25 Best TV Shows of 2015

From female superheroines to cyberpunk hackers, the year's small-screen highpoints

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1. 'Mr. Robot' (USA)

Once upon a time called right now: A shy tech geek in a black hoodie gets recruited into an underground squad of vigilante hackers with a Coney Island clubhouse. Their mission: take down the capitalist system. But as he keeps learning, the hardest system to hack into is your own mind. Mr. Robot is easily the year's most audacious drama — a punk psycho-thriller full of anti-corporate sabotage, digital paranoia and heavy drugs. (All the revolutionary talk is even more surprising on USA Network, of all places.)

Newcomer Rami Malek is fantastic as the hacker kid Eliot with the haunted eyes, with Christian Slater as his grizzled guru Mr. Robot. (I never figured 2015 would be the year I'd type the six fateful words "Christian Slater has never been better," but there you go.) The story hit home because it taps into the way too much solitude plants bugs in your brain, the way we use our phones as shields to hide from the world, the way hallucinations turn into memories, the way basic human interaction requires a backlog of personal history that can be just too painful to lug around. (The scenes of Eliot alone in his apartment recall Gene Hackman in The Conversation, a Seventies high-anxiety classic that's all over Mr. Robot.) And Slater has the right kicked-around look — this guy could be Hard-On Harry, the teen-outlaw DJ from Pump Up The Volume, except 25 bitter years older. Talk hard, Mr. Robot.

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