Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Seven Shows I Loved (And Six I Let Go) In 2014

Television just keeps getting better, so the stakes for the networks and cable have never been higher.

While 2014 was another great year for television, it was also a year when several senior shows ran out of creative juice. Here are the shows I loved, and a few I let go, in 2014.

And the winner goes to....

The cast of The Good Wife
Photo Courtesy: CBS
The Good Wife. In its sixth season, this show just keeps getting better. This season, somehow stronger than Season 5, reinforces The Good Wife as a creative tour-de-force. And, in a rarity for an ensemble cast, everyone - even the smallest roles - more than punch above their weight.

The runner ups:

The Americans. This show combines appealing leads with great chemistry, a strong supporting cast, and enough twists and turns to make every episode a visual feast.

The 1982 setting never fails to remind me how analog the recent past was, and it somehow makes the show feel very familiar but also very far away at the same time. And then there's the white appliances, paneled station wagons, and gravity-defying hair!

Alpha House. This Amazon Prime original, in its sophomore season, is a fun romp around the inside of the DC beltway. And the cast is picture perfect. One name: Wanda Sykes.

The Fall. This atmospheric, tight thriller is superbly acted by Gillian Anderson, only proving that she has way more to offer beyond re-runs of the X-Files.

Looking. Finally, a show about gay men in the teens. As much as Queer As Folk documented the lives of "gay ghetto gays", it never felt real. Most of us don't only have gay friends and live in the gayborhood. Looking is far better acted, and more realistically set - even if its San Francisco location is a little too pat.

Girls. Everyone is railing on Lena Dunham as a poster child for white privilege and entitlement, but it doesn't detract from the fact that she has written the definitive show about being early 20s and adrift in New York.

Veep. In the words of Selina Meyer, "why don't you put on your running shoes and get to the f*&%^#^g point?"

Of course, 2014 wasn't kind to every show. Some just ran out of gas.

Homeland. Season 2 was an unmitigated disaster, with weird plot tangents about Brodie's kids and blowing up the CIA. I hear Season 3 got a "reboot", in which Carrie gets sent to Pakistan.

Because I am sure that's exactly what the CIA does with all of its agents with bi-polar disorder and a history of going rogue.

Archer. Also rebooted for 2014, but I just never could get back into it.

Nashville. Who doesn't love Connie Britton? Unfortunately, even she can't save this show, which is veering dramatically into soap opera land - and not in a good way. Basically everyone except Connie, Hayden Panettierre, and the guy who plays Deacon Claiborne should be fired.

The Blacklist. An awesome Season 1, followed by a snoozer Season 2. I only have so much time, and The Blacklist didn't make the cut.

Person of Interest. Without Taraji P. Henson and the loft it's just not the same.

Honorable Mention For Worst Crash of 2014: The Newsroom. Probably one of the most-hyped shows ever put on HBO, The Newsroom was actually (if we are honest) terrible from the very beginning.

The pacing was wrong, the "stars" had zero chemistry, and the script was pedantic and preachy. The Newsroom had none of the incisive probing of The West Wing, nor the humor of Sports Night. John Gallagher, Jr. and Alison Pill must have had one of the least romantic and wretched "love affairs" in TV history.

In the end, I was just longing for scenes with Jane Fonda (who singlehandedly carried every scene she was ever in), Mamie Gummer (who has all of her mother's skill), and Dev Patel. Sadly, they were almost totally absent in the end.

See you next year!

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