by Jamie Parrish
Jamie has several TV show-based podcats, including one on Hannibal, one on The Walking Dead, and one on Constantine. You can find his shows at Second Courser Media.
I have a hard time narrowing down things I like in to a short top 5 or top 10 list of the year. Once I made a mix of the best music of 2012 that had been released from January to June, which turned out to be a double disc set containing 48 songs. Just imagine haw long it ended up being by the time December rolled around. Being aware of this flaw of mine, I’ve done my best to whittle down my list of favorite TV shows of 2014. I’ve also put them into categories to aid your reading of the list and as a way to limit the number of shows I could include. For all of you that agree with my list you can give me a high five the next time you see me. Everyone else can send your hate mail to directly to The Mobtown Shank.
Best shows that were returning favorites:
Not only is this show excellently written and acted, it helps to remind us that no matter who you are, your station in life (1% or 99%, upstairs or downstairs), and no matter what point in history you lived or are living in you are not immune to tragedies or controversies that complicate life. Season three was a better example of this than any other as the issues of interracial relationships, depression, financial ambiguity, and rape were tackled.
Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones has plenty of reasons for you to tune in each Sunday, but for me the best reason to watch is that characters in any other series that would be marginalized such as women and little people, are put into a place of power. As a father of a daughter I almost always want to find pop culture icons that represent powerful women as role models for her. Who better than Daenerys Targaryen? Emilia Clarke somehow makes this character seem more powerful on screen than she does in the pages of George R.R. Martin’s books. Thanks to Tyrion Lannister, Peter Dinklage has become one of Hollywood’s most sought after actors. Well done HBO, well done.
For as much as Don Draper is a dick in all aspects of his life, I can’t help but want to root for him to come out on top. This past season showed that the king can fall from grace and somehow battle his way back up to the top. Season seven (part 1) also helped to redeem Don, a Don who was getting dangerously close to going over the brink. I started out agreeing with everyone in the office about him, but by the end of the season and after a few well-placed flashbacks, I was back in his corner. Let’s just hope he doesn’t squander all this newfound goodwill come this spring.
The Walking Dead
So, 17.3 million people tuned in to watch The Walking Dead Season 5 premier effectively kicking Sunday night football’s ass. This season has been nothing short of a tour de force and just won’t let up. I don’t think I can say anymore and not revel any spoilers, so I won’t.
Best Shows You Probably Didn’t Watch
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you put Dr. Van Helsing, Dorian Gray, Dr. Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and Dracula together in London during the 1890’s? No, I’m not describing a Portlandia skit. I’m letting you know the premise creator John Logan’s spellbinding addition to Showtime’s late spring line-up. Named for the horror tales of the time period that cost only one cent, the stories of all those above mentioned are woven together to seem as if they were never separate tales at all. If horror is not your thing then watch for the performances of Timothy Dalton, Billie Piper, Josh Hartnett, and Eva Green.
Another Showtime show that will have you riveted. Liev Schreiber does an excellent job of showing us what a LA fix-it man looks like as his family falls apart, the FBI breaths down his neck, and his father (played by John Voight) manipulates him.
This is an excellent character study of a groundbreaking and inventive doctor, John Thackery (a composite character of a few real life doctors) played by Clive Owen, as he spirals down into cocaine addiction. The name of the show come from the Knickerbocker Hospital where most of the series' events take place and Thackery is employed at the turn if the twentieth century. Just like Downton Abbey, The Knick deals with many issues of the modern day such as race relations and feminism through the lens of a period piece. This show was going to be my pick for the best show of the year if I had not watched another show that will appear later on this list.
Do you like monsters? Do you like zombies? Do you like vampires? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions you better be watching The Strain. This series aired during the summer, on FX, while many of us were out enjoying the sun and nice weather so I’m sure you might have missed it. Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan teamed up to bring us their vision of what would happen it a parasite got loose in New York City that not only changed our anatomy to make us monsters, but also blood sucking vampire zombies. It’s not winning any awards but it was a fun distraction during the months of the year when the only thing else on TV is America’s Got Talent.
I think we can all agree on this one. Do I really need to write a whole paragraph about it?
Best Little Show That Could
This show has struggled over two seasons to build and audience. It has suffered a show-killing time slot move and having to air in a time slot where TV shows go to die (Fridays at 10 PM). Despite NBC’s efforts to make Bryan Fuller remain a TV producer that could not get past a second season with any show he has produced, the show has survived and will return for a third season. Why should you be watching this show? One word: "Lush." The sets, the costumes, the food, the acting, the writing are all thick and enticing. Each week’s episode is a feast for the eyes and the mind. Every time I sit down to watch I feel like about to eat a rich creamy dessert. If that isn’t enough to convince you to watch then maybe you should just to check out Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal and Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham. Both actors have taken those characters and made them their own. Anyone else who plays these characters in the future will not hold a candle to the portrayal these two men have brought to these beloved characters.
The Show With The Actress That Should Win All The Emmy’s
Tatiana Maslany deserves all the awards for her work on Orphan Black. She plays not one or two characters but 12 different characters. Only 5-6 of them reoccur on a regular basis but that is still impressive. She not only plays them all, but she plays them convincingly. Her main character is Sarah Manning, a young woman that slowly realizes she is involved in a global conspiracy by a multinational corporation to cover up it’s cloning experiments roughly 30 years ago. Along the way we meet a scientist version of her, a soccer mom version, and probably they best of her characters, Helena, a Russian clone that knows more than she is telling. Why she hasn’t been nominated for more awards is beyond me.
Best Show With A Premise That Made Me Think The Show Would Suck But Turned Out to Be The Best Show I Watched All Year
When I first heard about The Affair I avoided it because I thought that the premise was not that interesting. How could anyone take that sad hackney story and make it interesting. I thought this was a misstep on Showtime’s part. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I turned the show on New Years Day evening to test if my new Chromecast would work with the Showtime Anytime App. Ten hours later at four in the morning my wife and I had finished the entire first season. We just couldn’t stop watching. We needed to know more. We needed to have the story unfold for us immediately. Waiting to watch it in 3 episode increments just wouldn’t do. No show has done that to me since Battlestar Galactica.
The story unfolds over 10 episodes in which the main characters Noah Solloway and Alison Bailey/Lockhart, played by Dominic West and Ruth Wilson, recall the events of how they met, fell in love, and destroyed the lives of their respective families. They are recalling the events for a police officer investigating a crime that is revealed to the audience in slow drips and drabs. The crime itself is not even the most important part this masterfully told story. The most important part is how the story is told.
Noah is a middle-aged New York City public school teacher and writer married to Helen, played by Maura Tierney of ER fame. It’s made very evident that Noah married up after college to escape the poverty he knew growing up in west Pennsylvania. Noah and his family spend their summers on Montauk and island in Hamptons with Helen’s accomplished writer father and overbearing mother. Alison is a Montauk local that has suffered a personal tragedy and is trying to figure out how to move on with life and save her marriage if that is even possible. The two meet when Noah his wife and four children have lunch in Alison’s diner and the story begins to unfold.
Each episode is split in half with Noah telling his version of events and Alison telling hers. Each are recounting the same events but with a slightly different perspective and details. This is where the genius of The Affair becomes apparent. You realized that each individual saw himself or herself differently and the course events unfold for each of them in a different manner. Earlier I said the crime wasn’t important and that is because it’s not. What is important is perspective. This show so brilliantly plays with perspective that you will be talking about it for days after. Even the affair itself becomes secondary to how perspective becomes the central character. Noah’s children come and go as his attention to his family changes. Alison’s view of herself changes overtime, you only notice it in subtle changes of wardrobe. It is the best-written show I have watched all year. Couple that with the performance of West, Wilson, Tierney, and Joshua Jackson and you have the best show of the year.