5. Girls — Lena Dunham’s new HBO show was instantly divisive, separating those who found the comedy to be wildly original and those who found it to be representative of a new generation of annoyingly privileged white women (it was both). The show was accused of nepotism, criticized for its lack of minority representation, and taken to the woodshed for celebrating solipsism. Even James Franco and Louis CK weighed in. Jimmy Kimmel called it one of the best shows ever. Eventually, however, Girls would find its voice, and those who stuck with the show — even its critics — were rewarded with a brilliant comedy about insufferable and/or relatable women (depending on your perspective). Adam Driver’s character, Adam Sackler, would ultimately become the show’s real standout, although Allison Williams would become the object of fantasy.
4. The Return of Breaking Bad — One of the most highly anticipated shows of the year, Breaking Bad returned in July and picked up right where the outstanding fourth season finale left it. No one was disappointed in the premiere (except maybe Bret Easton Ellis), which saw record ratings for the series after picking up hundreds of thousands of viewers over the hiatus. The Vince Gilligan drama is halfway through the front eight of a final season that is building it’s anti-hero, Walter White, into a true, despicable villain largely by working him against the more sympathetic and reasonable killer Mike. The authorities are working in on Gus Fring’s parent company and attempting to turn Gus’ old employees on each other, while Walt has completely alienated his wife, Skylar, and regained the trust of the man he’s screwed over the most, Jesse. It’s continued to prove itself as the most compelling hour of drama on television, and there are still some Chekhov’s guns waiting to go off.
3. Mad Men — After a two year layoff owed to a contract dispute, Matthew Weiner’s show returned to record ratings and became one of the most talked about series of the year. There was very little criticism leveled at the AMC drama, which turned in several of the absolute finest hours of television this year. The series took us through Don Draper’s adjustment to marriage to a younger, cooler woman; Fat Betty; Lane’s fight with slimeball f*ck-weasel Pete; Sally’s period; a $250,000 Beatles song; Joan sleeping her way into a partnership; Peggy’s decision to leave the ad agency; Lane’s suicide; and Don’s potential return to his philandering ways. All in all, it was one of all time best overall seasons of television.