The year 2014 was an especially great year for television, making a list of top shows a difficult thing to put together. It feels like there were several series that didn't make the cut that would easily have made it any other year. Which ones? Well, let's not spoil the fun. This month, the awesome CinemaBlend staff is putting together the lists of the shows we feel have really stood out from the pack. Everyone’s list is different, so if you don’t see your favorites here, be sure to check back in and take a look at our other TV best of lists that will be hitting the homepage over the next few weeks.
Without further ado, here is Jesse's list of the best shows of 2014. Be sure to also check out Jessica and Nick's top tens.
10. Nathan For YouOkay. So admitting to 'cheating' probably isn't the best way to start a top ten list, but the decision to include Nathan For You might not solely be based off of this year's episodes. Don't get me wrong, the eight that aired in 2014 are spectacular, I just also happen to watch the eight from 2013 for the first time this year and that could have colored the decision. Sorry, I simply hadn't heard of the hilarious series until "Dumb Starbucks" made actual news and people started speculating that it was one of Nathan Fielder's 'stunts.' The reality show that spoofs reality shows had moments (like the "Realtor" and "Daddy's Watching") that made me laugh harder than any other series this year. Nathan For You shows that the truth isn't just stranger than fiction, it can also be funnier. And here I thought cringe-humor was on the way out.
9. True DetectiveIf you had asked me in January what the best series of the year would be, I would have undoubtedly answered True Detective. That's how good 2014 was when it comes to television. Since it was bringing movie stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson to the small-screen, Nic Pizzolatto and Cary Joji Fukunaga's crime drama was easily one of the most anticipated shows of the year and it didn't disappoint. From the impeccable turns from the leading men to the absolutely audacious directing by Fukunaga, Pizzolatto's atmospheric and heady whodunit set a whole new standard for TV thrillers. The final shots of "The Locked Room" and "Who Goes There" are both permanently ingrained in my memory. One a freeze frame, the other a six minute sequence shot, both genius. "The light's winnin'."
8. The KnickIt took all of two minutes for me to fall in love with The Knick. The second that Cliff Martinez' anachronistic score started playing, I knew we were in for something special. It makes it feel like the pioneering surgeons the show follows are astronauts discovering new worlds. Of course, I had my suspicions that Steven Soderbergh's return to television (the second show on this list to be shot by a sole director) would be terrific, especially once he started lining up the wonderful ensemble led by Clive Owen in a Golden Globe nominated performance. Gorgeously shot (that lighting!) and unflinchingly delivered (those surgeries!), The Knick was unlike anything else on TV.
7. Last Week TonightOf all the series that made the top ten, Last Week Tonight may be the only entry that I would make mandatory viewing. In the words of Vulture critic Matthew Zoller Seitz, "when I watch John Oliver, I feel as if some sort of progress is being made." Whether he's ranting about net neutrality or student debt, the comedian always manages to entertain while he's enlightening audiences on the important issues of the day. Well, week. And this format not only makes HBO's comedy news program feel different from (Oliver's old stomping grounds) The Daily Show but gives its acerbic host time to really take the piss out of the most important stories. Like I said, Last Week Tonight should be mandatory viewing.
6. Rick and MortyEven though three of Rick and Morty's eleven first season episodes aired in 2013, it still deserves a spot on the best of 2014 list. It's so good that I should have included it in last year's top ten based solely on "Lawnmower Dog." Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon's animated series is the heir apparent to Futurama, somehow managing to be silly and sweet at the same time with the added dimension of occasionally being downright unsettling. Like, seriously screwed up. For real. There's a scene in "Meeseeks and Destroy" that I'm still in shock over. And yet the way that "Rixty Minutes," the first series to be released in 15-second installments on Instagram, ties up the cross-dimensional narrative was not only incredibly clever but one of the most touching moments of 2014. Besides, how could I not include the series that used "Cronenbergs" as a noun?
5. Silicon ValleySo much for the school of thought that shows 'need time to find themselves;' Silicon Valley is yet another new series to make it on my best of 2014 list. The fifth (in a row) by my count. It should come as no surprise that Mike Judge's return to television was great from the get-go, skewering the world of tech start-ups with an incredibly funny ensemble. The comedy could probably benefit from a few more female characters but it's hard to complain about a cast that includes Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Zach Woods, Kumail Nanjiani and Martin Starr, not to mention the late Christopher Even Welch in a truly wonderful and hilarious final performance. If you haven't seen it and have HBOGo, I recommend a binge watch (there are only eight half-hour episodes) instead of going to the movies this Christmas. Especially since the season's big comedy got shelved. Oh, and was there a bit this year, small-screen or big, as good as the dick joke? Don't think so.
4. Bob's BurgersBob's Burgers is the perfect example to hammer home just how good 2014 was for TV. Loren Bouchard's animated comedy didn't get any worse (actually, it continues to get better and better) but it still managed to slip three spots from last year. When the Fox series is firing on all cylinders, which it was for the end of Season 4 and beginning of Season 5, it rivals (prime) The Simpsons and Futurama as the best piece of the Animation Domination block ever. Oh wait, it's Sunday Funday now. A major part of Bob's Burgers success is in its casting; not only is everyone in the core ensemble incredibly funny but each and every guest voice (and there are plenty) is also chosen for their comedic chops--not necessarily because they are a big name. Hilarious with a huge heart, the Fox series deserved its Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.
3. Game of ThronesOnce again, a series manages to have its best year yet and still finds itself slipping in the rankings. Besides a momentary blip, the fourth season of Game of Thrones was fantasy storytelling at its finest and featured terrific direction, performances, cinematography, editing, set-pieces, costumes, CGI... you know, everything required when telling such an epic, uncompromising and imaginative tale. In only forty episodes, Game of Thrones has somehow managed to get audiences invested in a dozen narratives and dozens of characters. I mean, Pedro Pascal's Oberyn Martell is probably the hundredth person we've been introduced to in the small-screen adaptation of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" books. The prison meeting between the avenging Dornish Prince and Peter Dinklage's Tyrion was not just the best scene of the season (and the series), it might be the best on any show, comedy or drama, this year.
2. Brooklyn Nine-NineThat's right. A network comedy is the second best show of 2014. As hard as that is to believe, it's true. In only a season and a half, Michael Schur and Dan Goor's Brooklyn Nine-Nine has shown that the sitcom is very much alive. The series, like Parks and Recreation (the co-creators other/previous project that barely missed the cut), has a both a big heart and the laughs to back it up. The irreverent Fox series has one of the most talented ensembles on television, as well as one of the most diverse. Andy Samberg does a wonderful job as the lead detective, Jake Peralta, but it's Andre Braugher who steals the show. I would like to personally thank the person responsible for casting him in a comedy because his Emmy winning performance is a constant source of joy. Of all the Sunday night prestige series, who would have thought that Brooklyn Nine-Nine would be the best of the bunch? With that small clue, can you solve the case of what's number one?
1. HannibalThat's right. A network drama is the best show of 2014. As hard as that is to believe, it's true. Okay, I'll stop copy/pasting from the previous entry but I have to stress the point because it's even harder to believe than a network comedy being the second best. Regardless, the second season of Hannibal is just that good. Even with the content restrictions that being on NBC must bring, Bryan Fuller's prequel/adaptation of Thomas Harris' 'Red Dragon' manages to be the most daring and beautiful series on the small-screen. The show is a gorgeous nightmare brought to life by stunning cinematography, an inventive and addictive score and deliciously detailed sets and costumes, not to mention an incredible performance from Mads Mikkelsen as the titular cannibal. It's been five months and I'm still thinking about Season 2's stunning finale. Still trying to put that teacup back together. Thank God (or the Devil) that we got a Season 3.