In honor of the Golden Globes, I’ve decided to have a little fun, and put together a compilation of my own favorites from 2014’s year in television!
First a disclaimer: This list is only restricted to what I was able to watch in 2014, so nothing is nominated that I didn’t see. But even without seeing everything, I do believe I managed to squeeze in enough programming to have a decent amount of variety- especially the new series. Obviously this is by no means a definitive account of the best shows out there. But my personal opinion on what I’d like to recognize and as being something worth checking out. I’ll be doing the main Drama and Comedy categories like the Globes do, plus a few of my own, including finishing up wit a Top 10 TV Episodes of the Year. Besides that, I’m not doing any official “winners”, so think of the shortlists more as a Top 5 in each particular category.
Alright, let’s do it!
BEST TV ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
There’s a reason Ruth Wilson has been getting a lot of buzz for Showtime’s The Affair. She’s a break out star in the making. The premium channel has a trifecta of female powerhouses, because Claire Danes on Homeland and Eva Green on Penny Dreadful completely own their respective shows. If you’re looking for a chameleon, you’ll find no one better than Keri Russell who slips in and out of many different disguises on The Americans. But its one thing to put on a persona, and its another to completely embody one. And another one. And another- all on the same show. As Tatiana Maslany would have you discover on BBC’s Orphan Black. One actress playing 6+ different clones is no easy task, and if I ran the Globes, I’d insure she was nominated every single year.
BEST TV ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Charlie Hunnam gave viewers biker prez Jax Teller for 7 years on FX’s Sons of Anarchy. It’s final season is his best work as an actor, and he’s taken through an emotional ringer from beginning to end. Another great FX show, The Americans features television’s best kept secret, Matthew Rhys as an undercover Russian spy. El Rey Network’s From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series is a shocker I’m sure, but if anyone saw the way DJ Catrona channels the young George Clooney’s portrayal of criminal Seth Gecko, they would find it incredible. Speaking of incredible, Lee Pace might be my new guy crush on AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire. The forward-thinking, fast-talking Joe McMillain is the type of entrepreneur I always wished I could be. And lastly there’s Matthew McCaugnahey, who lives up to the hype, reconfigures his image, and basically gives a tour-de-force as the misanthropic Det. Rust Cole on HBO’s True Detective.
BEST TV ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
It might be a little unfair to single out Ilana Glazer from Comedy Central’s Broad City. She and bff Abbi Jacobson are both a pretty hilarious pair, but I give Glazer the slight edge for being the crazy one, which I’m kinda of into. Crazy might be putting it mild in how Wendi McLendon-Covey portrays the smother mother Beverly on ABC’s The Goldbergs. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, because she is easily the funniest person on the show. Don’t change the dial, and you can find another enjoyably funny mother and wife on Black-ish. Tracee Ellis Ross is surprisingly fantastic on it. Zooey Deschanel has been killing it as Jessica Day longer than any of the rest of these nominees. Thankfully, Fox’s New Girl has got it’s mojo back in its 4th season. I know I said at the start of the blog that I wouldn’t pick winners, but if I did, my vote would go to Gina Rodriguez, who is a joy on CW’s absolutely delightful Jane the Virgin. Love her so much!
BEST TV VILLAIN
So here’s the thing- I didn’t see too much by way of funny men in 2014. Not that there weren’t any at all, but to fill my category, I just don’t think the guys brought it last year- not like the ladies. So I’ve taken a liberty here, and as a replacement, decided to share something much more fun: My favorite villains from last year. Hannibal‘s Dr. Lecter is pretty much a no-brainer, but there were quite a few nasties that hit the small screen. If you watched FX in the summer, you would have met Jamal Al-Fayeed, a wretched Middle-Eastern bureaucrat who inherited his father’s empire on Tyrant. The cable network also gave us Lorne Malvo, played to creepy Anton Chigurh-like perfection on Fargo. The Cohen brothers should be proud. Rounding out that channel’s chills comes a pair of psychos, Dandy, a Norman Bates-ish mama’s boy and Twisty, a nightmare-inducing clown from American Horror Story. Fox’s Gotham has had it’s ups and downs, but one consistent bit of praise has been Alan Lord Taylor’s take on the infamous Penguin.
BEST TV THRILLER
Keeping with the dark theme, I’d like to take the time here to just express how happy I am to see horror return to prevalence on television. We’ve got everything from From Dusk till Dawn to The Strain cooking up scares, and I confess this is a favorite genre of mine. Not exactly “prestige” programming by any means, you may call these shows my guilty pleasures. Especially The Following, which is equal parts absurdly stupid, and stupidly addictive. I loved the plot with the twins and some of the new characters brought in.
What can I say about Game of Thrones that hasn’t already been said? They are basically the best of the best. Four years strong, and HBO is still finding ways to dazzle viewers with new locations and sets. Highlights this season included the outdoor royal wedding, and the battle at The Wall, which gave a great sense of its entire geography. Watch.
It’s a little timeless, and it was promised to look as good if not better than the movie counterparts. That was the edict for FOX’s Gotham, and just one look at the city in this show, tells me they accomplished their goal. You can read more about it, and the visual contrasts and how they achieved that gloomy atmosphere here.
Coming from the History Channel, I expect a certain level of authenticity with their bold venture into scripted television. Vikings impressively achieves this, thanks to extensive research, and liberties were only taken when it came to what the camera needed to effectively shoot a scene. That’s dedication. Details here.
Steven Soderberg spared no expense in the production of The Knick for Cinemax. That bygone era is palpable from the very first scenes, and I felt like I might be exposed to infection just by watching. To think about how well Old New York is translated here makes my head spin. Check out the brilliant scouting and conversions.
With all the barbarians and grit of shows like Game of Thrones or Vikings, it is AMC’s Turn that truly makes me feel like I have gone back in time. This production is the most impressive I’ve seen from Amc thus far; From the props and furniture, to the costumes and wigs- it’s all impeccable for television. Read more here.
BEST SUPPORTING TV ACTOR
I don’t see many tv movies or mini-series, so my supporting actor and actress categories will just encompass whoever I liked best from any of these shows. And that essentially starts with Andre Holland on The Knick. The struggles of a single black doctor at an all-white hospital in the 1800s is one of the reasons why Cinemax is delivering one of the best new dramas of the year. Another great new drama of course is True Detective. Woody Harrelson never got the attention as co-star with Matthew McCaunaghey, but he’s every bit as good, too. This category gives me the chance to sing the praises of Jonathan Tucker on DirectTV’s Kingdom. The energetic, unpredictable MMA fighter is the best character on the show. Peter Quinn finally came into his own on Homeland, and we saw Rupert Friend bring more depth to the tortured black ops specialist than ever before. In perhaps the scene of the year, Jimmy Smits’ Nero gets some heartbreaking news on Sons of Anarchy, and in only about 5 minutes, he out acts just about everyone on television.
BEST SUPPORTING TV ACTRESS
I came up with five very under the radar names, whose impact to their shows’ seasons was invaluable. Like Carrie Coon on HBO’s depression drama The Leftovers. As a woman who’s entire family disappeared, the psychology behind what she does is riveting. I’ve had Mackenzie Davis as a lock nominee basically all year for her work on Halt and Catch Fire. The temperamental young programmer is a spunky favorite. I think it’s been a long time coming for Olivia Munn, who I’m as surprised as anybody to have mentioned on here. But I can’t deny the complete reaming she gave on The Newsroom’s “Oh Shenandoah,” and I realize the to-the-point economics analyst has been one of my favorite characters for 3 years. Netflix’s Orange is the New Black gave the ladies’ prison something of a villain in season 2. Vee added a great new dynamic to the interplay of the inmates. Allison Tolman on Fargo had the tall order of matching Frances McDormand’s Oscar-winning cop, and she does.
BEST TV COMEDY
Bringing it back around on the comedy tip, I must say, it has been nice to see shows like Community and New Girl get funny again. But I’m probably most impressed with the turnaround for Modern Family which had gotten stale these past few years. Brooklyn Nine-Nine continues to roll pretty strong, with it’s great ensemble and they way they all play off each other. But its the freshmen comedies that did it best for me in 2014. Black-ish and Broad City both are pretty much laugh riots, and Jane the Virgin’s charming telenovela style and storytelling has basically made it my favorite new show of the fall.
BEST TV DRAMA
Game of Thrones is consistently good, and with ratcheted up action, an assassination mystery, and some bold moves in new directions, things only look to be getting better. Vikings is a nice counterpart to GoT, and for my money, had one of the best sophomore years of any show. The time jump was a good move, and watching Ragnar deal with traitors and become king was very satisfying. Redemption of the year probably goes to Homeland. After killing co-star Brody, it was unclear how the show could sustain itself, but the wedding bombing and all that came from it brought the series back to it’s glory days. Of the new shows, I was most impressed with The Knick, which is immaculate down to the characters’ speech. Clive Owen pushed medical science forward with his drug addicted Dr. Thackery. Finally, I have Halt and Catch Fire, the new underrated gem from AMC. The Texas set tech drama is loosely based on the personal computer revolution of the 80s, and maybe its the geek in me, but I never thought coding and engineering could be so exciting.
And finally, THE TOP 10 TV EPISODES OF 2014
CNN’s docu-series The Sixties. The Civil Rights movement, the Space Race, the JFK Assassination, Vietnam, and of course music, headlined by The Beatles, this excellent, informative trip down memory lane is worth anyone’s time- and there’s a lot of material here Ive never seen before.
The Best of the Rest?
There was so much television I enjoyed in 2014, it’s a shame I couldn’t find spots for everything. The action on The Flash, for instance. Or a great training officer storyline for Andy McNally on Canada’s Rookie Blue. I didn’t miss an episode of BBC’s The Musketeers. On premium, Boardwalk Empire finished its run, while Masters of Sex continued to show its strength, despite flying under the radar. There were disappointments as well, like CW’s The Originals already getting ridiculous after such a strong first season. Or how much time Nick’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are spending on that farm. Never could get into TNT’s The Last Ship or CBS’s Extant. So as I look at all the shows and actors I’ve talked about in this blog, I am happy with who I’ve chosen to recognize. Hopefully 2015 will be just as good, if not better.