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That Time of Year: My TV Top 10, Bottom 5, and a 'Fresh Air' Chat with Terry Gross
December 24, 2015  | By David Bianculli  | 10 comments

It’s that time of the year: holiday visits and visitors, annual Top 10 TV lists, and, tonight on NPR’s Fresh Air, my end-of-2015 debriefing with Terry Gross. Lists, links and holiday greetings follow…


Today (Christmas Eve) on Fresh Air, I get to do one of my favorite things of the year: sit down for a casual chat about TV with Terry Gross, who’s put up with me on her program, one way or another, for 40 years now. If you’re reading this before 5 p.m. ET on Dec. 24, just tune to your local NPR member station to hear today’s Fresh Air. If it’s after that, just go to the Fresh Air website.

But if you want to be surprised by my Top 10, stop reading now. Otherwise, here it comes, along with my Top 10 new shows, and my Bottom 5 for the year. You’ll have to go to Fresh Air, though, to actually hear a sample of the worst show of 2015 – as well as my conversation with Terry about late-night TV, streaming networks, and other topics.


Other TVWW critics already have weighed in with their votes for the year’s Top 10. Here’s mine:


Top 10 Shows

1) Better Call Saul, AMC

2) Fargo, FX

3) Justified, FX

4) Good Wife, CBS

5) Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Comedy Central

6) Mad Men, AMC

7) The Walking Dead, AMC

8) Louie, FX

9) Man in the High Castle, Amazon

10) Inside Amy Schumer, Comedy Central

(tie) Episodes, Showtime

  My only comments are that, this year, there could easily have been a Top 20, or a Top 30. That’s how good TV has gotten, and how widely the wealth has been spread. The crap, too – but we’ll leave that list to some other website. TV NOT Worth Watching, maybe.

 Except that, each year, to point out the bottom of the barrel seems a valid exercise. It’s totally arbitrary, because you could fill the list each year merely with Kardashians – but if something really sticks out, and leaves me wanting to shower once I’ve seen it, it gets a brief mention here, and that’s it. The higher the number, the worse the show:

Bottom 5 Shows

1) Sex Box, WE (pictured)

2) Truth Be Told, NBC

3) Wicked City, ABC

4) Dr. Ken, ABC

5) The Leisure Class, HBO [from Project Greenlight director Jason Mann]


Also, the Top 10 New Shows of 2015:

 Top 10 New Shows

1) Better Call Saul, AMC

2) Man in the High Castle, Amazon (pictured)

3) Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, HBO

4) The Grinder, Fox

5) Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, FX

6) Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, Comedy Central

7) Humans, AMC

8) Master of None, Netflix

9) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, CW

10) Mr. Robot, USA

My Top 10 and Top 10 New Shows also were featured on Hitfix.


And finally, thanks – to the readers, writers and editors of this site, for seeing us through an especially hectic and unstable year. Anyone who used the holiday guide to buy stuff, thereby giving us our percentage cut from Amazon, thanks again. And finally, to all you readers, thanks for the trust, the feedback, and the continued good will.

Happy holidays to all…

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Apr 28, 2022   |  Reply
Just listened to this "Top" list on NPR's Fresh Weekend. I heard you comment that there was essentially nothing good on network TV. I have to take exception here, but just regarding one show: American Crime on ABC. Created by John Ridley (screenwriter for 12 years a slave), a story that portrayed the tremendously difficult topic of prejudice and the devastating fall out therein. A big fan here of all the serious Drama fare of cable network AMC, and have to say I think this series from ABC measures up. I often wondered how much further it could have gone had it been on cable instead of network. Daring, original, timely of course. And, a SERIOUS drama from a network, not some vapid nonsense that I was afraid it would be (re: Lifetime movie of the week). Was just wondering if you had seen it as I can't imagine if you had that you would omit such a powerful, thoughtful and ultimately unsettling series from your consideration.
Jan 4, 2016   |  Reply
Okay. I don't get why you hated "Truth Be Told". It is so funny! And yet goes over those issues that can make you squirm otherwise. It is a good diverse cast that talks about what actually goes on in people's lives! I especially love that the black couple is unique and that it isn't primarily focused on the one white person there. It is a true ensemble.
Dec 26, 2015   |  Reply
On your recommendation I started The Man in The High Castle. The premise and the 1st three episodes had me looking forward to watching the whole series. By episode 4 the plot began to be absurd. Jules and Joe are extremely afraid of the murderous "Marshal". As he's about to kill Jules, Joe knocks him out. Then they just run off (so he can start chasing them again). The villains in this series leave no stone unturned and have high attention to detail as as they pursue Jules, her boyfriend etc. But in the next episode she ends up slipping in headquarters and serving the same villains tea as they discuss policy on the highest level. Similarly Rudolph Begner miraculously slips out of the Japanese security but just happens to spotted, as an old friend, at the airport by the main Nazi and ends up at his home for dinner. In spite of the decent acting and excellent sets it began to be like the storyline was constructed by a child for children so I gave up halfway through episode 6.
Dec 26, 2015   |  Reply
Last Man on Earth had to make the bottom 5, maybe it was bottom 10 and didnt get printed out?
Dec 25, 2015   |  Reply
Brita Pruitt
So what was Empire? Most of your shows on the list I have never watched. Empire, as many people I know understand that the issues on the show are the real deal. I read some other critic think of it as a hot mess, but the reality is the success is owed to it being a "hot mess". The disconnect between what critics think is great and what the public see as great because it speaks to something they can connect to his astounding to me. Empire blows all of the rest of the shows out of the water.
Dec 24, 2015   |  Reply
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