Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Top Ten Television Shows of 2014

Let's take a brake from the Oscar race to talk about the incredible year of television. Here are my top ten television shows from the last year:

10. Parenthood - Parenthood is about to make its final lap on NBC, and it makes me so sad to know that in a few short weeks here will be no more Parenthood on television. For now six seasons, Parenthood has been one of the most honest, emotional, and effective dramas on television. Its cast is absolutely stunning and its writing top notch. But most importantly, it has shown us life in a real family, shown us the ups and downs of motherhood, fatherhood, and marriage. It never shied away from the hard moments, but celebrated the fun and the important ones as well. It was a refreshing show that will truly be missed.

9. (TIE)True Detective and House of Cards - True Detective was a show that was so brilliant, until its final ten minutes. But I will not let that ruin what, up until that point, had been one of the most engaging and nail-biting series on television, and brought the talents of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson together. It was there chemistry, and their journey that made True Detective must-see television in 2014. House of Cards proved its first season was not a fluke. While many might have been bogged down in some of the tit for tat political games, I personally loved the nitty gritty approach this season, and it certainly  managed to have enough fireworks to keep all of us glued to our screens.

8. Brooklyn Nine-Nine -  Brooklyn Nine-Nine might not be as sophisticated as many of the comedies on television this year, and it certainly does not have the dramatic flair that so many have turned to in an attempt at dark comedy. It doesn't even have that many story lines that last a whole season. So why is Brooklyn Nine-Nine in my top ten? Because it is one of the few shows on television that literally makes me laugh out loud. It is goofy, its humor is not sophisticated, but its cast is on fire, and their chemistry is simply unmatched, and it embraces its goofiness with such glee that I have no choice but to love it, respect the hell out of it, and laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

7. black-ish - Not many new shows registered this year with critics, viewers, or this guy. But the one that hooked me instantly, and is still going strong for me is ABC's black-ish. Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross finally have the perfect format for their comedic talents, the kids all are stars in the making, and I am pretty sure I would watch Laurence Fishburne and Jenifer Lewis read the phone book (can't wait till the new episode with both of them). But there are a lot of great casts on television. black-ish succeeds because it discusses a vital and under-observed subject, modern American black families, in a way that is refreshingly funny, and always honest. It is finally the perfect pair for Modern Family, and keeps hope alive that the broadcast networks can produce quality comedies.

6. (TIE) New Girl/The Mindy Project - New Girl had a rough season last year, to the point that I almost stop watching. And The Mindy Project has gone through so many changes it is hard to remember where it started. But both shows found great footing so far in their new seasons. New Girl has finally broken up Nick and Jess and has gotten back to being a great ensemble comedy, not a two-way show with side characters. And The Mindy Project has hit a stride that feels like it has finally found its groove. Both shows are at the top of their game, have never been funnier, and are bright spots in the weekly schedule.

5. (TIE) The Comeback/Getting On - HBO quietly had two great months of television comedy with two great shows. No they weren't the blockbusters like Veep and Silicon Valley, but should be as much in the public's conscious as those two. First was the comeback of The Comeback, Lisa Kudrow's post-Friends experiment that had one season nine years ago, but was able to, thanks to its devoted fans and a few persistent media types, comeback in grand style. It's format was different and exciting in 2005, and while there were a few bumps in the second season, it still remained must-watch television. The real surprise for me was Getting On. I finally caught up with the first season, right before the second one was airing, and was instantly hooked. Niecy Nash, Alex Borstein, and Laurie Metcalf are a dynamic comedic trio, and sizzle on screen. But Getting On is a show that succeeds because it finds humor and emotion in a tough situation. It is a brutally honest show that for every laugh it gets, also inspires real emotion and pain. It is worth you catching up with it as well.

4. Fargo - Okay, I seriously want to know: who didn't love Fargo? Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, and Allison Tolman lighting up the screen? Awesome Coen Bros. vibe? Great mystery that just kept getting better and better? Fargo was easily one of the best shows of the year, and it could have easily been a disaster. It is hard to beat the 1996 film that instantly became a legend. But the television series never tried to beat it, it simply tried to capture its dark comedy vibe, its moments of shocking brutality, and the magic of its great ensemble, and luckily for us it did all three.

3. Please Like Me - 2014 was a year of discovery for me in terms of television, and one of the best discoveries I made was a little Australian comedy on a channel I had never even heard of called Please Like Me (which is on Pivot by the way). Starring and orchestrated by comedian Josh Thomas, Please Like Me is the perfect sitcom for the millennial generation. It is about sex, love, being gay, being straight, finding yourself after college, breaking from your parents, etc. But in season two it drastically expanded its scope. It was partly the journey of a struggling millennial, and partly the journey of a mom and son struggling with her mental illness. It was bright, sad, sweet, and one of the best shows on the air. Luckily, it was renewed for season three!

2. Parks & Recreation - The writers over at Parks & Rec must have thought that last season would be its last, because the last stretch of the season was one of the funniest, most emotional, and best to date. The season finale was particularly fantastic, and it gave us a time jump that felt neither forced, nor like a tool to try to save a dying show. It felt perfect, as has almost everything on Parks & Recreation has for the last six seasons. This season will be its last, and while I will probably be in mourning for several months afterwords, I am glad to see that the show was given one last chance to prove why its the best comedy on television. Let's hope it goes out with a bang.

1. The Good Wife - It should be no secret that I love The Good Wife. I have loved it since the beginning, and have been its champion all along. This past season was absolutely explosive, and while the Emmys failed to recognize it (although the win for Julianna Margulies felt like a reward for the whole season), fans and critics rallied behind it. It has held up to its promise in this new fall season, and has continued to set the screen on fire with its clever and explosive plot lines and  its fantastic cast. And every year for 22 episodes (it does make a difference), its sets itself apart as the best drama series on television. Period.

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