column – 2014’s best TV shows

With so much quality on display, it wasn’t an easy task to narrow down 2014’s best TV shows to a list of five. There were many memorable returning and new shows that I had to leave out, because they resonated just a little bit less with me than the selected titles below. That’s not to say series like Fargo, Penny Dreadful and the final season of Sons Of Anarchy weren’t wonderful; they most definitely were, but they didn’t grip or move me as much as what I consider to be the past year’s best television achievements. These shows stuck with me and I can’t wait to watch all of these again, even though I watched the seasons on this list multiple times already. In other words: these series had me coming back for more, still have, and fortunately there’s also more seasons of these shows to look forward to. Now, without further ado, let’s get to the five best TV shows of 2014.

5. AMC’s Mad Men, season 7a

Mad Men season 7a - header 2If 7a is any indication, it’s safe to say that the final half of the season will end Mad Men in proper fashion. Season 7a functioned as a beautifully self-contained mini-season and featured some of the show’s best moments ever. Because of smart and at times poetic writing Mad Men 7a still offered fresh insight into the show’s characters and it once again came up with interesting and deeply moving circumstances and dynamics to propel its characters in compelling directions. The acting was top-notch as it’s always been and, combined with authentic design and flawless direction, Mad Men‘s latest seven episodes were entirely magnetic.

4. HBO’s The Leftovers, season 1

The Leftovers season 1 - headerThis new HBO show wasn’t for everyone: some found it to be too vague and mysterious, and frustrating because of it. I, however, consider its riddles and opaqueness to be extremely interesting and alluring. Its lack of easy exposition also put viewers in the same shoes as The Leftovers‘ characters: with their loved ones disappeared and now answers provided these characters had to keep going on as best they could, which proved to be the linchpin for a very particular form of drama that really no other show provides. While its The Leftovers‘ characters were certainly engaging and these people were wonderfully portrayed by the likes of Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Ann Dowd and Carrie Coon, it was the exploration of mass loss and its impact on society and individuals, that made this show stand out.

3. HBO’s True Detective, season 1

True Detective season 1 - header 2At its core a murder mystery, True Detective found a way to interweave this traditional genre and sort of storytelling with something that was strange, twisted and in the end as much a character study of two confused and broken men as it was about solving a series of horrendous crimes. Cary Fukunaga’s direction, Nic Pizzolatto’s writing and the stellar acting by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson all came together brilliantly to offer viewers a dark and unpredictable ride into the unknown like a television audience hadn’t experienced since David Lynch’s Twin PeaksTrue Detective‘s first season was strong on mood and imagination, and it’ll be interesting to see if the show’s second season, with an entire new setting, plot and cast of characters, can offer that once again.

2. AMC’s Halt And Catch Fire, season 1

Halt And Catch Fire season 1 - header 2Depth, intelligence and nuance are the three words that perfectly sum up why Halt And Catch Fire was one of 2014’s best new shows and series, period. While the show started with its main characters trying to reverse-engineer an IBM computer, and the follow-up to that proved to always be thrilling, it also was a jumping-off point for the main reason Halt And Catch Fire‘s first season was so compelling: character dynamics, history and growth. Both the writing and acting in this regard were nothing short of breathtaking, and before long Halt And Catch Fire proved it had created some of the best new characters on TV because of how multi-layered and complex they were. Lee Pace, Scoot McNairy, Mackenzie Davis, Kerry Bishé and Toby Huss were all mesmerizing to watch as they brought these beautifully written people to life and, combined with the show’s direction, score and design, made sure Halt And Catch Fire was a show you had to watch.

1. NBC’s Hannibal, season 2

Hannibal season 2 - header 3Serial killer thriller, psychological drama, Gothic horror. Hannibal‘s second season is all that and much, much more. With dazzling attention to detail Bryan Fuller and his team have created a story and characters that both feel faithful to the Thomas Harris source material, but they have also managed to make something that feels entirely new, fresh and surprising, not in the least because this second season took some chances and was quite a departure from the show’s first season. But writing is only one of the areas this series excels at: the art design is stunning, the cinematography flawless, Brian Reitzell’s score tantalizing and the acting superb. Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter is an unique presence, a walking enigma, a character unlike any you’ve ever seen, and he does not only get his hooks into Will Graham, played to perfection by Hugh Dancy, but also into the viewers of this show. I said it before in my review and I’ll say it again here: Hannibal is grade-A TV.

There you have it; these are my picks for 2014’s best TV-shows. But what are yours? Comment below and let me know.

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