best tv of 2014

This is perhaps the longest into a new year I’ve waited to post my tv list. The problem was, is, whatever, that I’m not excited about it. Which is more about the tv shows than about the list itself (we all know I think lists are fun).

I sorted through my hulu favorites, as I do each year, and couldn’t convince myself there were 10 shows that good in 2014. And I don’t know if this is a reflection of the state of tv shows or the fact that I’m watching fewer shows so, statistically it’s going to be more difficult to find 10 great ones. I actually think it’s a little bit of both. So, this year there’s a lot more “honorable mentions” of shows that almost made the list and not a full list of ten (please refer to the ‘my list, my rules’ policy).

SHIELD s2 is better than s1 because of the new characters they’ve brought in but it’s still not great. And s1 still happened in 2014 so that would have kept it off the list anyway. But I want it to be good – I want it to be on the list. But for so many reasons it just can’t be this year. The Flash is decent and the crossover episodes are particularly good. It’s just too new this year and still figuring itself out. I like it, but it needs to grow up a little to make it on the list. White Collar is alright. s5 had some new elements but I wasn’t found of the Hagen storyline and the Rebecca layer didn’t play well for me and I haven’t seen s6. It just feels like it’s lost some of its charm and especially wittiness.

Agent Carter would totally have made the list but since that started airing in 2015 it doesn’t really qualify.

SUITS poster cropped 2014

7. Suits
Suits hasn’t been on the list in a while. Like White Collar, it lost a lot of its wittiness at some point. And the stories were just so hard and everyone was mean or making bad choices. But s3 and s4 softened the edge some but remained exciting and complicated the relationships in more interesting ways. It was still close to making the honorable mentions rather than the list but then I remembered that one moment in the lobby with that line that hit Mike so hard and, yeah that was good.

ROBIN HOOD BBC Poster cropped 2014

6. Robin Hood
I started watching this on netflix on the weekends when I had to work from home for a few hours. I figured if I had to work, I would at least do something fun. And Robin Hood is fun. It’s campy and it’s silly and it’s dramatic. But the characters are insanely likable and the romance is fun and sweet. Jonas Armstrong holds the show together really well and keeps the story grounded. “Him, we like.” Lucy Griffiths is talented and totally sucks. Mostly I like rewatching s1 and s2 because through so many winter weekends it’s was a comfortable and fun retreat.

ONCE UPON A TIME Season 4 Colin ODonoghue 2014

5. Once Upon a Time
A lot of people LOVE this show and I’m not one of them. I generally find that it grasps at interesting themes or dynamic conflicts but then just skirts over the surface of them. I think a lot of this has to do with the casting and also with a writing staff that wants to be great but is only, currently, capable of good. Still, Once Upon a Time has gotten stronger each season, starting with s3. I like that it’s not afraid to reinvent itself each season. And Hook makes everything more interesting. When they first introduced the idea of the Elsa storyline I totally rolled my eyes. But it didn’t play out the way I expected, which was good. And it brought Elizabeth Mitchell in who is very talented but even she came across as rather insubstantial or…. what’s the word? Whimsical. (haha – that’s both the word and a quote so I’m doubly pleased.)

HAVEN 2014

4. Haven
I almost didn’t include Haven this year. The changes in Duke that started in s4 were interesting but the Nathan and Audrey storyline lagged some. Then I remembered what an amazing job Emily Rose did as Mara. She was dark and interesting and compelling and so awesome. And Emily Rose didn’t just create a dynamic character, she gave a really strong performance and differentiated between Audrey and Mara really well. Eric Belfour was also good (and he has optioned a novel I really like, so I like him more for that), but Emily Rose is totally the strength of s5.

DOWNTON ABBEY titled 2014

3. Downton Abbey
I don’t remember a lot of s4 of Downton Abbey. I remember the big things, and also a few small things. I remember liking it the most of any season. I enjoyed watching the characters, even the ones I don’t always like, which was the biggest improvement. After the end of s4 I didn’t know if I’d come back to watch it again. But it mixed the darkness with lighter, more fun turns. And there was conflict without things having to be horrible. Which was, perhaps, the most enjoyable part.

ARROW Stephen Amell 2014

2. Arrow
I had a tough time this year deciding whether Arrow or Sherlock would be the top show of the year. Arrow is incredibly solid for a comicbook show. It’s got good characters and the dynamics at the end of s2 and into s3 have been phenomenal. But then Black Canary was in s2 and the actress (sorry) was just incredibly annoying. And I have never liked Katie Cassidy as Laurel because she annoys me. Susanna Thompson is great and Emily Bett Rickards is spectacular. Kind of every other actress on that show would fall into my unpopular aggravation. Plus, upon rewatching s2 on netflix, the end was draaawwwnnn out so much….. I kept thinking it was the end of the season, but wait that thing hadn’t happened yet. It must be happening in the next episode. Except it didn’t, it happened like 3 episodes later. So then this must be the season finale. Nope. Oh, right it’s the penultimate episode. Wrong again. I then thought each of the next 3 or 4 episodes was the season finale but it just kept going.

And yet, Stephen Amell. He is not just hot, he’s incredibly talented and the character is powerful and conflicted and wildly interesting. The crossover episode with The Flash brought an outside perspective that invigorated the story. And the relational dynamics are uncommon and very well done. Plus, s1 is even better upon rewatching. So, overall, despite some lackluster choices in s2, I stand behind my second place ranking.

SHERLOCK BBC Benedict Cumberbatch Martin Freeman 2014

1. Sherlock
Because Sherlock s3 was amazing. So subtle and smart and fun and deep and emotional and incredibly amazing.

I want to talk specifics »

I loved how much fun they had with all the ways Sherlock could have pulled off his “death.” But even more I loved why Sherlock wouldn’t tell the full story of how he survived – that moment at the end of the first episode between him and Watson is acting at its finest. So subtle and so much subtext – it’s just beautiful. The second episode was the least interesting mystery-wise because the puzzle felt a bit disjointed. But it was full of a ton of humor and heart. But that third episode… again the puzzle wasn’t great but the relational dynamics with Mary and that scene! So much emotion and meaning in all of it and it played so powerfully.

It was absolutely breathtaking tv.

The only reason I considered (briefly) not putting it in the number one spot is that there’s only three episodes. It’s not enough! It can’t be rewatched as often because then I’d get tired of it (eventually, I get tired of everything if it doesn’t change enough). So I can’t watch it as much or as frequently as other things. And, this year more than most, a show’s rewatch-ability played into the rankings.

January 22, 2015 | Annual Best TV List , , , , , , , , , , , , | this post contains affiliate links