Wednesday, 24 December 2014

My Top 5 TV Shows of 2014



It might be an adage so often repeated it's lost all meaning, but right now really is a 'golden age' for TV. When else has there been such a wide-ranging variety of quality shows for viewers to pick and choose from, akin to a delectable buffet where the next engrossing treat is just waiting ti be discovered and gorged upon.

My year has been jam-packed with some amazing TV, so I decided to talk about five shows that stood out for me.

Before we start, some ground rules - obviously, I haven't watched every single show that ever came out in 2014 - that'd be ridiculous. I'd never leave the house. Neither have I 'caught up' with every show I do watch (Parks and Recreation Season 6, New Girl Season 4), so I can't judge how brilliant their most recent runs has been. This post is simply to illustrate my TV highlights from what's new in 2014.

Let's go through some honourable mentions;

Honourable mentions: Modern Family Season 6 (ABC), The Flash Season 1 (The CW), Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO), Sherlock Series 3 (BBC), Doctor Who Series 8 (BBC), House of Cards Season 2 (Netflix), Game of Thrones Season 4 (HBO), The Americans Season 2 (FX).

5th - Arrow Season 2 (The CW)

Best episode(s): 'Broken Dolls', 'Three Ghosts', 'Deathstroke'

Watching Season 1 of Arrow, I realised how much potential this show had. It was good, but still had areas to build on, creases to iron out in which to make the whole thing simply better.

Within just a few short episodes, Season 2 achieves all of this, and more. It takes the show in new directions, whilst remaining true to the central premise that made Season 1 such a hit.

We see Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) grow into a more mature man, one who isn't solely fuelled by avenging his dead father. He isn't alone anymore, and has something to lose in the form of Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Diggle (David Ramsey). That's what makes his confrontation with Deathstroke (Manu Bennett) and the Suicide Squad so impactful, as for the first time Oliver has to start looking out for someone other than himself. He's developed a sense of morality, and the more we learn about his past on the island, and relationship with Sara (Caity Lotz) and Shado (Celina Jade) the more we see that come to light.

I liked how the show expanded the cast, and built the characters up in a way that shows that each episode doesn't have to revolve around Oliver - Diggle, Officer Lance, even Sara had stand-out episodes where the Arrow himself took a backseat. Not only that, but the show proved it can exist outside the confines of Starling City with a cool jaunt across to Russia in 'Keep Your Enemies Closer'.

Anyway, Season 2 of Arrow really built upon the first, and got be seriously pumped for where the future of the show lies. The production value has been ramped up, and the show has a very clear purpose and voice. It's sleek and sexy weekly superhero fare - and that's the kinda cool show I want to be watching for many years to come.


4th - Fargo Season 1 (FX)

Best episode: 'Buridan's Ass'

A ten-part miniseries based on the Coen Brother's classic 1996 crime drama film of the same name, FX's Fargo is short and sweet, an atmospheric dramedy that is tinged with a delicate blend of dark humour and bloody twists.

Fargo stars Billy Bob Thornton as Malvo, a drifter who brings trouble to a small Minnesota town and manipulates insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) into murder. Both of these seasoned actors bring serious street cred to the show, but its Allison Tolman who shines even brighter as plucky police officer Molly Solverson.

The quiet snowy setting makes for some truly gorgeous television, and the ten episodes are wonderfully paced and written. It's tight and small-scale, allowing for some deep character exploration and interlocking narratives. And whilst the writing shines, the real winner here is the cast with Thornton, Freeman and Tolman heading up a talented ensemble that includes Breaking Bad's Bob Odenkirk, Oliver Platt, Adam Goldberg and Key & Peele.


3rd - Community Season 5 (NBC)

Best episode(s): 'Cooperative Polygraphy', 'Geothermal Escapism' 

After the shaky 'gas-leak' year which was Season 4, Community was back in fine form for its fifth (and at one point, final) season.

Tasked with 'repiloting' the cult comedy, returning show runner Dan Harmon steered the Greendale Seven (well, now Greendale Five + Chang and Hickey) to new weird and wonderful places such as full-blown sci-fi ('App Development and Condiments'), the mind of Nic Cage ('Introduction to Teaching') and noir crime thriller ('Basic Intergluteal Numismatics'), as well as a welcome return to a Season 2 classic - Dungeons and Dragons.

Whilst the show's glory days are behind it (personally, I think it peaked very early on), it was nice to see the show back to doing what it does best. Whilst Season 4 was kinda Community-lite (I maintain that it wasn't that bad), this latest batch of 13 episodes was an entertaining and delightfully self-referential crop, the best of which was the simple and effective 'Cooperative Polygraphy'.

Another highlight was Donald Glover's farewell episode where the floor turned to lava (well, kinda). The only downside - #BonTroyage ;(


2nd - The Walking Dead Season 4 & 5 (AMC)

Best episode(s): 'The Grove', 'No Sanctuary', 'Coda'

The biggest cable television show in the US exploded bigger than ever in 2014, with the final eight episodes of Season 4 and the first eight episodes of Season 5 taking the post-apocalypse zombie survival horror show to new levels of excellence.

Across the last two seasons, we've seen the group's safe haven ripped from their grasp and burnt to the ground, we've seen them split up and go their separate ways only to reconvene in Terminus - a false promise of sanctuary that turned out to be hell on Earth - before being hunted by a hungry group of cannibals. Finally, things wrapped with the group staging a rescue mission against a band of survivors in a hospital. Yeah, safe to say it didn't really go to plan for Beth - oops, spoiler alert.

For me, the episode that stands out amongst the rest is 'The Grove', from midway through Season 4. Blimey, what a roller coaster 45-minutes they were. You gotta hand it to them, that was a brave, risky episode to execute (pun intended) - but the show pulled it off brilliantly.

Whilst there does seem to be a lot of water treading at times, I'm looking forward to seeing where the show goes next. If the last season and a half is anything to go by, there's a lot of life left in The Walking Dead yet (pun intended).


1st - True Detective Season 1 (HBO)

Best episode: 'Who Goes There'

Way back in January, a little show called True Detective premiered on HBO, a channel that nobody really watches at all. Actually, scratch that - this show has been everywhere in 2014, and with good reason. It is simply brilliant - and here's why.

Across its eight gorgeous noir-infused episodes, True Detective redefined the way I look at television, heightening the production value to cinema level. Much like Vince Gilligan did with Breaking Bad, series creator Nic Pizzolatto expertly crafted a show that looked and felt like a film, with quality acting, brilliant scripting and luscious cinematography. Across the board, True Detective excels not just as a TV show, but as an art form.

In True Detective, we were also treated to two of the best television characters of the year in Rust (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty (Woody Harrelson). The show is as much about them, and their relationship with one another, as it is about the dark, twisted case that stitches the overarching narrative together. At some points, the case is even secondary to the exploration of these two complex, layered characters - and that's a good thing. McConaughey undoubtedly steals the show, but the duo (when put together) make for a tour de force unlike anything else on TV during 2014.

If you haven't yet seen True Detective, you're doing yourself a disservice - seriously, go check out the first season. Like, right now.

8 comments:

  1. Fargo was great! Kirsten Dunst is going to be staring in season 2. I can't wait!!!
    Have you seen The Leftovers? It was my personal favorite, for sure.

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    1. I haven't seen The Leftovers yet :) I think I was going to wait until it played out for a bit longer so that I could watch it in blocks. I'll be sure to keep it on my watchlist though :)

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  2. I really need to watch more TV, but I did watch Fargo, and it was incredible!

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    1. Fargo was awesome, I'm sure you'll love it :) Really cinematic in look and feel. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Awesome to see Fargo here and TD at the top! Do you watch Veep? You should check it out, it's hilarious

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    1. Thanks Sati :) I haven't seen any Veep so far, but I've heard some really great things. I'll be sure to check it out!

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  4. Excellent choices with Fargo and True Detective. The Walking Dead got a lot better in season 5. (Though the hospital story was super lame) I'm just loving more Carol! lol

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    1. Thanks Brittani :) I feel like The Walking Dead has gotten better now that the group is all in one place again, but they really do need to move the story along - I'm really hoping for a time jump that picks up 12 months later or something so that we see the story advance.

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