For some reason, TV felt a little more trivial to me than it has in the past few years of this supposed New Golden Age Of Television. Perhaps it had to do with the further rise to prominence of the Neflix’s and the Amazon’s of the world, and just the sheer mass of shows out there seemed to make it feel a little less special when something really great would show up on the television landscape. But perhaps that’s just me nitpicking, since looking at my list there are a lot of shows that I really liked that aren’t even on there, and there are still a couple I need to catch up with like Transparent and Veep (I’m working on it), but for the most part I watched everything I wanted to watch and here’s what rose to the top.
Orange Is The New Black
Parks And Recreation
I’m with everyone else in thinking that this Mad Men final season probably would’ve been a lot better if it hadn’t split itself into two parts because that’s what “important” shows like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos did (and money reasons too probably). But regardless, Mad Men has been my favorite drama of the past decade or so, and this season didn’t disappoint in allowing these characters to make each other sadder than ever, and it even gave Pete Campbell the chance to become the L.A. phony he was always destined to be.
I’m still not sure that this show has found it’s voice in terms of being anything other than a really funny show about cops in New York City. But considering the unending playfulness of this cast and the fact that they seem like they’re all having a really fun time filming this show, that’s enough for me at this point. Also, I’ve just continued to become more and more enamored by Andre Braugher’s performance on this show, since it seems like he keeps finding new levels of deadpan to squeeze laughs out of.
This is a show I initially gave a chance by watching the pilot, and then decided not to continue with since it seemed fine, but I didn’t need anymore solid Comedy Central shows in my life. Luckily, Sean persuaded me to catch up with it later, which was a very wise decision since the pilot only hints at the deconstruction of personality-driven TV that this show devolves into. And the show certainly went into some dark places as it progressed, but luckily it had the affable silliness of Andy Daly at it’s core to keep it grounded in being equally absurd and likable at the same time.
The Comeback aired its (formerly) only season in 2005, and then finally got the chance to do another this year, both of which I caught up with during the closing weeks of 2014. Even more than it’s original season, this comeback season of The Comeback went less for laughs and even more for the kind of honesty about being an aging actress in Hollywood that has always been at the show’s core. Also at its core is a pretty astounding performance from Lisa Kudrow, which much like The Comeback itself, manages to ride a fine line between sad and funny while pointing out all the numerous contradictions of a life in show business.
I’d put myself in the camp of people that found the back half of this debut season of True Detective to be a little disappointing (oh, so I guess the murderer is just a murderer guy). However, I still loved this show’s combination of cold-hearted darkness and helpless profundity, while watching Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey’s actorly sparring seemed to prove that penetrating depictions of male masculinity on TV might not be dead after all. In fact, it’s kind of a shame that we only got to spend 8 measly episodes with McConaughey’s Rust Cohle, since he’s a character for the ages and probably the crowning achievement of this whole McConaissence we’ve been living through.
I feel like a lot of people had already made up their mind about this show just based on the notion that Zooey Deschanel is starring in a sitcom, while it also probably doesn’t help that it stars a bunch of similarly attractive people exchanging punchlines. But man, this show is really funny. And sure, it doesn’t necessarily handle all of it’s storylines perfectly, such as the inter-roommate relationship that was at the heart of, and then fizzled out towards the end of season 3. But the first half of season 4 that’s aired in 2014 is a lot more clearer in brain, and I really love how this season has rebooted itself as a show in which every character’s too busy being effervescently silly to pay attention to the gaping holes in their respective lives.
Here’s another show I feel like I’m always on the defensive with whenever I have to write and/or talk about it. But you know what? I don’t care. I like that Girls is honest and raw and takes chances, because that’s what life’s all about isn’t it? Now does that mean I’m a little nervous about Girls dropping the ball in it’s fourth season (which just started last week) after such a confident third season that featured great standalone episodes like “Beach House” and “Flo”? Yeah, kinda. Because sometimes the risks this show takes don’t always work out, and yet it makes Girls even more human, and thus even more weirdly charming in my book.
For four seasons now, Louis C.K.’s been making auteur-driven TV that’s unlike anything else out there. This might’ve been the season where we all took the blissful absurdity of Louie for granted a bit, since the unconventional storytelling at the heart of Louie seems to be what we’ve come to expect of this show. Yet, the way that Louie continued to rewrite the rules of his own show and television in general never felt remotely stale this time around, and in fact proved once again that Louie has almost accidentally been making a case for television as an art form in ways that few people have.
I wouldn’t ever describe myself as a fan of “discomfort comedy”, but then again I have shows like The Comeback and Girls on my list, so maybe I just don’t know myself that well. Anyways, there’s something really special about Nathan Fielder’s deadpan brand of discomfort comedy, which features some of the most elaborately hilarious examples of self-inflicted schadenfreude you could imagine. So much so that much like in the review I forced myself to write (for some reason), I don’t want to go too far into discussing the logistics of what makes Nathan For You so inventive and satisfying, but I just know I didn’t laugh harder at any other show this year.
Maybe it was the fact that I had no expectations of Fargo going into it. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m always a sucker for shows that make bold narrative choices that make me exclaim “I can’t believe they’re doing this on TV!” Or maybe it’s just part of some unresolved familial issues I have with Minnesota. But whatever it was, I couldn’t help but find myself anxiously awaiting each new episode to see what they’d do next on Fargo, which is a sensation I assume a lot of people have in regards to television, but rarely ever happens to me. Anyways, it was nice to get a bit of that feeling, and since I’m not in the minority on this blog for liking Fargo, I’ll just say I also liked it (clearly), and thanks to it’s decision to do stand-alone stories with each season, I think I can keep my expectations at least somewhat low for season 2, because it’s hard to imagine series creator Noah Hawley topping this.