Across all television channels and streaming services, we were treated to a record 409 scripted series in 2015. Even if you watched the pilot/premiere of each, that's more than one TV show a day... And if you decided to watch week-by-week, or binge all the episodes from a streaming show, that basically means it would be impossible to watch even a fraction of what was broadcast this year (forgetting about non-scripted shows, even).
So I didn't. Instead, I still watched a ridiculous amount of television, regularly recapping and writing about "The Walking Dead" and "Game of Thrones," with coverage of the many, many superhero/comic book shows and sundry others. That filled up my days (and nights). Which means that when it came time to sit down and write out my personal choices for the best TV of the year, there's a ton I haven't gotten around to yet. Yes, I'm a garbage person who should ashamed that I left [BLANK] show off this list. I've dealt with it, let's move on.
With that in mind, this is the best of what I didn't just watch, but watched every episode of in 2015. Oh, and no MTV shows included, because -- like with the characters before them -- we can't choose between our babies.
It took a little while to get going, but once the second season of Netflix's animated comedy came together it reminded me why it's one of the deepest, funniest, most original comedies on television. Credit the writers, who widened the focus off just BoJack (Will Arnett) to embrace former side characters Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) and Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) in particular, and you got one of the richest explorations of loneliness on TV this year. Bonus points for best use of J.D. Salinger in an animated funny animal program, maybe ever.
BBC America's insanely underrated adaptation of the novel by Susanna Clarke, which takes place in an alternate 19th century England where very small amounts of magic exist, probably wasn't done any favors by looking like a serious, "Masterpiece Theatre" type drama... Mainly because it was often ridiculously funny, particularly when it came to the twee-est twit on television this year, the selfish Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan). The mini-series amped up the magic stakes from the novel considerably, while keeping it focused on the main two characters. Those who gave it a chance were treated to something peculiar, and often wonderful.
It was definitely Jonah Ryan's (Timothy Simons) season, as the weaselly former intern got molested by Patton Oswalt -- and had to deal with the info repeatedly coming out in the most horrific ways, including a public hearing. But Selina Meyer's (Julia-Louis Dreyfuss) first -- and maybe last -- year as President of the United States was also as cringeworthy and hilarious as ever. We'll see how the show holds up after creator Armando Iannucci leaves, but regardless, this was a fitting swan song for him, the funniest season of HBO's best comedy.
Steve Wilkie for BBC AMERICA
After a buzzworthy first season, the second season of "Orphan Black" was, quite frankly, a mess. The show got away from what was good -- star Tatiana Maslany, the excellent supporting cast, Tatiana Maslany -- in favor of delving deep into mythology. Season three, though, was (mostly) back to basics. We met new clones, got some incredible Helena moments, and said goodbye to the best supporting scorpion on TV. By tightening up the storytelling, and focusing in on the characters and their journey, "Orphan Black" presented a tight, exciting, often hilariously dark package that has me anxiously anticipating season four.
The CW/Cate Cameron
While the second season of The CW's superhero drama has been solidly reliable entertainment, it has yet to match the phenomenal first season (though it's looking more likely it'll hit its stride in the back half). That end of season one, though... Without tiring out the running metaphors, the story of Barry Allen's (Grant Gustin) final battles with the villainous Reverse Flash (Tom Cavanagh) were astonishing, creative, and ultimately incredibly emotional. Other shows have picked up on what "The Flash" was putting down in season one since, but the show really threw down the gauntlet of what a superhero show can -- and should -- be. Plus, Jesse L. Martin's Joe West is a national treasure.
We've had good spin-offs, and bad, and time will tell how "Better Call Saul" falls in total, once it finishes its run. But the "Breaking Bad" prequels freshman season was jaw-droppingly good, anchored by an incredible performance from Bob Odenkirk as a younger "criminal lawyer" Saul, still going by his given name of Jimmy McGill. A huckster with a heart fighting against his worst impulses -- and often losing -- "Better Call Saul" is a morality tale that proves sometimes doing the right thing isn't always the right thing to do.
Remember when I mentioned that "Flash" gauntlet? Yeah, CBS' "Supergirl" picked up that gauntlet and then some. Anchored by Melissa Benoist as the titular character/ray of sunshine in human form, "Supergirl" offered a glimmer of hope in the dim, grimdark world of superhero adaptations. Not only that, but it also gave us some of the most complex, rewarding female friendships on any screen (TV and movies) this year, particularly between Supergirl and Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart). It's the latter that elevates the show into something incredibly special, as Cat -- and in return her mentee Kara -- completely subvert the "can women have it all?" marketing of the show in favor of how real people think and act. The effects and fight scenes are super, but it's the girl part where the show truly shines.
Where its big brother continues to dominate ratings with gore and grief in a world gone to hell (and to its credit, "Walking Dead" experimented with some of its boldest storytelling and structure this year), "Fear The Walking Dead" offers the other end of the spectrum. Rather than "do we stay human when the world falls apart," we found out what happens we start to lose our humanity. And shockingly, "Fear" did it all through action, rather than characters standing around and professing their feelings. Add in complex performances from Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, and scene-stealer Colman Domingo, and you have one of the most rewarding watching experiences of 2015, something that often skipped past zombie mayhem in favor of moody, engrossing meditations on the human experience.
"The Last Man On Earth"Jennifer Marigliano/MTV News
There are very few shows I plan on watching live, and fewer comedies that take that coveted spot. In fact, right now, the only show I need to watch as it's broadcast is "Last Man on Earth," Will Forte's uproarious comedy about, uh, the last man on earth. Part of that is how "Last Man" has worked ridiculous cliffhangers into every episode; but its more about the jokes, and Forte's reprehensible (though ultimately redeemed) Phil Miller. From Forte's extended monologue Tandy Talks, to surprising appearances and insane set-pieces usually involving a gun and some sort of priceless artifact, "Last Man" embraces sitcom tropes and then elevates them to the highest level simply by setting it at the end of civilization. Appointment television at its finest -- and most hilarious.
For a short while, I debated whether "Jessica Jones" -- Marvel's latest superhero/Netflix show -- was really the best show of the year, or if it was just the recency effect. But no, "Jessica Jones," which showrunner Melissa Rosenberg has essentially been working on for five years, is just that good. No show had such a razor focus on one idea, and explored that idea so thoroughly as "Jones." The definitive television statement on assault, Rosenberg and company used the viciousness of the villainous Kilgrave (David Tennant) to explore the price of toxic masculinity in all its many forms. No character, no plot beat is truly wasted as it builds to a final battle that is, in one word, perfection.
Krysten Ritter is iconic as the titular super-powered detective; but the rest of the cast excels, too, from Mike Colter as the heartbroken Luke Cage, to Rachael Taylor as a victim of an entirely different type of abuse, to the supporting cast who all turn in incredible performances without missing a beat.
It's rare to find a show that will deal with assault head-on, let alone responsibly, let alone also being an entertaining and enthralling piece of television at the same time. "Jessica Jones" is all of that and more, a complete package that probably will (and should) get a second season, but is a full meal on its own that transcended the TV screen to spur a national conversation. Hopefully it'll spur more shows to be as brave in tackling vital issues through a genre lens, too.