These are my top 13 (random number I know) TV shows of 2014. I must stress that some highly-praised shows such as Mad Men and Orange is the New Black are missing. This is for the simple reason that I haven’t seen them yet. If I had, maybe they would be on here. Maybe not. Enjoy!
- The Bridge
Season 2 once again features excellent central performances from Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia, and a Rubik’s cube of a plot that keeps everyone guessing right until the end. That said, with a season 3 on the way, the writers will have to take care not to trivialise Helin’s autistic Saga, and allow her to be reduced to a mere punch line character.
Just how was that ending of Series 2 going to be explained? Whether you like the answer or not, Series 3 returned with an altered direction and purpose, yet the intricacy of the plots remained and the writing was as snappy and witty as ever – so much fun to watch.
- Line of Duty
Along with The Fall, one of the shining examples of British TV’s new wave of police crime dramas. Season 2, continuing the theme of corruption, features a monumental, chameleon-like performance from Keeley Hawes at the centre of an utterly compelling plot.
Like The Shield but in France, Braquo‘s third season 3 is rumoured to be its last. If that is the case it will be a shame as there seems to be further scope to explore this tale of fatalism and fraternity within the Parisian police force.
- The Americans
Think Breaking Bad meets Homeland. An entertaining and gripping show that, if you can forgive the implausibility, is deeper and has more to say than its action-thriller persona suggests. Season 2 twisted and turned before nicely setting up an interesting new story arc for the upcoming season 3.
Like everyone else who’s seen/loved the original Coen Brothers’ film, my dismay at the news of a TV series reboot knew no bounds. So, imagine my surprise that upon seeing said TV show it a) wasn’t a complete sacrilegious mess and b) was actually, very, very good. It uses only ‘the world’ of the original film version, and not the actual characters and features standout performances from Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman and Martin Freeman.
- True Detective
Addictive and compulsive viewing, never more so than during episode 4’s six-minute long tracking shot, which is hands down the television scene of the year. The acting is supreme, and although the metaphysical and philosophical slant can at times seem a bit ropey, the writing and tone of the show is largely spot on.
- Masters of Sex
Not only does the show feature some of the best performances on TV today, it also has some of the most interesting and multi-layered female characters. Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen will gain most of the plaudits, and rightly so, but Julianne Nicholson’s performance is heartbreaking and mesmerising in equal measure. Episode 3 – ‘Fight’ is a particular highlight, in the vein of Mad Men‘s ‘The Suitcase’ or Breaking Bad’s ‘Fly’.
- The Leftovers
In a time where audiences are given everything on a plate and ambiguity seems a distant concept, how refreshing to find a well-made, intriguing show that ends with just as many, if not more, questions than it started with. An enthralling new show about how people react when their lives are irrevocably altered.
Liberated by a change of plot focus, Season 4 was the best so far. It had some of the most tension-filled scenes seen on screen this year and enough double and triple crosses to make your head swim, not to mention another ferocious performance from Claire Danes.
- Game of Thrones
An excellent season of a show which, at its peak, remains unparalleled, particularly in terms of its ballsiness and desire to never let anyone (characters or audiences) feel too comfortable. Shocking, gory deaths aside, season 4 also had plenty of feeling and genuine emotion in a number of episodes.
- House of Cards
After a solid first season, season 2 really takes off. Machiavellian machinations galore and one moment in particular, so jaw-dropping, that it rivals even Game of Thrones. That aside, there may not be a more complex and intricately portrayed relationship currently on TV, than that of Francis and Claire. The mind boggles at what season 3 holds in store.
- The Fall
Very rarely is a show afforded the time to simply exist and develop naturally. Yet in series 2 of The Fall, that’s what we’re treated to. Nothing much happens in the way of narrative progression or action, we’re simply allowed to watch as a game of cat and mouse is methodically and meticulously played out, often inside the heads of DSI Stella Gibson and Paul Spector (towering performances from Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan, particularly in the Heat-esque scene of the final episode) – the result is one of the best TV shows of the last 10 years.
Honourable mentions: Boardwalk Empire, Penny Dreadful, Hannibal, The Killing US