Netflix Dominates Our Top 10 New Shows of 2015

It's been an incredible year for television. 2015 has been especially good for new shows, maybe one of the best years in recent memory, which made putting together this year's list of Best New Shows especially difficult. A few days ago, we gave you part one, and now it's time to count down the top ten!

The List So Far:

  • 20. The Comedians
  • 19. Fresh Off The Boat
  • 18. Blindspot
  • 17. 12 Monkeys
  • 16. Empire
  • 15. Ballers
  • 14. Agent Carter
  • 13. Togetherness
  • 12. Mr. Robot
  • 11. Fear The Walking Dead

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10. The Brink – HBO

Every year, there’s at least one new show that gets canceled prematurely. Normally, you’d expect that cancellation to come from a broadcast network (last year’s Best New Cancelled Show honor went to Fox’s Enlisted, RIP), but not often does the honor go to a premium cable network. Not only did HBO cancel The Brink after one season, but it did so after initially renewing it for a second season. Why that happened remains unclear. The show wasn’t very well-received at first by critics, and an argument could be made that it was expensive to produce, since scenes were shot internationally in Pakistan and it carried several big time movie stars in Tim Robbins and Jack Black. Maybe HBO didn’t like the negative reception, something that seems to be more important to them than viewership, or it didn’t want to pay Robbins and Black big money for another season. In any case, despite what some of the critics might say, this show was good. It was funny, just the right amount of crass, well-acted and gave us a different kind of sitcom that we’ve never really seen before, all while skirting any controversy considering the sensitive issues it tackles. There’s a sour taste its cancellation leaves in your mouth, but it’s still worth checking out.

9. The Grinder – FOX

The Grinder follows a formula, but it does so with purpose, as it thoroughly spoofs the law procedural format. It follows the (mis)adventures of the titular Grinder, a former TV lawyer who aspires to become a real one after his show ends, just like his father and brother. While his family are mostly happy to have him around, and everyone in the city starstruck by the return of this big shot actor, his brother sees past what he perceives to be shallow, vapid, and untrue, which is the source of much of the conflict in the show. Every week there’s a case, and every week begins with the characters watching a rerun of his show. But it’s actually more than that, as hidden behind that formula is a well-made show about family and the things they make us put up with. More importantly, it’s actually hilarious when it's not being sweet. A lot of the credit has to be given to the experienced cast, (between Fred Savage, returning to a regular TV role for the first time in decades, Rob Lowe, who hasn’t missed a beat tapping into those comedic Chris Traegger chops since leaving Parks & Recreation, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, The Waitress from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and William Devane, who fits into the TV dad role way better than you’d probably imagine he might), all of whom instantly display chemistry with one another, something you can't often say about new shows. While it's only been on for a handful of episodes, The Grinder is already consistent and really funny. It’s only a shame that not a lot of people are watching it. It has a change to grab new viewers in the new year when Fox insulates it with New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so hopefully it won’t become the third sitcom on our list to be cancelled before its time.

8. The Last Man on Earth – FOX

I don’t think there’s ever been a television show that’s ever been as uncomfortable and cringey as The Last Man On Earth. And I mean that in a good way. Some comedy strives to make you roll on the floor laughing. Other sitcoms are more introspective and humorous than they are laugh-out-loud funny. Some comedy just kind of grosses you out. All of that is well-represented on our list this year. But The Last Man on Earth is a special kind of sitcom, managing to do all of this all at once, all while forcing you to watch between your fingers as the characters outclass each other in awkwardness and bad decisions ever step of the way. And it does all that in a format that’s really unique to sitcoms, as a post-apocalyptic cringe-comedy on a broadcast network starring Will Forte, Kirsten Schaal and Betty from Mad Men. Also Jason Sudeikis is an astronaut in it. Who would have thought that in 2015, this would be a thing?

I don’t know if the show is for everyone, although you probably surmised that from when I said “post-apocalyptic cringe comedy starring Will Forte”. But it’s great, it’s compelling, and sometimes it really hits you hard with the kind of subjects it tackles. It’s also benefited from a quick turnaround to a second season. After premiering in the winter, Fox renewed it and placed it on its fall schedule. That allowed us to see a different perspective on its characters. Season 1 was, at times, one-note in terms of how much it portrayed Phil as an asshole and everyone else as the last reasonable human beings on the planet. In season 2, the tables have turned, as more often than not, it's Phil that's reasonable and everyone else the asshole. While season 1 is about Phil adjusting to living in society once again, season 2 has him trying to make amends for all his mistakes while everyone else has to realize what the next steps are towards rebuilding society. If we only got one of these two perspectives, the concept of the show might have worn thin after a while, but they've had the wherewithal to switch things up, and that's already a good sign that this could be a long-lasting series, as are the multiple award nominations under its belt

7. With Bob and David – Netflix

Mr. Show might be the greatest sketch comedy show of all time. Needless to say, when it was revealed that Bob Odenkrik and David Cross were getting the old gang back together for a new version of the sketch comedy show all these years later, and as we eventually found out, on a new medium in Netflix, it was easy to get excited about it. Lo and behold, after all the hype, the show actually delivered, proving that neither Bob nor David has lost a beat since Mr. Show prematurely left the airwaves. Even though it’s been two decades, and even though the show has a different name, and it’s on HBO’s direct competitor, and both Odenkirk and Cross have since moved on to bigger and much more different things, it truly feels the same. A continuation of everything that made Mr. Show special. The only shame is that they could only produce four episodes, which is understandable given the complexity of getting everyone back together. That being said, it’s four of the best half-hours of television of the year, and hopefully it means that they'll be able to do more, in one way, shape or form, on a semi-regular basis going forward. Being on Netflix certainly allows that. For now, we only have these four episodes, but they've already proven to have replayability and staying power, even with the TV landscape as stacked as it currently is.

6. Bloodline – Netflix

There’s a certain subgenre of drama that tends to feel less accessible. The kind of drama that’s harder to give the elevator pitch for. That’s less about the actions of the characters and more about their words, or their emotions. The kinds of shows that’ll make people tell you you’re pretentious for watching them. Bloodline is one of those shows, but it might be one of the best shows to ever come out of that category. When you think of Netflix’s original programming, Bloodline probably won’t ever come to mind. It’s not as high profile as House of Cards, as flashy as the Marvel shows, as accessible as their comedic or animated fare. There aren't any explosions and there's really only like one murder. Yet the show, which is about a Floridian family suddenly faced with turmoil and a lot of deep-seeded familial issues when the black sheep of the family returns to their beachside resort looking to get back into the business and family, manages to be compelling without superheroes or ham-fisted presidential maneuvers or talking horses.

Part of that is due to the story’s construct and presentation, thanks to the former Damages writers that created it, as the story unfolds asymmetrically with flash forwards and flash backs, with little bits and morsels slowly revealed to the audience in a fashion that’s perfect for binge-watching. Part of it is the unique setting which really provides an edge to the show (I know, stating that the setting is like a character in the show is tropey and overused, but this is a case where it’s true, similar to how it was true for True Detective season 1); everything is muggy and humid and it beats everyone down and emphasizes their dirty secrets. And a lot of it has to do with the fantastic acting. We already know Kyle Chandler is a great actor, but man, Ben Mendehlson is a revelation, and deserves no end to the praise his performance has garnered. It’s going to be hard for season 2 to live up to the surprise that Bloodline gave us this past year, but it’s certainly one of the best shows, new or returning of 2015, especially considering it sort of came from out of nowhere.

5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Netflix

If we’re giving Bloodline the superlative for best new serious serious drama, then Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt has to get the funniest new funny sitcom. There’s one more “sitcom” coming up, but it’s certainly nowhere near as “ha-ha” funny as UKS. In fact, UKS can get downright zany. But Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, along with their amazing cast, make it work every step of the way. Ellie Kemper is perfect in the titular role, graduating to a new level of airhead after her turn on The Office, Titus Burgess is a revelation (in a completely different way than Ben Mendehlson was), and Carol Kane and Jane Krakowski are fantastic anchors to the irreverence, as are the cast of bit players and surprise cameos. Jon Hamm’s turn as Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne is one of the best things to happen on TV all year, as is Titus singing an entire song about black penises that almost aired on network television. And if Kimmy Schmidt herself wasn’t enough of an underdog story, just look at the show’s unlikely road to Netflix streaming and Emmy nominations. Not only was it in development at NBC, it filmed and almost aired on NBC before they suavely determined it stood no chance on the network that’s been a death knell for sitcoms for over half a decade. In what’s beginning to look like a trend on this top 10, Netflix swooped in and gave the show a proper shot, and it’s almost instantly fallen into the zeitgeist and this fantastic little gem of a comedy.

4. Jessica Jones – Netflix

People complain about the number of superhero shows on TV, but both Marvel and DC have done a fairly good job at diversifying what they develop. Marvel in particular has been great at this on the small screen, particularly with Jessica Jones, which is unlike any other superhero show out there. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s downright noir, and despite having a hero who can leap across building and punch dents into walls, played by the actress who, prior to this, was best known as Jesse's girlfriend in Breaking Bad and the titular B from The B in Apartment 23, no less (no disrespect meant to Krysten Ritter, who’s proven to be fantastic thanks to this show), it manages to tackle some serious issues without needing to undercut them for action or anything like that. Despite that, it never forget that it’s a superhero comic book show. That allows it to provide some incredible and unique set pieces, as well as arguably a top 3 Marvel Cinematic Universe villain ever in Killgrave, expertly played by David Tennant. These Netflix shows seemed like a good idea from the moment Disney announced their partnership with the streaming service, but with Jessica Jones and another show which we'll talk about in a bit, they’ve really smashed any sort of bar we had set for them. And it’s only just beginning, with even more shows likely to make it near the top of our list in 2016.

3. Daredevil – Netflix

While Jessica Jones gave us a lot of great things, including one of Marvel's best villains ever and a surprisingly dark and serious storyline which puts the very idea of dark, gritty comic book movies and shows to shame, none of it would have been possible if it weren't for the tone-setting that Daredevil got to do earlier in the year. Fans will argue about which show is actually better for a long time, but when comparing first seasons, I gave the edge to Daredevil in large part because of that table-setting. It gave us a lot of things we had never seen before on the small screen for superheroes, setting a much darker tone that didn't necessarily feel campy, like Gothamoften feels, while still giving us the classic superhero origin story without falling into the trappings that have made those kinds of things just as tropey and predictable as the idea of dark, gritty superhero story. And if that's not enough, further crippling Daredevil's odds were the facts that it was Marvel's first attempt at this PG-16 Netflix thing, that it lost its creator Drew Goddard, who was replaced by a showrunner who wasn't as trusted and beloved at first in Steven S. DeKnight, and that it has to outgrow the ominous shadow of its much-maligned Ben Affleck-starring feature film from over 10 years ago.

But much like he often does in the comics, The Man Without Fear overcame all those odds. And unlike the man in the comics nor the TV show, the show itself didn't wind up with that many cuts and bruises or broken bones, because the show wound up being nearly immaculate. It was astoundingly directed and choreographed, its story was grand and compelling, and it brought its villain, Wilson Fisk (portrayed by the outstanding and underrated Vincent D'Onofrio), back to the glory he deserved, after the film did him much disservice and Fox put him on the shelf for over a decade. And most importantly, it made the rest of Netflix's little corner of the MCU possible. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders, not to mention its upcoming second season where Elektra and The Punisher will come into the mix, imagine what a drag that would have all been in Daredevil wasn't good? Instead, it set the bar tremendously high, and arguably outclassed anything Marvel had to offer on the big screen, particularly at a time where people are starting to suffer from superhero fatigue. Daredevil deserves your mindshare not because it (and Jessica Jones, and all the rest0 are about big studios mining yet another existing property, but because they're actually good, and they make the very most of the hand they're dealt by passionate writers and filmmakers.

2. Master of None – Netflix

We’re talking a lot about what Netflix has done for various pockets of television (proof is in the pudding, and how most of the this top ten stems from their original programming efforts), and they certainly deserve credit for allowing something as subversive, meaningful, and bold as Master of None onto their airwaves (circuits? information superhighways?), but part of the credit for this one probably has to also to Louis C.K. Without C.K. and his own dark, depressing sitcom Louie, there probably wouldn’t be room for something like Master of None on TV. Five years ago, Louis swooped into John Landgraf’s office at FX freshly at the top of the comedy world, and convinced him to let him make a weird and very personal low budget show with little expectations, turning into an entire sub-genre of comedy. One that, with time, proved to be very daring and completely different from anything on TV; more akin to a Woody Allen film or some odd indie arthouse movie that makes you hate yourself than your standard sitcom. Louie pioneered that and pushed the bar when the best TV sitcoms had to offer were single-camera workplace comedies.

That’s not to say Master of None is anything like Louie. It’s a completely different experience, from a completely different perspective. In fact, the fact that it's so different and so particular to the voice that it's coming from is why I attribute its existence to Louis, since he made that possible for Aziz Ansari. He's not Louis C.K., nor does he view the world the same way Louis does, and the only similarities between their respective shows are the lenses they put in front of their worldview. Both Aziz and Louis look at their respective worlds as outsiders, and their shows are manifestations of what they see. Sometimes its over the top and absurd, sometimes it’s very raw and personal, but despite the initial thought that there’s no way the things these people see could in any way be applicable to me, it’s more familiar than you would think.

Master of None even has a lot of things over Louie, considering it’s only been on the air for one season. It feels like a fully-formed show at a very early stage. It’s not perfect, by any means, but it figures itself out quickly and delivers a package to the viewer that’s complete. There are so many topics that Aziz tackles that ring so true, from racism, to dating, to how the world is for women versus how it is for men, to immigrant parents and all the ways the entitled generation mistreats them. There’s something for everyone in this show, despite the presentation not necessarily being as accessible at first glance, and that makes Master of None the best new comedy of the year.

1. Better Call Saul – AMC

This may be controversial to say, but I think that Better Call Saul has a legitimate chance to be, at the very least, as good as the series it's based on, Breaking Bad. Yes, Breaking Bad is one of the best shows in the history of television, and it grew to be near perfect by the time its run was up, but Better Call Saul seems to have something Breaking Bad didn't; a running start. Upon many, many rewatches, Breaking Bad is better at first than it may have originally seemed. It's slow to build but methodic and purposeful in its pacing, telling a well-crafted story from beginning to end. BCS, on the other hand, feels different, yet it also feels the same. It maintains a lot of what made Breaking Bad magical, but it goes about its business differently. It never struggles to find balance between plot and characters, because it's basically only about characters. It has no world-building or exposition to worry about, because Breaking Bad already did all of that legwork years ago.

Instead, Better Call Saul strips the world of Breaking Bad down to its core, and focuses in on Jimmy McGill, the man who will eventually become Saul Goodman. And while, to a certain extent, the idea of following a mild-mannered good man through his path to darkness may seem familiar, the parameters have drastically changed. Be it because we're already familiar with the world, or because we're already familiar with what Jimmy (and Mike, and others) are to become. And all of that allows Better Call Saul to be unexplainably fantastic from the very beginning. It just grabs you, and by the end of season one, it tears you to shreds, because it methodically rips its characters to shreds in order to build them back up again as different people we eventually become familiar with in this continuity.

With all of that in mind, I'm declaring season one of Better Call Saul to be better than season one of Breaking Bad. Obviously, it still has a long way to go before it comes anywhere near the undefeated record of its predecessor, but who would have ever thought we'd be able to say that about a spinoff to one of the greatest shows of all time? And yet, here we are, nearly a year later, where Jonathan Banks can keep getting awards nominations and Bob fucking Odenkirk is considered a frontrunner for best dramatic actor. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we mean when we talk about Peak TV, and it's why Better Call Saul is the Best New Show of 2015.