According to a study put together by FX, there were 409 scripted series on TV in 2015, or nearly double what it was only six years ago. That includes broadcast networks, basic and pay cable networks, and over-the-top content. We’re no longer in the golden age of TV; it’s the Too Much TV era. It’s hard for a show to break through when there’s so much to be watched. These 10 shows not only managed to do that; they’re also our favorites for the year.
10. Master of None
Aziz Ansari’s Netflix comedy Master of None seems like it came out of nowhere. Sure, Aziz Ansari played fan-favorite Tom Haverford in Parks and Recreation and wrote a well-researched book about modern love and dating, but making a 10-episode series that looks and acts like a cousin to Louis C.K.’s Louie? What? “What” indeed, but that’s not the case at all. Master of None is a smart, funny, and relatable show featuring some of the year’s best comedy acting, writing, and directing. Ansari and co-creator Alan Young are already hard at work on the second season. — Andrew Husband
You’re the Worst‘s first season established it as a sitcom like no other, a sort of demonic rom-com in which two awful-yet-endearing characters — music publicist Gretchen Cutler and egotistical author Jimmy Shive-Overly — do and say awful things while falling in love. But if it was shock value and clever lines that initially set the show apart, it was the tiny-but-powerful beating heart at its center that made it such compelling viewing. Season two could have settled into a groove. Instead, showrunner Stephen Falk zigged when many would have zagged, dedicating much of it to Gretchen’s struggles with depression, which played out believably, threatening her relationship with Jimmy, spilling over to affect her career, altering her friendship with BFF Lindsay (Kether Donohue), and coloring pal Edgar’s (Desmin Borges) romantic life. Rarely has the butterfly effect of one person’s struggles with mental illness been captured so believably — and so well at times that it threatened to squelch the comedy. But the series never lost its way thanks to the depths everyone involved brought to characters and creative high-points like the inventive, perspective shifting episode “LCD Soundsystem.” — Keith Phipps
I’m still not exactly sure how the second season of Review managed to up both the stakes and the intensity of the first season without running itself straight off the road and into a ravine. It shouldn’t have been possible. The first season featured wild animal attacks and orgies and a man dying in zero gravity. And yet, here we are, looking back on a season that might have been even better and, more importantly, even funnier. It shouldn’t have been possible. I’m left with only one explanation: Andy Daly is a wizard. — Danger Guerrero
7. Mr. Robot
The best new series of the year pays homage to classic cult movies from the ’90s (American Psycho and Fight Club) and yet manages to feel completely fresh. Mr. Robot is the opposite of what we usually associate with the USA Network: It’s a hacker drama with heft, an indie sensibility, an eclectic, techno-synth score, and one of the year’s best performers in Rami Malek. The entire series was one mindf*ck after another, and it’s already set up a promising sophomore season of the most relevant show on TV. — Dustin Rowles
The Americans is one of the most thoughtful and deliberate shows on TV, despite its sexy spy premise. It’s a case study of a marriage held together by hate of the American way and love of their children, and rarely seems interested in big payoffs. Nina could be sprung from jail after two episodes, but that’s too easy. Better to have her struggle and scheme behind bars for a full season, with no simple resolution. But every so often, The Americans will drop a bomb, and season three was full of them, none bigger than the fallout from “Stingers.” Paige doesn’t go to the cops or immediately blab about what she’s learned — she considers it from all angles, until telling Pastor Tim in the finale. Set your faces to stunned. That’s The Americans: There’s a wait, but it’s always worth it. Also, Mail Robot. — Josh Kurp
“Hilariously dark” would be the easy way to describe this season of Rick and Morty. Doing so would keep me from having to go into the odd particulars, like how “Total Rickall” managed to provide multiple fake memories, with the only real ones being the Smiths at their worst, or how “Mortynight Run” had Morty risking it all to save a gaseous being, only to have to kill it before it destroys all of humanity. And that’s not even going into universes being created for slave labor, Rick committing suicide, and the wedding/murder/jail sentence of the season finale. The unique blend of comedy, sci-fi, and absurdity makes for some odd episode summaries, but fantastic TV. — Chet Manley
Following a couple of arguably weaker seasons in which the series seemed to creatively be running out of steam, Parks and Recreation took a gamble for its seventh and final season with a time jump to three years in the future. And it turned out, it was exactly the refresh the show needed to deliver the perfect conclusion to the beloved comedy with heart. Not only was the leap helpful in wiping the slate clean to contrive meaningful ways to send our favorite characters out, but it also provided for a hilarious running gag about the year 2017. (Oh God, that show has really gone off the rails.) —Stacey Ritzen
A spin-off of what many consider one of the greatest dramas of all time is a risky proposition, and there are so many ways Better Call Saul could’ve failed. The character from Breaking Bad was a slimy, oily, skeevy lawyer, who served mostly as comic relief. Leave it to Vince Gilligan (and Peter Gould) to find the nuance and humanity in the character. We loved Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad. We understand Saul Goodman on Better Call Saul. He’s a complicated, fascinating, and often heartbreaking character. Vince Gilligan did the unthinkable: He created a spin-off that not only stands on its own, but it enhances and informs the original series without disturbing it. — Dustin Rowles
It’s kind of amazing that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, from the brilliant minds of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, placed this high on the list, not because it didn’t demonstrate the capacity for greatness — it did — but because it’s been about nine months since the Netflix series premiered/ended its first season and I am having a hard time remembering more than the broad strokes of the stories. Why? Because there is a lot of good TV now, a lot of it is consumed in a burst, and there’s only so much mind space. On the other hand, of course the show made the cut. Like 30 Rock, Kimmy is a light romp that relies on smart but uncomplicated humor and a cast of unique characters. It’s a winning combination (as it was on 30 Rock), and enough to justify the longing that I feel deep within me for more of this show — and isn’t being missed a pre-requisite for something being called a great TV show? Frankly, I can’t wait to progressively forget about the finer points of Kimmy Schmidt‘s second season after a laugh filled binge-weekend and I can’t wait to celebrate all the good things that I do remember next year around the same time.
Assuming I remember any of this. — Jason Tabrys
The first season of Fargo faced the unenviable task of living up to the much-adored Coen brothers movie while creating a world and story mostly its own. It was a runaway success. Then the second season of Fargo faced the unenviable task of living up to that first season while creating a world and story mostly its own. It too was a runaway success, thanks to a smart and inventive story that took us back in time and introduced us to mobsters and cops and butchers and frustrated housewives and a drunken, pants-soiling lawyer played by Nick Offerman. If we’re living in a world where Fargo has replaced Mad Men and Breaking Bad as television’s best and most reliable drama, well, we could do much worse. — Danger Guerrero
(Related: Here’s our best-of list from 2014. True Detective didn’t make the cut this time.)