Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Favorite TV Shows of 2014

As I've mentioned in the introduction to these lists the last couple of years, TV watching continues to move away from being the communal event it was when I was young. With a few exceptions like the Super Bowl, people watch shows through different venues at different times, sometimes years from when others viewed them. I watched a few shows "live" (when first aired), and others on Hulu or Netflix or DVDs much later.
My rules for these lists are as follows: The show must have had new episodes during this calendar year. I had to watch new episodes in this calendar year. Therefore, a couple of shows that usually make this list, "Justified" and "Mad Men" didn't make it, because I haven't yet been able to watch the most recent seasons. I decided to include five dramas and five comedies, and mention other shows I've enjoyed.


5) "Ripper Street" - A police procedural set in London shortly after the killings by Jack the Ripper. Since the bobbies didn't solve those murders, their prestige is at an all-time low. Modern policing, with the use of forensics and statistical steady is only beginning in this grim but clever drama. I haven't yet completed the second season, but very much enjoyed the show's inclusion of John Merrick, the Elephant Man. (From the BBC, but I watch it on Netflix.)

4) "Game of Thrones" - Yes, the show continues to include gratuitous nudity and violence, but it also brings the viewer into a brutal yet fascinating world of grounded fantasy with kings and queens, knights and assassins, dragons and magic. Highlights this year included the death of a character much hated and a grand courtroom address from Peter Dinklage. (HBO)

3) "The Flash" - The CW Network since its inception has been a wasteland of vapid pretty, young people whining. Now it's changed a bit and two of its shows are making my list. "The Flash" is the cheeriest of the superhero shows on the air now. Yes, the actor (Grant Gustin) playing DC's comic book speedster Barry Allen is pretty (as are his friends) but he's also charming. It's just fun.

2) "Sherlock" - The BBC is miserly in its output of this series about the great sleuth in modern London, but it's forgiven for making all three episodes of every season funny, clever and engaging. The wedding of Watson and return of more than one character thought dead were among the highlights. It's hard to decide if Steven Moffat is more brilliant writing this show or Dr. Who (a great show I have yet to catch up with on current episodes.) (BBC and PBS)

1) "Olive Kittredge" - This HBO adaptation of a novel in four parts was quite unexpectedly by favorite thing on TV this year. Francis McDormand plays an intelligent but cranky school teacher, wife and mother over the span of decades. It captures life in a small town in Maine better than even native son Stephen King has in his writings. The show is quite sad, but in the end hopeful. And bonus - Bill Murray.

(Runners up, "Person of Interest", "The Walking Dead" and "The Blacklist".)


5) "Jane the Virgin" - Amazing but true, another CW show. A spoof of and salute to Telenovelas, this story of a young woman who accidentally is impregnated through artificial insemination really shouldn't work as a story, but it does. Almost shocking to see a network program that presents a character who chooses to be a virgin for religious reasons portrayed positively. Quirky and funny.

4) "Moone Boy" - One wonders how long this story of a young boy and his imaginary friend can last, since when Martin Moone gets much older he will seem deranged. But in its second year it is still quite fun. (Hulu)

3) "Brooklyn 911" - I've heard police officers remark that the most realistic police show ever made was the comedy, "Barney Miller". Whereas this police comedy is in no way realistic. Who cares? It's makes me laugh. (Fox)

2) "Parks and Recreation" - Heading into its last season next year, this sitcom about a small, municipal office in suburban Indiana is apart from an awful first season, consistently the best sitcom on the networks. Libertarian Ron Swanson, a rare advocate of conservative values in the media will be missed after next year. (NBC)

1) "Silicon Valley" - A warning that this show can be quite crude, but if it wasn't it, one might not believe one was spending time with a group of tech geeks on the verge of the big time with a tech start-up company. Created by Mike Judge (responsible for "King of the Hill" and "Office Space" and some of my other favorite things) the show started slow and built to a quite satisfying conclusion of its first season. (HBO)

(Runners up, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and "Veep".)

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