2014: The Best of TV

Welcome to 2015! Friends is on Netflix. Broadchurch is almost back. Parks and Rec is never leaving us, ever. I’m going to finish The X-Files, cry about it, watch The Fall and Hannibal and everything Gillian Anderson has ever done, and then watch The West Wing for real this time. All of my resolutions are pop culture resolutions.

It’s been ten years since the Doctor told Rose that she was going to have a really great year, five since we saw it happen, and fifteen since Mulder and Scully’s world didn’t end, so if history repeats itself, it’s safe to say that we’re in for some feelings. I’m ready. But before we jump into the new year, let’s look back on the best of the last.

Best comedic episode: “Moving Up” (Parks and Rec)

This show and its characters have come so far, and that was never clearer than at the Pawnee/ Eagleton Unity Concert. Ginuwine honored Li’l Sebastian, Ron went public as Duke Silver, Andy performed with Mouse Rat one more time, and all of Leslie’s hard work — the years she’s spent improving her town — finally paid off. She got Pawnee and her big promotion. In a show so insistent that nobody achieves anything alone, it’s fitting to think that success doesn’t always have to be lonely. If people will fight for us, sometimes we get one more night onstage with our band. Or in Leslie’s case, three years. I still get a rush of joy when I think about it.

never stopped us before

Best dramatic episode: “Bad Blood” (Sleepy Hollow)

If episode titles could be retired, “Bad Blood” would be off limits by now. There would be a whole wing of the TV Hall of Fame called “Vince Gilligan Is So Much Better Than You,” and it would just play “Bad Blood” on a loop. But Sleepy Hollow did The X-Files proud with its first season finale, which changed the game for every character. Abbie was left in Purgatory. Ichabod was buried alive. VICTOR GARBER ATE GLASS WITH A BRITISH ACCENT. It was the best kind of madness, and it had me wishing away all of the months that stood between this and the next chapter.

sleepy hollow bad blood come back for you

Best comedic episode of a dramatic series: “The Sign of Three” (Sherlock)

In a season of gifts to the fandom, Sherlock’s speech at John’s wedding was the greatest gift of all. Spanning most of the episode, it looked back on intriguing cases and stag night shenanigans before turning abruptly into a gorgeous tribute to their friendship. Sherlock “will solve your murder, but it takes John Watson to save a life.” The wedding itself proved that, as Sherlock recognized all the signs of a murder plot in progress and solved the case in time for John to bust through a door and be a doctor. The evening ended on a bittersweet note, questioning whether every marriage must necessarily come between friends, but not before Benedict Cumberbatch did a pirouette.

sherlock table jump

Best dramatic episode of a comedic series: “Cooperative Polygraphy” (Community)

Pierce’s Last Will and Testament turned out to be one affirmation after the next, which is fitting. He always had a knack for seeing people’s hidden insecurities, and while he sometimes used his friends’ weaknesses against them, in the end, he just wanted to build them up. He wanted them to be better than he was. Community is a show about realizing potential, which is easier to see in others than in ourselves, and this episode summed it up perfectly.

community troy heart of a hero

Best dramatic performance: Eva Green (Penny Dreadful)

I was going to give this one to Martin “Am I a pretty lady?” Freeman, but the ladies of Head Over Feels just honored him so thoroughly that I’m going to direct you to their Showman of the Year post and take this opportunity to give a shout out to Eva Green, who terrifies me.

eva green penny dreadful

Best comedic performance: the cast of Parks and Rec

To quote Ron Swanson, “I still think awards are stupid, but they’d be less stupid if they went to the right people.” Like these people.

ron baby parks and rec

april chris proud smile parks and rec

donna tom parks happy

andy duke silver parks and rec

leslie ben hug parks

"I don't know, high--high five?"

ben parks fence home is that w ay

Strongest start to a new comedy: Enlisted

The Hill brothers had a sweetly competitive dynamic that worked from the start. Randy couldn’t raise his voice except to defend Pixar characters. Derrick instigated at a level most of us can only dream of. Pete had a chip on his shoulder and PTSD that was written and portrayed with respect. Enlisted started a conversation that we need to have. This was a show about our duties to our literal family, but it was also a show about how far we’ll go for the people who become our family. I would welcome it back with a glittery sign if I could.

yeah it's glitter enlisted

Canceled show I’ll miss the most: Selfie

As Eliza, Karen Gillan took a character who could be a one-note punchline and turned her into someone endearingly oblivious and deceptively big-hearted. As Henry, John Cho was charming and uptight and totally smitten. They needed each other, their chemistry was obvious, and I wanted more time with them both.

selfie eliza glass door

selfie henry accustomed to your face

Best musical moment (dance): Danny Castellano’s Diamond Dan striptease (The Mindy Project, “We’re a Couple Now, Haters”)

Danny Castellano has moves, and he’s not afraid to use them on his girlfriend — which is great not only because he is dead serious about pleasing her, but because it puts Mindy in the position most shows save for men. (See Vanity Fair’s great piece on this show and the female gaze.) Also it’s hot. It’s just really, really hot, and it can be set to any piece of music ever composed, because art knows no borders.

Best musical moment (song): Eliza sings Sia’s “Chandelier” (Selfie, “Imperfect Harmony”)

When Henry backed away from a potential relationship with Eliza, what started as a vulnerable karaoke performance spiraled into one of the most devastating breakdowns on TV this year. Eliza fell back on old habits, and Selfie sent the message that it wasn’t here to pretend. Change isn’t easy. If this show goes no further, let’s at least make sure that this scene makes Karen Gillan a star.

Best relationship arc: Clara and the Twelfth Doctor (Doctor Who)

It may have taken a while for the new Doctor to find himself, but while he did, Clara stepped up to run the show, proving herself to be bolder, tougher, and more caring than she ever was before. She and the Doctor made each other better, and they look SO GOOD together, and just try to tell me that you’re not still broken up about their brief goodbye. (“Thank you for making me feel special.” “Thank you for exactly the same.”) Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman sparkle, and I’m delighted to know that we’re not through with them yet.

Best line delivery: Ben Schwartz’s “The Closer? Foof.” (Parks and Rec)

It works for everything.

parks and rec jean ralphio closer

What were your favorite moments of the past year? What are your pop culture resolutions? Let’s discuss! And check out Give Me My Remote for my complete list of Top Shows and Top Episodes of 2014. Here’s to a new year.

7 comments

  1. Totally agree with you about all things Parks & Rec. Mostly this list reinforces how woefully negligent I’ve been on my TV watching, and how much I need to catch up on (or start).

    I’m so surprised at the turnaround for “Selfie.” I watched the pilot this summer when they had it on preview, and thought Karen Gillan was utterly charming in what could be a completely thankless role, but there wasn’t enough in the pilot to convince me to keep watching, because of the somewhat squicky implications that admittedly were my own holdovers from “My Fair Lady,” re: needing a man to change you. (I mean, I love “My Fair Lady” as a product of its time, but not necessarily something I needed to see in 2014.) However, it seems like, from everything I’ve heard, I totally missed the boat, because Gillan’s just been nailing it every week, and the writers have done a lot with Eliza. Hopefully at some point, I’ll be able to watch the series to find out for myself. I have a problem with starting shows that inevitably get cancelled in their first seasons. (Sigh, “Ben and Kate.”)

    I really wish I’d gotten to watch more of “Enlisted” while it was on, too. Alas, the Friday time slot was the kiss of death for me, and I never managed to catch up after the first few episodes. (There’s only so much room on my DVR.) I’m a sucker for family stories with wacky dynamics, as you know.

    My resolutions are to get properly educated on the British drama front; for someone who grew up watching PBS (especially Brit-coms), I am completely ignorant on the dramas these days. I’ve heard nothing but good things about “Sherlock,” and feel like I need to give “Downton Abbey” a proper shot despite never having been able to sit through an episode before. And I’ve heard “The Fall” is excellent, and I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t finished “Broadchurch.”

    I have no idea what “Penny Dreadful” is but I am intrigued by your gif alone, so that must be a good sign, right?

    Can’t wait to see what you have to say on “The West Wing”! I wasn’t a super fan by any means, despite marathoning it this summer, but I’m not sure if it’s just because I’m not American and lack interest in all things politics and thus am too dumb and ignorant to understand Sorkin. I love me everything Jed and Abby Bartlet, though. Like whoa.

    1. Hahah I felt like writing this list also reinforced how behind I am on so many shows, so really, I think everyone’s feeling it. There’s so much good TV out there!

      “Selfie” REALLY surprised me. The previews (and, let’s be real, title) made it look terrible, and so did the first half of the pilot. And I’m totally with you on “My Fair Lady”–it’s really hard to escape some pretty uncomfortable implications there. But like you said, Karen Gillan made the most of it, and I’m bound to follow her because of Doctor Who. There was some promise in the second half of the pilot, and I feel like the rest of the series delivered on that promise a little more every week. Obviously it was still growing, but I liked the characters and actors, and even with its faults, something about the show just made me happy enough to stick with it. And then that “Chandelier” scene came along, and it was like, okay, THIS is what this show is capable of, and it is GOOD. I’m so sad that we don’t give comedies time to grow anymore.

      Ohhhh “Enlisted.” I only tuned in because the creator of the show is from my hometown and went to my alma mater (they’re not even close to being in the same state, so that’s rare), but it was so funny! And, again, apparently too precious to live.

      Oooh, yes, watch “Sherlock”! I feel like a lot of people are very serious about it, but in my opinion, the best thing about it is that it’s always been a bit of a mess. In a fun way. And season three just owned it. They waited two years for the fandom to go insane, then logged onto Tumblr and basically took everything the fans had created and made it into the third season. It’s just Britain’s best actors doing ridiculous things together, and I love it. Obviously I’m all in for “The Fall,” all hail Queen Gillian, and “Broadchurch”! Ahh! The end DEFINES the show. Definitely catch up. I won’t say any more.

      “Penny Dreadful” was another “this has a Doctor Who actor, so I’ll watch it” experience for me, and I got pretty into it. It’s on “Showtime.” It’s more than a little dark and creepy, but it’s also really entertaining. They just took a bunch of Gothic Romantic literary figures and threw them into a show with Josh Hartnett. And Eva Green ate every piece of scenery/ most of the actors around her.

      I’m really interested to see what I’ll think of TWW. I don’t always understand the details of politics, but I know I’ll ship Josh and Donna, and that’s enough.

  2. That wing of the TV hall of fame is in my living room…where one can almost always find the only Bad Blood that matters B-) (except for when it was playing How the Ghosts Stole Christmas for…well, Christmas, and Millennium for New Years). The Fall is excellent, so enjoy! I really need to watch Selfie. I remember seeing commercials for it, but then missed whenever it was on :/ Broadchurch has a second season! So you’ll have even MORE to catch up on heh (the US version, Gracepoint, did not get a 2nd season…it’s just not as good – I was bored). I don’t watch most of the rest of the shows you mentioned…just because I already watch enough tv as it is – OUaT, Walking Dead, How to Get Away With Murder, Parenthood, New Girl, Gotham, Top Gear, Dr. Who, AHS, Supernatural, Simpsons, Brooklyn 99, Sleepy Hollow, Bones…oy! TV’s been so great lately.

    1. Ahahah we should ALL devote our homes to “Bad Blood.”

      Selfie was way better than it had any right to be. I really recommend it, even though it’ll make you sad that good TV isn’t given a chance to grow. And I was so bored by Gracepoint! It didn’t stack up to Broadchurch at all. (Don’t worry; I’ve seen all of Broadchurch and am already on the edge of my seat for season two.) I’m so excited to finally watch The Fall! You’re right; there’s so much good TV out there. It’s overwhelming, in the best way.

      1. OMG I was signed in here under my real name O.o dern Facebook…I’ve been exposed! Except…you never would’ve known that if I hadn’t said anything…and now…everyone knows. I do it to myself! Gah.

  3. Oh my god The Fall!! Just you wait! I binge watched it and am now watching Hannibal solely for Gillian. I went and saw the taped performance of A Streetcar Named Desire too and it blew my mind.
    Also The West Wing. If you do a play by play of that I’ll watch it all. I freaking love that show.

    1. Oh I am SO EXCITED for Stella Gibson in my life. And wasn’t she AMAZING in Streetcar? Just absolutely gutting. I don’t know how she did that every night.
      I’m definitely planning on a West Wing play-by-play of some kind. Yay!

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