2015 was a fantastic year for television, whether you were a fan of zombies, superheroes or good ol’ fashioned murder. It’s nearly impossible to pick a top 10 that can adequately show every single great show this year had to offer. So without further ado, let’s try and pick the top 10 best TV shows of 2015!
OK then. We picked our number one, the second season in FX’s Minnesota/Dakota-based anthology crime series. Like all television shows in 2015, it is not without its problems. An alien subplot that’s more style than substance, a deluge of homages to Coen Brothers films that borders on plagiarism and some ham-fisted attempts at continuity to season one. But despite its faults, Fargo has so much going for it. The amazing cast, with actors like Kirsten Dunst and Jeffrey Donovan putting out their best performances in years. Not to mention the peripheral cast of scene stealers like Kieran Culkin and Nick Offerman. The impeccable soundtrack, which sets the tone for the fully-realized 1979 setting of an America off the rails. The war stories, the shootouts, the stand-offs before the shootouts! And can I just talk about the amazing cast some more? Empathetic villains in Zahn McClarnon and Jean Smart, a magnetic performance by Bokeem Woodbine and the best Ronald Reagan ever in Bruce Campbell. If you haven’t taken a trip to Luverne, Minnesota yet, don’t be afraid to jump right in with Fargo’s second season and get lost in it all.
2. Steven Universe
The worst thing that can be said about Steven Universe is that it doesn’t come out fast enough. While the early months of 2015 saw a plethora of Steven-bombs (full weeks of new episodes) and regular releases, that has slowed down considerably. But when we do get new episodes? Oomph. The end of season one saw a breakneck finale of alien invasions and a standout musical number, and what we’ve seen of season two has only been better. Just to name a few: an amazing new opening title sequence (with a tear-inducing short to premiere it), sword training, even more musical numbers, giant robot fights, a possible new member of the Crystal Gem squad and a hell of a lot of used tissues. Look out for more Steven Universe starting Jan. 4, 2016.
3. Penny Dreadful
When I first started watching Showtime’s Victorian horror series, I figured I was in for some fun supernatural trash a la True Blood. Boy was I wrong. Penny Dreadful has taken the very League of Extraordinary Gentleman premise of throwing Dr. Frankenstein, the American Werewolf and Dorian Gray into a room and made television magic out of it. This is in no small part to Eva Greene’s Vanessa Ives, possibly the best original character on television. At once she exudes charm, danger and mystery, able to tear up the dance floor or a gothic witches’ den. And while the cast is great at chewing scenery, it helps that that scenery is just gorgeous. Few shows on TV come close to being as visually stunning as Penny Dreadful, and it helps that the score is so decadent it hurts.
4. Scream Queens
I’ve always had to work to enjoy Ryan Murphy’s first foray into horror television, American Horror Story. That is not the case with Scream Queens, a tale of sorority betrayal, stylish clothes and so many horror movie references you will be seeing blood-red stars. The writing is whip-smart and the cast is delightful, even when they are making the dumbest decisions in the slasher-movie survival book. Emma Roberts is deliciously spiteful, Jamie Lee Curtis shows us why she is the original “final girl,” and all your favorite childhood stars show up to get murdered horrifically. If you’re late to the game with Scream Queens, make sure to check out Natalie Maggiore’s hilarious recaps of each episode.
5. How to Get Away with Murder
Annalise goddamn Keating. Viola Davis earned that Emmy award with her turn as the sketchiest defense attorney to ever practice law. How can one show contain a character with so many lies, so much sass, so much betrayal and strength and God you guys, Annalise is at once the absolute best and the absolute worst. But you love to love her and you love to hate her, and with Annalise there is always so much to love. This is also a great show to ruin your childhood impression of Harry Potter’s Dean Thomas, as Alfred Enoch’s Wes “Puppy Dog” Gibbons tries to navigate the minefield that is Professor Keating’s defense law class. It is also worth noting that this is one of the sexiest shows on television, with a broad cast of lovable (and loath-able) characters all trying to take the stress of a murder plot off however they can. (Hint: they have a lot of sex.)
6. Jessica Jones
As with the apocalypse and zombies, super hero fatigue is slowly starting to set in as we are bombarded with television series after movie sequel. Jessica Jones may not be the first Marvel super hero to grace the small screen, but she’s certainly in a league of her own. More private eye than hero in the sky, Jessica’s powers are more subtle than jaw dropping. She can’t really fly, more like she throws herself in the air. She can’t lift a bus overhead, but she can stop a slow moving car or break a door-lock like it’s cheap plastic. But flashy powers aren’t why you follow Jessica. It’s her hard-drinking, no-nonsense attitude and dogged determination that keeps one binge watching this hero-noir. That, and the best Marvel villain ever in the form of David Tennant’s Kilgrave. Note to Doctor Who fans: think twice about watching Jessica Jones, because you will never see the Tenth Doctor the same way afterwards.
7. Jane the Virgin
The best telenovela-spoof on television, Jane the Virgin will make you cry laughing and then just make you cry, and then right back to cry-laughing. Everything about this show is hilarious, from the unseen narrator who becomes a lovable character himself, to the on-point editing that smartly shows everything from text messages to fantasy wrestling match-ups between the characters. And oh my God, the characters. Jane’s entire family is a treat, from her singer-mother to her telenovela star father who has a penchant for starting the best hashtags ever. #TeamMichael anyone? Not to upset any #TeamRaphael fans. Even the “villains” of the show are lovable in their own way, from Raphael’s train-wreck sister to his face-changing step-mother to his scheming ex-wife Petra. Wow, Raphael needs to do an inventory of all the terrible people in his life…
8. Master of None
Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix series is a masterclass in style and modern life. From awkward Uber rides to an illuminating sequence of men and women walking home at night from a bar (one set to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” the other set to the theme song from Halloween), Master of None is a tour de force in millennial storytelling. Often irreverent, occasionally heartbreaking and always hilarious, Ansari and co. have created a funhouse mirror of our contemporary world.
9. Better Call Saul
The first season of Vince Gilligan’s Saul Goodman origin story rivals the best season(s) of Breaking Bad. It’s Gilligan at his height of direction, with fantastic long takes and noir-like montages. It helps that Gilligan is once again directing some of Breaking Bad’s best actors, this time promoted from side-characters to main cast. Fan favorite Mike Ehrmantraut returns with a newfound importance that no one saw coming, and the terrifying Tuco rears his head as well. But it’s Bob Odenkirk’s turn as Saul Goodman, aka James Morgan “Jimmy” McGill, that steals the show. What was once a strictly comedy relief character becomes a tragic protagonist, fighting like hell against the forces that conspire to keep him relegated to the role of quirky side man.
The greatest love story of our time. One’s an empathetic FBI profiler who uses his mental condition to assume the mindset of the killers he hunts. The other’s a cannibalistic serial killer who hates rudeness and loves French wine. Cue the fireworks and swooning. Romance aside, the final season of Hannibal does what the show does best: it revels in itself. Its beautifully surreal imagery is amped up to 11, its nonstop parade of food (which may or may not contain human flesh) makes the viewer salivate and want to take up a French cooking class. And the brutal kills just keep coming. Hannibal, you will be missed, but after a Greatest Hits victory lap through Europe and the hunt for the Great Red Dragon — played by a terrifying Richard Armitage — I don’t think you could have ended any other way.