Radio Times Top 40 TV Shows of 2015: 40 to 31

It begins! The annual rundown of Radio Times writers' favourite programmes of the year

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40. Professor Green: Suicide and Me BBC3
If the subject of male suicide has begun to pervade your consciousness recently, this film fronted by Stephen Manderson – AKA rapper Professor Green – could be part of the reason. Manderson’s personal journey to uncover why his dad killed himself was also a successful attempt to get people talking about this “silent epidemic”, which is the UK’s biggest single killer of men under 45. Suicide and Me might even have a direct influence on government policy and education: Jeremy Corbyn’s new shadow minister for mental health hosted a screening of the documentary in Parliament, while a group of NHS psychiatrists have vowed to show it to staff and students. JS

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39. The Bridge BBC4
It could have been awful. What might be the last ever run of the superlative Scandi thriller did without Kim Bodnia, who declined to enact the way showrunner Hans Rosenfeldt planned to resolve Martin’s arrest for murder at the end of season two. So Sofia Helin’s Malmo detective Saga Noren had a new partner. Brilliantly, enigmatically played by Thure Lindhardt, Henrik’s own story had two cracking twists, as he interacted with Saga in several new ways and helped investigate the show’s knottiest, most gripping case yet, which benefited from abandoning grand conspiracies and focusing on individuals’ difficult lives. The best season ever? Against all the odds, yes. JS

38. The Last Kingdom BBC2
Anybody worried BBC2’s Anglo-Saxon adventure would be a cut-price Game of Thrones was soon put right. From its blazing first episode it was clear Stephen Butchard’s adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s novels was a kosher historical drama, plausibly capturing (with the odd artistic liberty) a time when Alfred not-yet-the-Great faced down Danish invaders in the hope of creating something called England. Caught between the lines was warrior-lover Uhtred, subtly played by newcomer Alexander Dreymon. Memorable battle scenes, strong female roles and a script with bite made for a saga that could run and run. Series two is on the way. DBu

37. Downton Abbey ITV
This was the year we said a fond and final farewell to the Crawleys and their country pile. After six seasons, ITV called time on the hit period drama, but not before one final hurrah. The swansong bought us romance and wedding bells, betrayals and brawls, car crashes and stomach ulcers bursting all over the dinner table, with the Christmas special promising neatly tied up storylines and (mostly) happy endings for the characters we know and love. Period dramas come and go, but Julian Fellowes’ sumptuous spectacular secured a special place in the hearts and minds of telly viewers around the world. Autumnal Sunday nights will never be the same. EWA

36. W1A BBC2
TV continued to eat itself in 2015, as the BBC’s satire on the BBC returned for a second, hilarious series. It was certainly bold. A month after Jeremy Clarkson was sacked by the Beeb, the first episode dealt with the Top Gear furore by portraying the Corporation as having banned Clarkson’s name. Elsewhere, it was business as usual as marketing speak and the BBC’s own talent for creating nebulous job titles were skewered with rapier wit. Hugh Bonneville headed the cast as Head of Values Ian Fletcher, but the ensemble was so strong that all should be praised equally. DC

35. Homeland C4
Previous series have been uneven, but this year Homeland was back on top form. Riffing on the old “ex-con gets pulled back into criminal life” plot, it saw Carrie (the still impressive Claire Danes) living a happy family life in Berlin and working as a security consultant. But when attempts were made on her life, she went rogue. It’s been called racist and some of the spy action was more 24 than Le Carré, but the tension was expertly handled and Carrie losing it, eyes bulging in frustrated anger, was great to see again. DC

34. Peter Kay’s Car Share BBC1
What a comeback! Fears that Kay would never return to equal Phoenix Nights were dismissed when his long-awaited, single-scene sitcom about two carpooling colleagues surprised everyone not just with how funny it was, but how affecting. Kay and the tremendous Sian Gibson sketched out a pair of apparently very different strangers who, the instant they were forced to know each other, discovered common ground and were good-hearted enough to run with it. Noticing them fall in love before they realised it themselves was one of the year’s most cheering spectacles. JS

http://www.youtube.com/v/WPwaCjE8DcY&hl=en&fs=1

33. Married at First Sight C4
When Channel 4 first tabled a series about couples meeting and marrying at the altar there was outrage. “Arranged marriages? WRONG,” the masses roared, before tuning in out of insatiable curiosity. We remained transfixed as the couples (paired up by “compatibility experts” after a year of rigorous scientific testing) navigated the early stages of married life. And when we discovered one half of a seemingly perfect pair was back on Tinder two weeks after the wedding, there was utter devastation. Love did find a way for one scientifically matched man and wife, though – so it wasn’t a total swipe-out. SD

32. The Game BBC2
With a leading man as cool as a Siberian winter, The Game was perfect spy noir. British actor Tom Hughes was ideally tailored for chasing Soviet shadows through 70s London, holding his own in a cast including acting heavyweights Paul Ritter, Brian Cox and Victoria Hamilton. The Cold War setting was beautifully observed too, a rich mix of sepia tone and Red paranoia. Too bad not enough people defected to BBC2 to earn it a second series. JG

31. The Jinx Sky Atlantic
You’ve probably never heard of Robert Durst, although he enjoyed a dubious sort of fame in his native America, even before he became the subject of this extraordinary documentary. An heir to a real-estate fortune, his life story, which encompasses the 1982 disappearance of his wife and the later murders of his friend and then his neighbour, sounds like fiction – but, as this series proved, it’s all too real. The film-makers gained unprecedented access to Durst himself, and to those caught up in the string of mysteries he’s left in his wake. The thorough investigation clearly frightened Durst: in the final, riveting episode, he crumbled. HS

http://www.youtube.com/v/xUbzwBgJe-s&hl=en&fs=1

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Voted for and written by critics from Radio Times magazine and RadioTimes.com: Alison Graham (AG), David Butcher (DBu), Tim Glanfield, Paul Jones, Jack Seale (JS), Mark Braxton (MB), Patrick Mulkern (PM), Gill Crawford (GC), James Gill (JG), Claire Webb (CW), Ben Dowell (BD), David Crawford (DC), Susanna Lazarus, Ellie Walker-Arnott (EWA), David Brown, Jonathan Holmes (JH), Hannah Shaddock (HS), Ellie Austin, Huw Fullerton (HF), Gary Rose (GR), Kasia Delgado (KD) and Sarah Doran (SD). Compiled by Jack Seale.