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Entertainment Fuse’s TV Shows of the Year: Jean’s Top 10

"The year of Peak TV delivers in a big way"

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of four posts from the site’s television writers, detailing their top shows of 2015. In order to qualify for the lists, a show had to air original episodes in the United States during the 2015 calendar year.

2015 was a banner year for television. We had more scripted television shows to choose from (409) than ever before. It this era of Peak TV there weren’t just a ridiculous number of scripted television shows, there were also a shockingly large number of good television shows. And these shows were available on a wide range of platforms and channels. Which goes a long way to explaining why I had such a difficult time creating a Top 10 list of shows.

In the interest of full disclosure, it took me several weeks to come up with this list. I started the process with 25 shows that could have easily found a place on my final list (a number that surprised me not only as an indicator of how many quality shows exist on television at this time, but also as a marker of how many shows I actually watched throughout the year- a number that is much higher than 25). To give you an idea of how many good shows were on the air this year- Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead didn’t even crack my Top 25.

A bit about my particular list. I’ve ranked the shows in ascending order, but really, most of them could be mixed and matched. The only ones I feel shouldn’t be move are my top three shows, which really were, in my opinion, the best three shows on television this season. But, like any list, this is all subjective (if you take a look at my fellow TV writers’ lists, you’ll see that’s the truth). So, hopefully, you’ll enjoy my musings on the year’s best television. And, perhaps, you’ll give one of these shows a chance if you haven’t had a chance to check it out.


10. Mad Men (AMC)


This last spot on the list was a toss-up between two AMC shows (Mad Men and Halt and Catch Fire) with Mad Men’s pedigree pushing it just a bit over the line into tenth place. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the show’s finale, I can’t deny that the series was an absolute delight to watch. Knowing that the show’s characters managed to survive (aside from poor Betty Draper) and potentially thrive in the coming years was a nice finishing touch after watching them struggle with their inner and outer demons for seven years. And really, nothing can top the moment badass extraordinaire Peggy Olsen walked into McCann like a boss. You go get ’em, Peggy.


9. Jessica Jones (Netflix)

Jessica jones netflix kysten ritter

I’ve written quite a bit about the show here, but Marvel’s first female led property was an absolute highlight of the year. Smart, complex, and never pandering, Jessica Jones delved into the intricacies of PTSD and didn’t shy away from painting its villain Kilgrave as a rapist (a topic other shows have been wary to address). Kristin Ritter delivered a star turn as the title character, and strong supporting work from Carrie-Ann Moss, David Tennant, and Rachael Taylor made the show sing.


8. Catastrophe (Amazon)


This British comedy may have only released six episodes in the US in 2015, but each was an absolute joy. Deftly walking the line between comedy and nuanced drama, Catastrophe was one of the most honest comedies I’ve seen in quite a while. The brain child of Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, the series follows a transatlantic pair (played expertly by Delaney and Horgan) who find themselves thrust into parenthood after a weekend-long romance. As someone who isn’t particularly a fan of romantic comedies, Catastrophe won me over completely, and has become my go-to recommendation for friends and family looking for something new to watch.


7. BoJack Horseman (Netflix)


I will admit I came late to the BoJack Horseman party, missing out on its excellent first season in 2014. But I’m glad I caught up this past summer when season two was released. You can read my in-depth analysis here, but for the uninitiated, BoJack Horseman is one of the most unique shows on television today. Smart, bitingly funny, and unafraid to tackle the darkness that lurks just beyond the shine of comedy, BoJack is the best show about a cartoon horse on television today (and one of the best comedies, period).


6. Fargo (FX)


After the success of Fargo’s first season, many were worried that season two wouldn’t live up to its memory (just like many of us were worried about a television show called Fargo failing to live up to its namesake film). Well, all that worrying was unnecessary, because Fargo was just as much of a delight in season two. With spectacular work from Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Ted Danson, and Bokeem Woodbine, the story was just as complicated and fun as its predecessors. I can’t wait for season three.


5. The Leftovers (HBO)

Kevin Garvey - The Leftovers

I did not like the first season of The Leftovers. I didn’t like it at all. So, when I heard that season two was something really special, I was skeptical. But the chorus of praise became so deafening that I decided to give it a chance. Boy am I glad I did. Everything that was wrong with season one has been removed from the show’s second season, with the focus tightened to character point of view episodes that coalesced into a spectacular finale. The cast was in fine form, with amazing work from Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon, and Regina King. If you didn’t like season one, give season two a chance. It was something really special.


4. Wentworth (Netflix)


People who know me are probably sick of hearing how much I love this Australian drama, but I can’t help it- it’s pretty amazing. Wentworth is a women’s prison series that is significantly darker than Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, but not as rough as HBO’s incredibly dark Oz. If you enjoyed the second season of Orange more than the other two, this is the show for you. Season three, which was just released on Netflix, contained just enough soapy intrigue mixed with complicated psychological drama that it will pull you in and not let you go until its final moments.


3. Transparent (Amazon)


Again, I waxed poetic about the show’s second season here, but I still can’t get over how amazing this show remains. In its second season, Transparent widened its lens beyond Maura, giving the rest of the Pfefferman family a chance to shine in their search for their own identities. The show’s blend of comedy and heartbreaking drama was in full force throughout season two, complete with some of the best performances you will see on television this year.


2. Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Donna (Retta), Andy (Chris Pratt), April (Aubrey Plaza), Ben (Adam Scott), Leslie (Amy Poehler), Ron (Nick Offerman), Tom (Aziz Ansari), and Garry (Jim O’Heir) take one final group shot together as Parks employees. Photo by NBC.
Donna (Retta), Andy (Chris Pratt), April (Aubrey Plaza), Ben (Adam Scott), Leslie (Amy Poehler), Ron (Nick Offerman), Tom (Aziz Ansari), and Garry (Jim O’Heir) take one final group shot together as Parks employees. Photo by NBC.

In what is becoming a theme in this list, I was really late to the Parks and Rec party. So late, in fact, that I watched the entire series in February of this year, just in time to catch its final episodes. The last of the great NBC comedies, Parks and Rec had a different soul than Community or 30 Rock. Parks and Rec was all about heart- from Leslie Knope’s infectious spirit to Ron Swanson’s hidden love for his friends and co-workers, it was a joy to watch these characters. And the show’s final run of episodes put its heart front and center, giving us a spectacular finale that actually stuck the landing.


1. Rectify (Sundance)

Rectify 2

Rectify was the least watched scripted show on television in 2015, which is saying something considering how many shows aired this year. But it was the best show, bar none. Over the course of its three seasons, Rectify has managed to craft a slow moving yet magnificent story of a man’s reintegration into his town, his family, and his freedom. Throughout that time, the show’s focus has widened to explore how Daniel Holden’s return from prison has impacted those around him, turning in stunning performances from the show’s supporting cast, particularly Clayne Crawford who was especially compelling this season. One of the best things to come out of the era of Peak TV is that shows like Rectify, which have small audiences but great critical acclaim, are given a chance to grow. My wish for 2016 is that more people find and watch this gem (its first two seasons are available on Netflix).

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  • Irish Jim

    I will do an “Old People’s/Geeks” top 10 list as I haven’t seen any of your shows.

    I will probably try rectify, if I can fined the first year.

    1. Blacklist. James Spader is terrific. He is completely believable as the guy who outsmarts the FBI, the Cabal (or whatever they are called) and various other bad guys. Agent Keene has gotten much better as the story has evolved. The switch from working with the FBI to working against the government conspiracy has turned out pretty well, considering I am so tired of global/governmental conspiracies. The story line about Keene’s birth/parents is unfolding too slowly. I assume Red is her Father, but they really need to get to it.

    2. Game of Thrones. Great characters and a very good, although a little to convoluted story line. I can’t see how they wrap this up in 20 episodes as they are still introducing new story lines. Other than that, too many good characters get killed and some that are just horrific seem to be there for the duration (Boltons). They have the White-walkers as seemingly invincible foes (turning into the Walking Dead?). There is no time to tell everyone to join together to stop them, and they wouldn’t do it anyway. I suppose if someone told Danni to get the dragons thee to attack the White-walker and they would do what she wanted, then that might work. Anyway I am looking forward to seeing some of the storylines that should be in the last 2 or 3 books played out on screen.

    3. Dare Devil. I liked the characters a lot (other than Foggie who is an idiot). The story was pretty good, although a little to violent. Also, they don’t explain well enough how he can “see” better than most people with sight.

    4. NCIS. I know it is old and a procedural show, but I like it. I wish blondie was leaving and Tony was staying. She adds nothing to the show.

    5. Elementary. I like it better than Sherlock. The stories are not as weird. I am not a big fan of Lucy Liu. I think they should have gotten her reinstated as a physician by now and used that a little more to solve the crimes. I like Gregson and Bell a lot.

    6. Persons of Interest. It has gotten off track with the machine vs machine and I don’t buy the bad guy wanting to reshape the world while in his 70’s. I miss Reece. It was better when they just had the team solving the problems of regular people.

    7. Castle – OK it is tired and the story line with Kate going up against another huge governmental conspiracy (did I mention I an tired of these?) is not a good way to take this terrific show to its end (I assume they will be ending it this year), but I really like the characters.

    8. Gotham – If they would just either get rid of the Bruce Wayne character (send him to boarding school and bring him back 6’2″ tall and 210 pounds) this would be a terrific show. Gordon is a terrific character , but there is no way he can deal with all of these criminals/nut cases without Batman’s help.

    9. Limitless – It is pretty interesting. The chemistry between the 2 leads isn’t what it needs to be and I can’t believe that taking the drug won’t have catastrophic consequences soon. They need to have a plan on how to grow the characters. So far there has only been one huge governmental conspiracy.

    10. Suits – I like it for the mentor-mentee relationship. The legal stuff is completely unrealistic. They would all be disbarred for using a lawyer who was not a member of the Bar. The more of Mike to the investment banking side as a client would have been a good plot change and would have solved the huge problem going forward. More people know Mike is not a lawyer than know Arrow’s identity.

    11. Flash – I really like this show. It is what a DC TV show should be. This should probably be higher on my list, but I messed up.

    • Jean Henegan

      First two seasons of Rectify are up on Netflix. First season is six episodes, second is ten. The most recent third season should be up in early summer.

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About / Bio
TV critic based in Chicago. When not watching and writing about awesome television shows, I can be found lamenting over the latest disappointing performance by any of the various Chicago sports teams or my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Follow me @JeaniusIsMe on Twitter.

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