"Underground" offers a compelling look at the Underground Railroad, a part of American history that has largely been ignored by Hollywood (though the announcement that Harriet Tubman will grace paper currency has made it timely). Topnotch performances, great writing and excellent production design make this freshman series from WGN America a show worth watching.
Jay Duplass and Amy Landecker, "Transparent"
Gaby Hoffman of "Transparent" seems like the easy choice for most dysfunctional of Amazon's Pfefferman clan, but don't discount the subtle and heartbreaking work of her onscreen siblings Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass. They're just as broken as their sister, and as desperate for their true identities as their transitioned former father, Maura.
HBO's underrated dramedy set in the geriatric ward of a B-list hospital is caustically brilliant, with standout turns by Laurie Metcalfe as a delusional doc and Alex Borsten and Niecy Nash as put-upon nurses. (June Squibb also deserves attention for her guest turn as a foul-mouthed patient.)
Timothy Simons, "Veep"
"Veep" always has the best insults on television, and the best Veep insults are always directed at Timothy Simon's Jonah Ryan, the most deliciously dunderheaded and misguidedly ambitious comic foil on any show anywhere.
"Horace and Pete"
Louis C.K. says he went into debt to finance this dark, online-only comedy about two middle-aged bar owners (C.K. and Steve Buscemi) and their troubled clientele. The writing is daring (in the premiere almost three minutes pass before a line of dialogue is uttered) and the cast (Alan Alda, Edie Falco, Jessica Lange) superlative.
Krysten Ritter, "Jessica Jones"Krysten Ritter's comedic roles in the past could not have prepared audiences for her dark and dramatic turn as Marvel and Netflix's titular superhero Jessica Jones, but the whiskey-chugging, traumatized victim-turned vigilante looks just right on her.
No comedy in the last year featured an ensemble cast as strong or as well-utilized as Fox's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine". Led by Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher, the show's large cast has only gotten better with time, delivering the strongest season yet for the best workplace sitcom on the air.
This British period drama about gangsters in the 1920s--think "Boardwalk Empire" in Birmingham--is stylish and gritty, with a magnetic lead performance by Cillian Murphy as real-life mobster Tommy Shelby. Michael Mann, Snoop Dogg, Leonard Cohen and the late David Bowie are (or were) all fans, which ought to be recommendation enough.
"Hannibal" went off the air before its fans were ready to say goodbye, and just as its quality was peaking. An Emmy for Bryan Fuller's creepy and complex cannibal drama would be a nice consolation prize in lieu of more seasons.
A series about two strangers who decide to marry after their one-night stand results in a pregnancy is fertile ground for bawdy humor, but stars and co-creators Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney don't play it all for laughs (though there are plenty). By zeroing in on the challenges--sexual dysfunction, poopy diapers--that face parents on the brink of middle age, their U.K.-set show shines a smart, sassy light on all of the wicked and wonderful catastrophes that life has to offer.
Eva Green, "Penny Dreadful"Eva Green is in her third season of battling the devil on Showtime's "Penny Dreadful," and she's overdue for her some Emmy recognition for her work as the steely-eyed medium Vanessa Ives. Week after week, Green delivers one of the most underrated and electrifying performances on television, at once conveying a seamless blend of confidence, vulnerability, pain and terror.
Shiri Appleby, "UnReal"
The series is deservedly getting Outstanding Drama Series consideration, but Lifetime's dark and twisted drama would be nothing without its leading lady. Shiri Appleby's Rachel is a sociopath who's as broken as she is masterful.
Jordan Peele, "Key & Peele"
Keegan-Michael Key richly deserved his 2015 acting nomination, but his partner in "Key & Peele" shouldn't be overlooked. He might not be as exuberant as Key, but Peele was a sly comic superstar in the show's final season.
"Please Like Me"
Writer-star Josh Thomas' funny-sad show about a gay Australian twentysomething maintained a sharp, bittersweet edge in its third season on Pivot--as Josh's alter ego overcame his many insecurities and emerged as the unlikely stable one surrounded by ever-needier friends and family.
"You're the Worst"
Starring Chris Geere and Aya Cash as a couple of cranks learning to be in a relationship and Kether Donohue and Desmon Borges as best friends with their own issues, You're the Worst added an impressively nuanced depression arc this season that brought new dimensions to its characters, deepened its storytelling and proved the show is capable of reaching great heights even outside its initial premise.