Many were greenlit, most were cancelled. There were a few standout gems and returning shows this year that managed to keep us coming back for every week or at least earned a coveted season pass on the DVR. We hosted viewing parties, bawled our eyes out whilst live-tweeting, and gave the obligatory fist pump that awesome and insane twist left us gasping with our collective excitement.
While the most recent fall TV season was rife with stinkers and non-starters, 2015 was actually a pretty good year for quality—or at least highly entertaining—programming. In some cases, we got equal measures of quality and entertainment. Check out my picks for this year’s top 15 offerings from network, cable, and streaming.
1. The Leftovers (HBO) Say what you will about HBO’s uber-serious and faintly supernatural first season. The second season brought a lighter tone, change of place, fresh storytelling, and interesting, layered characters at every turn. The twists were many and mysteries deepened even after other questions were answered. Plus there was a lot of the yummy Justin Theroux and his derriere (Go, Jen!). Easily one of the best shows this year.
2. Fargo (FX) This time Noah Hawley’s genius takes us on a timey-wimey deep dive into the 70s as Molly’s dad, Lou Solverson works to put away the bad guys and finally reveal what exactly went down in Sioux Falls. There’s a lot of weirdness. Great characters and amazing writing. Still not sure? Nick Offerman plays a character named Karl Weathers and gives an awesome performance. Plus, Cristin Milloti comes back to grace our tv screens as another not quite infamous Mother. If you don’t get a kick out of Peggy and Ed Blumquist (Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons), then you’ll definitely stick around for Bokeem Woodbine’s speechifying ways as he plays the excellent Mike Milligan.
3. Mr. Robot (USA Network) Finally, a television hit for my childhood crush, Christian Slater. Great to see him back and in such a great story. So many crazy twists and turns, you’re not sure what’s real from one moment to the next. Outstanding acting from a very talented cast. May they win all of the awards they’re up for this year.
4. Justified (FX) Oh, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), my television screen misses you already. Come back soon and bring back that great supporting cast along with you. The show ended while still on top of it’s narrative game. Here’s hoping they really do return with a television movie every now and again.
5. Daredevil/Jessica Jones (Netflix) The first two installments in Netflix’s Marvel Defenders series set the stage for some fantastic things to come. Movie quality effects and amazing fight scenes. I can’t wait to binge watch them both all over again. Hurry up and get here soon Luke Cage and Daredevil season 2. I’m so down for this Punisher series or movie if they do make it happen with Jon Berenthal (The Walking Dead). Is it totally wrong that I want more Kilgrave? Yes, he was a very, very bad man, but David Tennant…wow! I need more!
6. The Man in the High Castle (Amazon) Suppose the other guys won WWII and the US became occupied territory split between the Germans and the Japanese victors. That’s the premise of Amazon’s latest series, and boy is the ride an intriguing one filled with so many twists and turns. Thank goodness they’re coming back for a season 2.
7. Banshee (Cinemax) Don’t sleep on Cinemax’s great show about the world’s shadiest sheriff Spoiler alert, he’s not really a cop. He’s an ex-con only pretending he’s a cop and the town of Banshee need him and his “merry” band. If you haven’t seen this gem yet, do yourself a favor and binge it and catch up before the show returns for it’s final season next month. Great story and so much action. Excellent fight scenes. Do it!
8. The 100 (The CW) Clarke and her crew tangled with some new enemies in the second season of The CW post-apocalyptic drama. Something about that finale felt like shades of Battlestar Galactica. This show continually reinvents itself and remains interesting. I’m looking forward to its return.
9. Outlander (Startz) She fell through time and lost the man she loved only to find something more profound. Adventure and romance at it’s best, plus men in kilts. Jamie and Claire. Claire and Jamie. Oh, the brogue in his voice when he calls her Sassenach. An interesting tale of a “modern” woman and her highlander. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and blush…ALOT. There’s one episode that will leave you bawling more than an entire season of Parenthood, but it’s worth it. Can you say, “stand out acting”? Because that is what this is. Bring on season 2!
10. The Flash/Arrow (The CW) Marvel may be ruling the silver screen and our streaming airways, but DC is making things happen on the small screen. The Flash was last year’s standout and continues to be just as great with interesting battles and villains. Harrison Wells is bae and Joe West is all heart. This season’s Arrow even seems to have bounced back from a not so stellar last season and adopted some of The Flash’s lighter tone and humor. Does Ollie still get all broody and “my way or the highway”? Yea, but they totally call him on it and it’s all about the team effort. Plus they successfully launched Legends of Tomorrow which I personally cannot wait to see. More crossovers please. These two casts have chemistry up the waz. Now I just need more WestAllen, please. It’s all I want for Christmas *wink*.
11. Ash vs. the Evil Dead (Starz) Ash is back and he brought that skeevy-looking book and his boomstick. Decades later and same old Ash. Only this time he brought Lucy Lawless and a few other friends to help him kick evil’s ass. I just need it to be about 30 minutes longer each week. Make it happen, Starz.
12. Transparent (Amazon) You will seriously laugh the entire way through. Had to continually rewind season two’s premiere because there were actual tears of “oh my god” this isn’t happening “oh, but yes it is.” Another solid run for Amazon’s critically acclaimed series. Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light are just the best.
13. Jane the Virgin (The CW) Crazy, insane premise that makes total sense. Smart, funny lady tore between two imperfect men that love her, because it’s The CW and there must be a love triangle. Apparently, I’m in the minority (Team Rafe) but that might be because I saw the far more campy original and loved that. This show stands on its own and is perfect. Great stories. It has heart. So many twists. The show itself and method of storytelling have a personality all its own. Plus Rogelio. Does your show have a Rogelio? It should. All shows should.
14. iZombie (The CW) Zombies…yes, zombies again—but they make it cool. It’s a different take on the whole brains and living dead thing. Liv Moore (giggle) and Major Lilywhite (dying laughing) are two of the main characters and yes, those are their real names. Stop laughing now. You done? OK, good. You started again, stop it. The show is great because Rose McIver (who plays Liv) is a boss. She solves crimes by munching on victims gray matter and she gets all gourmet about her meals, too. She doesn’t just get their memories, she temporarily gets their personalities, so you get about 50 million shades of Liv…depending on who she ate that day. Haven’t seen it? What are you waiting for? Go watch it and get to know Liv and the great supporting cast.
15. Agents of Shield (ABC) Even last year, I was not committed to this show at all. What about Fitzsimmons, my science babies? Yes, I loved them but it was strictly DVR duty on the weekends. Then, my girl Jemma Simmons got sucked across the galaxy in that rock and that was all she wrote. I’ve been watching this show religiously since it came back, rewatching multiple episodes over and over again. Fitzsimmons! Yes, mostly because of Leo/Jemma (I recently fell down the black hole that is Youtube and Tumblr thanks to those two and didn’t escape for HOURS), but everyone else has stepped up their game. Things are really tied together, and the show has been more interesting than it’s ever been. I am so looking forward to Agent Carter, but surprise surprise we have to wait and see what happens next with my favorite agents in…MARCH?!
There were more shows that I really wanted to add to list this, but then where would it have ended? Seriously, I could’ve just kept going like the Energizer Bunny. These shows made my list of honorable mentions: Sense8 (Netflix), Parenthood (NBC), Empire (FOX), Master of None (Netflix), The Vampire Diaries (The CW), Narcos (Netflix), Vikings (History), and Z Nation (Syfy).
Well, that was my list. Everything from the high quality to my favorite popcorn shows, more entertaining than quality. What shows made your list for 2015? Hit the comments below and here’s to a stellar New Year brimming with TV goodness.