To say that there has been an abundance of good television shows this year is an understatement. I really wanted to make this list a top 20, then thought maybe 15, considered 12 for a moment, before realizing that it would only be right to narrow it down to just ten and give honorable mentions to all the shows that did not make the final cut. Is that cheating? Maybe. But so what. Here we go with honorable mentions (and for the record, there are no spoilers for any show):
Honorable Mentions: Comedies
Louie (FX) – Always great and this year’s episode of “And so did the fat lady” was perhaps my favorite half-hour of television this year. Just a fantastic job by Louis C.K and guest star, Sarah Baker, a thoughtful, smart and funny 30 minutes that everyone should find and watch.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX) – The only network comedy I can stand to watch right now and it consistently makes me laugh every week.
Last Week Tonight (HBO), The Daily Show (Comedy Central) – John Oliver’s new show on HBO did a wonderful job of mixing the way The Daily Show covers topics in the news, with the way, The Bugle, Oliver’s podcast, finds important stories that are not being covered by the mainstream outlets. Meanwhile, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show remains the go-to place for coverage of everything that is going on in the political world and beyond.
Silicon Valley (HBO) – Well put together show and enjoyable first season, but it was not must-see like the comedies that did make the list.
Transparent (Amazon) – The hardest omission from the top ten and one I desperately wanted to find a way to include it in the list. Jeffrey Tambor is absolutely brilliant in the leading role, but the supporting cast is also fantastic and I watched the entire season within a week.
Honorable Mentions – Dramas
Mad Men (AMC), Homeland (Showtime) – Both of these shows have been among my favorites in previous years, but neither had strong overall seasons in 2014. The second half of Mad Men and a string of five Homeland episodes were among the best installments of any show this year. However, I seriously wondered why I was still watching Mad Men during the opening few weeks of the half-season, while I was outright hate-watching Homeland until it suddenly got good again.
Boardwalk Empire (HBO) – It was not the best season of this once-great gangster story, but it was good enough to give a fitting finale to the show. The penultimate episode was one of the most entertaining hours of television in 2014.
The Affair (Showtime) – I thought this was a compelling and excellent new show, though to be fair, I will always watch McNulty (Dominic West) in a leading role. Throw in any actors from The Wire and you can usually guarantee I will be in…except if it is a show about zombies (sorry The Walking Dead fans, you’ll not see that in my top 10…or Game of Thrones – all of my favorite shows take place in a version of the real world). The split-narrative of The Affair could have turned out to be clunky after the opening episode, but it was handled brilliantly and gave the show a unique story-telling device. Alongside Dominic West, Ruth Wilson is also great as the other participant in the affair that gives the show its title.
Sherlock (BBC/PBS) – My wife and I did not watch any of the Benedict Cumberbath/Martin Freeman version of Sherlock Holmes until this January, so it was tempting for me to include it. However, the three episodes that were released in 2014 were not as good as what had come before, so it drops down to honorable mentions.
Justified (FX) – A really fun show every year, but next year’s final run of episodes with a much-anticipated showdown between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder could find it crack the top 10 in 12 months’ time.
The Missing (BBC/Starz) – Another import from the UK, the first hour of The Missing was an incredibly hard show to get through, not because it was bad, but because of the harrowing nature of the subject matter. James Nesbitt stars as the father of a boy who goes missing in France in 2006 and the duel narratives between present day and the events from eight years earlier are incredibly well intertwined.
Onto the main list. Continue reading