Every year, I keep a running list of shows that amuse me, amaze me, impress me or depress me (in a good way). At the end of the year, I whittle that list down to 10, and I have my best-TV-of-the-year list. But it’s tough. I have to leave out a lot of really good stuff. And why should arguing over subjective choices come only once a year?
In that spirit, I give you my very provisional list of The Best TV of 2015 (So Far). But first, a few notes:
- This list is only in alphabetical order, because I hate ranking lists and no one forced me to.
- I kept this list to 12 items, because it seemed like a good place to stop. It could have easily been a different 12. There are a few shows I came very close to including, and I’m not going to tell you what they are, because that’s the road to madness.
- One show I did rule out, for the same reason I did last year, is Orange Is the New Black. I saw six episodes in advance for review (and loved them), but I haven’t yet seen the entire season, which is already online, and didn’t want to give the impression that I was assessing episodes I haven’t watched.
- I reserve the right to put shows on my year-end list that I omitted here, because I changed my mind / considered new arguments / saw later episodes / suffered a blow to the head.
- As always, there is one show that is obviously the best thing on TV now, maybe ever, and I just left it off because I am a biased idiot who should be fired: [Your Favorite Show Here]. Please, tell us about it in the comments!
The Cold War came home on TV’s most intimate spy drama, as Soviet moles Philip and Elizabeth Jennings struggled with how to handle teen daughter—and potential KGB recruit—Paige, all while carrying out enough morally compromising missions to make any agent flip his or her wig.
Better Call Saul
What could have been a glorified Breaking Bad DVD extra evolved into its own thing, the picaresque story of James “Slippin’ Jimmy” McGill—the future Saul Goodman—trying to hustle his way into the Albuquerque law game.
Lightning struck twice for Comedy Central’s best new show of 2014, as the second season built on its confidence and surreal humor. Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson make the kind of uninhibited comedy that dances like it’s alone in its apartment naked.
Rising to number one with a bullet–multiple bullets, actually–Fox’s hip-hip family soap built a watercooler colossus out of insane story twists delivered with authentic passion. May its chaotic, infectious energy never drip-drippity-drop.
Game of Thrones
HBO’s sprawling fantasy drama plunged over the edges of its vast map this season as it surpassed the storyline of its source books and headed into the unknown. Often harrowing, always spectacular, TV’s biggest entertainment is also one of its most thoughtful shows about morality and power.
Jane the Virgin
The series began with Jane (Gina Rodriguez) pregnant, but it was born fully formed: playful, big-hearted and refreshing. Unlike some soaps, this comic telenovela never let its plot twists overwhelm its characters and their distinctive voices (not least among them the most delightful narrator in TV).
You really couldn’t make this up: an artful, insightful documentary series, investigating an accused multiple murderer, that drew a character portrait rivaling TV’s best dramas and created actual news, as Robert Durst spilled his own beans on camera and was arrested in real life in time for the finale.
Like Harlan County, Kentucky, this Elmore Leonard-inspired series had seen its ups and downs. But the final run, focusing on the long-running, intimate rivalry between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder, inspired some of this show’s best hours and finest barrel-aged dialogue.
The biggest flaw of Louis CK’s slice-of-his-life series was that there wasn’t more of it. But even a half-sized season—pulling back from last year’s formal experiments to deliver more flat-out laughs—was painfully funny and hilarious real enough to last us another year.
Arguably the dominant TV drama of its time, the series deposited its characters in 1970, a decade older and maybe even a little wiser. Its final moments—juxtaposing Don Draper’s long-earned moment of Zen with Coca Cola’s “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” jingle—showed us a man who lived a lie for years coming to his own version of The Real Thing.
This sophomore comedy built out its satire of tech culture, the egos it feeds with cash and the wired culture it enables. Exquisitely cast (T.J. Miller weaves obscenity into gold like an R-rated Rumplestiltskin), it’s a consistently hilarious picture of the coders who carry the modern world on their scrawny shoulders.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
It’s alive, dammit! TV’s greatest miracle of 2015 so far was Netflix’s rescue of this oddball Tina Fey comedy from NBC. The first season shared the frenetic, joke-dense structure of 30 Rock, but with a twist: it was a dark sitcom about survivorhood, illuminated with optimism by human glow stick Ellie Kemper.