I’m all for making a Top 5 list. It was a tragic day when Matthew Perry slipped from the #1 spot he held on mine for nearly 15 years. But nothing lasts forever, a platitude especially true in TV, when a new show can be cancelled before it’s even aired. So compiling a list of the best TV of 2014 is god damn difficult. I can’t be completely convinced that some of my choices won’t have a sucky second season and disappear without trace. I also can’t guarantee that there weren’t better shows and I just didn’t see them (yet). But these are shows that kept me watching, made me horny, forced my brain to actually work and made me remotely care about characters, which is no easy feat.
DISCLAIMER: I did not just watch this because it has an aging-amazingly-great Pacey Witter in it.
Part psychological drama, part Nicholas Sparks in serial format, every episode of The Affair is split – half is shown from the perspective of the female protagonist, the other half from the male protagonist. So usually, but not always, we see the same events but skewed in the retelling, due to gender differences, or lie-telling, the fallibility of memory. What have we rewritten by over-thinking moments in our own lives? What have we changed in the interim years, embellished, or loved a little too well (maybe that’s what happened with me and Matthew Perry?)
Renewed for a second season, I won’t lie, I half-wondered this wasn’t some soapy melodrama around the halfway mark (ten hour-long episodes in total). But despite the family dramatics and the locals creating small town disturbances so boring you’re left wondering how they even made it into the testimonies of our lead characters, the relationships are not only lifelike and devastating, but totally relatable. These are messy people making the best of the shitstorms they’ve landed themselves in.
A comment on modern-day marriage as much as it’s about extra-marital relationships and the repercussions thereof, it’ll make you question every decision, kiss, attraction, opportunity and acquaintance. And all those ones that got away or exes you couldn’t forget: maybe your memory did a number on you too and they were the total crap your friends thought they were. Jus’ sayin’.
The Good Wife
Thanks to Netflix, I binge-watched the entirety of this show in under a month. There’s some heartbreak right there. The most engaging Dawson vs Pacey drama since Dawson vs Pacey. Mr. Big in jail! Mr. Big for President! A shedload of incredible guest stars. And the most beautifully complicated female characters on television, there is no reason not to get completely obsessed with this and forget to wash. Even the procedural nature of the episodes shouldn’t be enough to deter you because, srsly, once these people are under your skin and inside your brain you’ll be willing them to make bad decisions and really fuck their lives up because it’s super good when they do.
Sometimes, the love you have for a TV show is as much about the moment in your life when you find it as it is about the show itself. I’m not going to pretend that the US version of The Killing isn’t ropey. Some entire episodes are questionable as fuck. And in the whole getting-cancelled-getting-renewed-getting-picked-up-by-Netflix melodrama, the show shifted tone dramatically, so by season 4, we’re spoonfed a by-numbers procedural whodunnit that’s not even infuriating. It’s a fast-forward, O RLY? style yawn.
But love, I’ve heard, is faults and all, and for every fucked up move this show made, my love deepened. Quite simply because of its leads. Mirieille Enos is stupidly messed up but never not in pursuit of the killer, and she owns every bad choice she makes, from fucking the wrong people to not knowing who her friends are or when to quit. She’s doing the best she can. Plus, no woman has ever looked so elegant in a waterproof jacket.
And Joel Kinnaman is a worthy partner for Mirieille’s kick-ass-ness. He’s straight-up gangster. Recovering addict, overlooked and patronised by most everyone he meets, these two find a strange kinship in each other. They’re an unlikely duo, and the only reason I kept watching to conclusion. Because sometimes all you need is one person who sees you completely and doesn’t think you’re shit. They think you’re something better: a 1-900-Rock-Star.
Probably the best thing to happen in 2014 besides this, and again thanks to Netflix, the first season of BoJack Horseman stabbed me in the heart as many times as it made me cackle maniacally. A comment on celebrity culture, depression, death, existentialism, competition, the impossibility of relationships, and the distorted view of the self, in a sea of anti-heroes, BoJack’s the funniest. And the things he says are just apt and miserable and beautiful and witty and too fucking relatable. They’re words to live your life by: “I’m responsible for my own happiness? I can’t even be responsible for my own breakfast.” True fucking dat.
I was sold on this show from the pilot, but season 2 ramped everything up, until this easily became the most beautifully shot show on television. What the sophomore season lacked in strong female role models (or they were there, but mutilated, murdered, locked away and seduced in equal measure) it made up for with its confident sense of aesthetics and Mads Mikkelsen’s ownership of a role previously reserved for Anthony Hopkins. Michael Pitt’s fierce guest-arc and Gillian Anderson’s ethereal yet stealy performance meant that this season was no tricky second album. It was frickin’ killer, and that renewal was never more deserved. I am still waiting for Hanni and Will to kiss though, please Bryan Fuller.
A powerhouse of a show that recently entered season 11. But 2014 saw the departure of one the most awesome female characters of all time, Cristina Yang. Sandra Oh might’ve been playing sidekick to Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith Grey, but she was constantly a show-stealer. Where most female characters on TV are relegated to mother or wife territory eventually, inevitably, Cristina Yang gave us an alternate timeline, a woman unafraid of her own awesomeness, unwilling to settle on a life path that wasn’t for her. When she got pregnant and was unhappy about it, she had an abortion. When the only way she could save her marriage was by giving her husband the things he wanted (a family and a comfortable home life), she made the impossible decision of not being with him, despite being desperately in love with him. And she never let anyone, male or female, tell her what she couldn’t do. Her quotes will always be advice to live by: “Have some fire. Be unstoppable. Be better than anyone here and don’t give a damn what anyone thinks.”
Dark as fuck. Enough said.
I also didn’t kick the following shows out of bed: Girls, Orange is the New Black, Pretty Little Liars, Mad Men.
And I know I know I know that Felicity was made a zillion years ago, but it never aired in the UK so 2014 was the first time I got to savour all 4 seasons of that stalker fest. I don’t even know how I feel about it except I love it unconditionally.
Shows I used to love that hacked me off in 2014: Scandal (such a shit third season, I can’t even) & How I Met Your Mother (how to piss off your entire fan base).
And a million things I didn’t see yet but MUST (Transparent, The Americans, & Jane the Virgin, apparently?!)
Still missed but never forgotten: Gossip Girl xoxo