The Best Television Of 2015: 'Mr. Robot,' 'Fargo,' 'Inside Amy Schumer' Among TV's Tops This Year With so many good TV shows out there, the bar has been raised for best-of lists. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans highlights 12 shows he says are more than good — they're game-changing.
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The Best Television Of 2015

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The Best Television Of 2015

The Best Television Of 2015

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CARRIE KAHN, HOST:

If it feels like you can't keep up with all of the great stuff on TV, now there are numbers to explain it all. This year, 409 scripted series aired on broadcast, cable and online. That's according to a study released by the FX cable channel. That deluge made picking the best TV of the year even tougher for the guy who has to sit through it all, NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Hi, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hey.

KAHN: So wait, before we get to your list of best TV show this year, let's talk about this glut of TV programming that people in the business are calling peak TV, like peak oil.

DEGGANS: (Laughter).

KAHN: What exactly does that mean?

DEGGANS: Well, OK, the total number of scripted series is almost double what we saw just six years ago. And that's because so many new outlets are making scripted series. So the fear among TV executives is that this year or next, we're going to see the industry start to fall apart because there are so many shows. Already they say that good series are not getting the time to find their voice because the competition is so high. Now, I'm skeptical of that. For fans of television, you've never had more choices. You've never had better choices. So I say just enjoy it while it lasts.

KAHN: So when it came time to pick your year-end best of TV lists, how did you figure out what to focus on this year?

DEGGANS: Well, for me the bar just goes up even higher. I mean, in this environment, there's tons of good television. But there's still not a lot of game-changing television, you know, shows that revolutionize a genre or they revolutionize a corner of the industry. So one example is a show that made my list, HBO's "The Jinx." It's a six-episode series, and it's built around filmmaker Andrew Jarecki's interviews with Robert Durst. Now, Durst is this wealthy, eccentric air to a real estate fortune. And he was suspected of murdering three people over the past 30 years. We've got a scene from the show where Durst takes a bathroom break after seeing proof from Jarecki that he wrote this anonymous note that had tipped off the cops to one of the murders he's accused of. They left his microphone on when he went to the bathroom. It's a little hard to hear what he's saying, but he talked to himself while he was in the bathroom. Let's listen to it.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE JINX")

ROBERT DURST: There it is. You're caught. What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.

DEGGANS: Now, you can hear there he says, there it is; you're caught. And then later he says, killed them all, of course. Durst was arrested before this last episode aired. And his attorneys have maintained that he's innocent. But "The Jinx" is a great example of a TV show that dug into a still unresolved case. And they got what sounds like a confession from the main suspect, which is a game changer.

KAHN: It seems like these days, there's a lot of TV shows based on comic books. Did any program break new ground on that front?

DEGGANS: Well, here I picked Netflix's series "Marvel's Jessica Jones." Now, on the surface, this is a show that's a gritty, explicit tale about a former superhero who now works as a private eye and has a drinking problem. But as the episodes unfold, you realize that this super strong woman is suffering from PTSD. She was the slave of this villain named Kilgrave who could make anyone obey his will. He's the ultimate abuser. And Jones eventually pulls together this band of women who've each been abused by him in different ways. And they all work together to bring him down. So it's this great story of surviving abuse set on the grand scale of a superhero story. And it raises the bar for every superhero series that's going to come after it.

KAHN: So with all these shows now available, do you even have a number-one pick?

DEGGANS: Well, I do 'cause I looked for a show that broke more rules and kind of flipped the script better than any other one. And this year, for me that one is USA Network's "Mr. Robot." Now, again, on the surface, this is a story about a gifted hacker who agrees to take down one of the world's largest corporations. But the star, Rami Malek, he plays this hacker, Elliot Alderson, as a guy with this really perceptive but really caustic view on life. And he tries to keep it hidden from everyone around him. So here he's talking to his therapist about what he thinks about people who - let's check out that clip.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MR. ROBOT")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As therapist) What is it about society that disappoints you so much?

RAMI MALEK: (As Elliot Alderson) Oh, I don't know. Is it that we collectively thought Steve Jobs was a great man, even when we knew he made billions off the backs of children? Or maybe it's that it feels like all our heroes are counterfeit. The world itself's just one big hoax.

DEGGANS: So that's a really caustic view of life. And the story of how he tries to bring down this corporation has so many turns and twists that it's a remarkable piece of television.

KAHN: You can find Eric's full list on npr.org. Thanks for joining us, Eric. And happy New Year to you.

DEGGANS: Always a pleasure. Happy New Year to you, too.

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