The Best Tv Performances of 2015

  1. Aya Cash, You’re The Worst
    Our favorite TV performance of 2015. It’s a performance that expertly calibrates humor and tragedy, never too cartoonish to leave an emotional impact, never too maudlin to co-exist alongside comic misadventures involving frozen sperm, a “money slave,” or improv classes.
  2. David Anders, iZombie
    Anders looks like he’s having the time of his life—and thanks to that charismatic performance, every time he appears on screen, so are we.
  3. Hayley Atwell, Marvel’s Agent Carter
    As the resourceful, glamorous government agent Peggy Carter, Hayley Atwell carries herself with class, but never lets her character become too blandly goody-goody. She’s obstinate, she’s witty, and she’s all-too-aware of the brave soldiers who’ve died during her years battling insidious evil organizations, from the Nazis to Hydra.
  4. Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
    The word “likable” haunts many an actor as she’s asked to create quirky, flawed characters who are still beautiful, pleasant, and not too damaged. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend creator and star Rachel Bloom doesn’t give a shit about being likable—and she’s all the more likable for it.
  5. Clayne Crawford, Rectify
    Crawford gives a masterful performance as Teddy, showing the confident facade Teddy presents to the world as well as the cracks now littering it, the hole gnawing away at Teddy that started with his mother’s drug use, was reinforced when his adoptive mother Janet pushed him away to make space in her life for the return of her biological son Daniel, and that has been compounded by the crumbling of his marriage to Tawney.
  6. Jaime Camil, Jane The Virgin
    Camil is consistently the funniest and most irreverent part of the show. Beyond being humorous, what makes Rogelio an indispensable part of the show’s landscape is Camil’s ability to find the heart and pathos behind all of the character’s self-aggrandizing preening.
  7. Andy Daly, Review
    For all that he brings his destruction upon himself, Forrest MacNeil is, in the end, a sympathetic insect, and that’s a five-star accomplishment for Andy Daly.
  8. Sutton Foster, Younger
    There’s a short list of actors who can convincingly portray a 40-year-old posing as a 26-year-old, but Sutton Foster makes Younger’s heightened premise work.
  9. Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
    Over the course of the show’s first season, its protagonist goes from outsider to revolutionary, and the transition wouldn’t be anywhere near as effective without Malek’s committed, feverish work.
  10. Melissa McBride, The Walking Dead
    The actress has always been great on this show, but lately she’s given the increasingly psychopathic Carol even more frayed edges. It’ fascinating—and terrifying—to watch.
  11. Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline
    Danny’s menace and manipulation stem from a traumatic childhood incident, and the way Mendelsohn plays him, the broken little boy is always just visible beneath Danny’s threatening surface.
  12. Denis O’Hare, American Horror Story: Hotel
    There’s not a hint of camp to the magic O’Hare works in each of his scenes. It’s a character and a performance that refuse to be ignored. Attention must be paid.
  13. Mark Rylance, Wolf Hall
    It’s all in his eyes: Rylance looks downward to play the underdog, he sneaks a peek at his crush, he forces himself to face the consequences of his actions with no small horror in his bulging eyeballs. Everything takes after Rylance: the recon camerawork, the formal blocking, and most of all the otherworldly chill. It’s as if he gives rise to a whole world in Wolf Hall—acting as terraforming.
  14. Michaela Watkins, Casual
    As Valerie, a therapist navigating an awkward life transition, Watkins brings a delicate pathos to the role without losing every hint of the rubber-faced wackiness that made her so effective in her comedic roles.
  15. Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo
    It’s a terrifically tense performance, with the feeling that Mike and his henchman could kill you if they choose—but for the moment he’s having too much fun to draw.
  16. Constance Wu, Fresh Off The Boat
    With one of television’s best baleful stares, she turns every two-second reaction shot into an Emmy reel. And though she’s capable of playing out a vast spectrum of the human condition in a single episode, it’s Jessica’s steely determination that grounds the satellite shenanigans and gives the show some of that sharp edge back.
  17. Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham, Playing House
    Outstanding duo. There are a lot of funny people on the small-screen these days, many of them from the same circle of comedians and actors that nurtured St. Clair and Parham. But this particular combination is special—like a modern-day Barney and Andy, or Mary and Rhoda, or George and Gracie.
  18. Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby, UnREAL
    Outstanding duo. Some shows have a standout star. UnREAL has two. Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby steal every scene they’re in, but they’re most powerful face-to-face, bringing acidity and even occasional sexual tension to every scene between Quinn King and Rachel Goldberg.
  19. The Americans
    Outstanding ensemble. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell’s work is invariably stellar, but season three affords its supporting cast opportunities for greatness.
  20. Halt And Catch Fire
    Outstanding ensemble. There’s a spark to this season that was absent in the first season’s reverse-engineering of Mad Men; at this point, perhaps only The Americans can beat it for a cast that knows how to let a moment of dread slowly unspool with a sense of immediacy that makes you want to reach for the screen and stop the worst.
  21. The Leftovers
    Outstanding ensemble. The Leftovers is a show about communities coalescing after 2 percent of the world’s population mysteriously vanishes—it ought to understand the power of bringing so many talented performers together.
  22. Hugh Laurie, Veep
    Outstanding guest star. Laurie’s subtle shift from refreshingly kind to actively manipulative was fun to watch, and only served to reinforce Veep’s vision of a crooked game that corrupts all its players.
  23. Patti LuPone, Penny Dreadful
    Outstanding guest star. As Joan The Cut-Wife, LuPone’s deliberately stagey dialogues with Eva Green became intense poetry; in a show deeply concerned with social power exerted over women, Joan represented someone who knew the inevitable, an impossibly tragic figure who still got the season’s biggest laugh with a handful of salt.
  24. Cicely Tyson, How To Get Away With Murder
    Outstanding guest star. Trust Cicely Tyson to get the job done in under four minutes. With only a single appearance on How To Get Away With Murder, she managed to cleave through the season’s tangle of plots and waltz off with the first season’s thesis statement: Protecting what’s important to you, no matter the cost.
  25. Bill Hader, The Awesomes/Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Documentary Now!/Inside Amy Schumer/Man Seeking Woman
    Special achievement across multiple shows. Television in 2015 is like one big sketch show starring Bill Hader. Hader’s approach isn’t to chew the scenery. He goes inward, packing on the detail in these performances, modulating his voice, his movements, and his gaze with expert precision for each new character.
  26. Jon Hamm, Mad Men/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt/Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp
    What makes Hamm so compelling in these roles is his ability to open himself up completely: Whether Don is weeping during his tragic final phone call with Birdie, or Rev. Wayne is rolling into breathtakingly awkward karate moves, Hamm holds nothing back.
  27. Mel Rodriguez, Getting On/The Last Man On Earth/Better Call Saul
    Mel Rodriguez spent nearly 15 years as a reliable but mostly unmemorable character actor. Then, in 2013, he took on the role of sexually confused, pathologically officious supervising nurse Patsy De La Serda in HBO’s Getting On. Rodriguez can play rough or soft, whimsical or poignant. He’s on a real roll right now—and unlikely ever to be anonymous again.