Best TV of 2014
Matthew Munhall | Sunday, December 7, 2014
This ‘80s spy drama stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as KGB officers undercover in suburban Washington, D.C. While the thrilling second season upped the suspense, it is Elizabeth and Phillip’s marriage that remains the show’s emotional core. As their line of work begins to have repercussions on their American-born children, “The Americans” continues to beautifully explore the humanity of Soviet spies and what it means to be a parent and a spouse.
Best TV Friendship: “Broad City”
Not since “Louie” has a comedy had such fleshed-out characters from its first episode. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s fictional versions of themselves find endless entertainment in the mundanity of lives of two 20-something slackers. No TV characters this year made me laugh harder nor make me wish they were my best friends more.
Most Underrated: “Mad Men”
In the first half of its seventh season this year, “Mad Men” somehow became the most underrated drama on television. As America descended into the chaos of 1969, Don Draper continued his descent into unhappiness — and the seven episodes that aired this year were as great as the show has ever been.
Best Terrible People: “You’re the Worst”
While the broadcast networks gambled on rom-coms this fall, it was FX’s comedy about two selfish Silver Lake hipsters that best portrayed romance on TV. Underneath the cynical facade of Chris Geere and Aya Cash’s characters os a fairly conventional narrative — two people falling for each other despite their best efforts to keep their relationship casual — that still manage to be surprising and hilarious.
Best Unnecessary Adaptation of a Film: “Fargo”
Noah Hawley’s FX adaptation of the Coen brothers’ film brings the quirks of small-town Minnesota to the small-screen. The miniseries take the film’s basic premise and steer it in its own direction, becoming a compelling show about the decency of human beings in the face of a freezing landscape and a sinister hit man.
Best Dysfunctional Family: “Transparent”
Jill Soloway’s brilliant Amazon series focuses on the Pfefferman family, as Maura (the amazing Jeffrey Tambor) comes out to her adult children as a trans woman and begins her transition after a lifetime pretending to be someone else. The show has a languid pace and gorgeous cinematography reminiscent of independent film; it slowly reveals its layers over 10 episodes as Maura and her children all explore their identities in ways both poignant and funny.
Best Fictional Place: Shondaland
Shonda Rhimes’ three-hour block on Thursday nights showed the continued vitality of the network drama. Addictive newcomer “How to Get Away with Murder” joined established hits “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy” for an evening of primetime soaps that, in an era of streaming, demanded to be watched (and tweeted) live.
Best Late-Night Upstart: “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
When it first premiered, John Oliver’s Sunday night talk show seemed like a carbon copy of his former employer “The Daily Show.” But what distinguished “Last Week Tonight” from Jon Stewart’s show was the way Oliver used HBO’s commercial-free format to discuss complex issues in longform journalistic segments. From net neutrality to mass incarceration to police militarization, it turned out a Brit could satirize American politics better than anyone.
Best Stoner Programming: “Too Many Cooks”
This ‘80s sitcom parody justified Adult Swim’s 4 a.m. time slot as a testing ground for absurd one-offs. Over the course of its 11 minutes, this piece of pop culture nostalgia becomes a surreal, macabre piece of art through sheer repetition of its endlessly catchy theme song. If the legalization of marijuana means more bizarre late night programing like “Too Many Cooks,” bring it on.
Best Weed Dealer: “High Maintenance”
Each episode of this Vimeo series provides a glimpse into a different client of a New York pot dealer, played by creator Ben Sinclair. These fantastic character studies mine the depths of why people smoke weed, running the gambit from humorous to heartbreaking.
Honorable Mentions: “BoJack Horseman,” “Looking,” “Nathan for You,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Masters of Sex,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Silicon Valley,” “Veep”