2015 was the sort of year TV fans dream of. There was so much television that under any other circumstances, it would have been apt to describe it as a “glut” of programming. But much of what made it to our living rooms, via the airwaves, cable, or as is more often the case, the streaming service of your choice, was so good, and so often great, it was actually a bounty of amazing entertainment. That held true even when it was all but impossible to get through it all.

This year saw new shows completely captivate audiences, while returning shows reinvented themselves to become critical darlings. It was the end for some long-running favorites, as Justified, Mad Men, and Parks and Recreation all reached their conclusions. It was also the beginning of a true-crime renaissance as HBO and Netflix picked up where Serial left off and rendered viewers flabbergasted with The Jinx and Making a Murderer, two docuseries’ that will no doubt cause real-life crime tales to become the genre-du-jour in the years to come.

2015 was also the year that Netflix proved superhero shows could compete with their blockbuster counterparts by going grim and gritty, providing viewers with Daredevil and Jessica Jones – the former being a top pick for many Screen Rant editors. But that wasn’t all, as the streaming giant also premiered Aziz Ansari’s terrific comedy Master of None, which proved to be as deft at discussing matters of race and sexism as it was just plain funny.

This was also the year creators upped their game, proving shows really can improve in their second seasons. Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta had a banner year with The Leftovers season 2, while Fargo creator Noah Hawley expanded the scope of the series and brought forth a thrilling crime saga set in the late ’70s. Jill Soloway delivered a tremendous second season of Transparent that saw the show aspire to new creative heights, and Stephen Falk’s You’re The Worst turned in a wildly funny, emotional season 2.

But perhaps nothing caught viewers’ attention quite like Sam Esmail’s Mr. Robot, which escaped the confines of its goofy title and made good on its astonishingly well-made series premiere. The show made a star out of Rami Malek with his portrayal of the unbalanced yet principled Elliot Alderson, while proving that TV shows can aspire to visual heights that match the ambition of their narrative.

These shows and more were what Screen Rant couldn’t get enough of in the past 12 months. So, without further ado, here are Screen Rant’s Top 5 Favorite TV Shows of 2015:

Kofi Outlaw

Daredevil hallway fight scene Screen Rants Top 5 Favorite TV Shows of 2015

  1. Daredevil (Netflix)
  2. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FXX)
  3. South Park (Comedy Central)
  4. Ray Donovan (Showtime)
  5. The Walking Dead (AMC)

Look, Netflix came out of the box (literally) with some big hits in 2015, but for legions of superhero fans, Daredevil was THE standout favorite (with Jessica Jones a close second). The show was a game-changer for Marvel, Netflix, fans, and the industry in general. Hence why it stands on the top of my list.

The rest of my picks come from shows that I felt had standout seasons, despite many of them having been on air for quite some time. The Gang at Sunny remain the uncrowned kings (and queen) of comedy – but South Park managed to somehow sum up everything going wrong in our culture right now, via one brilliant serialized season. Ray Donovan remains the best ensemble drama currently on TV, and The Walking Dead topped itself with a season that finally nailed the balance between movement and depth (and has only gotten better at it in this latest season).

Ben Kendrick

Rami Malek in Mr. Robot Season 1 Episode 11 Screen Rants Top 5 Favorite TV Shows of 2015

  1. Mr. Robot (USA)
  2. Making a Murderer (Netflix)
  3. Doctor Who (BBC America)
  4. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
  5. Daredevil (Netflix)

Honorable Mention: Jessica Jones (Netflix)

Alongside my favorite show, Doctor Who, which delivered one of its best seasons of the modern series, 2015 was filled with a wide variety of new TV offerings – many of which were Netflix exclusives. Daredevil (and Jessica Jones) set a new standard for what viewers should expect from “grounded” superhero shows – with layered hero characters, fun action, rich drama, and nuanced evildoers (which have proven to be a challenge for the big screen). Conversely, Netflix also delivered the captivating and addictive Serial-esque docuseries Making a Murderer that, in spite of my aversion to binge-watching, I finished in less than 24 hours.

On the other side of the spectrum, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was an immensely entertaining diversion and a welcome chance to see Ellie Kemper in a starring role (albeit flanked by scene-stealer Tituss Burgess). Still, it is USA’s Mr. Robot that takes the top spot on my list – thanks to great performances, especially from Rami Malek in the lead role, biting social commentary from writer/creator Sam Esmail, as well as an overall audacious grit – that made USA a network worth watching again.

Rob Keyes

South Park season 19 episode 4 Youre Not Yelping Screen Rants Top 5 Favorite TV Shows of 2015

  1. South Park (Comedy Central)
  2. Daredevil (Netflix)
  3. The Americans (FX)
  4. Bloodline (Netflix)
  5. Better Call Saul (AMC)

South Park might have had its best season ever while Netflix, FX and AMC continue to deliver on premium programming. While these shows are all my best of 2015, I did spend the most time watching every episode of Modern Family during eating dinner for months. A special shout out to other awesome comic book TV shows in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Flash, and Jessica Jones.

Sandy Schaefer

Aziz Ansari in Master of None Season 1 Screen Rants Top 5 Favorite TV Shows of 2015

  1. Master of None (Netflix)
  2. Jessica Jones/Daredevil (Netflix)
  3. Looking (HBO)
  4. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
  5. Star Wars Rebels (Disney XD)

Honorable Mention: iZombie (The CW), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC), Supergirl (CBS)

2015 was an especially good year for Netflix in the original programming department. Marvel’s Daredevil delivered an engaging narrative that blends rich superhero drama with crime and martial arts genre tropes, only for Marvel’s Jessica Jones to raise the bar even higher a matter of months later – exploring challenging adult subject matter through the lens of an intense psychological cat and mouse game between super-powered individuals. However, my favorite Netflix original series (and perhaps TV series in general) this year was Master of None: a show that starts off channeling the autobiographical storytelling habits of Woody Allen and Louis C.K., only to quickly evolve into a more unique, as well as funny and profound, comedic meditation on racism/sexism, generational differences, relationships, and everything in between.

HBO’s Looking season 2 may be the show’s last full season, but the series’ authentic and extremely relatable exploration of love and relationships through the experiences of three gay men living in San Francisco made it one of the more ground-breaking pieces of storytelling on the small screen in 2015. Meanwhile, Parks and Recreation‘s final season ended the quirky workplace comedy series on an appropriately funny and heartfelt note after several seasons, even though it aired in half the time. And finally, Star Wars Rebels scratches that itch for more whiz-bang adventures set in a galaxy far, far away, at the same time that it examines elements of the Star Wars mythos that the live-action films simply don’t have the time for.

Andrew Dyce

The Red Road Sundance Channel Screen Rants Top 5 Favorite TV Shows of 2015

  1. The Red Road (Sundance Channel)
  2. The Flash (The CW)
  3. Daredevil (Netflix)
  4. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
  5. Bloodline (Netflix)

Honorable Mentions: Jessica Jones (Netflix), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW), iZombie (The CW)

It’s always nice when a TV show can surprise, even more so when it does it in its second season. While The Flash has yet to reach the tear-jerking heights of its debut season, the Sundance Channel’s The Red Road delivered a truly stunning turn. It’s one thing to plant a seed or two for future storylines, but the second season finale of the Jason Momoa/Martin Donovan-led drama cashed in several forgotten subplots that seem poised to become what the show is actually about. The Red Road has scratched the same itch as The Sopranos years earlier, but failed to find the same fan following — meaning the show’s cancellation seems imminent. In my opinion (and that of the fans who have yet to stumble upon the series), Sundance and creator Aaron Guzikowski got a truly raw deal.

It no longer needs to be said that some of the best television is now available on demand, but besides introducing a take on Daredevil that was as polished as a feature film could hope for (barring some dying momentum near the end), Netflix and Marvel also teamed up to deliver another fresh series in Jessica Jones. Although it started stronger than it finished, Marvel’s first venture into a female-led property proved a worthwhile watch. Even so, it was the Netflix Original Bloodline that put some other original series to shame. Stellar cast performances across the board, and a clever structure and relentless tension made this Florida Keys family drama my favorite Netflix series to date. Elsewhere, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend confirmed that there are others in the world as self-conscious and hopelessly strange as I am.

Hannah Shaw-Williams

David Tennant Krysten Ritter Jessica Jones Screen Rants Top 5 Favorite TV Shows of 2015

  1. Jessica Jones (Netflix)
  2. Daredevil (Netflix)
  3. iZombie (The CW)
  4. Mr. Robot (USA)
  5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

Honorable Mentions: The Flash (The CW), Arrow (The CW), Supergirl (CBS), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)

In 2015 it seemed like the best new TV was on demand, as Daredevil and Jessica Jones kicked off Marvel’s mature-rated corner of Hell’s Kitchen with gripping plots and great heroes and villains to play off one another. While Daredevil was definitely the more polished and even of the two shows, Jessica Jones edged it out for my personal top spot purely in terms of how much food for thought it offered.

There were also some seriously pleasant surprises this year – shows that seemingly came out of nowhere and had me instantly hooked. iZombie is a witty and charming procedural-with-a-twist that, while it’s had its ups and downs, has been well worth watching for the mix of banter and murder. Meanwhile, Mr. Robot managed to bring a relatively realistic version of hacking to a medium that has been notoriously bad at portraying anything involving technology. Oh, and the unreliable narrator stuff is fun as well.

And finally, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt earns its place purely by being hilarious, and by introducing the parting farewell “Troll the respawn, Jeremy” to the world.

Kevin Yeoman

Justin Theroux as Kevin Garvey in The Leftovers Season 2 Episode 8 Screen Rants Top 5 Favorite TV Shows of 2015

  1. The Leftovers (HBO)
  2. Transparent (Amazon)
  3. The Americans (FX)
  4. Mad Men (AMC)
  5. Fargo (FX)

Honorable Mentions: Mr. Robot (USA), Justified (FX), BoJack Horseman (Netflix), UnReal (Lifetime)

It is difficult to think of another series that went from pretty darn good to almost perfect in between seasons. The Leftovers was overhauled between season 1 and 2, not only moving its characters from the grey snow-lined streets of Mapleton, New York to the fecund storytelling ground of Jarden, Texas, it also moved its characters into a place of action, where they could dictate the story via their specific wants. Justin Theroux delivered a tremendous performance in every episode he was in, turning the sheer gleeful madness of International Assassin into one of the year’s single best episodes.

What else can be said about Jill Soloway’s phenomenal Transparent? The show climbed to new heights in season 2, as it sifted through the characters’ attempts to excavate their identities from the rubble of their personal lives. The show was a visual treat from the start of Kina Hora to the very end, making the messy, argumentative world of the Pfeffermans look simply gorgeous.

The Americans continues to be the most intimate show on television, using its Cold War setting to underscore the brinksmanship of not only familial relationships, but also the ongoing struggle of conscience in its deep cover spies. Meanwhile, Mad Men ended its run as one of TV’s greatest series ever with seven unpredictable, clever, and emotionally fulfilling episodes. Throughout the years, Matthew Weiner’s show continued to challenge itself and its viewers, always pushing forward and growing as each hour ticked by. The show was beautiful and daring; if The Wire is more a novel than TV show, then Mad Men is the world’s greatest collection of short stories and poetry.

Not much more needs to be said about Fargo; it was simply tremendous in season 2. Noah Hawley and his terrific ensemble cast took what was inspired by the Coen Brothers and turned it into a sprawling crime saga that engaged the audience at every turn.

Alan Randolph Jones

Clive Owen as John Thackery The Knick Seaso 2 Episode 1 Screen Rants Top 5 Favorite TV Shows of 2015

  1. The Knick (Cinemax)
  2. Nathan For You (Comedy Central)
  3. Better Call Saul (AMC)
  4. Broad City (Comedy Central)
  5. Making a Murderer/The Jinx (Netflix/HBO)

As I’ve argued on this site before, The Knick is an incredible demonstration of Steven Soderbergh’s virtuosity, and sees him to turn an otherwise run-of-the-mill prestige drama into a fierce demythologization of New York City in the early 20th Century. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Nathan Fielder is a comedic genius and in this third season of Nathan For You he’s transformed his mock-reality TV show into something much more strange and beautiful, like a layered work of conceptual art that also happens to be very, very funny.

Better Call Saul started softly, but quickly realized the character of Saul Goodman (or Jimmy McGill, as he’s known in this spinoff/prequel) as something much tragic than the pathetic criminal lawyer we know from Breaking Bad. Broad City is hilarious, and the makers of Making a Murderer and The Jinx deserve credit for turning serialized crime documentaries into cultural talking points.

As always, Screen Rant would like to thank its readers for their support throughout the year. We look forward to bringing you the best of TV in 2016!

Let us know in the comments below what your favorite TV shows of 2015 were.

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