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Here at TVBlend, we live, eat and breathe dramas and comedies. We’re the type of people that are all too happy to analyze the latest death on Revenge or wonder whether Dr. Zoe Hart will eventually settle down with Wade. We’re just as happy to talk zombies as we are to talk time travel romances, and we are usually watching when our favorite shows go off the rails. This month, the awesome CinemaBlend staff is putting together the lists of the shows we feel have really stood out from the pack in 2014. Everyone’s list is different, so if you don’t see you 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 Jessica’s list of the best shows of 2014.
10. GracepointFox’s limited series is based on Broadchurch, a British series that would no doubt have made this list if it had also appeared in 2014. As it stands, Gracepoint started with a similar tone and vision, but has capably expanded into its own brand of awesomeness, entrenching viewers into a small town community following the death of a young boy. The writing is good, but the show hinges on capable performances by actors including Michael Pena, who crushes it as lead Mark Solano, Nick Nolte, Jacki Weaver and more. Crime dramas don’t often leave lasting impressions, but Gracepoint has the goods.
Photo Credit @Fox
9. Hell On WheelsRailroad life intermixes with wild west antics in Hell On Wheels, a drama that follows life, law-keeping and one man’s restless wandering. In 2014, Hell on Wheels is well beyond the plotline following Cullen Bohannon avenging the deaths of his wife and child. Instead, Season 4 brought us stories related to outlaws and murder, religion and fortitude, and how chance and circumstance plays a huge part in shaping an individual’s future. It was a tough year for the cast of Hell on Wheels that ended on more than one somber note, and fleshed out the storytelling even further away from Bohannon’s hard-headed viewpoint. Hell on Wheels is one of the most interesting shows on television, even when it’s also among the loneliest to watch.
8. OutlanderTV doesn’t have enough epic romances, but Starz’s Outlander has provided plenty of people with an outlet to escape the often procedural-oriented TV landscape and delve into a story that mixes time travel with period dramas, and romance with violence and brutal antics. Outlander has only aired eight episodes thus far, but has made an impact on the pay cable landscape, thanks to Sam Heughan’s hunky Jamie Fraser and the pragmatic but open-minded Claire Randall, played by Caitriona Balfe. Sorry Tobias Menzies, but I’m rooting for the Scottish romance to pan out. Luckily, more episodes will be hitting homes in 2015.
Photo Credit @Starz
7. The AmericansThe Americans is one of cable’s quieter shows in terms of buzz, but what FX’s series lacks in viral awareness it makes up for in compelling TV. The spy drama, which follows a Russian couple assimilating into American culture to accomplish missions for the KGB, crushed its second season during 2014, introducing us to plotlines involving a secret computer program called Echo and following Elizabeth and Phillip as they investigated the deaths of another KGB secret agent couple. There are so many small details and quick-thinking spy moments in the series, but it’s the relationship at the center of The Americans that leaves us lingering on the series. It’s an intellectual drama, but an entertaining one, too.
6. Brooklyn Nine-NineNow in Season 2, Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t exactly reinventing the comedy wheel. However, it goes boldly where a lot of comedies never bother to go: the cast is female-heavy and multi-racial, both concepts that help the humor to broaden beyond dick jokes (although obviously we are fans of dick jokes). It helps that Fox nailed the casting with this one, signing on the hilarious Chelsea Peretti alongside Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Joe Lo Truglio, Andre Braugher, Melissa Fumero and the loveably incompetent Andy Samberg. The workplace comedy does everything The Office did well and does some things even better.
5. Jane The VirginThe CW’s newest drama is a telenovela. Its style and formatting gears it to a pretty specific audience, but despite being pigeonholed as a certain type of program, Jane The Virgin is anything but just an average telenovela. Gina Rodriguez is a strong, modern and independent woman living in present-day Miami who is accidentally artificially inseminated in Episode 1. Screwball basic plotline aside, Virgin’s strengths lie in its ability to mix poignant moments with wildly clever antics—a feat that hasn’t really been accomplished since Suburgatory went off the air last spring. It isn’t a comedy-drama that could possibly ever be in everyone’s wheelhouse, but Jane The Virgin is unlike anything else television has to offer.
4. Game Of ThronesSeason 4 of Game of Thrones offered some great shock value and even more exploration of the history of the realm. Mostly following the events in the latter half of the third book written by George R. R. Martin, Game of Thrones was neither short on gruesome deaths nor court intrigue during 2014. What makes the HBO drama stand out from the pack is not just its careful writing and directing, which hops perspectives and chooses to focus on specific moments on one giant kingdom’s history. Instead, it's the fact that it is able to take a vast fantasy and compact it into 10 episodes that are riveting. This sort of violent and morally egregious fantasy may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it would be hard to argue that Game of Thrones doesn’t offer compelling, quality storytelling—with dragons, to boot.
3. Silicon ValleyDick jokes and tech jokes aren’t up everyone’s alley, but thanks to the careful caress of Mike Judge, HBO’s Silicon Valley manages to be both crass and extraordinarily heady—often in the same moments. The comedy series follows a group of young men trying to get a start-up off the ground, facing numerous farcical difficulties along the way. And while it’s a little too light on the ladies, it still manages to keep its male and female audiences in stitches each week. I’d rather be in stitches than trapped on an automated island due to GPS problems with an automated car.
2. JustifiedIn theory, Justified should be a procedural, a set of one-off episodes in which a bad guy is taken down by a rogue cowboy law officer each and every week. While the bad guys get down and lead Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) often gets in a fitting quip during the process, FX’s Justified has evolved from a basic procedural into a show that immerses itself in Kentucky’s folklore. In doing so, it has created one of the great TV rivalries of my lifetime. It will be a sad day, indeed when Boyd and Raylan will no longer verbally spar on TV.
1. The Good WifeIt’s hard to see how any show on television is even competing with The Good Wife right now. This year was a landmark one for the CBS series, filled with elections, start-up firms, infidelity, cranky judges and one horrifying courtroom shooting. It was the latter that really kicked The Good Wife into gear in the first part of 2014, but the show really hasn’t shown signs of stopping after losing lead Josh Charles. Alicia is, in fact, running for State’s Attorney, adding plenty of new cogs to the lawyer drama. With standout performances from Matt Czuchry and Archie Panjabi, not to mention recurring stars Mike Colter and David Hyde Pierce, The Good Wife continues to avoid any missteps, even when it tries stories that are a little bit wacky. Who can’t love a show that gives us an entire episode based on the perspective of Elsbeth Tascioni?
Honorable Mentions: Fargo, Boardwalk Empire, Gotham, Over The Garden Wall.