Our picks for the best TV shows of 2015
This list was supposed to be fun. It seemed a simple enough matter to pick the 10 best TV shows of 2015. When I started working on it, I even had a few picks in mind before I spoke with others involved with DBP. Seemed simple enough to pick 10.
It was kind of like when I first got Fallout 4 and thought I would just play for a few hours…
We are, without question, in something of a golden age of television. It would almost be easier to do a ten best TV shows of each month than to do one for the entire year. Every genre has modern classics on the air. Every successful network has a quality flagship show – or it desperately wants one.
And where do you draw the line? What constitutes a “good” show versus a really fun one? The Flash is a great show, and one many of us look forward to each week – same for Supergirl, Arrow, Agents of SHIELD, and several others. Granted, we are a bit biased when it comes to shows based on comics, so we tried to look a little deeper and choose shows that were impressive for multiple reasons. We also tried to get a somewhat broad selection covering multiple genres, while still sticking to the tone of DBP.
We mostly succeeded, although a few sacrifices had to be made.
This list could easily be 20 deep. It was tough leaving off shows like Empire, The Great British Bake Off, and Veep. They all deserve a spot on many best of 2015 lists, but we had to go with our favorites. More than that, we had to go with our favorites and stick with it, because I am already regretting not adding Better Call Saul, The Knick, and a few others.
Leaving off Masters of None was especially painful.
So with that in mind, here are our picks for the ten best TV shows of 2015. The key word there is “our picks.”
The list is also in no particular order. If it was, we’d never get this posted.
The 10 best TV shows of 2015 (according to us)!
Daredevil is a groundbreaking show for several reasons. Beyond just setting the tone for Netflix and Marvel’s collaborations, Daredevil proved once again that if you treat a genre property with respect, you can transcend even its own origins.
Daredevil is a show based on a comic, but it’s much more than that. You don’t need to have read a single issue of it, or any comic to appreciate the well scripted, tightly acted show. It’s gritty and realistic, with only a hint of the fantastic.
It’s a crime drama with an action slant. Matt Murdock’s super powers are almost secondary. They help to keep the character relevant, but they are just part of the overall story involving corruption, murder, and organized crime.
Daredevil is a smart and edgy show that is helping to lay the groundwork for shows like Jessica Jones (which is also on this list), and hopefully many more to come.
Yeah, ok, you can legitimately call us homers when it comes to Doctor Who. There were shows this year that did things audiences have never seen before. Doctor Who doesn’t fall into that category, but it is easily one of our favorite shows of all-time, and it had one of its best seasons in years.
In his second season, Peter Capladi is owning the role of the Doctor. He breathes a gravitas into the character that has been missing for a long time, and it feels like he is just getting started. Now that he is starting as a completely blank slate in season ten thanks to the departure of Jenna Coleman’s Clara McGuffin, the possibilities of where it goes, and where he goes are fantastic.
Of course, the next season may be a ways off, which makes it all the better for the show that the recently concluded ninth season is strong enough to rewatch several times.
Of all the shows on this list, Fargo is arguably the most deserving of being bumped for something else. It doesn’t really fit with the tone of the other shows or the site in general. It’s not even on a streaming platform – but it is soooo good.
For the record, it was between this and Master of None, which absolutely deserves a spot. Fargo is just more groundbreaking though.
Fargo is a crime series with a touch of humor, wrapped up in the mold of an anthology. Each of the two seasons has its own story, but they are both similarly excellent. The downside to that – and it is a completely justifiable downside – is that the show takes awhile to make. The third season is confirmed, but it won’t air until Spring 2017 or so.
Sharp dialogue, award winning performances, and an engrossing story all earn Fargo a spot on this list. Even if it is a little out of place.
Game of Thrones
It’s a testament to how good TV was this year that Game of Thrones almost didn’t make this list.
The fifth season wasn’t quite as powerful as a few of the previous seasons (relatively speaking), but it did something that the others didn’t: it stood on its own away from the books, and proved that the HBO series is more than just a good adaption.
The fourth and fifth books of the source material, A Song of Ice and Fire, are not good. There’s no easy way to say that, they just aren’t. They were badly paced, lacked any real development, and weirdly split the characters to provide half of the story in each book. Even then, nothing major really happened. It was a real concern for the show, but it not only made the story engrossing, it introduced new material.
The fifth season of Game of Thrones proved that the show is strong enough to proceed without the safety net of the original books. That bodes very well for the future, and the sixth season – which should completely leave the books behind – looks strong.
Halt and Catch Fire
It’s a testament to the strength of AMC’s programming that a show this good is still somewhat unknown to TV watchers. Now that the heavy hitters like Breaking Bad and Mad Men have concluded though, Halt and Catch Fire has a shot at getting a bit more of the spotlight.
The first season of AMC’s period tech drama was impressive, but the second season was even better. It detailed the rise of a computer gaming company, which was at the forefront of the online revolution. It harkens back to the days of id Software shipping out floppy discs in plastic sandwich bags and Sierra creating adventure games that still have a place in the hearts of those that played them. And it does it well.
It also helps that the show features a cast that all deserve to win awards, including a few people that if you don’t know them already, you will soon enough. Mackenzie Davis had a notable supporting role in The Martian, Scoot McNairy has a prominent (and mysterious) role in Batman v Superman, and Lee Pace is Lee Pace. If you don’t already know them, you soon will, and those are just the three most prominent players.
It’s a romanticized look at the first tech boom of the 80s, told from the fringes, starring outcasts and visionaries. Watch it.
Jessica Jones is a shock to the system of Marvel fans, and proof that Netflix’s success with Daredevil wasn’t just a fluke. Some may dismiss the show because of its origins in the superhero universe, but it is so much more – and so much deeper.
It’s a disservice to Jessica Jones to look at it as just a superhero show. Sure, it has people with powers, but they are treated as a given rather than a focal point. The villain of the show, Kilgrave, uses his abilities to control people, but Jessica Jones goes past what he can do, and focuses on the morality and consequences of using those powers – including the horror.
How many other shows out there feature a main character that is suffering from PTSD, trying to stop a man that rapes and murders his way through life, all the while thinking that he himself is a victim? That makes him the scariest Marvel villain to date – by a wide margin – and it makes Jessica Jones one of the most original shows on TV.
Jessica Jones is a deeply nuanced show that should appeal to all audiences, not just fans of superheroes. It helps that it is well made from a technical point of view, and the casting exceeds all expectations.
The Man in the High Castle
Amazon is doing its best to convince everyone that it is a legitimate television provider after just a few years in operation. So far, it’s doing a great job.
In just a few short years, Amazon Prime has gone from an imitation of Netflix to a studio in its own right, building on the model Netflix established, and offering its own additions to it. It has had a lot of success with shows like Transparent and Bosch, and the future – with shows like the new auto program from the former Top Gear hosts and Galaxy Quest – is looking bright.
It may have a new flagship fiction show though, in an alt-history story featuring an occupied America.
The Man in the High Castle is based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, which is set in a world where the Axis won the Second World War. Twenty years later, the world is a very different place. The Nazis and the Japanese Empire are in a state of Cold War, and in the middle of it, a series of bizarre, and possibly supernatural films appear.
The show brings that to life with sharp visuals and clever world building. The plot is also engaging, the cast is top notch, and like a few others on the list, there is nothing else quite like it.
Despite years of trying, the USA Network isn’t really known for quality programming – good programming, sure, but not quality programming on the level of HBO, FX, AMC, etc., etc. That just changed.
Mr. Robot is a bold show. It’s tough to go into too many specifics without spoiling some of the biggest twists, but you can rest assured there isn’t anything else on TV quite like it.
On the surface it’s the story of a hacker, a hacker with severe mental health issues. For the tech angle alone it deserves a spot on this list. Generally when you see a show on TV dealing with tech, you end up with some very dumb technobabble involving root commands and evil malware – words just tech-related enough to sound legitimate, as long as you don’t really know how it works. Mr. Robot, however, is different.
You don’t need to know computer language to understand or follow it, but if you do you’ll appreciate the added touches of authenticity. Sure, there are some logical leaps, but it is mostly grounded. On top of that, Mr. Robot has a distinctive look and sound to it that sets it apart. It’s easily one of the best shows of the year, and that’s not just coming from a site that focuses on technology.
Rick and Morty
We didn’t set out to specifically add at least one animated show on this list, but having Rick and Morty represent the adult comedy animated genre just feels right.
There were several contenders, including the sixth season of Archer, Bojack Horseman, and a few others, but the second season of Rick and Morty just offered something few other shows have matched. It’s a dark comedy, but it handles it in such a lighthearted way that the contrast makes it even funnier.
Rick and Morty is not for everyone, and if you stop to think about the actual plots in each episode, you may break down and cry. It walks that line so expertly though that we can’t wait for the next season.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Of all the shows on this list, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt defies the most expectations.
On paper, the plot is dark. You have a quartet of women – girls really – essentially kidnapped and forced to live in an underground bunker for years as a conniving “holy man” tells them the world has been destroyed. When they escape, rather than collapse after a psychological break that sends them into a permanent fetal position, the lead woman decides to go to New York and live her life in the most positive and optimistic way possible.
Despite the slightly horrifying setup, the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is arguably the most optimistic and happy show on this list. It stands in stark contrast to the modern concept that everything needs to be dark and gritty to be smart, and it just keeps getting better the more you watch it.
It’s one of the best comedies of the year without question, and one of the best shows regardless of genre. Plus, it gives Netflix plenty of reasons to keep developing bizarre comedies that most networks wouldn’t know what to do with. It’s likely one of the main reasons Master of None got made, and we’re all better off for it.