We’ve counted down the best and the worst TV of the year, so now it’s time to examine some of the other movers and shakers of 2014.
Let’s bitch it out…
Unlike previous years, when we compiled a ‘Best of the Rest’ list (here’s 2013 & 2012) this year we’re doing something different: we’re cataloging the rise and fall of the series that we cover and watch, according to their creative quality and reception. You may find some of what follows may be contentious, which is why this is filed to the ‘Talk Back’ column – we’re hoping that the list will spark some discussion.
Without further ado, here’s how things fare heading into 2015:
24 S8 (FOX): The return of Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland) embraced all of the show’s strengths (and a few of its usual weaknesses). At this point it seems that Sutherland is done with the show, but if this is the last hurrah for Bauer, Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and CTU, it’s a good high to go out on.
The 100 S1/2 (The CW): Forget The Flash or Arrow or even the supernatural romances, this is The CW’s most audacious show. Debuting quietly back in the spring, the drama about 100 juvenile delinquents trying to survive a radioactive Earth is surprisingly dark and grim (let’s just say that more than half of them are dead by S2), with furious plotting, complicated characters and real stakes. The mid-season finale which SPOILER killed off Finn, one of the core teenage characters END SPOILER proved that this is a true watercooler show. Returns: Wednesday, Jan 21 at 9pm EST
Broadchurch S2 (ITV/BBC America): This one is a cheat since Broadchurch hasn’t aired any new episodes in 2014. But the American adaptation, Gracepoint, was a huge flop (creatively and numbers-wise) which only makes the original look better. Add in the announcement that S2 has a start date and everything is coming up Broadchurch. Returns: Wednesday, March 4 at 10pm EST (US)
The Flash S1 (The CW): The fastest man alive proved to be just what the youth skewing network ordered. In October The Flash premiered to The CW’s best ratings in years and had critics falling over themselves with praise. Now if only that Iris (Candice Patton) problem could be solved… Returns: Tuesday, Jan 20 at 8pm EST
Game Of Thrones S4 (HBO): At this point we take it for granted how challenging it must be to wrangle a large cast for an adaptation whose every detail is being analyzed by ravenous fans. And yet this season produced some of the very best episodes of the show to date, including grisly (and satisfying) ends for two (I II) of the show’s greatest villains. Plus the series’ numbers continue to post new highs (including, amusingly enough, piracy!) Returns: Spring 2015
How To Get Away With Murder S1 (ABC): Shonda Rhimes’ winning streak continues as her protegé Peter Nowalk successfully launched the season’s highest rated new series. Featuring Viola Davis in a captivating turn, the flashforward murder cover-up and racy sex-nanigans energized audiences throughout the fall. Is that a picture of your penis on a dead girl’s phone or are you just happy to see us? Returns: Thursday, Jan 29 at 10pm EST
Looking S1 (HBO): This “gays in San Francisco” series quickly established that it is no Girls knock-off. The smart blend of heart, wit and a frustrating/swoon-worthy love triangle made the series appointment-worthy TV for all card carrying gays. Plus: that episode, 1×05 ‘Looking For The Future’, where Patrick (Jonathan Groff) calls in sick to walk the city with Richie ( Frankie J. Alvarez)? So romantic! Returns: Sunday, Jan 11 at 10pm EST
Outlander S1 (STARZ): The adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s long-running romantic fantasy series proved to be an out of the box sensation. Not only is the show the most feminist, sex positive series on TV, it benefits from pitch perfect casting (Caitriona Balfe is amazing as Claire, while Game Of Thrones completely messed up letting Sam Heughan get away). Naysayers need only watch the Black John/Claire interrogation episode or <fans self> the wedding episode for proof. Returns: Saturday, April 4 at 9pm EST
Please Like Me S2 (Pivot): The super sized second season struggled a little with pacing, but the exploits of twenty-somethings Josh and his friends were just as funny and even more heartfelt than S1. Episode 8, in which Josh and his mom take an episode-long camping trip, is exceptional for packing so much raw, unflinchingly honesty and humour into 22 minutes. Returns: A third season has been ordered
Rectify S2 (Sundance): Much like Please Like Me, Rectify meandered a little in its second season because it had extra episodes to play with. The season started strongly as Daniel Holden recovered from his coma and while I disagree with the decision to focus more on the details of Hannah’s murder, S2 still contained a wealth of beautiful character beats and emotionally resonant moments. Returns: A third season has been ordered
Scandal S4 (ABC): The original Twitter revelation pared down the crazy in S4 and the results prove that the show is all the better for it. How To Get Away With Murder may have stolen its thunder (see above) but there’s clearly still a lot of gas left in this one’s tank. Returns: Thursday, Jan 29 at 10pm EST
The Walking Dead S5 (AMC): Critics and fans alike agree that (aside from the predictable mid-season finale) the fifth season has been the best paced and most consistently entertaining season yet. Plus the series continues to break records. It actually beat the NFL in the all important demos, for crying out loud! Returns: Sunday, Feb 8 at 9pm EST
Arrow S3 (The CW): The heat has cooled a little on The CW’s first major superhero show (younger brother The Flash [above] has stolen some of its thunder) and the search for Sara’s (Caity Lotz) killer has been a muddled affair. Thankfully the show’s stunt team remains the best in the biz and the mid-season finale‘s cliffhanger was gangbusters. Returns: Wednesday, Jan 21 at 8pm EST
Continuum S3 (Showcase/Syfy): The series had a controversial / uneven third season capped off with a hail mary cliffhanger in an attempt to secure a fourth season. Clearly it worked because the series was renewed (albeit for a brief six episode final season). At least Kiera (Rachel Nichols) and co. will get a proper send-off. Returns: Unknown
Elementary S3 (CBS): Creatively the show remains on par with the first two seasons, despite the introduction of Kitty (aka Joan-lite) as Sherlock’s new apprentice. Apparently audiences disagree. The late October return and increased competition from How To Get Away With Murder (see above) has dramatically affected Elementary‘s ratings to the point of worry. Returns: Thursday, Jan 8 at 10pm EST
In The Flesh S2 (BBC America): The second series of the UK zombie show tackled meatier political topics using a broader scope, leaving the door open for an even more expansive third season. Unfortunately BBC hasn’t bit and the show remains on the bubble.
Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. S2 (ABC): Marvel’s first television series improved significantly following the events of Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, then kept the momentum going in the new season by embracing Ward’s (Brett Dalton) villainy and going the SPOILER Inhumans route with Sky (Chloe Bennet) END SPOILER. Unfortunately the ratings continue to freefall. The show is in no danger, but it is clearly not the bonafide hit everyone thought it would be. Returns: Tuesday, March 3 at 9pm EST (following Agent Carter)
Revenge S3 (ABC): The sudsy Hamptons-set drama continues its path to redemption. The S2 finale featured no less than a shovel-to-the-head fight scene between Ice Queen Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) and Emily (Emily Van Camp), the return of Em’s father David (James Tupper) and the death of Grayson patriarch, Conrad (Henry Cznery). And with the recent SPOILER death of Daniel (Van Camp’s real life fiancé, Josh Bowman) END SPOILER the series has really upped its game. Too bad no one is watching… Returns: Sunday, Jan 4 at 10pm EST
Utopia S2 (Channel 4): The UK series had a mostly great second season (pro), but got the axe due to low viewership (con). Thankfully the tale will live on when it is resurrected in a new HBO series by Gone Girl’s David Fincher and Gillian Flynn sometime this year.
American Horror Story: Coven & Freak Show (FX): This year the wheels came off AHS. Each season now features Jessica Lange trying to (re)claim her diva power, while a troop of regulars lurk on the fringes waiting to die in gory (not scary) ways. This show would be a million times better if Murphy and Lange ceded control to someone new, but alas it just keeps repeating itself cycle after cycle. Returns: Wednesday, Jan 7 at 10pm EST
Bitten S1 (Space/Syfy): This Canadian werewolf show (based on the much more successful – and better – book series by Kelly Armstrong) floundered in the plotting and pacing department in S1. Also: star Laura Vandervoort can’t act to save her life. Returns: Spring 2015
Doctor Who S8 (BBC/BBC America): This year TVAngie and I both gave up on the iconic Time Doctor. Despite the buzz about the casting of fan favourite Peter Capaldi, the gruff and standoffish new Twelfth Doctor was unlikable and the new batch of episodes were inconsistent and/or poorly written (case in point: ‘Robot Of Sherwood’). Caveat: ‘Listen’ was a very solid and ‘Time Heist’ is plenty of fun.
Gotham S1 (FOX): Numbers-wise the “Batman before Batman” series is FOX’s biggest hit of the year, but creatively the show is a complete mess (too many villains, shallow characterization, too much yelling, inept plotting). We’re still not sure if Jada Pinkett Smith knows that she’s on the same show as everyone else. Returns: Monday, Jan 5 at 8pm EST
Justified S5 (FX): Last season proved to be the worst season for the southern fried crime show. Not only did Michael Rapaport’s Daryl Crowe prove to be a groan-worthy villain, but Ava’s stint in jail felt like a bad riff on Orange Is The New Black. Overall everything in S5 felt like an extended teaser for the final season which Returns Tuesday, Jan 20 at 10pm EST.
Orange Is The New Black S2 (Netflix): A lot of critics felt the second season was better than the first, but we disagree. The new villain, Vee (Lorraine Touissant), proved far too shallow and one dimensional and her presence usurped the narrative focus at the expense of richer, more interesting characters. At least we got to know Miss Rosa… Returns: Likely Summer 2015
Marry Me (NBC): The reunion between fiancés David Caspe and Casey Wilson (creator and star of the late, great Happy Endings) has been a creative disappointment. Despite a stable of game for anything actors, the jokes and camaraderie simply isn’t working on this new show, which just makes Happy Ending‘s cancellation all the more painful. Returns: Tuesday, Jan 6 at 9pm EST
Selfie S1 (ABC): It doesn’t matter how cute Karen Gillan and John Cho were together or that Selfie improved after just a few episodes, ABC showed the Pygmalion-lite adaptation no mercy and cancelled it after just a few episodes. The title certainly didn’t help…
Sleepy Hollow S2 (FOX): After a fantastic cliffhanger finale in S1, FOX’s runaway hit faltered mightily by dedicating too much time to crappy characters, especially Ichabod’s (Tom Mison) useless wife Katrina (Katia Winter), a domesticated Headless Horseman (Neil Jackson) and new character Hawley (Matt Barr), often at the expense of the Mills sisters. Ratings have cratered faster than Moloch’s plans for world domination, putting the show’s future in serious jeopardy. Returns: Monday, Jan 5 at 9pm EST
The Strain S1 (FX): We’re unsure how you take a pulpy vampire novel and turn it into the most lethargically paced, boring cable show on TV, but this FX series has managed to do just that. David Bradley and the excellent special effects almost make up for it, but the lazy writing, meandering plot, molasses pacing and Corey Stoll’s wig make this a miss. Returns: Likely Summer 2015
Teen Wolf S4 (MTV): The series never fully recovered from the loss of Alison and Isaac last year, but creator Jeff David found a surefire way to kill all of the goodwill created by Dylan O’Brien’s turn as Evil Stiles in S3B by spending half a season on a storyline before rendering it completely unnecessary in a single episode. Quite the eff you to fans. Returns: Likely Summer 2015
That’s our list. How does it measure up to yours? What did the year in TV look like for you? Sound off in the comments and look for the ‘Watch With Us: January 2015’ post tomorrow at 10am.