There is Too much TV in the world. This year alone there were more than 400 scripted series on the air, according to Variety, and who knows how many more reality and documentary shows. Also, I am just one person. Sure, I would love to do nothing but watch television, but then I would have no free time and I probably still wouldn’t be able to watch everything. There are plenty of shows that are possibly among the best of the year that I just haven’t seen (looking at you Game of Thrones and Fargo) and just as many that I love because they’re so trashy and ridiculous they aren’t making the cut (Married at First Sight, any iteration of the Real Housewives franchise, every competitive cooking show). But sitting down and reflecting on what’s been on the air (or Internet) from January 1, 2015, until now, these are the shows that stood out.
BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
Who would have thought that an animated show about a horse-man hybrid would be the most emotional series of the year? BoJack‘s second season follows the title character’s quest to be a better man, er, horse, er, horseman. There are plenty of ridiculous premises and even more jokes, but BoJack sets itself apart with a moving subtext about what it means to be good.
Broadchurch (BBC America)
Fox tried to bring this drama stateside, but even with David Tennant reprising his role as the lead detective investigating the murder of a small child, it just didn’t catch on. It did, however, attract some curiosity about the British source material, which aired its second season this year. The first season ends (without giving too much away) with the capture of the murderer of an 11-year-old; the second season follows the trial, which seems like it’ll be a drag but is more compelling than anything from season one, thanks to some extraordinary performances and fascinating character development.
Catastrophe (Amazon Prime)
Call me an Anglophile, but British people really get TV right. This series starring Sharon Horgan and American comic Rob Delaney first aired on the UK’s Channel 4 in January and made its way to the U.S. via Amazon Prime in June. The six-episode season follows a couple who spend a passionate week together and end up with a baby on the way. The show is hilarious and heartwarming because the two leads don’t take life too seriously and also seem to genuinely like each other. This isn’t a will-they-or-won’t-they rom-com, and it’s all the better for it.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (the CW)
Maybe I’m revealing too much about how I live my life, but Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom, America’s new sweetheart) was the television character I related most to this year. She’s charming, delusional, and equal parts insecure and overconfident; plus, she deals with every important moment in her life by singing (don’t we all?). I’m still not entirely sure how a musical comedy about a crazy girl who’s stalking her ex-boyfriend made it on to network television, but I’m not going to question it. I’m just going to let the songs “West Covina,” “Settle for Me,” and “I Give Good Parent” play on a loop in my head.
The runaway hit of the year has given us the best melodrama on network television since Shonda Rhimes’s heyday. Two Oscar-nominated actors (Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson) give the performances of their lives every week alongside up-and-coming musicians. This show has it all: drama, fashion, music, humor, and, even though they’re complicated, good old-fashioned family values.
Jessica Jones (Netflix)
This late-in-the-year series could be 2015’s best. It was encouraging to see Marvel, a brand not typically known for feminist entertainment, use an action-noir show to address issues of rape and abusive relationships and give the upper hand to a badass female character. Krysten Ritter (whom I fell in love with on Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23) slays as the title character, and Kilgrave (David Tennant, yes, on my list twice) will surely go down as one of the most chilling villains in television history.
The Jinx (HBO)
Speaking of chilling villains, here’s Robert Durst—except he’s a real person. It’s rare to have the kind of access to a psychopath that Andrew Jarecki had for his true-crime documentary series. Proving that truth is stranger than fiction, Jarecki delves into a real-life murder mystery that is hard to turn away from, full of bizarre details and invasive, though compelling and revealing, moments with beady-eyed Durst and his burps heard round the world.
The Last Man on Earth (Fox)
The pilot episode of The Last Man on Earth, sticking to its title, is carried entirely by one man: Will Forte. Seeing him deal with a postapocalyptic earth with just a bevy of sports balls with Sharpie-drawn faces on them is both humorous and heartbreaking. The Last Man on Earth progressively introduces more characters and plot lines and jazzy visuals, but Forte’s performance and his character’s internal struggles are the silly, emotional heart of the show.
Parks and Recreation (NBC)
There are plenty of successful sitcoms that overstay their welcome; by the series finale you forget about the magic that made you love the show in the first place. But Parks and Recreation boasts the rare distinction of never dipping in quality and going out on its own terms. The final season served as the perfect love letter to Pawnee, Indiana, and the last episode gave fans everything they wanted without pandering. It’s the show I will miss most going into 2016.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Tina Fey needs to always work in television. In Kimmy Schmidt she found the perfect balance of the ridiculous, dark, and heartfelt, and Ellie Kemper proved herself to be a true leading lady. And between his one-liners and performance of the original hit “Pinot Noir,” Tituss Burgess as the character Titus is the gay black werewolf we never knew we needed in our lives. For him alone we owe Fey everything. v