Best of 2014, TV Series
The year is drawing to a close. In honor of that, over these last two days of the year, I'll have my best of lists. Today I'll look at TV in a couple of posts (Best Shows (and worst), Best Episodes, and Best Performances). Tomorrow it's the movies' turn. As always, these are my picks for the best among what I've seen and come in ascending order.
10 Best Series of 2014:
10. Arrow, The CW
There aren't a ton of people that watch the CW, but the network has quietly put together a mildly impressive slate. "The Flash" was one of the best new shows this fall, but the show that birthed it — "Arrow" — really hit its stride. "Arrow" had an incredible Spring, culminating in a great showdown in the second season finale. It continued that to start its third season, ending the year with a jaw-dropping cliff hanger (dive) involving Oliver Queen.
9. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., ABC
If you gave up on this show after a few episodes in its first season, you'd be forgiven. The show began with a lot of fanfare, but the audience quickly faded because the episodes seemed a little uneven. But I thought the producers had a plan, and last Spring that proved right. The show's big ending arc — closely tied to the events of "Captain America: Winter Soldier" — were pretty incredible. The show ended with a flourish and became what we'd hoped it would have been from the start. The second season this fall has picked that up and continued to run with it.
8. The Walking Dead, AMC
"The Walking Dead's" ratings have never wavered, but it's quality sometimes has. But beginning with the second half of its fourth season last Spring, the show has never been better. Great character development, fascinating stories, and some great performances. Last Spring the show delivered some unforgettable episodes and the quality has only improved this fall. There is a reason this is one of the most popular shows on television.
7. The Mindy Project, FOX
"The Mindy Project" has changed a lot over the course of two and a half seasons, and it's all been for the better. The one constant has been the charm of stars Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina, and the humor of the show. When it returned for its final eight episodes last Spring, Kaling promised they were the best yet. She was right. The second season finale was nearly perfect, and the third season has started strong, too.
6. VEEP, HBO
This is easily the best comedy of TV, thought it's often unheralded. Julia Louis Dreyfuss is great in the lead role, and the comedy just works. HBO has a lot of comedies and shows that draw critical acclaim, but this is its best comedy. And it just keeps getting better.
5. Sherlock, BBC America
Some consider this a mini-series because it comes in the form of three 90-minute movies per season. Regardless, the third season of the show — which featured the return of Sherlock from his presumed death — was another gem. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are great. This is the best import from across the pond.
4. True Detective, HBO
This HBO anthology series got a lot of acclaim before and after it came out, and for good reason. It's something totally different, it was well produced, and it had great star power. You could argue the story didn't live up to some of the other elements, but this was a show you couldn't stop talking about and couldn't wait to see the next week. The back half of the season was stunning at times.
3. Hannibal, NBC
The best show on network TV last year was "Hannibal." The dark crime series, inspired by Thomas Harris' novels, follows familiar characters in interesting new stories. The second season upped the ante, delivering an incredible and incredibly dark character study. It doesn't hurt that it's one of the most beautifully filmed shows on TV. Most of what you see is simply haunting.
2. Fargo, FX
"True Detective" may have gained praise for launching the detective anthology series, but "Fargo" perfected it. What Noah Hawley did with this show's first season — which perfectly captured the tone and style of the Coen Brothers iconic film — was masterful. The cast was universally great and the story was engrossing. There was also an incredible sense of humor and timing to this show. I can't wait to see what happens in the next season.
1. Game of Thrones, HBO
The best show the past few years found a way to top itself. After an unbelievable third season, including one of the most shocking episodes ever, "Game of Thrones" delivered perhaps its best season last Spring. The show had some great episodes, incredible situations, and really set the table for more in 2015. This is TV's best show.
* Brooklyn Nine-Nine, FOX — This sitcom was pretty great from the start, but it kept getting better last Spring and has picked it up a lot this fall.
* Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, HBO — Oliver is a great talent, which he showed during his time filling in for Jon Stewart in 2013. This year he got his own show and has outshone his friend and mentor.
Worst of 2014:
5. Black Box, ABC
I feel like this show took the worst elements of a number of shows — including "Homeland" — and tried to roll it into one ABC primetime soap. It didn't work, at all.
4. The Mysteries of Laura, NBC
For some reason this show is doing OK in the ratings, was picked up for a full season, and might get renewed. That's a mystery worth investigating.
3. The McCarthy's, CBS
I don't understand what CBS sees in this show. It's still on the air, but unlikely to get another season. TV will be better for it.
2. Seed, The CW
The CW doesn't do half hour sitcoms, but it tried this summer. It didn't work, and this show was cancelled quickly.
1. Backpackers, The CW
This was the other half of The CW's attempt at sitcoms this summer — this one adapted from a Web series. It was, perhaps, the worst show I've ever seen. Good riddance.