1. Chewing Gum – "Binned" (E4)
In the second episode of Michaela Coel's wickedly funny sitcom, Tracey and Connor come together, all desperate mouths and frantic hands, soundtracked by TLC's "Red Light Special". And then they are abruptly stalled by Tracey's purple jumper. "Er, I'll do it," mutters Tracey, as she pulls the garment overhead herself. A foot in front of her – and in awkward silence – Connor takes his T-shirt off. It devolves into one of the most grimly, hilariously awkward sex scenes I've seen on telly this year. Watching at home I let out a series of dry, rasping laughs of horror-mirth.
Chewing Gum is a big deal, and creator and star Michaela Coel is on her way to being a big deal, as evidenced by E4's decision to commission a second series (and her recent appearance on Jonathan Ross's talk-show sofa). There's so much chatter about her show being groundbreaking, but here's what I see: An authentic black girl (written by a black girl!) being silly and gross, sexual (but not a sexualised object twisted by a weird male gaze) and hilarious. On E4. In 2015. On British television. This is the sitcom I had not thought to hope for. – BA
2. The Great British Bake Off – "Final" (BBC One)
I'm sorry for all of the friends and colleagues I've bored and alienated this year by talking about the Bake Off, but it has been my life. My favourite TV moment of the year just has to be Nadiya's win at the very end of the series. You could see her ability was never consistent – she came both first and last in what seemed like DOZENS of challenges – but you always felt that she was trying to prove herself and would just not fucking give up.
Nadiya's good nature and support for other contestants were admirable and her speech when she finally, finally won the show is one of the best damn speeches I've ever heard in my life: "I'm never going to put boundaries on me ever again. I'm never going to say 'I can't do it', I'm never going to say 'maybe', I'm never going to say 'I don't think I can'. I can and I will." It's from the winner of a baking show. A BAKING SHOW. But it's true. It resonates so well. – Scott Bryan
3. Master of None – "Parents" (Netflix)
Halfway through the heartbreakingly funny second episode of Master of None, it became inevitable that I was going to binge-watch my weekend away with Aziz Ansari's Netflix sitcom. Every time Dev's father had a flashback I shifted awkwardly on the sofa, both amused and unsettled. In Dev (Ansari) and Brian, I recognised myself – a first-generation brat. I cringed hard when Brian joked that Dev’s biggest problem was his messed up Wi-Fi: On my last visit home I complained incessantly about my parents' internet connection, and begged them to upgrade so my next visit wouldn't be so technologically torturous. I'm the worst. When Brian lamented that he got more affection from his white ex-girlfriend's family than he did his own, I swallowed my feelings and tried not to tear up next to my Netflix and Chill date.
In the end, I had to pause the show and leave the room to call my parents. I tried to articulate my appreciation but I was dangerously close to wailing, so all that came out was: “I'll fix your iPad whenever you want, I promise!” My ma promptly ignored that, before asking if I'd found a nice Asian boy yet. – Amna Sal
4. The Women's World Cup 2015 – England vs Japan (BBC Three)
The games, this year hosted by Canada, were on very late at night and, unlike in Germany or the US, the UK has never really got behind women's football en masse. But through a combination of great coverage on the BBC – and in the media at large –and the Lionesses miraculously succeeding through the group stages despite a long list of injuries, England's third-place playoff against Germany attracted 1.4 million viewers.
But it was England's semifinal against Japan that stood out. In the 92nd minute, Laura Bassett's own goal gave Japan a 2-1 lead and saw England's hopes of reaching the final shattered. But the way her teammates, the fans in the stadium, and the public back home rallied round her was incredibly moving. The team spoke of how they visited schools upon their return to England and were told by both girls and boys that they "wanted to grow up to be like the Lionesses". We gained 23 strong female sports role models during that tournament and restored some national pride in our footballing abilities. – Richard Beech
5. Jessica Jones – "AKA WWJD" (Netflix)
Jessica Jones was one of the year’s most haunting shows, and the stunning eighth episode ("AKA WWJD?") was its moral core. Ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer, classy fantasy and sci-fi has adopted a “monsters are metaphors” approach: "School is hell", and so on. So there was a pretty good chance viewers were subconsciously thinking Jessica Jones would go that route too. But then in episode eight the realisation that’s been gradually dawning punches you hard in the gut: None of this is a metaphor. The show is about exactly what the show is about. Kilgrave – Marvel’s most terrifying screen villain to date – isn’t a monster because he represents rapists, controlling boyfriends, or abusive exes. He just is one. And Jessica has no qualms about naming what he did to her.
In a TV ecosystem where rape has become a tediously commonplace bit of plot juicing, it’s just about the most quietly subversive thing the show could have done. And it’s why, when later in the episode it genuinely looks like Jessica might choose to stay with Kilgrave in the hope that she can “fix” him, it’s a moment of pure and true horror.
And then, of course, she doesn’t. Because she’s Jessica Fucking Jones. – Tom Phillips
6. Game of Thrones – "Mother's Mercy" (Sky Atlantic)
I somehow managed to avoid every single spoiler, despite working with lots of American colleagues who'd seen it 24 hours earlier. And OH. MY. GOD. Shocked beyond belief? Yes. Heartbroken? Yes. Outrageously angry with Olly? Of course. Outrageously angry with the writers? Uh huh. Confused as fuck? Absolutely. Left wanting more? I am a glutton for punishment, yes.
I sat there with my mouth wide open like a landed fish then swore repeatedly until I went to bed with a whole array of emotions and questions. It absolutely traumatised me. I'm still not over it, to be honest. That image of him lying there with his beautiful, beautiful hair on the snow gets me every time. But of course I'm now counting down the months, days, and minutes until it returns in the hope I will, in fact, see him again. – Kimberley Dadds
7. Jessica Jones – "AKA 1,000 Cuts" (Netflix)
I have been thinking about the 10th episode of Jessica Jones (“AKA 1,000 Cuts”) since I watched it two weeks ago, and I am still thinking about it. I’ve made every single one of my (uninterested) friends discuss it with me at length. It’s not just the harrowing, can’t-look-away nature of a woman systematically lacerating her soon-to-be-ex-wife with a box cutter that stood out to me – although it did, and it was enough to give me nightmares.
David Tennant’s performance throughout the entire series is remarkable. He actually convinced me, at one point, to sympathise with him, and I felt for a while afterwards that I had actually been subject to his mind control. But it was in "AKA 1,000 Cuts" that the power of his performance stood out the most. The scene in the restaurant was when I realised his character really, truly, was acting on entirely selfish impulses rather than any nobler pain. He’s the ultimate nice-guy-who’s-actually-not-at-all-nice. And while that’s brilliant for a character from the perspective of a viewer, as a woman, it’s fucking terrifying. – Ellie Bate
8. Comedy Feeds – "People Time" (BBC Three/iPlayer)
A preview of BBC Three’s new iPlayer-only future was glimpsed this summer through the Comedy Feeds online pilots series, and the main, glimmering hope to emerge from this was the surreal, silly, and achingly self-aware sketch showcase "People Time".
Within just 22 minutes, the seven-strong cast of twentysomething upstarts looked like they were destined to breathe some much-needed new life into the corpse of ensemble TV sketch comedy. Their portrayal of the idiosyncrasies and insecurities of modern life – a young woman being broken under the weight of her spam emails, a man so desperate to fit in with his peers that he incompetently harangues "No More Page 3" campaigners in the street – impressed pretty much everybody who saw it.
With depressing predictability, however, it wasn’t picked up for a full series. The pilot for "The Greatest Show That Never Was: 2015 Edition" lives on – for now – on iPlayer. – Francis Whittaker
9. Six One: The marriage referendum (RTE1)
Just before 6pm on 23 May, my friend Barry turned away from the TV screens in PantiBar on Capel Street, Dublin, and said to me: “Did you ever think you’d see the day that a bunch of gays would be standing around actually waiting for the Six One news bulletin to start?”
Let me explain: Six One is an institution that airs every day on the main Irish TV station, RTE1. It’s so-called both because of its time/channel assignation, and also because it starts at 6:01pm, so as to allow time for the Angelus, a moment of pause and prayer for the Catholic faithful.
It was just one of many unexpected, status quo-disrupting moments that unfolded that glorious summer weekend, when Ireland became the first country in the world to pass marriage equality legislation by popular vote. We’d watched the various constituency results coming in all afternoon, so when news anchor Bryan Dobson cut live to Dublin Castle for the official declaration around 6:30pm, we paused – as if watching the Angelus, ironically – in a nervous, stomach-flipping hush.
It passed, of course, and the bar could barely contain the rush of cheering, hugging, and crying that ensued. Indeed, the joy spilled out onto Dublin’s adjacent North Quays, and it quickly became clear that the whole of Ireland had been pent up, waiting for the official nod from Six One that, yes, indeed, it was time to celebrate, and be proud, because we now lived in a new country, and, by extension, a new world. – Declan Cashin
10. London Spy (BBC Two)
I love London Spy. And it's got nothing to do with Ben Whishaw (although he's great), or Jim Broadbent (greeeeaaaaat), or the fact that it has characters who just happen to gay in it. No, I love this show because it is genuinely one of the only dramas on television in which you literally have no titting clue what's going to happen next.
Every single time you think you have it all figured out, or you sense where the plot is going and you want to scream to your other half "OH, ALEX ISN'T DEAD, I THINK IT'S A CONSPIRACY" the plot goes into a blender and the show heads in a totally different direction.
I have no clue how this show is going to end. Not a single one. In fact, I have no idea what is going on right now. But it's bloody enjoyable. – Scott Bryan
11. Daredevil (Netflix)
He’s a superhuman, yes, but with an emphasis on the human. Part of the success of the character and the show is the fallibility of Matt Murdock – the man behind the mask – demonstrated in all its bloody, gory glory. Never has watching a man get 10 barrels of bollocks kicked out of him been so entertaining, mainly because he gives better than he gets – dispatching New York’s unlimited supply of henchmen with brutal efficiency – but also because one of the central conflicts of man and show is the fact he enjoys a beating so much.
Episode two’s hallway fight is the most thrilling action scene featured on any screen this year. Age of Ultron – Marvel’s crowning glory, with its cast of colourful heroes, expansive locations, and big budget – didn't come nearly as close to the feeling of euphoria conjured by a man in black tights kicking the fuck out of 30 thugs in a dirty New York basement. – Daniel Dalton
12. Catastrophe (Channel 4)
With some proclaiming after its first run last year that Catastrophe was the funniest British sitcom since Peep Show (by “some” I mean "me") it was no surprise that it returned for a second season in 2015. Aside from the never-ending stream of perfectly paced jokes, the show’s real strength comes from the honesty with which Sharon (Sharon Horgan) and Rob (Rob Delaney) communicate. It’s a relationship that’s a long way from perfect. And it’s a relationship that’s as joyous as it is maddening. It’s a relationship we’ve all had.
For an out-and-out comedy, Catastrophe continued to tackle some of life’s darkest subject matters: The Down’s syndrome scare and “nearly cancer” of the first season were replaced by postnatal depression and dementia in the second. But the jokes kept on coming, and by the end of the opening scene of the first episode – when an argument turns into impromptu make-up sex, during which Rob instructs Sharon to put her finger up his arse just as their toddler wanders into the room – I brought out the old Peep Show claim once again. History may well prove me wrong, but I highly doubt it. – Robin Edds
13. Mr Robot – (Amazon)
2015 was about one thing and one thing only: Rami Fucking Malek. When I first laid eyes on him in Short Term 12, he played a character who means well, but is ultimately a bit useless. Fast forward to Mr Robot in which he portrays Elliot, an introverted computer programmer by day and a vigilante hacker by night. There is nothing useless about this beautiful, troubled, anxious – did I mention beautiful yet? – man.
The entire show is super fast-paced. And it’s not exactly easy-going viewing: I spent the whole season on the edge of my seat, right up until the final twist where I quite literally fell OFF my seat. Everyone's brilliant (Darlene inspired me to wear biker boots and fluffy coats for a month), but as Elliot, Rami is the breakout star. His big, paranoid eyes lead you through the various plot twists and although you sort of know you can’t always trust his point of view, you can’t help it. HE IS JUST TOO DAMN BEAUTIFUL.
Thank you to the creators of this show. It was exactly what I needed when True Detective disappointed me more than my ex-boyfriend ever did (trust me, he was a pretty shitty dude). – Maggy van Eijk