Our ten favorite things on TV in 2014 | Bleader

Friday, December 26, 2014

Our ten favorite things on TV in 2014

Posted By on 12.26.14 at 10:00 AM

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True Detective
  • True Detective

It's the opinion of a number of people—professionals and laymen alike—that we've entered a second golden age of television. This is simultaneously great and really annoying. As the New York Times's David Carr explained it back in March, "The vast wasteland of television has been replaced by an excess of excellence that is fundamentally altering my media diet and threatening to consume my waking life in the process." Suffice it to say, there was a lot of stuff—and a lot of good stuff—on TV this year, but we have lives, and families (well, we have pets), and we didn't get around to watching everything.

Here, in no particular order, is our not-at-all-exhaustive list of the best things we managed to watch on TV in 2014. Gwynedd Stuart

Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
On paper Olive Kitteridge sounds an awful lot like homework: a four-hour miniseries about an unapologetic sourpuss from Maine achieving old age. Alas, in a lackluster year at the movies, Kitteridge was as great an example of cinematic storytelling as anything that came through theaters. In Frances McDormand's hands, Olive's unpleasantries, which could have become assaultive, make the character deeply sympathetic. It's a love story—idealized love and the kind you take for granted—and an honest and frequently funny depiction of mental illness and depression, set on the beautiful and often unaccommodating Maine coast. Get someone's HBO Go password and watch. Gwynedd Stuart

Broad City (Comedy Central)
Let me take this opportunity to apologize to everyone I've had a conversation with this year, from my best friends to my bank tellers, because chances are I've waxed poetic for an annoying and unnecessary amount of time about my love for Broad City. I can't help it; on their webseries of the same name, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer were two of the most authentic people on the Internet, and their television show has only helped solidify their unapologetic and hysterical point of view. There isn't another pair in the biz who can make a story line about hiding weed in your lady business seem downright charming. Brianna Wellen

Transparent (Amazon)
Though it's sprinkled liberally with sex, drugs, and narcissism, Transparent was one of the more heartwarming shows of the year. It stars Jeffrey Tambor as Maura Pfefferman, a middle-aged (and then some) trans woman who comes out to her ex-wife (Judith Light) and adult children, played by Jay Duplass, Gaby Hoffmann, and Amy Landecker. Maura's announcement is initially met with confusion and resentment, mostly because her younger children feel inconvenienced and slightly appalled by her new life. But although the Pfeffermans initially appear as self-involved as another one of Tambor's TV families, creator Jill Soloway challenges them and the audience to reconsider the foundations of life and family. Danette Chavez

Jane the Virgin (CW)
I know what you're thinking. How could a show with this premise actually be good: a virgin is accidentally artificially inseminated with her boss's sperm right before her cop boyfriend proposes to her, and all the while her long-lost television-star father is trying to meet her for the first time. I have two answers for you: hilarious self-awareness and Gina Rodriguez. The show cleverly leans into its absurdities, making for a near parody of melodramatic television, and Rodriguez is completely lovely, relatable, and down-to-earth as Jane, despite her telenovela life. Brianna Wellen

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
When it launched, Last Week Tonight raised the question of what kind of anchor (or pundit) Oliver would be. Turns out, he's not really one or the other. And that's what makes Last Week work. Oliver and company don't have to worry about adhering to a personality, so they can indulge in the surrealism of puppetry sketches in one moment and then launch a proper tirade (or long-form investigation) in the next. Danette Chavez

Nathan For You
  • Nathan For You

Nathan For You (Comedy Central)
Besides the one I live with, no man made me laugh more in 2014 than Nathan Fielder. He brought back his hurtfully awkward earnestness and nonexistent business expertise for a second season of Nathan for You, which I wrote about thusly back in July: "Fielder's made what could've been a bullshit Punk'd-style gag show into one of the funniest shows on TV because he's at least as willing to make an asshole of himself as he is to make an asshole of other people." I assume Fielder will return for a third season—his "Fake Starbucks" concept made him Internet and late-night-talk-show famous this year—and I can't imagine I won't laugh a bunch in 2015 too. Gwynedd Stuart

Bob's Burgers (Fox)
Bob's Burgers, once sandwiched between the other animated shows in Fox's Animation Domination lineup, finally got the recognition it deserves this year. Not only did the Belchers earn a proper prime-time spot (move over, Mulaney), but they also picked up the Emmy for Best Animated Show. This year also saw many near-perfect episodes, including "Mazel-Tina" and "The Equestranauts." The most impressive thing about the show is how fully realized the characters are, even if they are drawings. Parent, child, cook, or customer: everyone has a (sometimes secret) life of his or her own. Danette Chavez

Black-ish (ABC)
I'm not going to belabor the fine points of what makes some by-the-book family sitcoms funnier than others. Some have good writers, some don't. Some have a likable cast, some don't. What Black-ish has is Tracee Ellis Ross, who's emerged as one of the funniest people on television. (An aside: SHE'S DIANA ROSS'S DAUGHTER.) She's at her best when her cool, collected character is given permission to lose it, at which point Ross channels the kind of mania that won Laurie Metcalf a bunch of Emmys when she was on R­­oseanne. All right, and cute kids with good material don't hurt either; the two young ones, twins Jack and Diane, are pretty great. Gwynedd Stuart

Review (Comedy Central)
One of the best episodes of television this year also has the best title: "Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes." On Review, Forrest MacNeil (Andy Daly) reviews life experiences (sent into him by "viewers") such as attending the prom, being a racist, and becoming an addict. His only rule is that he must follow through on every request. What starts as a nonsensical satire becomes a character study of a man whose life falls apart when he reviews eating 15 pancakes in one sitting, divorces his wife, and then eats 30 pancakes in another sitting. Brianna Wellen

True Detective (HBO)
I read in one entertainment magazine or another that True Detective wasn't one of the best television shows of the year because the finale didn't live up to the rest of the series. Did that reviewer listen to a goddamn thing Rust Cohle said? The human race is an aberration, and most things in our short, hideous lives will end, if not in violence, then in disappointment, so, really, the finale was totally appropriate. Frankly, it would have been even better if the show had just ended abruptly in the middle, leaving the young women's murders unsolved and a killer still on the loose, because that's life and life is awful. God, I can't wait for season two. Gwynedd Stuart

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