by Matthew Thompson
2014 is coming to an end and that means it’s time to compile lists and hand out awards for our favorite things of the year! To kick things off, I’ll be counting down my ten favorite shows that aired in 2014. This is just the tip of iceberg though so look out for more about TV, games and other topics from 2014 throughout the rest of the month. I’ve decided to break the my top ten TV shows into two parts. So, here are ten through six and be sure to check back in the next couple days for the top five!
10. Jane the Virgin
I originally wrote this show off due to its premise (a virgin is accidentally artificially inseminated by her doctor), but after watching it for myself I discovered just how big a mistake that was. It simultaneously embraces and pokes fun at telenovela clichés, and it is that tongue-in-cheek approach, buoyed by TV’s best narrator and some hysterically clever captions, that I think allows Jane the Virgin’s ridiculous premise along with the rest of the show’s lunacy to work. Despite how silly and soapy the show can be, there is a surprising amount of heart at the core of it too. This is in large part due to lead actress Gina Rodriguez. Her performance as Jane is wonderful and gives life to a character that is easy for viewers to root for. It all adds up to my favorite new show of the Fall and one of this year’s best.
9. You’re the Worst
No show in 2014 grew on me quite like You’re the Worst did during its first season. The pilot was really not my thing, but I kept watching and was rewarded with one of the year’s best comedies. I love this show’s unique take on the romantic comedy which approaches both how Jimmy and Gretchen get together and how their relationship develops in a very modern way. Its eighth outing “Finish Your Milk” was my favorite including a climactic argument between the two leads which blew me away with just how real it felt. And while focusing on this relationship, You’re the Worst never forgot that it was a comedy, doling out laughs in large doses each week. There were quite a few stabs at the rom-com on the small screen this year, but none were close to as interesting, funny or entertaining as You’re the Worst’s take on the genre.
8. Person of Interest
Person of Interest became one of TV’s elite dramas with its near-perfect third season and while I feel it lost a bit of momentum at the beginning of Season 4, it remains one of televisions must-watch shows. It continues to strike that great balance between procedural and serialized elements that I covet so much in a show like this. I’m equally impressed with how it juggles plots for our band of heroes as well as multiple long-term antagonists (this year included Decima, Vigilance, and The Brotherhood to name a few) and those in-between (I’ve loved seeing Elias again). And you might not expect it from a CBS procedural, but POI finds itself dealing with important issues like national security in a post-9/11 U.S. and the evolution of artificial intelligence. On top of all that, it continues to deliver great action from some of TV’s utmost badasses in Reese, Shaw, and Root. It’s can’t-miss TV.
This year really saw the anthology series take off and I think that was in large part due to the next two choices in my top ten. One of the advantages seen in this type of series is certainly the kind of talent they can attract and it shows in FX’s Fargo. The acting is great across the board. Martin Freeman and Alison Tolman were both excellent, but it was Billy Bob Thornton who stole the show for me as the chaos-creating hitman Lorne Malvo. While there are some connections to the film in the narrative, the show tells a great crime story of its own. But the type of people who populate this shared world and the kind of dark humor present throughout make it feel familiar in all the right ways. When you throw in stuff like the well-implemented mid-season time-jump, one of the year’s best finales, and even more laughs than the movie, you get a new Fargo tale that captures the spirit of the original film and in my opinion surpasses it in overall quality.
6. True Detective
When looking at things like acting and cinematography, it is hard to beat True Detective. It had my favorite performance of the year in Matthew McConaughey’s turn as Rust Cohle and my favorite directorial moment in the fourth episode’s incredible long take. But this was a well-acted and visually spectacular show throughout all eight episodes of its freshman season. True Detective also excelled as a character study. Instead of focusing on the murder mystery like some similar shows have in recent years, they used the case as a way to dig deep into Rust and Marty and TD was much better for it. With the help of its unique framing device, True Detective allowed us to look at these characters at different points over the course of seventeen years slowly peeling away the many layers of its complex leads. While it was not without flaws (I had some issues in the final act that took place almost solely in present-day), True Detective was a highly captivating drama and my favorite of the new shows that debuted in 2014.
That will do it for Part 1 of my top ten shows of 2014. Keep an eye out for my top five in Part 2 which I should have up within the next couple days. Thanks for reading!