Top 15 TV Shows of 2014

Ugh it’s that time of the year again. The one where everyone starts making their best of the year lists and every year I get suckered into making one.

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It’s like deciding which of my children I love more, and for some reason at the end of the year, I love them all equally. So like every year I have to decide which of them didn’t make the cut. Let’s just say this started out as a Top 10 list and was quickly expanded into a Top 15 list with some Honourable Mentions. And I’m still leaving out amazing shows like NBC’s Parks & Rec, HBO’s Veep, CW’s The 100, FOX’s Sleepy Hollow and so much more. And add to the fact that I never had the chance to see Transparent because it’s not available to Canadians, this has been a year of great TV. Oh yeah, The Walking Dead would never be on my list, cause it’s a terrible show that is nothing more than misery porn with nothing of value to say.

So, after that rousing introduction, let’s get to it shall we!?!

PS: If the show is available on either Netflix Canada or Netflix USA, I’ll let you know.

Honourable Mentions:

Banshee (Cinemax)

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A pulpy show, with a pretension for crazed fisticuffs and gratuitous sex. In it’s second season, Banshee cranked everything up a notch. TV critic Maureen Ryan of the Huffington Post has referred to the show as being “Bonkers Awesome,” Banshee fills it’s small town setting with melodramatic mayhem that would give many shows a run for their money, in terms of the sheer intensity it is able to convey. And as a few episodes of this season has shown, the show is not afraid to change up the formula and experiment a little.

Broad City (Comedy Central)

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Broad City is a show about, well, it’s a show about two besties who just want to get laid and get stoned and in no particular order. Executive produced by Amy Poehler, the series stars creators Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, as debaucherous and wacky versions of themselves, navigating soul-crushing jobs, horrific roommates and a bunch of other things. A funny show, that features funny women being funny.

Top 15 List:

15. The Knick (Cinemax)

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Steven Soderbergh announced that he was retiring from the movies and then went on to direct Behind the Candelabra. Now he’s back to direct The Knick, which benefits greatly from his masterful direction. A show that takes place a hundred years ago, to a time when the mortality rate was high and surgeons were considered to be rockstars. The show is hard to marathon through because of its content but Soderbergh’s stylish direction, its techno fuelled score from Cliff Martinez (Drive, Spring Breakers) and Clive Owen’s stoic performance, make The Knick 2014’s best.

14. The Mindy Project (FOX)

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The first season of The Mindy Project was off to a decent start but the show really hit its mark at the end of that season. Season 2 of the show began with Mindy picking up the pieces where her last relationship feel apart and throwing even more guys her way, while also slowly building on her relationship with Danny. Overall, it’s a portrait of a woman, who loves her herself more than she loves anything else and is unapologetic about it, and that is something wholly refreshing to watch. And even the first half of it’s third season has been stellar, so far, absolutely nailing the Mindy and Danny relationship.

Available on Netflix Canada. 

13. Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

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Netflix has a bunch of shows that are critically acclaimed but none of them deserve that acclaim quite as much as Orange Is the New Black. In its second season OITNB proved that it was no one hit wonder, building upon the relationships and characters already built in season 1, all the while testing them. It’s not quite as good as the first season but who really cares when you’re having this much fun and is giving you quotable lines a minute. Kudos for Netflix on allowing a show like this to exist.

Available on Netflix, in all countries.  

12. The Honourable Woman (Sundance Channel)

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The Honourable Woman went from being a political espionage thriller I was casually watching,  into one of the best shows of the year. Nothing prepared me for where the story headed, each episode of the eight part series kept changing the narrative in unexpected and fascinating ways. Maggie Gyllenhaal, doing a killer British accent, played Nessa Stein, an Anglo-Israeli businesswoman caught up in labyrinthine terror plot, desperate to protect her own personal secrets.

Available on Netflix USA.

11. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)

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What makes John Oliver’s 30 minute political variety show better than the ones made by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, well for me it was the feeling of watching a long-form essay be told in a concise and funny manner. It also benefits that his show airs only Sunday, so he has a week’s worth of news to break down and discuss, which helps to make the show feel full and fluid, without one specific topic feeling overlong.

10. The Good Wife (CBS)

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A lot of network shows can’t hold up to time or long form story-telling. Even after five seasons (currently on its sixth), The Good Wife manages to be adventurous, taking twists and turns with incredible wit and assurance. Still managing to continue the evolution of its characters, one example, would be Matt Czuchry’s Cary, who is no longer playing what was primarily a smug pretty-boy role.

Available on Netflix Canada. 

 09. Mad Men (AMC)

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I can’t believe that Mad Men will be coming to an end next year. The first half of the show’s final season started out rocky but absolutely delivered in it’s final few episodes. It is one of the most analyzed shows on TV, that rarely, if ever, follows traditional TV story-telling. The latest restructuring to the agency was delightful and we got a payoff to Don and Peggy’s years of conflict. Bravo, just fucking bravo!

Available on Netflix USA & Netflix Canada.

08. True Detective (HBO)1b43b0546b402486d2d154491e1f161b

True Detective was one of the most mesmerizing shows of 2014. From the performances of Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, to Cary Fukunaga’s Emmy winning direction, and Nic Pizzolatto’s bizarro dialogue, created a show with one of the most memorable and notable characters and a murder case that delved into exceedingly scary territory. A show that swarmed the internet with conspiracy theories but never let those theories or the case take over the show. The show’s real draw was the relationship between Rust (McConaughey) and Marty (Harrelson).

07. Rectify (Sundance Channel)

RECTIFY-Season-2-Cast-Photos-rectify-37078900-1000-594When Rectify aired last year it was only given a six-episode first season that was mainly used to lay the groundwork. It was beautiful groundwork but the show’s ten-episode second season allowed the show to explore the Holden/Talbot clans with beautiful and poetic awkwardness. Daniel tried to gain more confidence in his freedom and discover who he was as an individual. While, Teddy and Tawney grew further apart due to Teddy’s secret shame of being assaulted. It’s an emotional and spiritual way to tell a crime story.

Season 1 is available on Netflix USA & both seasons are available on Netflix Canada. 

06. Penny Dreadful (Showtime)

pennyd1Gothic horror has never looked as good or as sexy as it is portrayed in Penny Dreadful. It is a monster mash, where Skyfall’s screenwriter John Logan, brought the likes of Dr. Frankenstein, The Wolfman and Dorian Gray to a beautifully looking horror show that is about embracing the madness within. Even if you’re not a horror fan, Eva Green’s fearlessly raw performance must and needs to be experienced.

05. Game of Thrones (HBO)

game-of-thrones-season-4-trailer-2-01-960x540Game of Thrones even on it’s fourth season may have arguably delivered its best season to date. Yeah, this season was hurt by the “Rape of Thrones” controversy that I am completely agreeing with. However, this show still manages to offer compelling drama, with characters continually evolving. And characters who are continually being more than just surface level good or evil, it was a season packed with excitement. Book purists will complain about omissions and additions, like they do, but from a pure TV standpoint, Season 4 was hard to beat. From the grand scale and technical mastery of “The Watchers on the Wall” to the shocking conclusions of “The Lion and the Rose” and “The Mountain and The Viper,” GoT nailed it again.

04. Fargo (FX)

fargo-tv-series-10-hour-movieFargo was this year’s Hannibal. Mainly because it fits the category of, “how dare they turn a classic into a TV series and absolutely nail it.” You can add me to a list of those naysayers, but I’ve never been so glad to be proved wrong. A snowy landscape full of sadism, manners and maniacs. Noah Hawley’s ability to create a show that managed to honour the movie while creating wonderfully new and quirky characters should be commended. I’m incredibly excited to see what he conjures up for the second season.

03. The Americans (FX)

the-americans-fxThe Americans is the best show on TV that no one is watching. I don’t mean that literally no one is watching it. I mean that there should be more people talking about the show than there is. Season two, storyline consisted of an operation gone sideways, murder mystery made the Jennings become more paranoid than ever. And let’s not forget about the resolution and how it set up what’s sure to be an extremely personal family story next year.

02. The Leftovers (HBO)

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Damon Lindelof returning to TV had me excited. Damon Lindelof doing an HBO show with religious undertones had pissing my pants with excitement. Based on Tom Perrotta’s novel about a Rapture-type event that throws the world’s population into existential chaos. The show focuses on the citizens of an upstate New York town, allowing us to see how this one event, changed the lives of different individuals from all walks of life. Even in terms of performances, you have newcomer Carrie Coon, who you may have also seen in Gone Girl stars as Nora a mother who lost her entire family in the departure. And how can you forget about the all white wearing Guilty Remnants. It’s bleak but beautiful; depressing but enlightening.

01. Hannibal (NBC)

hannibal-season-2-finale-mizumono-mads-mikkelsenIn it’s second season Hannibal changed. It went from a show that was primarily case of the week to something of a fever dream of fright. Who is manipulating who? The first half saw Will Graham locked up, while the second half saw him try to take on Hannibal Lector in gory game of deception. Also, season two introduced Mason Verger, played to perfection by Michael Pitt, who bought even more crazy to the show. Not to mention the show’s incredible direction that constantly evokes Kubrickian level imagery and horror. And then who can forget the bloodbath of a finale. Season three can not come sooner. Bryan Fuller has a hell of a season to top!

Available on Netflix Canada.

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