Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top Ten TV Shows of 2014

Top Ten TV Shows of 2014

With Mad Men coming to an end in 2015, the "Golden Era"of Television is technically coming to an end as well next year.  There are no more consensus shows like Breaking Bad (aka shows that everyone universally likes), except for maybe Game of Thrones. With so many of the shows on the Premium channels (HBO, Showtime, etc.) coming to an end in 2014 (Boardwalk Empire, Eastbound & Down, True Blood, Treme, Dexter, Californication, Nurse Jackie), there is a real opportunity for some new shows to break through in coming year.

Hopefully, some new and interesting ideas, shows, and actors can unexpectedly pop up in 2015.

First off, here's some shows that didn't make the list because I haven't had a chance to see them yet with so much on TV these days: The Knick (Cinemax), The Walking Dead (AMC), Homeland (Showtime), Transparent (Amazon), Jane The Virgin (CW), The Good Wife (CBS), Sons of Anarchy (FX), Orange Is The New Black (Netflix), Black-Ish (ABC), The Missing (Starz), Broad City (Comedy Central), Kingdom (DirectTV).

Here are are the shows that I watched and either liked parts of or really liked overall that didn't quite make the list of my Top Ten favorite shows of 2014 (I told you there was a lot of TV):

Parks & Rec (NBC) - Still riding high going into their final season in 2015.  It looks like they're going to be airing back-to-back episodes on the same night, which is pretty much the opposite of how AMC is handling the final season of Mad Men.
Peaky Blinders (Netflix) - The second season was much better than the first...the addition of Tom Hardy will do that for you.  Season 2 felt more focused and improved on all the best parts of the show.  Plus, whoever does the scenery and setting for the show deserves some kind of award because it looks excellent.
Masters of Sex (Showtime) - The second season of Masters of Sex seemed to drag much more than the first but had moments where it returned to the greatness of its first season.
The Flash (CW) - Actually pretty good.
Gotham (Fox) - Actually not that good.  The guy playing the penguin is solid though.
Looking (HBO) - I'm really excited for the second season of this show to see if it can take the next step.  With so many HBO shows coming to an end, I think the network may try to push this show a little more in 2015.  And who doesn't like some Scott Bakula (his story with Murray Bartlett is by far my favorite of the three main characters).
You're The Worst (FX) - Another hit for FX which continued to be the best all-around network on TV.
Banshee (Cinemax) - I'm only halfway through the season, which is why it isn't on my list, but Cinemax is doing everything right with this show in its sophomore season.  Pure pulp at its best.
Too Many Cooks (Adult Swim) - Perfectly weird and wonderful.

Veep (HBO) - I liked this past season the best so far, so it just missed the list.  What a deep and dynamic cast.
House of Cards (Netflix) - The show that really put Netflix programming on the map.  I liked the first season more than the second, but that's not to say that I didn't enjoy the second season too.
Halt and Catch Fire (AMC) - Scoot McNeery was fantastic but the show felt a little uneven throughout its first season.
Silicon Valley (HBO) - The mid-season death of Christopher Evan Welch forced the show to falter a little bit in the middle but the beginning and end of the season were really funny.  Is it just me or is Kumail Nanjiani everywhere these days?
Louie (FX) - Another strong and hilarious season of Louie that went a little darker than the previous ones.
Vikings (History) - I hope I'm not alone in loving this show.  It's a little under the radar but it's really good.  History Channel, who knew?
Boardwalk Empire (HBO) - What a lackluster final season from Boardwalk and only 8 episodes too. But somebody get me some of those prosthetic teeth from the flashbacks of Nucky Thompson because they're laugh out loud funny.
Penny Dreadful (Showtime) - The Doctor Frankenstein stuff was really good.  The other stuff, not so much.
Luther (Netflix) - Keep giving me more Luther and I'll keep watching more Luther.  What up String?
Mad Men (AMC) - I'm not counting this as a full season since they inexplicably made this into a split season to try and drag the only show other than The Walking Dead that they have, out for another year. And in doing so, diluted what they're putting on the screen.
Sherlock (Netflix) - I LOVE Sherlock, but each season is only three hour and a half episodes, so for whatever reason I just don't think of it a TV show, which is why I didn't include it on the list.  But just know...I am Sherlocked.

Quick recap of my Least Favorite Shows of 2014:
The Leftovers (HBO) - Depressing for the sake of being depressing and the most frustrating show of 2014.
The Affair (Showtime) - Sorry McNulty, but I feel like I'm supposed to actually want the people having an affair to get together.  You two are the absolute worst at cheating too.  And what was with that fake "joke" suicide attempt at the beginning of the first episode???  Never brought up again.  That was pointless and just for an unnecessary shock factor.  Unfair to Joshua Jackson who was actually pretty good in this.
The Strain (FX) - To be honest, I didn't even like the book, so I don't know why I'm that surprised.  What a shitty show and what a shitty wig on Corey Stall for no apparent reason whatsoever.  I still got love for you though Corey.
Mulaney (Fox) - Terribly unfunny, which is weird for a guy whose stand-up I think is hilarious.
Tyrant (FX) - Needed a different lead...and supporting characters...and story...and show.
The Red Road (SundanceTV) - Unbearably boring to watch.

OK, after that long ass introduction, on to the my Top Ten favorite shows of 2014:

10. True Detective (HBO) Season 1


A 6-minute tracking shot during a TV show?!? That's how good TV has become I guess.  The season started off really slow for me but after that incredible shot in the fourth episode by director Cary Fukunaga, I was all in.  Add in a dash of The McConaissance and Woody, and you've got yourself something. Season 2 was announced starring Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn, and Tim yeah, I'm kind of looking forward to it.

9. The Bridge (FX) Season 2

The Bridge actually got cancelled after the superb second season due to some abysmal ratings but that doesn't mean it wasn't some great TV.  The second half of the first season had some problems and got very formulaic at the end of what was a potentially incredible season debut.  There were some weirder and much more interesting storylines that got tossed by the wayside in the last couple episodes so that they could focus on the same old serial killer shit that you've seen a million times before.  Unfortunately, because of that, the season 1 ratings (which weren't that spectacular anyway) dwindled to almost nothing when the second season began.

I haven't seen the foreign versions of this show, but if they're anything like the US-Mexico version, I'm really going to enjoy seeking them out.

8. Happy Valley (Netflix) Mini-Series

I really wanted to include one of the scenes from this fantastic British mini-series, but I didn't want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn't seen it yet.  It's available on Netflix streaming, so I suggest you check it out.  

Sarah Lancashire is really fucking good in a great role as a grieving matriarchal figure, trying to shuffle her own personal problems with the ones of her family around her.  There needs to be more roles like this out there for women to take a bite out of, because performances like this can happen when the material is out there. 

7. The Honorable Woman (SundanceTV) Mini-Series

Boom.  Back-to-Back shows with women knocking it out of the fucking park.  And of course, even though this time we have an American woman in the lead role (Maggie Gyllenhaal), she is playing an Israeli woman, living in London, on a British TV show.

I don't think I've ever done a bigger 180 on a actress more than I have for Miss Gyllenhaal (technically Mrs. Sarsgaard).  I supposed when you take over for Katie Holmes in a Batman movie, there's nowhere to go but up.  But she's phenomenal in this mini-series that focuses on the Palestinian-Israeli relationship in and around Gaza.

This is also streaming on Netflix as of December.

6. Fargo (FX) Season 1

I wasn't sure how this show was going to work.  Was it going to be a re-make or a re-imagining or what?  It turned out to take place in the same setting as the Coen Brothers movie Fargo but with a complete new story.  What we got was one of the more unexpected great TV shows of the year.

I thought that it was going to be just a mini-series but a second season has already been announced with the additions of Kirsten Dunst (interesting but I'll wait and see if she has to do an accent) and Jessie Plemons (Landry from FNL) who is trying to make his way into all of my favorite TV shows...and I'm not complaining.

5. Game of Thrones (HBO) Season 4

Highlighted by the insane fight scene between The Mountain and The Viper, it's crazy to think that Seasons 3 & 4 of Game of Thrones all took place in just one book.  Just imagine how many characters died and how many big scenes and events there were in those two seasons, and put them into one freaking book.

Game of Thrones is one of the few remaining shows that I watch Live when it airs on Sunday nights.

When they said Winter was coming in the first season...they did mean soon right?

4. Hannibal (NBC) Season 2

I'm not sure if I'm sure if I'm in the minority on this show or not, but I think it's incredible.  The stylization, tone, and cinematography in this show is better than the majority of movies that I see out there.  It has its very own feel to it and the tension that it can build in a single scene is unmatched on television.

I just think this show is so fucking good.  The cast is deep, experienced, and diverse.  Each with their own extensive set of strengths and skills that play off of each other with fluidity.  It doesn't hurt that Mads Mikkelsen is one of my favorite actors and that they've also started to bring in some great guest stars to the show (Jonathan Tucker, Michael Pitt, and Amanda Plummer) either.

3. Black Mirror (Netflix) Seasons 1 & 2

Black Mirror just recently got added to Netflix streaming, which is perfect, since you could only catch it on illegal sites (which I would neeeever do) if you wanted to see it.  I heard great things about the show before I was able to check it out, so my expectations may have been a little gaudier than usual but, wow, this show is amazing.

It's almost not even a show really, because each episode is a stand-alone story but many of the same themes cross-over from one to the next.  Think of it as an updated version of The Twilight Zone.  The show centers around technology, the media, and morality. Those seem to be the three major themes that connect the episodes to each other.

The show turns on a dime from being sinister to funny to beautiful to something else you would never expect.  It never lets you feel comfortable and the innovative and original stories are a breath of fresh air.  

The show just had a Christmas episode starring Jon Hamm that I am absolutely dying to watch.

2. Rectify (SundanceTV) Season 2

It feels like Rectify was made specifically with me as its target audience.  There isn't a bad acting performance on the show and the layers to each and every character are so well written and fleshed-out that each person can thrive in their specific role.

Kind of under the radar, but Sundance has been coming out with some great television in the last couple of years.  Both The Returned and Rectify are bloody brilliant shows, while The Honorable Woman and Top of the Lake are a pair of next level Mini-Series.

And just a side note, but I'm in love with Abigail Spencer.  Sun dress and cowboy boots...yes, please.

1. The Americans (FX) Season 2

The last handful of episodes of Season 2 of The Americans were incredible.  On top of being a great season finale, the set-up for Season 3 is going to open so many options and possible directions for this show to go in.

The ratings for the show (like most great shows these days I guess) are low but I think that FX is going to stay with it through thick and thin, so if you aren't aboard The Americans bandwagon, there's plenty of room for everybody.

This is how spy thrillers should be done.  Perfection.