The year's best in TV:
1. "Breaking Bad," AMC
Vince Gilligan not only masterminded a perfect conclusion to a perfect show, but brilliantly assembled a walkup to the finale that was both filled with surprise and entirely faithful to the series and its themes. One of the greatest TV series ever.
2. "Orange Is the New Black, " Netflix
The streaming platform became a major player this year with several superb series, and this one, about a classy New York woman who learns a lot about life and herself in a women's prison, is one of the best. Taylor Schilling heads a terrific cast that includes Kate Mulgrew, Pablo Schreiber and the amazing Natasha Lyonne.
3. "Broadchurch, " BBC America
A riveting murder mystery set in a small seaside town that was as much about the secrets of the town folk as it was about who killed a small boy and left his body on the beach. Wrenching performances by Jodie Whittaker, David Tennant and Olivia Colman.
4. "The Good Wife, " CBS
The drama about a lawyer who refuses to be a victim of her husband's philandering has always been good, but it stepped things up big time this year, with agonizing breakups, both personal and professional, at Lockhart Gardner. Textbook example on how a great show can get better several seasons in without jumping any sharks.
5. "Arrested Development, " Netflix
A few longtime fans were upset the series didn't just follow the format familiar from the show's Fox days. But the brilliance of the new season is that it's tailored to every type of TV watching: real time, time-shifting and binge-watching.
6. "Veep," HBO
Julia Louis-Dreyfus became even nuttier and more self-absorbed this year as Vice President Selina Meyer. If only real politics were half this funny, we might put up with its oppressive inefficiency. Another great show that got even better.
7. "Please Like Me," Pivot TV
Australian comic Josh Thomas stars in this autobiographical sitcom about a giggly, gangly goofball whose realization that he's probably gay gives him no more direction in life than he had when he thought otherwise. Most of the broadcast comedies were kinda OK at best, but that's all the more reason to recognize genius with shows like "PLM" and "Veep." Comedy really is hard.
8. "The Returned," Sundance Channel
"The Walking Dead" has nothing on the genius of this moody French series about the resurrection of several dead residents of a small mountain town. With a minimum of rotting flesh, the series brilliantly probes metaphysics of human existence. As more of the formerly dead appear, the level of the town's man-made lake drops lower and lower, revealing the ghost of a flooded town long hidden from view.
9. "Orphan Black," BBC America
Tatiana Maslany gives the performances, plural, of a lifetime as several young women who learn they are clones. In the wrong hands, this could have been a misfired gimmick, but it works brilliantly. Terrific supporting cast includes Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy and Dylan Bruce.
10. "Mob City," TNT
Frank Darabont's loving, exquisitely nuanced celebration of noir filmmaking was somewhat underappreciated and may not get a second season -- maybe people were expecting zombie gangsters. But great writing, terrific performances and stunning attention to period detail should earn the series a second shot. Jon Bernthal is perfect as L.A. cop Joe Teague, and Alexa Davalos plays femme fatale Jasmine Fontaine like a reincarnated Ava Gardner.
(David Wiegand is The San Francisco Chronicle's executive features editor and TV critic. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @WaitWhat_TV)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.)