I have found myself watching more TV this year than ever before. There are many shows I still need to catch up on (Mad Men, Justified, Arrow to name a few), but there are decent amount of shows I am somewhat current with. It has been said we are in the Golden Age of TV and I have to agree. TV shows are tackling concepts that were once impossible, Oscar winning actors are now showing up on notable TV networks, and certain shows look as good as any movie. After much thought I put together a listing of the best shows I have experienced this year so far.
10) 24: Live Another Day
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Kim Raver, Yvonne Strahovski
Quick Take: When I heard 24 was coming back I had a mixed reaction. I enjoy 24 a great deal, but I also realize its schlock television—a glorified soap opera with outlandish plots but a great deal of fun. By the final two seasons the concept had run its course. Luckily this time around they are only doing 12 episodes to give themselves some breathing room. I am not 100% caught up with the series. What I did see was the 24 I remembered. Jack Bauer going rogue trying to save the world like only he can. I am not going to lie it is great to see the old man back to his ‘GOD DAMMIT’ ways.
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks
Quick Take: This is a show that could have been higher if I watched more episodes. (Sorry with all the movies I watch it can be difficult to stay current with TV series) Similar to 24 I was not sure what this show would entail. Adapting a beloved movie into a television series rarely goes well, but perhaps that is not the case anymore. The television series keeps in the spirit of the movie with subtle and darkly comedic moments without solely relying on the source material. If anything it uses those expectations against the viewer to build anticipation.
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Matt Walsh
Quick Take: I never watched Armando Iannucci’s highly regarded The Thick of It series, however I greatly enjoy the movie inspiration In the Loop. It was partially my love for that movie that got me into this series. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is fantastic as Selina Meyer and the cast around her is equally strong. West Wing is one of my all-time favorite shows, and this is the Yin to that Yang. My favorite episode this season was ‘Debate’ as it had some of the best jokes on the ridiculousness of the entire process. I am not sure where it will be going next season, but where it leaves off has me highly curious.
7) House of Cards
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Michael Gill, Robin Wright
Quick Take: This season of House of Cards went by the motto, “Go big or Go Home” as it took a glorified soup opera approach. It was utterly ludicrous in the most delicious ways possible. Kevin Spacey has taken the character of Frank Underwood and made him iconic in only two seasons. By all means you should hate everything about his character, however I find him appealing every time he appears on-screen. For some reason I find myself rooting for him even though it makes me feel dirty afterwards. I know one moment this season had people complaining it ‘jumped the shark’, but if you go back and rewatch the episodes that moment was built up much more than people realize.
6) Silicon Valley
Starring: Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, and Josh Brener
Quick Take: There is no one who can satirize the work place quite like Mike Judge. The guy just knows how to take normal everyday tropes and make them hilarious. Even someone like me who is not in the tech world can appreciate the commentary that is being made on today’s tech culture. I also love all the different characters and they dynamic with one another. Each is unique and that uniqueness is used to great effect. Much has already been said about the last episode and the infamous joke that took the internet by storm. I will add my praise to the pile as it was a standout moment for the first season, and a great way to go out.
5) Last Week Tonight
Starring: John Oliver, Keith Alexander, Bill Nye
Quick Take: I used to be much more into politics than I am today. Just how vile it has become has turned me off. With that said I do find myself enjoying political comedy like The Daily Show and now Last Week Tonight. I have been a fan of John Oliver since I first saw him on The Daily Show and even greatly enjoy his podcast The Bugle. After his successful stint as guest host of The Daily Show it was only a matter of time before he got his own show and he did not disappoint. The format is familiar but I am perfectly okay with that. It’s funny, smart, and has already made a huge impact in a number of ways. The take down of FIFA is one of my personal favorite bits so far this year, and the take down of the FCC has been one of the more important topics they shined more light on.
4) Game of Thrones
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington
Quick Take: I have always enjoyed Game of Thrones since it first debut. I would never rank it near my personal favorite shows however. If it keeps going this direction that may change. This season has been my favorite since the first. As someone who has not read the books and not memorized every bit of the show I find myself getting lost in some spots. That happened less this year as the storylines became more distinct. It is like that runners high when you are in the midst of a long journey and suddenly everything begins to work exactly like it should. With last season killing off a huge amount of characters it trimmed the fat some to allow this season to be more coherent. Some have claimed this is the best season yet, and I can understand that sentiment. For me season one is still the best with this season being a very closed second.
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs
Quick Take: More shows need to adopt the Sherlock method. Three episode seasons that are ninety minutes each. It does leave huge breaks between seasons. The anticipation that builds season to season is almost too much to bear at times. When it finally comes back it is always worth the wait. Usually each season will have one episode that is weaker than the rest. That was not the case this year. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have huge careers at the moment, yet they are willing to come back and do this show – and their performances are as good as ever. Now the only issue is waiting for the next season to start again.
Starring: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas
Quick Take: When I talked about Fargo I mentioned TV adaptations of movies are typically rather awful. That trend appears to be changing. I am not as keen on Silence of the Lambs as most. I can understand where the praise comes from, but for me it is not the perfect movie that others claim it to be. So take this statement for what it is, because at this point I feel Hannibal is far superior to all the films including Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, and Manhunter. Mads Mikkelsen’s take on Hannibal Lector is the most complex and interesting so far. Also this show looks fantastic. From the stunningly bloody opening credits to the way it can make the most gruesome scenes look almost angelic. I have no idea how this is allowed on NBC. Kudos to whoever gets it passed the censors. You deserve all the Emmys.
1) True Detective
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan
Quick Take: You have probably noticed a trend with my choices as half are from HBO. It helps that their best shows are on when I tend to have a few hours of free time. Sunday nights watching HBO has become a tradition of the weekend coming to an end. Part of the reason I gravitate to shows like this is my love of movies. If a TV show feels like a TV show I tend to stay away. True Detective feels like an eight-hour long movie that I could watch in one setting if I had the time. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are both fantastic. The complexity of this show is legendary. I would be lying if I said I understood everything it was doing, but I don’t feel the intended purpose is to give you straight answers. It fosters interest by keeping a level of ambiguity. Similar to Hannibal this show also looks amazing. It has a more dreary atmospheric design that keeps with the mood of the show. This may sound hyperbolic but I view this as a crowning achievement for television. One that has completely destroyed the line between television and cinema that has been blurring for years.