Every year, I keep running a list of shows that amuse me, amaze me, impress me or depress me, of course in a good way. And at the end of the year, I whittle that list down to 10, and I have my best TV shows list in 2014. But it’s tough. I have to leave out a lot of really good stuff.
And now, the Best TV Shows in 2014:
Game of Thrones (HBO)
Like Daenerys’ dragons, this fantasy epic in its fourth season continues to grow in scale and confidence. But what makes it great is that it handles small conversational duels as well as its epic battles.
This miniseries isn’t a remake of the Coen Brothers’ movie so much as an extended jazz cover of it — in an improvisatory yet deeply original string of riffs. It’s a bloody yet playful examination of the seduction of evil and the hard cold road of good.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson picked up his mentor Carl Sagan’s work (with the help of Seth MacFarlane), breathing new life into the old universe and making a passionate argument against the forces of anti-science.
Broad City (Comedy Central)
Try to meet your new favorite two broke girls. Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson deliver the contact buzz of laughter in the weirdest, freshest, funkiest new comedy of the season.
The Americans (FX)
And you think you have work-life balance problems? KGB agents Elizabeth and Philip Jennings tried to find the secrets of the Stealth program, their children struggled to find themselves, and this ’80s movie found a new gear.
The Good Wife (CBS)
For five years running, this sharp-witted legal drama has offered more pleasure per season than anything out there. Taking on love, politics, technology and (spoiler) death, it shows no sign of adjourning.
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO)
The Daily Show alum’s blistering comedy-cast is very new, but it’s the most welcome addition in a year of late-night change. Reorienting the fake-news format toward world events and commercial culture, it’s becoming the go-to chaser to the stiff drink of Sunday-night TV.
The only predictable things about Louis CK’s show are that it will be unpredictable and that it will linger with you long after you watch that. From philosophy to sex-toy jokes, vignettes to the equivalent of a full-length movie, this is TV that can be whatever it wants to.
Mad Men (AMC)
We’ll see if the back half of the final season can close the deal next year, but this was a fine start. In seven often-haunting episodes, the age of Aquarius met the age of IBM, and it left us with a song.
True Detective (HBO)
Few shows have inspired so much obsession so quickly, and it wasn’t just The Yellow King’s magic. This one-season story (rebooting next year) dripped talent, from Harrelson and McConaughey’s testosterone-drunk performances to Nic Pizzolatto’s dirty poetry to Cary Fukunaga’s direction