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‘Empire’ — “Pilot” (Jan. 7)

It’s been a long time since the music industry was portrayed so vividly, viciously, and — let’s face it — accurately in pop culture as it was in Empire’s introduction of the hip-hop dynasty at the heart of this family saga, written by creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong. If Taraji P. Henson became an instant sensation as the musically gifted, prison-hardened, blazingly intelligent Cookie, Terrence Howard’s Lucious Lyon wasn’t far behind, purring menacingly. — Ken Tucker

(Credit: Fox)

The 26 Best TV Episodes of 2015

There’s been a lot of talk about how we’ve reached Peak TV in America, and it’s true, judging by what we’ve seen this year. But television is the sum of its parts, or episodes, and some weeks, an episode is so stunning, so captivating, so viscerally good that you’ll forget where you are and what you’re doing for that half-hour or hour.

Great episodes are the ones that become a part of the larger cultural conversation, like Inside Amy Schumer’s “12 Angry Men” and the Jinx finale. A great episode can hook you into a show at the start by establishing a strong point of view, as the pilots for Empire and UnREAL did. Or it might cap the run of a wonderful series, like the five-tissue finale of Parenthood. Or like Broad City and Veep, make you laugh really hard. Here are our choices for the very best episodes of 2015.

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