Brooke Palmer/NBC

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2015
The 25 Best TV Shows of 2015

15

Jane the Virgin

The birth of the baby with whom she was accidentally impregnated by a careless gynecologist at the start of last season focused all of Jane’s (Gina Rodriguez) attention on motherhood. It had a similar effect on this light-footed dramedy/spoof telenovela, paring away a couple of subplots that had been getting a little too baroque (that Sin Rostro business, for one) to get back to basics. But there’s still plenty of melodrama to trip up kind, earnest Jane, and to keep our suave but chummy narrator alternately flummoxed and delighted, as Jane figures out—with the help of the mother and grandmother who raised her—how to be a mother while pursuing her dream of being a writer. Nakhnikian

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2015

14

Mr. Robot

Sam Esmail’s ferocious hacking drama hit like a revelation, with imagery and angles that came to symbolize the disjointed reality through which computer genius Elliot (Rami Malek) lives, increasingly unable to distinguish the roiling war for the freedom of information and intellect from the contentious personalities inside his own head. The fight against E Corp is a fight for one’s own identity, to be one’s self, but what’s one to do when that freedom only reveals a far more personal conflict? Can Elliot be the world’s savior when he seems terminally incapable of saving his own mind? Hacking proves the perfect symbol for the psychological subversion that Elliot, along with his friends, family, and even enemies, cannot help but indulge: a perfectly attuned, ultimately imaginary system infiltrated by sudden, substantial reminders that power isn’t absolute or centralized, and no one has full control of illusion or reality. Cabin

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2015

13

Transparent

Jeffrey Tambor’s odd blend of clueless narcissism and warm sincerity fits Maura, the loving but sometimes damagingly oblivious patriarch turned matriarch of a close but dysfunctional clan, much better than the muu-muu-like garments she favors. The show’s first season focused primarily on Maura, as she came out to each member of her family and experienced life as a woman. This season, it spends more time with other members of the family as they explore their own sexuality—and their near-universal inability to form long-lasting intimate relationships. Daughter Ali (Gaby Hoffman) is trying to make sense of the family history of secrecy and sexual nonconformity. Her quest is a reminder, like the show’s bittersweet opening credit sequence, that LGBT people have always been part of society, even though society has so often tried to deny their existence. Nakhnikian

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2015

12

The Leftovers

Structurally, there was no other series on television this year more effectively and empathetically laid out than The Leftovers. Audiences were made to feel like surrogates of the show’s characters, new and old, across a series of stacked timelines from episode to episode, and by the end the season we came to comprehend everyone’s eternal grasping for a sense of home and camaraderie on a level beyond the corporeal. Having Patti Levin (Ann Dowd) live on as a manifestation of Kevin Garvey’s (Justin Theroux) guilt was an unfortunate reminder of the new-age hokum that co-creator Damon Lindelof’s Lost often succumbed to, and the wearingly digressive “International Assassin”—for its psychoanalytic literalizing of the idea of crossing over, and for being redolent of one of The Sopranos’s worst episodes—was a miscalculation that felt impossible to recover from. But by the time the series brought us back to Miracle, and Meg Abbott (Liv Tyler) definitively revealed herself as a scarier successor to Patti’s Guilty Remnant throne, the show’s metatextual gamesmanship spectacularly bloomed as a horrified comment on a world struggling with terror, of people desperate to run to a place where everything is safe only to realize that no such place may exist. Gonzalez

The 25 Best TV Shows of 2015

11

Silicon Valley

You’ve probably heard that tech money is driving San Francisco’s building boom, that the tech industry is stripping the city of its culture. This engine of cultural warfare is powered by narcissism, greed, and an almost autistic obliviousness that this poison-pen letter to Silicon Valley renders with razor-sharp wit and sans sentimentality, which is remarkable given how strongly Mike Judge empathizes with working-class frustration. The series, more brilliantly than ever, articulates the ways with which tech gurus write more than just code, but perversely write the language of everyday existence. And as the second season of Silicon Valley rip-roaringly barrels its way toward its only superficially hopeful conclusion, there’s a queasy sense that once Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) realizes his dream of bringing Hooli to prominence completely on his own terms, he’ll be so destroyed by all of the embarrassments he’s encountered along the way that he’ll come to believe in Gavin “Billionaires Are People Too” Belson’s (Matt Ross) mantra: “I don’t want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place better than we do.” Gonzalez

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