Hot List: Here Are the Top TV Shows, Stars and Networks of 2015

Amid the clutter of today's TV options, there are still several standout shows and networks worth celebrating.

Adweek's annual Host List is a two-part celebration of the best that TV, print magazines and digital culture have to offer, with our editors selecting their picks and readers voting on their favorites.

This year, if the TV category felt pretty crowded, that wasn't just your imagination. John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks, said this summer there is "simply too much television" being made. In fact, the number of scripted original TV series has almost doubled in the past six years. 

So which shows, personalities and networks stood out in 2015? Check out our picks (and our readers' choices) below:

1

Hottest Show of the Year

Editors' Choice
Empire (Fox)

When Lee Daniels' hip-hop prime-time soap Empire premiered in January, Fox had hopes it might resuscitate its flat-lining season. Instead, it saved all of broadcast television. Its Season 1 finale delivered a 6.9 rating in viewers 18-49 and emphatically obliterated the conventional wisdom that prime-time megahits and appointment TV were things of the past—as Taraji P. Henson's Cookie rocketed into the pantheon of the tube's all-time greatest characters. –Jason Lynch

Readers' Choice
Empire (Fox) 28.7%
Game of Thrones (HBO) 28.3%
The Big Bang Theory (CBS) 15.1%

2

Hottest Comedy

Editors' Choice
Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)

Comedy Central lost Jon Stewart and Key & Peele this year, so it's a good thing that Inside Amy Schumer solidified itself as one of the top comedy shows on TV, tackling gender inequality with "Last Fuckable Day," which has more than 4.6 million YouTube views, and domestic violence with the Friday Night Lights parody "Football Town Nights" (having been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube). –Tim Baysinger

Readers' Choice
The Mindy Project (Hulu) 29.5%%
The Big Bang Theory (CBS) 24.2%
Modern Family (ABC) 21.4%%

3

Hottest Drama

Editors' Choice
The Walking Dead (AMC)

In its sixth season, the zombie-themed juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down, bolstering AMC's launch of a pair of newcomers this year in Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul and martial-arts drama Into the Badlands. And of course, its own spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, whose August launch drew 10 million viewers and was the most watched series premiere in cable history. Walking Dead, meantime, remains among the top-performing shows in all of television, averaging north of 13 million viewers through the first six episodes this season. –Tim Baysinger

Readers' Choice
Game of Thrones (HBO) 31.4%
The Walking Dead (AMC) 23.8%
Scandal (ABC) 18.5%

4

Hottest Reality or Competition Series

Editors' Choice
Lip Sync Battle (Spike)

Spike TV raised a few eyebrows when it green-lit a show based on one of Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show bits. That is, before Lip Sync Battle became the biggest nonscripted premiere in the network's history, drawing 2.2 million viewers and attracting guests from LL Cool J to Anne Hathaway. –Jason Lynch

Readers' Choice
The Voice (NBC) 36.7%
Shark Tank (ABC) 18.1%
Lip Sync Battle (Spike) 15.8%

5

Hottest Late Night Host

Editors' Choice
John Oliver, Last Week Tonight (HBO)

As the dust settled after late night's massive host reshuffling, HBO's John Oliver maintained his standing as the most essential, and funniest, viewing in the daypart. This meticulously researched weekly's exposés of everything from fantasy sports to televangelists offer some of the finest investigative reporting you'll find anywhere. –Jason Lynch

Readers' Choice
Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC) 55.6%
John Oliver, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) 14.0%
Stephen Colbert, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS) 12.9%

6

Hottest Broadcast Network in Prime Time

Editors' Choice
ABC

Who says the schedule is dead? ABC owns Shondaland Thursdays, enjoys sitcom success on Wednesdays, and has a breakout hit on Sunday with Quantico. What's more, the FBI drama, gets the biggest seven-day viewing lift of any broadcast show this season, topping 10 million viewers every week. –Chris Ariens

Readers' Choice
ABC 46.3%
Fox 31.4%
CBS 22.3%

7

Hottest Network – Comedy

Editors' Choice
Comedy Central

Viacom's funnybone network managed to find successors for both Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart in Larry Wilmore and Trevor Noah—the latter's The Daily Show still commands the second highest 30-second ad rate in late night with $36,890 per spot. Despite waving goodbye to Key & Peele, Comedy Central maintains a strong scripted roster with Review, Big Time in Hollywood, FL, and Nathan for You. –Tim Baysinger

Readers' Choice
Netflix 24.9%
Comedy Central 24.0%
ABC 22.8%

8

Hottest Network – Drama

Editors' Choice
AMC

No Breaking Bad or Mad Men? No problem! After years of stunted creative growth, AMC rebounded just as its two best dramas went off the air. The Walking Dead has been joined by hit prequels Fear the Walking Dead and the superb Better Call Saul, a rejuvenated Halt and Catch Fire and promising new martial arts drama Into the Badlands. AMC is the No. 2 cable network this fall in adults 18-49, behind only ESPN. –Jason Lynch

Readers' Choice
HBO 30.3%
ABC 26.5%
Netflix 22.1%

9

Hottest Sports Network

Editors' Choice
ESPN

The "Worldwide Leader in Sports" is bruised but not beaten. Fierce competition, pricey rights deals and vexing cord-cutters led the network to cut 300 jobs in October. ESPN has the biggest sports show on cable as more than 10 million tune in for Monday Night Football. Plus, it commands the highest subscriber rate in all of cable and remains Disney's golden goose. –Chris Ariens

Readers' Choice
ESPN 64.1%
Fox 11.2%
Fox Sports 10.5%

10

Hottest News Network

Editors' Choice
Fox News Channel

There’s a new jewel in the Fox News crown. The network boasts the most-watched non-sports cable program ever, as 24 million tuned in for the first GOP debate in August. The plucky iconoclast turns 20 next year with a dedicated audience, a familiar roster of hosts and a proven formula of success. Plus, Trump.. –Chris Ariens

Readers' Choice
Bloomberg 29.9%
CNN 28.1%
Fox News 20.2%

11

Hottest Family Network

Editors' Choice
The Disney Channel

The No. 1 kids network has reloaded for the future with a hit new franchise: Descendants, the year's most-watched cable movie, about the offspring of classic Disney heroes and villains (there's already an animated spinoff). And it's breathing life into several beloved properties, launching exciting new shows based on The Lion King and Tangled. –Jason Lynch

Readers' Choice
ABC Family 48.4%
Disney Channel 23.1%
Nickelodeon 11.3%

12

Hottest Show on Social Media

Editors' Choice
American Horror Story: Hotel (FX)

As FX's popular horror franchise continues to generate scary ratings, pacing ahead of Season 4, the fifth iteration of the show rules on social media as well—ranking among the top 10 in Nielsen's Twitter TV ratings each week (at more than 100,000 tweets per episode). It helps that this year's version stars Lady Gaga, who brings her 52 million-plus followers to bear. –Tim Baysinger

Readers' Choice
Game of Thrones (HBO) 28.1%%
American Horror Story 23.4%
How to Get Away with Murder 16.5%

 

13

Hottest Kids Show

Editors' Choice
Star Wars Rebels (Disney)

No need to wait until The Force Awakens opens on Dec. 18 to embark on new adventures in a galaxy far, far away. Disney XD's animated series—set between Star Wars films Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope—has introduced a new generation to the wondrous Star Wars universe, while leading the network to its highest ratings ever. –Jason Lynch

Readers' Choice
Girl Meets World (Disney) 29.4%
SpongeBob Squarepants (Nickelodeon) 28.4%
Sesame Street (PBS) 16.1%

 

14

Hottest Movie or Miniseries

Editors' Choice
Fargo (FX)

Season 2 of the FX series takes us to the sepia-toned 1970s. An A-list cast led by Kirsten Dunst, Ted Danson and Jean Smart honors the brilliantly dark comedy based on the Coen brothers film, giving us some of the richest characters—and thickest accents—on television. Averaging more than 1 million 18-49 viewers, it's a top five cable show. And good news for Fargo fans, FX announced last week there will be a season 3. –Chris Ariens

Readers' Choice
American Horror Story: Hotel (FX) 46.7%
Fargo (FX) 21.1%
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix) 13.8%

 

15

Hottest New Series

Editors' Choice
Mr. Robot

Who would have thought that 2015's most groundbreaking, original new show would come from USA, formerly best known for light, interchangeable fare like Covert Affairs and Royal Pains? Sam Esmail's summer drama about a mentally unstable hacker (Rami Malek)—cable's No. 2 new scripted series this summer in adults 18-49—grew more confident and captivating each week, building to an exhilarating finale. –Jason Lynch

Readers' Choice
Younger (TV Land) 46.5%
Quantico 21.3%
Scream Queens 18.0%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This story first appeared in the Nov. 30 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Check out the rest of this year's Hot List honorees:
Media Visionary: Roger Ailes
Hottest Magazines of 2015
Magazine Executive of the Year: Troy Young
Magazine Editor of the Year: Graydon Carter
TV Executive of the Year: Bonnie Hammer
TV Producer of the Year: Greg Berlanti
Hottest Digital Brands of 2015
Digital Executive of the Year: Evan Spiegel
Digital Editor of the Year: Joe Yanerella