With 409 original scripted television shows in 2015, it’s not easy to pick a favorite, but here at Rotten Tomatoes, we’ve done just that! See our staff picks for the programming highlights of 2015 — from under-the-radar gems to downright cultural phenomenons. The best part? All of these shows are available for you to watch right now from the beginning — and, of course, they’re all Fresh!
What it is: This spinoff of Breaking Bad gives us an early look at Jimmy McGill, the man who will later become Saul Goodman. In season one, we see Jimmy try to leave his grifter, “Slippin’ Jimmy” past behind and be an honest (if not entirely successful) representative of the law. And if Jimmy is trying to turn over a new leaf, those around him — even his own brother — may not be ready to let go of Jimmy’s past.
Why you should watch it: Saul Goodman was a reliable source of comic relief in Breaking Bad, but who would have suspected that Jimmy’s first-season character arc would be so emotionally moving? The series deftly moves from a comedy about a mostly competent small-time lawyer to a moving drama about two men whose pasts still overshadow their futures. Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks make the most of the opportunity to delve deeper into Saul and Mike, and the writing from Vince Gilligan is simply terrific. And “Five-O,” the sixth episode of this first season, may well be the finest hour of television in all of 2015.
Commitment: Nine hours.
Picked By: Matt Atchity, Editor-in-Chief
What it is: Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) fights organized crime in New York City as a lawyer during the day, and as a super-powered, martial arts-fighting vigilante at night. Daredevil is Netflix’s first foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Why you should watch it: Daredevil is one of the best-executed comic book adaptations on television to date — if not the best. With incredible fight scenes and a fascinating performance by Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk (aka Kingpin), this origin story centers on both the hero and villain’s journeys, giving them much more depth than your average superhero story. The series raised the bar very high for serialized MCU shows, having unexpectedly earned a second season after the immensely positive reaction from fans and critics alike.
Where to watch: Netflix.
Commitment: Eight hours.
Picked By: Julio de Oliveira, Project Manager
What it is: The murder of a war veteran in Modesto, California and the brutal attack on his wife sparks an emotionally-charged chain of events enveloping the victims’ and suspect’s families during the subsequent legal battle.
Why you should watch it: American Crime exhibits no fear or hesitation in tackling topics ripped directly from today’s headlines in nearly any American city. You won’t find any simple answers here, though. The sensitivity showed to characters on every side of the equation paints a vivid picture of just how complicated these stories always are — and how important it is that we discuss them with rationality and compassion. Be sure to watch it with a friend so you can ruminate on everything it’s saying.
Commitment: 10 hours.
Picked By: Grae Drake, Senior Editor
What it is: HBO’s somber drama, created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, is set in the emotional aftermath of a global event known as “The Departure” in which 140 million people (two percent of the world’s population) inexplicably vanished.
Why you should watch it: Love it or hate it, The Leftovers is a show that taps into human feeling. The remarkable ensemble cast delivers one stirring performance after the other — particularly in the critically acclaimed second season. HBO has announced that there will be a third, and final, season of The Leftovers in 2016 so enjoy this unique piece of storytelling before it departs.
Commitment: 20 hours.
Picked By: Zayre Ferrer, Review Aggregator
What it is: An alcoholic mad scientist moves in with his daughter’s semi-dysfunctional family and begins involving his apprehensive grandson in wild cosmic and interdimensional adventures.
Why you should watch it: If you like your jokes quick, clever, and pregnant with pop culture references, you’ll feel right at home with Rick and Morty, an Adult Swim series co-created by Justin Roiland and Community showrunner Dan Harmon. But while most animated comedies are content to showcase a collection of single-serving vignettes, Rick and Morty dares to offer some pathos alongside its absurdist humor. Sure, you’ll laugh at a hilarious gag referencing David Cronenberg, but you’ll also balk at the horrifying meaning behind it, and that’s what makes this such a deliciously funny, sometimes surprisingly multi-layered treat. Season two upped the ante, and in addition to some standout episodes (including my favorite, “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”), the season finale delivered with an unexpected cliffhanger.
Commitment: Eight hours.
Picked By: Ryan Fujitani, Editor
Why you should watch it: While the first season was the pitch black romantic comedy we always wanted, featuring the kind of twenty-something Los Angelenos the rest of the country loves to hate, the second season goes even deeper. Jimmy and Gretchen’s relationship is put to the test and the supporting cast also has a stellar season. Although You’re the Worst deals with heavy stuff, it does so with a light and raunchy touch, perfectly balancing raw emotions with belly laughs.
Commitment: 11 hours.
Picked By: Marya E. Gates, Social Media Specialist
What it is: Inspired by the series of novels written by George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones is the fantasy epic that out epics all others. Set in the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, the series follows the dynastic struggles among the realms of noble families for control of the Iron Throne.
Why you should watch it: If you are someone who still hasn’t jumped on the GOT bandwagon, do not be daunted by the task — or by the hype. It lives up to it all and this year did nothing but enhance the show’s stockpile of jaw-dropping and superbly written, performed, and directed moments. Even after five seasons, you will still catch yourself astounded that this is television at all.
Where to watch: HBO Go.
Commitment: 50 hours.
Picked By: Andria Hopkins, Review Aggregator
What it is: Ross Poldark is a British soldier who returns home from the Revolutionary War to find his family business bankrupt and his love betrothed to another, forcing him to rebuild his life.
Why you should watch it: It’s a romance novel brought to life. Aidan Turner is fantastic as Poldark, with flowing locks and shirtless scenes that are almost as gorgeous as the show’s sweeping shots of the English countryside. If you’re looking for something to keep you going until Outlander returns in the spring, this should serve you nicely.
Commitment: Eight hours.
Picked By: Beki Lane, Associate TV Editor
What it is: A psycho-sexy action drama, Banshee throws a dangerous ex-con into, wait for it… sheriffdom. When he attempts to reconnect with his true love and former cohort-in-crime, he ends up replacing the new sheriff who got killed before anybody could meet him, making for some crazy-ass goings-on in the Banshee PD.
Why you should watch it: It’s hard to find a show so crazy, so nasty, so sexy. The amazing cast makes it difficult to choose who to root for: the bad-ass, violent ex-con disguised as the sheriff? His ex-partner/lover-in-crime hiding her past, who now lives with her politician husband and two kids? The “businessman” mob-boss type who excommunicated himself from his Amish family to run the town? What about his promiscuous niece who was banished from the family? Explosive!
Commitment: 30 hours.
Picked By: Kerr Lordygan, Associate TV Editor
Why you should watch it: There’s a moment partway through Documentary Now!‘s season premiere spoofing the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens when you realize that you’re not only watching a spot-on send-up to the original, but also a story brilliantly taking on a life of its own. Perfect for cinephiles and comedy nuts alike, Documentary Now! is best when you’re familiar with the source material, but anyone who appreciates silly, weirdly specific humor should check this one out.
Commitment: Three hours.
Picked By: Sarah Ricard, TV Editor
What it is: Elliot (Rami Malek), a young computer programmer with mental health issues, is recruited by a group of revolutionary hackers to help them bring upon the destruction of some of the world’s largest corporations. But as the stakes are raised, our hero discovers that nothing is as it first seemed.
Why you should watch it: Plenty of shows — even very good ones — can be enjoyed on a surface level. Mr. Robot, on the other hand, demands your undivided attention. Everything — everything — about this show feels precise and premeditated; it draws you into a paranoid mindset, one that embodies the old conspiracist’s adage that there are no coincidences. Hallucinatory, insanely topical, and blessed with one of the best soundtracks (and undoubtably the best title screens) of any show on television, Mr. Robot will reward obsessives with plenty of unsettling layers to uncover.
Commitment: Eight hours.
Picked By: Tim Ryan, Senior Editor