As hard as it’s been to narrow down what were the best movies from this past year, TV is even harder. There’s so many incredible shows on right now that it’s incredibly hard to narrow it down to just 10 but here are my picks for 10 best shows from 2014 (might be some spoilers FYI).
1. Hannibal- I’ve said it once and and I’ll say it again, when we first heard that NBC, the network that seemed to be running itself into the ground, was going to do a new, serialized version of Hannibal, it seemed destined to fail but incredible lead performances from Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen, a gorgeous visual style and an apparent free pass from the censors regarding violence has made Hannibal probably the best show on television. The second season ramped up the cat and mouse game between Will Graham and Hannibal that culminated in one of the most ridiculously violent season finales in recent memory. If you get nothing else from this list, please make sure that it’s to catch up with Hannibal immediately if you have not already done so.
2. Fargo- Just like Hannibal, adapting the Coen Brothers classic Fargo into a TV series seemed like a fool’s errand but Noah Howley managed to capture the bizarre, black comedy of the movie and expand it into a colorful and unique cast of characters, most notably Billy Bob Thorton as gleefully sadistic mob killer Lorne Malvo. Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks and Allison Tolman were all fantastic as well and there were incredible set piece moments like Malvo’s attack on a rival crime organization or a tense shootout in a whiteout. Hopefully the second season, which is a prequel, will be able to maintain the quirky, violent charm of the first season.
3. True Detective- I don’t know what else really needs to be said about True Detective except that is was phenomenal on pretty much every level. Matthew McConaughey cemented his resurgence playing the nihilistic to the point of comedy Rust Cohle and Woody Harrelson was a terrific foil as his partner Marty Hart, as they spent almost 20 years tracking down the mysterious Yellow King in the depths of the Louisianna delta. Cary Fukunaga delivered some of the best sequences of the year, including the jaw dropping tracking shot that closed out Episode 4 and the fact that showrunner Nic Pizzolatto wrote all the episodes allowed it to remain consistent in it’s grim trek into darkness.
4. Arrow/Flash- The CW seems like the last place you would expect some of the best live action comic book action to be taking place but Arrow and The Flash are both amazingly fun and amazingly nerdy, bringing in every possible villain and side character from the DC comics universe and building a interconnected world. Arrow’s second season was excellent with Oliver and Team Arrow facing down Deathstroke, who was out for blood and willing to destroy all of Starling City to get his revenge and culminated in a city wide battle that brought in pretty much every ally Oliver had teamed up with up that point. I think we’re still seeing what the end game of Season 3 is but there’s been some great additions, like Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer. Flash, meanwhile, finally debuted and was able to use Arrow’s initial building blocks to come out incredibly strong and offers a slightly funner, lighter side to Arrow’s slight more brooding side and gave the ever expanding CWverse actual superpowered heroes and villains. Even with a bunch more competition, these two are still the ones to beat in the comic book show arena.
5. Rick & Morty- After the debacle with Community at NBC (even though he came back and returned the show to it’s almost former glory for a fun season 5), Dan Harmon rallied and teamed with Justin Roiland to create maybe the best show in the history of Adult Swim. With Roiland voicing both sweet but dumb Morty and his alcoholic, genius, asshole of a grandfather, Rick, the show is a never-ending stream of insane ideas and crazy characters as Rick & Morty cross time and space testing inventions and getting into possibly world ending trouble on a regular basis. Whether it’s accidentally setting things in motion for a takeover by intelligent dogs, fighting their way out of multiple fakeout realities or just watching strange TV from other dimensions, Rick & Morty is consistently hilarious, demented and genius.
6. Gravity Falls- I have absolutely no idea if the kids who are the demographic for this show like it but it feels so much like it was created just for me that I really don’t care. Alex Hirsch is creating one of the funnest and strangest universes on TV as twins Mabel and Dipper Pines try to figure out just what is going on in their summer home of Gravity Falls. The show is building a supporting cast that feels similar to the weirdos who inhabit Pawnee on Parks & Rec and Grunkle Stan is one of the greatest characters in television history and the central mystery is building Lost levels of obsession among fans. The only thing about the show that is disappointing, which is nothing about it’s quality, is the fact that it’s airing scheduling is so sporadic; there will be 1 or 2 episodes and then nothing for weeks. Figure out a time and stick with it Disney XD!
7. Game of Thrones- The most epic show on television had another fantastic season this past spring with huge, game changing events like the Purple Wedding, the battle at The Wall, the duel of the Red Viper and the Mountain and more and the cast continues to be great across the board led by the likes of Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clark, Lena Headey and Kit Harrington. The scale of the show just keeps getting bigger as well, so much in fact that it seems like some major characters won’t even be in the upcoming season, and I can’t wait to see who wins and who dies in Westeros next season.
8. Archer- The creators of Archer were basically given free reign to go nuts last season and they delivered the cocaine fueled madness that was Archer Vice. From Cheryl’s country ambitions to Pam’s shocking weight loss to Lana’s baby drama, every character shined as the former secret agents turned into the world’s most incompetent drug dealers. Throw in a guest starring role from Mr. Danger Zone himself, Kenny Loggins, and it’s hard to imagine how the show will top this next season.
9. Sleepy Hollow- What seemed like the dumbest idea last season has turned into a show that is constantly topping itself in terms of craziness that is grounded by the excellent buddy cop back and forth of Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane and Nicole Beharie as Abbie Mills. Throwing American history into a blender with crazy demonic forces, the show is building a wonderfully insane mythology that expanded even more in the second season as a second Horseman arrived to join the headless Horseman of Death and Ichabod’s wife Katrina and Abbie’s sister Jennie joined the fight while the always amazing John Noble took over as the main antagonist, Henry Parrish. It’s like National Treasure mixed with Constantine and it’s well worth catching up on.
10. The Walking Dead- The Walking Dead has been one of the most popular shows on television pretty much since it began but this most recent season is the one where critics finally started to come around, and for good reason. The show has never been stronger in it’s fifth season with an action packed opening episode that found our survivors trying to escape the not so safe haven of Terminus and then possibly getting hope for an end to the zombie plague in weird genius Eugene. The show continued to cement how awesome characters like Daryl and Michonne are but it’s also done an amazing job of building up characters who at first seemed like nothing, most notably Carol, who has transformed into arguably the best character on the show and is definitely one of the most bad ass. With a spin-off on the way, hopefully the show won’t get over extend itself because there’s definitely no sign that it’s going to end any time soon.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine- Andre Braugher for life
- The Americans- Excellent espionage drama from the second season of FX’s spy show with the added bonus of being set in the 80’s
- Agents of SHIELD- Gets the award for most dramatic improvement, the second season has been incredibly good
- Mad Men- Exactly what we’ve come to expect in the first half of it’s last season, incredibly acted drama that is shot amazingly
- Mike Tyson Mysteries- The rookie Adult Swim show has been consistently hilarious as it throws Mike Tyson into situations that are way over his head.
- Cosmos- Science, yeah!!!!
- The Knick- Cinemax finally brought itself critical acclaim with it’s excellent period drama following the grisly early days of surgery in New York City.