By: Bill Cushing – January, 2015
Now that 2014 has come and gone, it’s time to look back on a great year of TV. It was very hard narrowing it down, but here are my choices for the 10 best shows of 2014.
10. The Blacklist (NBC) – As the only network show on my list, the Blacklist almost feels out of place on NBC. While watching it, I almost feel like it should be on AMC or FX. It has that cable feel to it. That’s a compliment, in case you were wondering. James Spader’s performance continues to make this show worth watching.
9. Boardwalk Empire (HBO) – Boardwalk Empire ended its 5 season run in 2014. The final season was a great end to a great series. Flashing back and showing us how Nucky became the man he was, bringing the show full circle and ending all of the storylines in a very satisfying way. Steve Buscemi was outstanding as always.
8. The Knick (Cinemax) – I will freely admit, it took me a few episodes to really appreciate and enjoy this show. The Knick made Cinemax a real player in the original series landscape. From Director Steven Soderbergh and starring Clive Owen, this series about a NYC hospital in the early 1900’s was emotionally compelling and extremely well written. Owen was brilliant as the drug addicted chief surgeon, and Andre Holland was terrific as the black doctor he begrudgingly accepted as a colleague.
7. The Walking Dead (AMC) – The Walking Dead continues to amaze. While the show garners massive ratings, it is still highly underappreciated by critics and the awards circuit. Now in its 5th season, it keeps us caring about its band of survivors. Week after week it keeps us coming back and shows no signs of slowing down.
6. Homeland (SHO) – After a less than stellar 3rd season, Homeland came roaring back this year with one of its best seasons yet. Mandy Patinkin’s powerhouse performance this season had us riveted to our TV’s. While the season finale left a lot to be desired, it didn’t diminish what a great season Homeland had.
5. Game of Thrones (HBO) – Season 4 of HBO’s epic series was perhaps its best. The show continued with its sprawling scenery and shocking moments. The death of King Joffrey and the subsequent trial of Tyrian highlighted a season full of those moments. Masterful storytelling.
4. Mad Men (AMC) – AMC’s landmark series is still great after all these years. One of the greatest drama series of all time has one season left to go, and it will be sorely missed. While I was annoyed at AMC’s decision to split the final year into 2 seasons, I couldn’t stay mad for very long, Mad Men is just too good. Jon Hamm as Don Draper is as good of an acting performance as anything on TV, now or ever.
3. Orange Is The New Black (Netflix) – After an absolutely amazing first season, we wondered how Orange is the New Black could top itself. Well, we’re not quite sure that it did, but it came awfully close. The shows 2nd season raised the bar on storytelling. Intricately weaving the lives and back stories of each prisoner into the current storylines, and doing so with humanity and a nice dose of humor as well. Not to mention one of the strongest and most diverse casts on TV today.
2. Fargo (FX) – Based on the film of the same name, and highlighted by the performances of Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, and Alison Tolman, this 10 part anthology series Fargo quickly became an unexpectedly gripping crime story. When I first heard of a series based on the 1996 film, I thought it would be a mistake. But the show was so good, you forget that it was even based on a movie.
1. The Americans (FX) – FX’s story of Soviet spies embedded in 1980s America expanded upon the stories of season 1, and raised the stakes for Philip and Elizabeth by placing them in situations that didn’t just threaten them and their cover, but also the lives of their children. A great finale set the stage for season 3 which premieres at the end of January. Great stories, and great acting. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell turned in 2 of the finest performances of the year.
Just Missing My List: House of Cards, Ray Donovan, 24: Live Another Day, True Detective, Veep, Sirens, The Strain.
Do you have any questions about TV? Email me at BillsTVTalk@gmail.com. I will answer all of your questions and will feature some of the questions I receive in a future column.