Best TV of the Year

This is my list of the best television of the year for 2014. My best of lists are a little later than all the professional critics, as I had a lot of screeners and Netflix to catch up on. Even so, it’s impossible to watch everything.

I watch television to be entertained and I want shows to make the viewer laugh and cry and think. I’m not really a fan of gratuitous violence (sorry Walking Dead, even though I like you, and Game of Thrones) or objectifying sex scenes (Game of Thrones again). I know it’s very trendy to watch all the cable shows and not watch network television, but there are still some really good shows on network television. My list also has a lack of shows from some of the premium cable networks because there’s only one show on HBO that I like. I don’t have Showtime, so I have no verdict on The Affair.

I couldn’t decide the order these should go in, so I went with alphabetical.

Here is my list of the best television of 2014:

Ming-Na Wen, Clark Gregg, Chloe Bennett, SHIELDMarvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
I’ve only finished the first season, but it left me excited to start season two. The show started out a little rocky, with episodes that were a little too procedural, but quickly picked up. The second half of the season was top-notch entertainment, especially for fans of the Marvel universe. The tie-ins to Avengers, Thor, and Captain America are always really fun. Surprise appearances by Whedonites, such as Amy Acker, are also really fun. As I’m obviously a complete nerd, I don’t know fun those moments are for those that aren’t very invested in the Marvel universe storyline, not to mention big Joss Whedon fans (and can we take a moment to acknowledge how awesome Joss Whedon is when it comes to female characters?), but at the same time, I kind of think the nerds are who this show is aimed at.

Orphan Black, Tatiana MaslanyOrphan Black
I’m including this series based on the first season and the beginning of season two. The show is addictive and smart. Also, Tatiana Maslany is amazingly talented. I forget that I’m actually watching the same person. The episode “Variations Under Domestication” from season one (technically not this year, but whatever) is my favorite, but I’ve loved the beginning of season two.

Outlander, Caitriona Balfe, Sam  HeuganOutlander
This show fulfills that fantasy of what would happen if I were suddenly back in time. The most amazing part of it is that we’re fulfilling that what if… scenario through the eyes of a well-rounded female character. There is really a severe lack of those, so I might keep mentioning, by which I mean I will definitely keep mentioning it. A show that has a capable, likeable female lead and takes place in Scotland is just awesome. All the Scottish accents are fun, and will Claire ever find her way back to the 1940’s. Do we even want her to?

ParenthoodParenthood
This is another show I just started watching and am including it even though I haven’t seen the last season. It’s nice to watch a show about a family that isn’t too soap opera-y, doesn’t feature a family that is completely dysfunctional (there have been no murders or kidnappings). The teenagers also look and act surprisingly like teenagers. It’s well-written and well-acted and it’s too bad that I, and many other people, didn’t notice it sooner.

Parks and Recreation, Amy Poehler, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones, Chris PrattParks & Recreation
I love Leslie Knope. And I relate to the awkwardness that is Ben Wyatt, and the deadpan negativity and sarcasm that is April Ludgate. Also, who doesn’t love Ron and Andy? It’s also great that there’s a comedy that revolves around a capable, together female character, who isn’t the stereotype caricature of the woman who has her career together but is a mess in her personal life, and who says stupid things and petty things sometimes, just like the rest of us. “The Fight” is still an all-time favorite episode. Also, we missed Ann and Chris in the last season.

Pretty Little Liars, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale, Troian Bellisario, Shay MitchellPretty Little Liars
When I first started this show, I thought it was going to be terrible, but somehow the characters are likeable while doing crazy, often unethical things, often for the right reasons, but sometimes not. While they remind you nothing whatsoever of your own high school experience, the mystery is fun and engaging.

Adelaide Kane, ReignReign
This is a fantastic and underrated show about the French court in the 1500s. The show revolves around Mary, Queen of Scots, her ladies in waiting (one of whom has a child with Mary’s husband), and the family of Francis II, which includes his mother, Queen Catherine, one of the best characters on the show. There is an interesting contrast between Mary, as a young, idealistic queen and Catherine, as a much more jaded queen, showing what Mary may become (other than beheaded).

Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock HolmesSherlock
This show is another modern update of the Sherlock Holmes story, but one that takes much of its source material from the actual stories in the book, and running at about an hour and a half per episode, they are much more like movies than television episodes. The writing is great, and both Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock, and Martin Freeman, who plays Watson, give wonderful performances. Cumberbatch won an Emmy Award for his performance in the most recent series.

Sleepy Hollow, Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, John NobleSleepy Hollow
For a show with a completely ridiculous concept, Sleepy Hollow manages to have a sense of humor that is one of the aspects of the show that makes it work. It also manages to have some female characters that are complicated people who kick ass.

True Detective, Matthew McConaughey, Woody HarrelsonTrue Detective
Regardless of your opinion on the ending, a scene some people may have looked at rather simplistically, the show was interesting, well written and was a great mystery. It was always worth tuning in just to hear what weird Matthew McConaughey-like philosophizing Matthew McConaughey would say as Rusty. The only problem with the show was that apparently that area of Louisiana is populated entirely by men. The few women that lived there were murdered. Hopefully, season two, which has Rachel McAdams, will fix this problem.

Vampire DiariesThe Vampire Diaries
This show has continued to be entertaining into its sixth season. It has flaws, among them the relationship between Elena and Damon, which is completely uninteresting and consistently dragged out, as well as the decline of Elena as a character. By turning her into a vampire, the writers seemed to start her down a path of emotional regression, where she acts more like a teenager the older she gets. However, those flaws are balanced out by the performances, particularly by Nina Dobrev, who has played all aspects of Elena, as well as Katherine and Amira, while managing to be convincing as all of them. The development of the friendship between Stefan and Caroline has been another highlight, as well as the return of Alaric and the addition of Enzo. Paul Wesley and Candice Accola get much less attention than Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev for their work in their roles (Wesley portrayed Stefan’s doppelgangers, Silas and Tom, as adeptly as Dobrev), which is a shame, because they are both fantastic in them.

White Collar, Matt BomerWhite Collar
I’m going to miss this show so much! The dynamic between Neal and Peter was magnetic and entertaining, and the writing on the show had a cleverness in a way that was almost a throwback that is not seen in other shows. Even though you really always knew Neal was going to be okay, you were still always in suspense.

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