It’s time to restart our end of year list, only this time we’re tackling the best (and worst) television shows of 2014.
Click through to read what took spots 9-10.We’re doing things a little differently this year. Here’s what you need to know for the week:
- Rather than a top five list, cinephilactic will count down the top 10 shows for the year (2 per day), and the 5 worst shows (1 per day).
- As always, not every show was screened, so look for the declaration of omissions on Friday. In order to make either list, a minimum of three episodes was watched.
- Just like the Film awards, we’re deep into Spoiler territory, but big twists will be announced with all cap warnings.
- This was a banner year for TV, so there may still be a ‘Best of the Rest’ post on Saturday.
- Here are the lists for 2013, 2012, and 2011.
#5: True Blood S7
Were it not the final season, this would rate as a fairly standard season of the series. The problem is that it was the final season, and after spending so much time with Sookie (Anna Paquin) and co., audiences deserved much, much better than this dull-as-mud slog of a final season.
I was one of the few that was actually excited for the time jump that began the season because I thought we were finally moving in a direction that set everything up for an energetic and main-character focused season. And then Tara (Rutina Wesley) died off-fucking-screen in the first episode. I was sure that this would be rectified in the second episode, but it wasn’t. And while Tara’s death and many other defining aspects of the series were addressed or brought back (notably Jim Parrack’s Hoyt), even the fan service felt off or awkwardly inserted. Low points for the season: Bill (Stephen Moyer) hogging the limelight, including “who gives a crap?!” flashbacks; Sarah Newlin (a very game Anna Camp) returning and being completely misused; the poor-payoff introduction of the Yakuza; and SPOILER Sookie and Jason (Ryan Kwanten) both ending up with complete randoms END SPOILER one of whom – Brigette (Ashley Hinshaw) – actually got more screen time in the final episodes than series regular Nelsan Ellis’ Lafayette. As the fabulous fry cook would have said, “Hooker no.”
- Caveat: The Jason/Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) sex scene in 7×02 ‘I Found You’ is both hot and hilarious.
#10: Broad City S1
Broad City is one of three shows that genuinely snuck up on me (the other two show up later this week). I began watching Broad City on a whim when I needed a show to make me laugh and this female-driven comedy hit the spot. The series began as a web series (also starring creators Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson) and the Comedy Central version adopts the same premise: two twenty-something girls with few ambitions party and work (just enough to party) their way through a variety of misadventures in New York.
It’s a threadbare narrative that wrings big laughs from everyday scenarios such as playing hooky from work to drum up money for concert tickets, recovering a stolen phone and escaping the city for a friend’s wedding. It’s entirely situational, anchored by two girls who are irreverent, wacky, and mildly annoying (I would definitely hate these two if I encountered them in real life). Somewhere along the way the series manages to tackle a variety of issues, including feminism, sex, and
Oh yeah. There is a lot of drug use on this show! What’s fascinating is how the series manages to be profane, filthy and unabashedly drug-friendly without being completely offensive to people like me (ie: people who are somewhat easily offended). It’s a testament to the girls’ vulgar charms and the ridiculousness of their antics that Broad City works even half as well as it does. My delirious chuckles and guffaws watching the show is proof that I can’t wait to spend more time with Abbi and Ilana.
- Returns: Wednesday, Jan 14 at 10:30pm EST on Comedy Central
- Watch: 1×03 ‘Working Girls’ and 1×06 ‘Stolen Phone’ are the most easily accessible episodes since they’re both relatable quest narratives – one about recovering a package and the other about finding a stolen phone.
- Trailer: You can preview S2 here
#9: Penny Dreadful S1
I was interested in Penny Dreadful as soon as Showtime announced it. Creator John Logan has written some pretty amazing screenplays and the talent he attracted for his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-esque series about various Victorian monsters gathering in London is amazing.
Anchoring the series in a truly show-stopping (sometimes literally) performance is Eva Green, who I love. The woman has the ability to elevate even the most vapid trash (*cough 300: Rise of an Empire cough*) so with good material, she’s a true force of nature. Vanessa Ives’ is Penny Dreadful‘s secret weapon: she’s the center of attention whenever she’s on-screen, especially in the possession scenes. If you’re even remotely intrigued by Penny Dreadful, it’s worth checking out the second episode which features the first of several. What begins as a quaint Victorian party game – paying a spiritualist to call up spirits – encourages Ives’ inner demon to reveal itself very unexpectedly. What follows is a master class in not only acting, but also lighting, camera movement, and soundtrack. If you watch it and fail to be intrigued, then you’re far more resilient than me. The fact that it is barely a taste of things to come should help to wet the appetite for those who, like me, finds themselves sucked in.
I’ll readily admit that the show isn’t perfect. Reeve Carney’s Dorian Gray seems to exist solely to sex things up while Doctor Who‘s Billie Piper’s Brona, a consumption-ridden prostitute, spends a great deal of time coughing up blood in anticipation of her inevitable fate. And as excellent as Timothy Dalton’s Murray, Josh Harnett’s Chandler and Harry Treadaway’s Frankenstein are, even they and Green can’t overcome a lingering sense that the pacing is a bit too languid, especially when the season is only eight episodes long.
Overall, however, these are minor gripes. I imagine some people will be turned off by the period setting, the accents and the gore (which is used to better effect than rival cable series such as The Strain), but these barriers are easily overcome when the product is so atmospheric, evocative and well-executed.
Plus: Eva Green. The lady kills it.
- Returns: Sometime in 2015 (likely spring)
- Caveat: Initially I found the Monster’s story powerful, then increasingly tedious. Here’s hoping that the events of the finale offer some dramatic heft and urgency in S2.
- Watch: Honestly? Watch all 8 episodes. If you have to prioritize: 1×01 ‘Night Work’, 1×02 ‘Séance’, 1×05 ‘Closer Than Sisters’ and 1×07 ‘Possession’
- Trailer: You can watch the preview for S2 here
Our list continues tomorrow with the #4 worst show of the year, as well as the seventh and eighth best shows of 2014. Hit the comments below and let us know if you agree or disagree!