. Of all the shows to come out in 2015, this is the one I will re-watch the most.
15. Master of None
With Parks and Recreation concluding its run (more on that later), it’s not too much to ask of Master of None to carry on in its legacy, is it? The combination of co-creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang (along with the brilliance of the late Harris Wittels) make Master of None one of the best and funniest shows of the year. It’s real, heartfelt, and hilarious.
14. Better Call Saul
It was hard to come up with good reasons why anyone should mess with the perfect legacy of Breaking Bad. Here’s a good one: Better Call Saul is one of the most confident first seasons I’ve ever seen. Look no further than the 90-second waiting scene from “Alpine Shepherd Boy” (pictured above). This show will take its time and knows you’ll stick around. Better Call Saul is somehow darker and more bleak than Breaking Bad — and nearly as great.
13. Silicon Valley
Joke-for-joke, Silicon Valley is one of the funniest shows on TV. I think the reason it only lands at #12 on my list is because one of the few shows funnier than it aired directly after it (more on that later). Silicon Valley’s second season was just about as good as its first, as the guys constantly had to get out of jams they’d gotten themselves into the episode before. Plus, any time you can SWOT out whether or not to let a guy die, you have a winner.
12. Parks and Recreation
I want to rank Parks and Recreation higher, but I don’t remember much of this season. I know I loved it — as I did every season from 3 on — but few episodes or moments were as as memorable as they had been in previous seasons. The entire season was more than a well-deserved victory lap, but also a hilarious and heart-warming bunch of episodes. I cried more during Parks and Rec than during anything else this year. I just love these characters.
I don’t know that I’ll ever know how Hannibal aired for three years on NBC. This show was slower, more beautiful, and much more violent than anything else on network TV dared to approach. Even if Bryan Fuller never gets to share Silence of the Lambs vision with the masses, this 3-season run was an absolute masterpiece. While not every episode this season was on par with the finale, each was created with the care of Hannibal’s meals. Bon appétit.
10. Nathan For You
While the first two seasons of Nathan For You had plenty of amazing moments, the show’s third season was far-and-away its funniest and overall best because it allowed itself to grow into something bigger. Rather than pigeonhole himself into only helping struggling businesses, Nathan Fielder & Co. set out to to create viral campaigns and memorable moments. If you liked “Dumb Starbucks,” you’ll love “The Movement,” “Smokers Allowed,” and “The Hero.”
I have to come clean here: I love Fargo, but I don’t think it deserves the level of accolades it’s been getting. I loved just about every episode, but there were other shows I loved more. (Stay tuned for more lessons on “how lists and numbers work”!) In spite of the weird issues I have in my head, Fargo’s second season was phenomenal, filled with terrific music and even better performances. Huge shout-out to Kirsten Dunst, who totally stole the show.
8. Comedy Bang! Bang!
It’s difficult to place a show like Comedy Bang! Bang! on this list because every episode is so wildly different from each other. What’s not difficult is admiring a show that made FORTY incredibly funny episodes in a calendar year, all anchored by the best straight man in the biz: Scott Aukerman. As sad as I was for Reggie Watts to leave this year, it’s fitting: every week has a new take on late night talk shows, so why not have a new band leader, too?
7. You’re the Worst
The first season of You’re the Worst was great because it was a funny, dark depiction of a modern-day rom-com. The show’s second season reached new heights by tackling clinical depression head-on and really digging deep into these characters and their relationships. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t tear up during a handful of episodes this season; for a comedy, this show is beautiful and touching in ways that far exceeds its genre. Gretchen breaks my heart.
While the first season of Review culminated in madness, its second season ends in absolute insanity. Forrest MacNeil is, once again, determined to review life events. The first season made him divorce his wife, accidentally kill his former father-in-law, marry a stranger, and more. The second season is even crazier and culminates in a perfect finale fitting of two seasons of lunacy. Will Forrest survive? I sure hope so; I desperately want a third season.
When Veep is firing on all cylinders, no show can touch it. It’s effortlessly funny with more jokes per minute (the classic JPM scale) than any other TV show. The best part about Veep is that it continues to add to its already-star-studded cast with more pieces that fit in perfectly. It took me a few seasons to be able to appreciate Veep’s humor, but it’s become one of my absolute favorite shows on TV. Whether or not the fifth season will be as funny without showrunner Armando Iannucci remains to be seen, but I’m optimistic. This cast can’t miss.
4. Kroll Show
When Nick Kroll announced that the third season of Kroll Show would be its last, I got sad. Kroll Show had become one of my all-time favorite shows, and a future without it looked bleak. While Kroll Show may be gone for good, it couldn’t have gone out any better. Each of the show’s final 10 episodes was terrific, featuring characters we’ve come to know and love with brand new ones that felt right at home in the Krollverse. Kroll Show is so good that it’s impossible for me to pick a favorite character; I just love them all so much.
3. The Americans
Aside from the #1 show on this list, I don’t think there’s a “better” show on TV now than The Americans. There isn’t a single misstep in any aspect of this show, from the acting to the direction to the writing to the rest of the production. The walls are beginning to close in on our favorite Russian spies, which means an abundance of incredibly gripping and tense TV moments to enjoy. As much as I love the “Hardhome” episode of Game of Thrones, no hour of TV was better this year than “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?“. The Americans is perfect television, and you should be watching it. Full stop. Watch it now.
I came into this year looking forward to Jupiter Ascending more than any other movie. That didn’t exactly work out. Instead, Sense8 was the Wachowskis project I wound up loving with every fiber of my being. The craziest thing about this show is that — on multiple occasions — it did things that I’d never seen any other TV show or movie do. A lot of this has to do with the conceit — 8 people around the world can sense one another and transport into their bodies — but the way these scenes were shot left me breathless. I couldn’t be more thankful for the minor miracle that this show was renewed for a second season. Sense8 is a beautiful show and exactly the type of story I knew the Wachowskis could tell.
1. The Leftovers
I won’t argue with you if you say that Fargo was your favorite TV series of the year. The same goes for Mad Men or The Americans. They’re all good choices. But as far as I’m concerned, there’s only one “correct” choice: The Leftovers. From start to finish, The Leftovers’ second season wasn’t playing in the same ballpark, league, or sport as the rest of TV in 2015. I loved the show’s first season, and was excited for a change of pace when the show packed up and moved to Miracle, TX. I didn’t expect that its second season would be one of the best seasons of television I’d ever seen (perhaps topped only by the final season of Breaking Bad), with one of the best episodes (“International Assassin“) of 2015. Creator Damon Lindelof and HBO just announced the show was renewed for its third and final season; if you appreciate good TV, you owe it to yourself to watch The Leftovers.
As much TV as I watched in 2015, there were shows I just couldn’t get to. Here’s a list of what I’m looking forward to catching up on in 2016 (aka why these shows didn’t make this list): Ash vs Evil Dead, Black-ish, Blindspot, Casual, Catastrophe, Con Man, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Difficult People, F is for Family, Fresh Off the Boat, Gotham, Halt and Catch Fire, Jessica Jones, Key and Peele, Mad Men, Making a Murderer Mr. Robot, Narcos, Neon Joe Werewolf Hunter, Red Oaks, Rick and Morty, Show Me a Hero, Star Wars: Rebels, The Carmichael Show, The Grinder, The Hotwives of Las Vegas, The Knick, The Man in the High Castle, The Returned, Transparent, UnREAL.
(There are probably some I’m forgetting. Apologies.)
Here’s a list of my favorite TV episodes of the year, in alphabetical order:
Game of Thrones: “Hardhome”
Hannibal: “The Wrath of the Lamb”
Kroll Show: “This Has Been Such an Amazing Experience”
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “4,722 Hours”
Nathan For You: “Smokers Allowed”
Parks and Recreation: “One Last Ride”
Review: “Conspiracy Theory”
Sense8: “I Can’t Leave Her”
Silicon Valley: “Homicide”
The Americans: “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?”
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst: “What the Hell Did I Do?”
The Last Man on Earth: “Alive in Tucson”
The Leftovers: “International Assassin”
The Walking Dead: “Here’s Not Here”
True Detective: “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”
Wayward Pines: “The Truth”
You’re the Worst: “LCD Soundsystem”