Best TV of 2015

There was a lot of good television this year. A whole lot. An insane amount of good television that it was almost impossible to pick 10 shows that we felt deserved to be in the top spots.

From Rami Malek and his performance in Mr. Robot to HBO's investigative documentary The Jinx, 2015 was a stellar year for debuts.

But it wasn't just new television that kept us busy either. Returning seasons of fantastic dramas like The Leftovers and Fargo sucked us in week after week as the storylines got deeper and more intense.

To say that 2015 was an incredible year for television would be vastly understating it, but a couple of writers at Polygon decided to try and nail down their top 10 shows and describe just what made them so great. These are in no way ranked, but are just a personal collection and list of top ten shows that we enjoyed over the course of the year.

Justin mcelroy, editor-at-large

10. Silicon Valley: In its second season, this show managed to add genuine drama to something that on the surface feels like pure satire. Great great great TV.

9. Daredevil

8. Catastrophe

7. Mad Men: It was a wonderful ending to a show that by all rights shouldn't have had one.

6. Project Greenlight: This was incredibly compelling TV filled with actual drama that provoked conversation. Great.

5. Parks and Recreation: The most wonderful, lovely, funniest show ever made comes to a close. To remember Parks and Rec. exists is to want to go watch it on Netflix.

4. Fargo: I mean, it’s Fargo. It’s basically the best show on TV basically.

3. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

2. The Jinx

1. Survivor: There is no reason the grandfather of reality TV competition should still be working this well. The secret: Constant reinvention and a brilliant shorthand for storytelling with its cast-selection gimmick this season.

Allegra frank, reporter

nathan for you

10. Nathan for You: There's really nothing like it on TV, but it's singularity isn't its best quality — the fact that it's really, really freaking funny but with a strong, surprising heart is.

9. Parks and Recreation: In its final season, the show was firing on all cylinders like it hadn’t done in years. The back half of the truncated season was fan perfection.

8. Rectify: This criminally underwatched drama is among TV's most stunning. For a show that moves so, so slowly — mere weeks have past over three seasons — it's amazing how quickly you become engrossed, and this year's episodes hit the sweet spot of sadness, stillness and suspense that seasons past have just missed.

7. The Jinx: A remarkable miniseries that capitalized on the Serial participatory murder mystery phenomenon to create something even more remarkable. There's no better finale than the chilling last moments of The Jinx's conclusion, especially when coupled with the real world proceedings that happened alongside its airing.

6. Better Call Saul: Any Breaking Bad fan would be lying if they said they weren't skeptical of this prequel spinoff at first blush, but it proved its worth as a sidepiece to one of television's all-time greats as well as in its own right. Beautifully shot with great writing and performances, there are few shows I'm more thankful about the quality of than this.

5. Mr. Robot: Another show whose strong aesthetic stands out among the rest of its quality parts, Mr. Robot took me by surprise with each episode. It took a second to shake the Kubrick-ian Fight Club comparison, but once it embraced its individual identity, it became one of the most compulsively watchable series of the year.

4. Hannibal: While it faltered slightly in its (sadly) final season, Hannibal remained the single most gorgeous series on TV. The cinematography alone makes its cancellation that much harder to swallow, but I'll miss the addicting time spent with the unforgettable cast the most.

3. Jane the Virgin: My taste does not generally align with romantic comedy soap opera fluff, but Jane the Virgin spins that exhausted genre on its head with charming characters and excellent storytelling. From week to week, it's heartwarming, thrilling, funny and earnest in a landscape filled with shows that often fail to be good at even one of those things.

2. Review: It's the darkest show on TV that dares to call itself a comedy. Whether a third season is in the cards has yet to be confirmed, but the impact of Review on TV is something that I expect to see in the near future either way; it's uniquely cringe-inducing, smart, horrific and sweet, and it has no qualms with heading off in one unexpected direction and staying there, whether or not the audience is comfortable with the characters putting themselves in those compromising positions.

1. BoJack Horseman: Who thought an animated comedy about an anthropomorphic horse would be one of the most affecting shows of the year? It took me awhile to get past the art style, but I'm thankful I did; the second season of this show, bittersweet and wonderful, is something I still think about often.

samit sarkar, senior reporter

10. Better Call Saul: The first season of Better Call Saul was a terrific debut in its own right, making me care about Jimmy McGill in his pre-Saul Goodman days as a guy who's desperately trying to do the right thing when it would be so easy not to. The Breaking Bad spinoff is even more impressive when you weigh it against the impossibly high bar that its source material set for it.

9. BoJack Horseman: Season 2 of BoJack Horseman picked up right where the first left off. It went deeper into BoJack's past, and got even darker than before as he and his friend Diane separately plunged into depression — and still somehow managed to keep the jokes coming. Someone get J.D. Salinger on the phone!

8. You're the Worst: In a similar fashion, shit got real on the second season of You're the Worst with a depression arc that illuminated the disorder in all of its confounding complexity. If Seinfeld was a comedy about a group of terrible people, You're the Worst is a comedy about a group of terrible people who need each other. If you need to laugh while you're crying or vice versa, this show has you covered.

7. Mad Men: Despite AMC's frustrating decision to split up Mad Men's final season — a decision that hurt both halves of it — Matthew Weiner and company closed out one of my all-time favorite dramas with a wonderful stretch. The back half of Season 7 gave us countless memorable moments, including fist-pumping scenes like Peggy being a badass, hilarious bits like Pete's Irish clan quarrel, and touching sequences like Don's phone calls in the finale. What a way to go out.

6. Halt and Catch Fire: Out of the 10 entries on this list, Halt and Catch Fire is one that fits firmly into the "best shows no one's watching" category. By shifting the focus to Donna Clark and Cameron Howe, and their proto-internet gaming firm, Mutiny, the writers turned a very good show into a great one. It doesn't matter whether you're familiar with the 1980s computer boom; it's the human stories of this series that make it so compelling.

5. Veep: I defy you to find a funnier 75 seconds of TV from 2015 than this.

4. Justified: Another one of my all-time favorites that went off the air this year, Justified closed out its six-season run with perhaps its most ruthless villain yet in Avery Markham — who knew that Sam Elliott without his mustache would be so terrifying? — and stuck the landing, delivering closure to the series-long battle between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder.

3. Master of None: Master of None is the best debut of 2015, a fully formed exploration of turning 30 in the present day that touches on topics as wide-ranging as dating, sexism, diversity, having kids, and respecting your elders. Other works have covered that ground before, but never through the worldview of two Asian-American creators. Here's hoping that Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang's success paves the way for more diverse voices to break out in the future.

2. The Leftovers: No show on television is as narratively and emotionally daring as The Leftovers. The series plunged further into the depths of grief and loss, and what they can do to the human psyche. Yet showrunner Damon Lindelof and his writing team managed to create what is ultimately a hopeful show: By focusing on the universal bonds that unite us, they made a stirring argument for the power of letting go.

The Americans season 3 image 1920

1. The Americans: Another one of the "best shows no one's watching," The Americans got even better in its third season, ratcheting up the tension on what was always a stressful show by bringing the Cold War straight into the Jennings' own house. It's a thrilling spy series grounded by a seemingly ordinary family — a family that is pushed closer and closer to its breaking point.

julia alexander, entertainment reporter

10. Veep: Veep is like a fine wine; it just keeps getting better with age. Unlike most shows which tend to fall apart after the third season, Veep has managed to keep its satirical tone strong and keep the humor relevant to what's happening in the real world. The one-liners are just as biting and the ensemble cast has quickly turned into one of the best core groups on any show airing right now.

9. Scandal: Scandal is ludicrous. It's just absurd. But this year, the show tackled some very important topics with a sense of respect that most networks wouldn't even touch. Kerry Washington delivered a strong performance in almost every episode and even when being moved away from her character's core role as a "fixer," manages to stay the strongest and fiercest character on the show.

8. Transparent: This is the most important show on television that everyone should be watching. With an award-winning performance by Jeffrey Tambor and award-winning writing, it's not hard to see why audiences have become so enamored so quickly.

7. The Affair: I've been saying The Affair is one of the best shows on television since it debuted last year, when I named it my top show of 2014. This season has only gotten better, with showrunner Sarah Treem taking on some of the heavier moral questions that can arise with infidelity. Treem always said she envisioned The Affair as a three-act series, and if this season is the second act, then all I can say is bring on the final act as soon as possible, Showtime.

6. Master of None: Like Transparent, Master of None is one of the most important shows to come out in some time. Parks and Recreation's Aziz Ansari tackles what it's like to live in New York City as a twentysomething while trying to navigate a burgeoning career and tough friendships. Even more important, Ansari addresses the lack of diversity in television and film, and through his own series, brings to attention how we should be actively combating it.

5. The Jinx: True crime documentaries have always played well with certain audiences, but run-of-the-mill shows that usually air on A&E weren't interested in using new formulas to tell these kinds of stories. What HBO did with The Jinx was create a cultural phenomenon through investigative reporting that resulted in the revelation of the year. It was gripping from beginning to end, and I doubt one person will ever forget the final scene of the series finale.

4. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp: The eight-part mini-series from Netflix, based on the original cult classic film, felt like it was designed for my comedy tastebuds. It's absurdist comedy at its finest, and it was amazing to see all of these actors return to their original cabins and play the characters we fell in love with more than a decade ago. It was one of the few shows I've seen where the minute I finished watching it, I started replaying it from the beginning.

3. BoJack Horseman: I'm echoing my colleagues here, but BoJack Horseman is one of the few shows that honestly and respectfully depicts depression. The show, although a comedy, can be extremely dark at times, but there's relatable moments in almost every episode, despite it being about an aging actor and, well, it being an animated show about animals. There's an honest look at relationships, the stress of wanting to be successful, the acceptance of failure and dealing with being sad and lonely on top of it.

2. Parks and Recreation: There's not much to say about Parks and Recreation that hasn't been said already, but thank you, Michael Schur, for giving us this show for seven incredible seasons.

1. Mr. Robot: I didn't think we'd ever get a show like Mr. Robot, and I still can't believe that a show of this caliber, with this level of sophisticated writing, exists. The beauty of Mr. Robot is that it finds it subtle genius in not being subtle, and it's so self aware of the story it's telling, that it doesn't mind poking fun at itself; the use of The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind," for example. The characters are exaggerations of human beings, caricatures of what we're supposed to be, but it's their ideals and passion for fixing a broken world that represents the everyman. It's hard not to be taken in by their anarchist ways and it's impossible not to be drawn into this show. Just give actor Rami Malek and creator Sam Esmail all the awards.