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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The 14 Best TV Shows of 2014

Television programs and programming is in a weird place right now. The Golden Age of Television is long gone (although its official death came when Breaking Bad ended last year) and in its wake we're seeing a huge crop of quality TV shows from a variety of different sources. Yet despite the gross number of quality programming, there isn't a show like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad anymore. Hell, there isn't even a Lost anymore. You'd think with more traditional and non-traditional service providers cropping up that at least one of them would give us The Next Big Thing, but it hasn't happened yet. Instead, what we're left with is a shit ton of really-good-but-not-Holy-Shit-amazing shows. While the "Top 14 of 14" sounds like a gimmick, it's sort of not. There's just that much good television shows to talk about that I need to expand my list beyond a Top 10, but I had a difficult time going past 14. So without further ado, here is my list of The 14 Best TV Shows of 2014:

14) BoJack Horseman (Netflix)
Created By: Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Brief Description: BoJack Horseman is about a former 90's sitcom star, with the titular character voiced by Will Arnett, who tries to make a comeback 20 years later. The show was originally created to be a parody about celebrity culture, but it turned into a beautifully haunting tale of a man (well, horse-man. It's a weird world Raphael Bob-Waksberg created) trying to fill a deep, empty void inside of him. If you can get past the awful first episode and power your way through, then you'll find yourself in a wonderfully crafted universe filled with incredible, three-dimensional characters.

13) Modern Family (ABC)
SEASON: 5b / 6a
Created By: Steven Levinson & Christopher Lloyd

Brief Description: I have a rocky relationship with Modern Family. When it first aired and nobody had heard of it, I loved the show. When it started getting popular and winning Emmy's, I started getting sick of it. It also didn't help that the writers were reusing the same tropes and beats it did early on in the show's run which made the latter seasons feel tiresome. But then something changed in the show's 5th season. Whether the writer's started to care more or I've just come to accept that how the Emmy's view Modern Family is irrelevant to the quality of the show in general, Modern Family became funny again. By having the show mainly focus on the wedding of Cam and Mitchell, Modern Family kicked itself to a delightfully higher and funnier gear while adding the heart and complex issues that it used to deal with.

12) You're The Worst (FX)
Created By: Stephen Falk

Brief Description: There have always been sitcoms surrounding people who do terrible things, most notably Seinfeld and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but I don't think I've ever seen a sitcom that fully embraces its leads as truly horrible human beings like You're The Worst. By having unsympathetic characters at the front of the center of your show, you allow yourself a huge chunk of wiggle room to do whatever you want, and Stephen Falk and company did that to great success.

11) The Flash (CW)
Season: 1a
Created By: Geoff Johns, Andrew Kreisberg, & Greg Berlanti

Brief Description: By far and away The Flash is the best new show of the 2014 fall season. Arrow alums Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti joined forces with DC comic book writer Geoff Johns to create a fully formed superhero show that knows exactly what it's doing. There are still some flaws with the show, mainly the dumb superhero suit and the weird relationship lead Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) has with his adopted sister, but by focusing on characters and character development first, The Flash has turned itself into a Must Watch show. Further, if the crossover event between Flash vs. The Arrow showed us recently, The Flash might be the most entertainingly awesome show on television right now.

10) Mad Men (AMC)
Created By: Matthew Weiner

Brief Description: The first four seasons of Mad Men is some of the best television ever created. Unfortunately, the show three seasons later is nowhere near that point, but it is still, for the most part, head and shoulders above many TV programs. Mad Men aired seven episodes in 2014, and only two episodes out of its first five were worth watching. If Mad Men had aired only its first five episodes of this season, then I think I would only be doing a top 13 shows of 2014; however, the period drama redeemed itself by airing its last two episodes,"The Strategy" and "Waterloo", and everything was right with the world. The final two episodes of Season 7.1 were so good, that it was able to overcome the decent-to-bad five episodes proceeding it and made 2014's version of Mad Men a no-doubt, top 10 show.

9) The Good Wife (CBS)
SEASON: 5b / 6a
Created By: Robert and Michelle King

Brief Description: Who saw this coming? The Good Wife was so good early on in its run, but then three seasons later it looked like it fell off of the creative cliff. Then The Good Wife aired its fifth season and we all just starred at its awesomeness. Truthfully, many of The Good Wife's great episodes of its fifth season aired in 2013 when Cary and Alicia were still working for Lockhart Gardner, but 2014 gave us The-Thing-That-Happened-To-Will and the aftermath that followed. The beginning of the sixth season didn't start off too hot with Cary being arrested, but The Good Wife is doing things no other show is willing to do. and for that it earns a place in my Top 10.

8) Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Created By: Michael Schur & Greg Daniels

Brief Description: This show is great. Enough said. Watch every episode now on Netflix if you haven't already.

7) Brooklyn Nine Nine (FOX)
SEASON: 1b / 2a
Created By: Dan Goor & Michael Schur

Brief Description: Like essentially every sitcom, it took Brooklyn Nine-Nine a little while to figure out what works and what does not. Luckily for us, that growth spurt happened in 2013. At this point in the show's run, Dan Goor and company clearly know what makes their great characters work and which pairings get the most laughs. Brooklyn Nine-Nine might also be great because it might be the last sitcom to ever be greenlit for a full season ever again.

6) Community (NBC)
Created By: Dan Harmon

Brief Description: After being forced to take a year off from his own show, creator Dan Harmon came back for this show's final year at NBC. I was in the minority thinking it was a good idea that Harmon was forced to leave because after three seasons, Harmon took his characters and story lines to extreme and unwatchable places. After an unfunny and pretty bad season 4 with new showrunners, Harmon came back for the show's fifth season and changed a lot of what made his version of the show bad in the first place. He still kept his meta commentary but kept his version of the cast in a more realistic place which made for an excellent season. It was both funny and heartwarming, and I'm now excited to see what the show will look like on Yahoo and without half of the original cast during the show's 6th (and probably) final season.

5) Arrow (CW)
SEASON: 2b / 3a
Created By: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, & Andrew Kreisberg

Brief Description: When I originally created this list on my iPhone, I had the CW super hero show outside of my top 10. I mean, how can I have a show as melodramtic as this above Mad Men?  But when I started creating this blog post, I kept creeping Arrow higher and higher because it was so damn good. The second half of the second season was just a thrill ride that I didn't want to end. Arrow introduced Deathstroke (aka Slade Wilson) as the primary villain who was stronger, faster, and better than Oliver Queen. This lead the show into a dark hole that made for some of the best string of episodes of television in 2014. I don't want to say Arrow in 2014 was Season-2-of-Justified-esque, but it was pretty damn close.

4) Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
Created By: John Oliver

Brief Description: When Stephen Colbert announced that he was ending The Colbert Report to take over The Late Show, the general consensus was that John Oliver messed up by taking a deal with HBO as opposed to becoming the next heir to the Comedy Central throne. But then his show aired and we all became witness to his genius while realizing both Oliver and HBO made the correct choice. While the basic format of Last Week Tonight is similar to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, John Oliver is doing things no one else is doing on television. By commenting on under reported issues while not being forced to interview anybody, Last Week Tonight changed the game for the better.

3) Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
Created By: Jenji Kohan

Brief Description: Last year, Orange Is The New Black was the consensus second best show on television behind the Breaking Bad finale. Jenji Kohan had a huge burden on herself to create a second season that was at least just as good as the first one, and she hit that shit out of the park. When Orange Is The New Black is at its best, there's almost nothing on televison that's better. Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) was still the star but by having the main story lines be about the war between Red (Kate Mulgrew) vs. Vee (Lorraine Toussaint), the show expanded this fantastic world by still being original and compelling. There are still many problems with the show, mainly there's too many stories and characters that we're following, but Orange Is The New Black is still one of the best shows around. If Kohan and company can tighten the screws on the ship and focus on a smaller cast, then I fully expect OITNB to be #1 in 2015.

2) Fargo (FX)
Created By: Noah Hawley

Brief Description: The highs of Fargo were not even close to the highs of Orange Is The New Black, but the floor of Fargo was so much higher than the floor of the Netflix dramedy that it earned the number two spot on this list. A show that the Coen Brothers had nothing to do with created by a man who fundamentally didn't understand the basics of the 1996 movie shouldn't have worked. And yet it did to amazing success. By having the show being a mini-series, there was a definite end in sight. This helped Noah Hawley and company tell a coherent story that sucked you in and dragged you for one helluva ride. Billy Bob Thornton was at the top of his game and Martin Freeman showed you why he's an emerging movie star. But the real star of the show was rookie Allison Tolman who had the tough task of being her own thing while also playing the Marge Gunderson role. I'm extremely excited to see what Noah Hawley does in South Dakota in the 1970's for season 2 of this show.

1) Game of Thrones (HBO)
Created By: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss

Brief Description: Game of Thrones went from a really good show that will never rise to the level of true greatness to without a doubt, hands down the best show on television. It's not even close how much Game of Thrones is head and shoulders above the competition. Game of Thrones has always had a huge cast of characters with ten bajillion story lines, and in the past, the show didn't intertwine the multiple story lines until the very end of the season. Not true with the show's fourth season. By having multiple story arcs instead of one large arc throughout the season, Game of Thrones made you care about every single episode, whereas in the past you wanted to fast forward through the entire middle section of the season. Plus, this past season of Game of Thrones gave us The Scarlet Wedding, The Trial of Tyrion Lannister, and the fight between The Viper and The Mountain. We'll see if Season 5 and beyond will be able to compare to the greatness of this past season, and I'm especially worried about the show going forward with the introduction of magic as well as the story lines surrounding Tyrion, but for now, I'm just going to enjoy the best show on television for what it is.

EDS NOTE: I've seen Black Mirror (Netflix via BBC) and Broad City (Comedy Central) since the writing of this post. Both shows are excellent, both shows would easily make my top 10 had I watched them earlier, and you should check out both shows immediately. 


- Justified (FX): Solid 5th season that had jumbled pieces which fits right in with the theory that Justified is only good during even numbered seasons. Glad to know the show is going out after season 6. GRADE: C+

- True Detective (HBO): Gorgeously shot with brilliant acting, but the stories are so boring you're glad there were only 8 episodes in the season. GRADE: C

- House of Cards (Netflix): You always had to suspend your disbelief a little bit when it came to the politics of Washington in this Netflix thriller, but Season 2 took a huge step backwards making almost every story line uninspiring. The show also turned Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood into a cartoon super villain rather than a real character. GRADE: F

- Sherlock (BBC):The long awaited return of TV's favorite bromance wasn't nearly worth the wait as the cases the duo had to solve were by far the worst of the series. GRADE: B-

- Broad City / Key & Peele (Comedy Central) Both are incredible shows and both probably deserved a spot on this list; however, I unfortunately was not able to see the entire season of each show in 2014. But from what little I've seen, these shows are balls-out amazing. GRADE: A

- Silicon Valley (HBO): Despite having the best dick joke in television history, the newest comedy by Mike Judge wasn't nearly as funny as his past endeavors. Even the great supporting cast members couldn't save this comedy thanks to the unlikable and meek main character of the show. GRADE: C+

- How I Met Your Mother (CBS): The show's final season was completely horrendous as it was the perfect example of a show that overstayed its welcome. GRADE: F-

- Gotham (FOX): Maybe I'm just too big of a fan of The Dark Knight trilogy or maybe because my expectations were too high, but the Batman-before-Batman show has been pretty underwhelming. By trying to cram in too many villains-before-they-were-icons into each episode and by having too many moving pieces, Gotham has not gotten off to the greatest of starts. GRADE: B-

- The League (FXX): Truthfully, The League is one of the best shows on television in terms of pure laughs, but the consistency both between season long stories and episode long stories are lacking this year (and every year). Still, The League had one of its best seasons in 2014. GRADE: B+

- Boardwalk Empire (HBO): I love the first 3 seasons of Boardwalk Empire as the show seemed to get better and better; however, its last two seasons (including its shortened final season in 2014) was just the characters you love middling around town. While Boardwalk Empire was probably brilliant from an English teacher perspective, the show did not end on a particularly fun or entertaining note. GRADE: B-



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