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Best Television of 2015: 'Bates Motel', 'Vikings', 'Reign', 'Narcos', 'The Flash' & more!

A full year of television has come and gone, and after watching a plethora of series – the time has arrived for Eclectic Pop to recognize the best and brightest. 13 series made the cut to be mentioned among the year’s best. They span the contributions of cable, streaming and network broadcasting. Below you will find zero straight-up comedies, loads of dramas (set in both the past and the present), a single superhero series and two horror programs. It’s an eclectic mix and we begin with the selection for the year’s #1 show…
Best Show: Bates Motel
For the third straight year in a row, “Bates Motel” proved to have no equal. The latest season of the A&E series focused on the escalation of Norman’s (Freddie Highmore) unraveling psyche, as his protective mother (Vera Farmiga) and vigilant brother (Max Thieriot) struggled to come to terms with what to do about it.

Mental illness is something a lot of shows vaguely discuss and fewer explore on a deeply seated level. “Bates” is unwavering in its pursuit of the topic as a significantly silenced issue facing families. While the domino effect of Norman’s affliction touched every character on the canvas in a unique way, the season also gave its characters a chance to explore themselves outside of their connection to him.

Balancing the overarching umbrella that connects them and the smaller nuances of their individual development is essential to the entire series and writers Kerry Ehrin and Carlton Cuse kept the ball rolling in explosively compelling ways.

“Bates Motel” gave viewers moments of dark humor, tragic drama and heartening romantic quests. It continued swimming in taboo thematic waters with its signature grace, careful to never push the envelope for the sake of sheer shock value.

“Bates” finds its power in restraint. In exploring the manifold of psychological layering that comprise a complicated and all-encompassing characterization.

Led by the remarkable talents of Vera Farmiga, it is a testament to the strength of its ensemble that every cast member can stand toe-to-toe with her and capably hold their own. The collective performances of Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Olivia Cooke, Nestor Carbonell and Kenny Johnson, comprised the best work an entire cast contributed to TV in 2015.

The critical apathy for this phenomenal series is frustrating. There’s nothing this show is doing wrong to explain the indifference. It is flawless. In a climate where there has been an increasing call for female led series, “Bates Motel” is ferociously captained by one and not just any one either.

Norma Bates is a complex buffet of human emotion; a mother and entrepreneur trying to take care of her family under harrowing circumstances and Farmiga portrays her struggle with a stunning clarity that awes in every episode.

For that reason and many more, "Bates" earned the top spot on this list for the third consecutive year. Simply put, no other series deserves it more.

Best Horror Series: Penny Dreadful
The first season of Showtime’s horror series made a strong first impression and its second season managed to build on that sound foundation by striking a sleek balance between gothic gore, mystical mystery and towering romance.

Boosted by the phenomenal central turns of Eva Green and Josh Hartnett, “Penny” shined brighter than one could’ve ever anticipated. Of furthering surprise is that “Dreadful” is has proven to be a horror show with heart, a weird dichotomy that sounds strange on paper and only makes sense when watching.

Proving that point was the stand-alone episode “The Nightcomers” featuring guest star Patti Lupone, which catapulted the series to a newly realized creative pinnacle. A powerfully moving hour of television that earned a spot among the best the medium has ever presented.
Most Underrated Show: Tyrant
Another show ignored by critics, FX’s exotic Middle East drama brought the heat in a follow-up season that extended its attention from the inner conflicts of the Al-Fayeed family to the fight over their homeland in Abbudin. An aspect “Tyrant” manages to consistently get right is how it balances an operatic arc like Barry’s "death" with the larger real-life picture of geopolitics.

Backed by one of the most underrated ensembles on television, Adam Rayner, Moran Atias, Ashraf Barhom and Jennifer Finnigan continued giving incredible performances that sold all of the show’s big moments alongside its small ones. While showrunner Gideon Raff kept up the enthralling pace of its freshman season.

Best Comeback Series: The Blacklist
“The Blacklist” had an interesting 2015. In the midst of an undeniable sophomore slump, it managed to fight back and reclaim its former glory; proving it’s not impossible to surmount a second season slip-up. Anchored by the venerable James Spader as the series’ enigmatic protagonist and Megan Boone as its endearing heroine, “The Blacklist’s” comeback was not entirely unexpected.

Showrunner Jon Bokenkamp has proven to be highly adept at delivering what viewers want and succeeding at exceeding even those expectations. The reunion of the feisty/made-for-each-other Keens, proved to be one such example of long shot hopes that were rewarded in 2015.

Best Summer Series: Scream
When MTV announced it was making a television adaptation of the hit movie franchise, you could practically hear the chorus of skepticism ring out amidst the universe of pop culture. My how “Scream” proved the naysayers wrong.

By assembling a young cast of relative unknowns and pairing them with the highly familiar scenario of the slasher genre; MTV hit an unexpected home run.

Best New Drama: Bloodline
A picturesque location gives way to ugly secrets in this Netflix original. Charged by the tour de force performance of Ben Mendelsohn as the black sheep member of the Rayburn family; “Bloodline” simmers for quite a while before reaching the last half’s explosive boil.

For those missing the family drama ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” supplied, “Bloodline” has the dose you’ve been missing. Just be warned that when the Rayburns get together for dinner, it’s a much graver affair.

Best New Historical Series: The Last Kingdom
BBC challenged “Vikings” and “Game of Thrones” by throwing down the gauntlet with their own historical drama. Well-paced, engrossingly directed and engagingly acted, “The Last Kingdom” did not outperform its rivals but made for an appealing entry to the genre, all the same.

Top 10 Most-Read Television Posts of 2015

When it came to Eclectic Pop’s television coverage in 2015,  interest was spread all over the place. ABC Family’s (now Freeform) cult drama “Pretty Little Liars”, HBO’s “True Detective” and The CW’s overall line-up (“The Flash”, “Arrow”, “Vampire Diaries”) proved enduringly popular with readers.

TV Rundown: Oct 4 - 9 | Part 1 | 'Arrow' & 'The Flash' Return, 'Blood & Oil' Improves

“Arrow” always tends to pack a punch with its season premiere and this season’s was no exception. Opening on the domestic life of Oliver and Felicity, it wasn’t long before they were enticed back to Star City to aid Team Arrow in the fight against a new sinister force terrorizing the city. The action was good and the character-driven arcs were compelling.

Let's Talk About...The Top 5 Emmy Snubs

That time of year has come and gone. The day that can consume TV fans with great frustration, the announcement of the Primetime Emmy Awards. For every exciting nomination, there is typically more than a disproportionate trail of disappointing snubs. This year proved no exception. Besides “Game of Thrones” rightfully earning its 24 nominations, there was little excitement to be had for this TV fan. So it is with that Eclectic Pop tackles the Top 5 slights that cut the deepest.

TV Rundown: Season Finale Edition | Grading the Season Finales of 'Arrow' and 'The Flash'

Arrow | Ra’s was defeated, Oliver declared his love for Felicity and formally resigned as the Arrow and Malcolm took his place as “heir to the demon”. The only question left afterwards was…is the show over? No seriously, is the show over? Oliver literally riding off into the sunset with Felicity marked the end of an era as he withdrew from his position as a vigilante so he could enjoy his life. That means he'll no longer head up Team Arrow, not that he was ever that big of a leader. So much of the season closer felt like a dreamy wrap-up to an extensive lead-up of dire anvils.

TV Rundown: April 5 | 'The Flash' is Out of the Bag

The Flash: “Grodd Lives” | After putting together that Barry was The Flash towards the end of last week’s episode, Iris went on the confrontation war path first with Barry and then with Joe. Hurt that she was kept in the dark, she wasn’t moved by either her father or best friend’s explanations for leaving her out of the loop.

The weirdest part is that in her quest to have it out with Barry, she strolled into Star Labs with no security problem whatsoever and seemed to know the exact level he would be working on. If it was this easy for her to find out what he was up to, why didn’t she just tail him earlier?

TV Rundown: April 28 | 'The Flash' Hatches a Plan to Catch the Reverse Flash - Plus, the Biggest Burning Qs Following 'The Trap'

The Flash | Barry and company’s plan to get Faux-Harrison Wells to confess to the murder of Barry’s mom sounded great, until you think about what they’re actually proposing. A man is going to come forward claiming he is a powerful time traveler, who killed Barry’s mom when he and The Flash traveled back in time together, during a vicious pursuit. Um, right.

TV Rundown: April 19 - 24 | Part 2: Cisco & Joe Visit Starling City on 'The Flash' as Eyes are Opened on 'Bates Motel'

The Flash | In another super episode, Barry and Eddie joined forces to fight one of the season’s best villains of the week, while Joe and Cisco’s investigation into Harrison Wells took them to Starling City. This episode was a prime example of what makes "The Flash" the best superhero TV show airing right now (sorry "Daredevil").

It's witty, sly and entertaining in an exceedingly breezy way. While its peers focus on broody melancholia and angsty "realism", "The Flash" demonstrates you can have an adequate mix of humor and still be serious without overburdening the audience to depressing levels.

TV Rundown: April 10 - 15 | Part 1: Felicity & Ray Visit 'The Flash', 'Arrow' Says a Goodbye & Chaos Ravages 'Bates Motel'

The Flash | Felicity and Ray headed over to Central City for an “Arrow” crossover and to get some help with the A.T.O.M. suit from the geniuses at Star Labs and the results were pretty stellar. Ray and Cisco hit it off, as hilarious double entendres and brainy banter abounded. Ray, like Felicity, gels incredibly well with the energy of “The Flash”, which is a more lighthearted, upbeat and enthusiastic series.

TV Rundown: March 22 - 27 | Diggle to the Rescue on 'Arrow', 'The Flash' Hits Reset & 'Pretty Little Liars' Names A

Arrow | Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times and it’s time to take a major step back. In “Suicidal Tendencies”, newlyweds Diggle and Lyla spent their honeymoon with the Suicide Squad on a covert op to save a government official they believed was being held hostage.

As it turns out he was the big bad mastermind behind it all. This would have been a shocking twist had this not have been the outcome in every other operation Diggle has been sent on. It has reached predictable proportions now.

TV Rundown: Feb 8 - 13 | Part 1: The 'Pretty Little Liars' Dig Up Secrets, Mutiny Hits 'Arrow' & 'The Flash' Attempts Romance

Pretty Little Liars | To sum up “Out Damned Spot”; Mike continued his bizarre behavior, Emily learned that her new girlfriend was keeping a pretty big secret, Spencer’s neighbor took her out to paint graffiti, Hanna asked her father for monetary support for college and Fitz espoused a life lesson. First of all, Emily is moving on way too quickly from Paige, who left 5 seconds ago and her rush to forgive Talia for her deception was hard to take, given she has always made Paige work incredibly hard to earn back even a speck of trust that was lost between them.

TV Resolutions Part 1 | 'Vampire Diaries', 'The Blacklist', 'The Flash', 'Arrow', 'Revenge'' & 'Bates Motel'

With a lot of series returning from their midseason hiatuses (“Pretty Little Liars” and “Revenge” have already come back); Eclectic Pop makes some resolutions for several series’ respective seasons.

The Vampire Diaries: It’s time for Bonnie to finally return home and find some much deserved happiness (for as long as anyone can on this show). She has more than earned it as the series’ most beleaguered heroine. Sheriff Forbes needs to remain among the living. She is the only surviving parent/true adult on the show and her relationship with Caroline is one of the show's few sweet spots.