If the enormous list of contenders for our Top Ten is any indication, 2015 was a hell of a year for television and for how we watch it: both Netflix and Amazon have turned out some of the year’s best shows and challenged the existing production system. Amazon’s Golden Globe award for Transparent was an industry landmark. By releasing entire seasons at once, streaming services have also helped turn the binge-watch into a more dignified viewing mode.
From the following list, the product of a highly unscientific crowdsourcing process crossed with this critic’s particular tastes, a theme emerges. Shows within shows, gentle competitions, magical realism — we’ve been obsessed with representations of reality. We’re seeing increasingly diverse ensembles that are finally beginning to reflect audiences; feminism is everywhere; and shows are directly engaging with race, class, and gender in sophisticated and thoughtful ways. And none of that is limited to cable channels or prestige players. (The less said about the threatened reboots of 2015 — we’re looking at you, Fuller House — the better.)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, however, that the real point of critics’ year-end best-of lists is to provide a rare point of unity for your otherwise fractious holiday family gatherings. Forge new bonds through your shared contempt for our highly subjective rankings: consider it our gift to you.