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Best of 2014: 18 Super Good Television Programs

Posted by December 23rd, 2014 No Comments »

Whether it’s food, sweets, booze or television, the holidays are a perfect time to binge, so December 23 seemed like a great day to share a list of our contributors’ favorite television programs of 2014. We’ve included a clip for each of our selections so you can sample the goods, load up your Netflix queue and ignore everyone in your family over the long weekend. Happy Holidays!

18. American Horror Story: Freak Show  

I don’t watch a lot of television, but I’m on the bandwagon with FX’s American Horror Story: Freak Show. I love seeing how the intricate horror stories evolve with their characters. There’s Jessica Lang and her slightly evil, but totally endearing personas. Evan Peters and Kathy Bates are incredible at morphing into completely new characters every season. And I’m terrified of clowns and I still watch it every week, so it must mean they must be doing something right. – Sydney Root


17. Archer

It’s doubtful anyone will call Archer’s season five their favorite. Sometimes change for change’s sake isn’t the best idea and Archer’s creative team disbanding ISIS and sending the gang on the lam with the hopes of becoming cocaine cowboys in order to fund their extravagant lifestyles while at the same time trying to turn their insane benefactor into a country music superstar should have been comedy gold – and some of it was. Cheryl screaming “Outlaw country!” at every opportunity was second only to coked-out Pam as the season’s best running gag. But series creator Adam Reed’s decision to scrap the whole thing and make the gang secret agents again should tell anyone about the overall success of season five. – Adam Lawrence


16. New Girl

New Girl is Friends with booze, beards, cleavage and races other than Caucasian… and the jokes are pretty hilarious. The best part is most couples can agree upon watching this sitcom together. – Greg Lehman


15. Cosmos A Spacetime Odyssey

Neil Degrasse Tyson is America’s favorite nerd and Seth McFarlane is one of the most divisive figures in American entertainment. Together, though, they make a great team who each shares the dream of Carl Sagan – to make learning about the universe palatable for the average Joe. With Cosmos, they succeeded more than anyone could have imagined. With Tyson’s infectious sense of wonder and McFarlane’s ample storytelling through animation skills, Cosmos was the geekiest must-watch television since perhaps Ken Burns’ The Civil War documentary in 1990. Dazzling visuals and digestible science made learning fun! – Adam Lawrence


14. Bojack Horseman

I’ve heard a lot mixed reviews on Bojack Horseman, but I thoroughly enjoyed the debut season of this “out there” Netflix original adult cartoon. A horse-man living in modern time who once had a career as a television sitcom dad tries to revamp his image and regain fame. The cast is full of celebrities, such as Will Arnett and Aaron Paul, and the jokes are almost borderline poor taste, but it you’re willing to go into the show with an open mind, it’s pretty hilarious. There are a ton of hidden animal jokes that make the show that much better if you pay close enough attention. – Sydney Root

I’ll take it one step further: Bojack Horseman was the comedy TV event of the year. The podcast comedy culture merged with the adult swim aesthetic to create a tale of Hollywood dreams gone bust. Drop what you’re doing and binge this. – Chris Klepac


13. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

If John Oliver’s role on The Daily Show was him as a staff writer for a daily rag, Last Week Tonight is his triumphant ascension to King of Columnists, a position I just made up because of his distinct journey across a generally unmarked section on the map of political satire kind of near the decorative sea monster. After taking over The Daily Show hosting duties this summer while Jon Stewart was filming his directorial debut Rosewater, Oliver proved to be a charming and affable fill-in, which led HBO to offer him a weekly program that has absolutely skyrocketed in popularity. Each week it seems Oliver’s main segment – ranging in topics from native advertisements and sugar to the lottery and student debt – goes viral. When the show covered net neutrality laws, Oliver called for his audience to reach out to the FCC to share their concerns, which not only overwhelmed the FCC’s website, but actually caused general awareness and proactive measures by promoting informative discourse. – Cameron Deuel


12. Louie

Louis C.K. did a bit last year about why farts are funny. He acknowledges why people deem them sophomoric, he begins listing reasons why they’re funny by starting with, “it comes out of your ass.” In all the hours of stand-up material and warm interviews, this moment encapsulates the lifeblood of Louie. Much like Seinfeld, the show revolves around the titular comedian and takes into account the world as seen through the lens of his comedy. However, Louie does so without a live audience and cast of merry pranksters.

There exists a gritty realism within C.K.’s universe where everyday awkwardness is normalized, if not vindicated, by the tacit understanding that life is nasty, brutish, and long. Season 4 shows C.K. expanding his storytelling abilities and techniques through storylines through multiple episodes, some continuing through as many as six parts and spanning topics like dating, raising children, and reconnecting with tradition. But it all starts with an episode that has this synopsis: “Louie hurts his back when shopping for a vibrator after one of his friends suggests it.” – Cameron Deuel


11. Workaholics

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. Only pleasures. Period. And this is one of mine. I get more laughs per minute from Workaholics than from any other show on TV. And what’s rare for a half-hour comedy, I’ve re-watched many of the episodes — and laughed just as hard. A fun vacation from the drab world of responsibilities and striving, Workaholics reminds us about the really important things in life: friendship, adventure, and really good weed. – Chris McCann


10. Boardwalk Empire

[SPOILER ALERT] You hear a lot of complaining about serial TV shows not ending the way people wanted – cancelled too soon (Deadwood), too much ambiguity (Sopranos), not even worth watching in the later seasons (Dexter). Well, Boardwalk Empire did it right. They knew exactly when the show was ending and they worked toward tidy conclusions in nearly all of the characters’ story lines, even though many of those conclusions were simply death. Not that death wasn’t coming to most of these people. Nonetheless, I can’t help feeling a little manipulated. Wasn’t it all just a little too neat? I mean, Knucky was killed by, basically, the literal physical embodiment of everything that’s gone wrong in his family. I guess maybe I have a new complaint about the way shows end: too perfect. Regardless, Boardwalk has consistently been one of the best written, acted, and directed television shows in recent memory, and it was a joy to watch up to the very end. – Aaron Semer


9. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Take a handful of comedians who made their names on the edge of comedy, like Andy Samberg and Joe Lo Truglio, combine them together and you get… a comedic showcase for dramatic actor Andre Braugher on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. While Braugher role might be considered the “straight man” role, he plays it to perfection with understated insanity that elevates him above his comedicaly-pedigreed cast mates. – Kevin Nelson


8. Game of Thrones

George R.R. Martin superfans knew the last season’s Red Wedding was only the beginning – gruesome regicide, trial by combat, and cool dragons remain the order of the day, and longtime fans know better than to get too attached to anyone. There was a lot more talking in season 4 of Game of Thrones, but the thrills were some of the series’ best. The Wildlings finally reached the wall, Bran and Hodor found that weird tree, and The Mountain crushed crushed that guy’s skull with his bare fucking hands! Martin is still finishing the story behind the scenes, but the show is still in good hands. – Adam Lawrence


7. Parks and Recreation

The sixth season of Parks & Recreation finds the sleepy town of Pawnee in the overly capable hands of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). Character arcs and minor storylines are masterfully woven throughout the season but the real draw is from the fact that every single cast member has turned into their own meme. It’s clear this show is built on the interactions between archetypes but it’s hard to deny the Ron Swanson giggle or Tom Haverford’s homemade portmanteaus or Jean-Ralphio’s diva-sized vocal runs greatly alluding to how his life is constantly in shambles. – Cameron Deuel


6. Bob’s Burgers

At every phase of my adult life, H. John Benjamin has been a central part of one of my favorite television shows available: first as the unmotivated son in the brilliant animated series Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, which ran from 1995 to 1995; then as Coach McGurk in writer/producer Loren Bouchard’s Home Movies (my favorite television program of all time); along the way he voiced various characters on Adult Swim’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force through 2009, when he began on the equally hilarious Venture Brothers; and he’s been the voice of the lead character on Fox’s Bob’s Burgers since it began in 2011. On that show he’s reunited with Bouchard and surrounded by a hilarious cast of comedic voice talent including Eugene Mirman and Kristin Schaal, earning the show the spot in Fox’s prime time lineup for an “irreverent animated comedy” vacated by the long-running King Of the Hill.  And it’s way funnier than that show ever was. – Matt Ashworth


5. Orange Is the New Black

Season 2 of Orange Is the New Black had every right to slump a bit after an eye-opening debut last year, but show creator Jenji Kohan continues to avoid the lulls I felt in her breakout series, Weeds. Man, Nancy Botwin got on my last nerve! But this season carried through a brilliant arc that gave ample opportunity for stand out performances across the large cast, and wrapped up in the most satisfying surprise ending ever. 13 episodes in one day never felt so good. Thanks, Netflix! – Abe Beeson

For those intrigued with the inner-workings and drama of women’s maximum security prisons, Orange is the New Black is the show for you. The curious fish-out-of-water case of main character and good girl Piper makes for engaging viewing. That, or you can’t get enough of the prospect of seeing bobbies and some girl on girl action. – Ben Allen


4. House of Cards

This fictitious political drama takes its audience through the life of nefarious politician Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) and his wife Claire (Robin Wright). As their Machiavellian schemes unravel, the fragile relationship between the immensity of government power and personal gripes held by the members of such government is not only a rich source of entertainment but a slight cause for alarm. Despite the fact that Spacey’s character occasionally breaks the fourth wall to share personal insight with his audience, there’s something genuinely sobering about watching a United States congressman tell his wife he loves her “more than sharks love blood.” – Cameron Deuel


3. The Colbert Report

It’s unclear just how much we needed Stephen Colbert in our everyday lives. For nine years, the Colbert Report was consistently the most well-written and well-performed political satire on television and, to paraphrase Cinderella, we won’t know what we had ’til it’s gone. Not only was Colbert astutely hilarious, it wasn’t afraid to get surreal and silly, as evidenced by the show’s final episode, in which Colbert killed Death and became immortal, then hitched a ride on a sleigh to Eternity with Santa Claus, Unicorn Abraham Lincoln, and Alex Trebec. It’s doubtful CBS will allow such weirdness from the new network late night host, and that’s a shame. In the meantime, we’ll have to endure 9-10 months without one of the greatest comedic minds of our time. – Adam Lawrence


2. The Walking Dead

Shows about zombies are a dime a dozen. Shows that use a zombie infestation as a backdrop for a brilliant examination of the way humans fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic society are rare. Though it seems like the premise can’t possibly extend to another season, The Walking Dead continues to evolve and improve. – Matt Ashworth


1. True Detective

Yes, it was fun to live week to week, attempting to figure out the clues, and just what was going to happen to our pair of detectives. And if the ending of the show couldn’t possibly live up to the climax it was building toward, that was all right, too. But most exciting was the idea of the ongoing series that tells one story a year, and does it well. Can’t wait for the next season of True Detective. – Chris McCann


Also receiving votes:

A to Z

A Young Doctor’s Notebook

About A Boy

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Black Mirror

The BlackList

Broad City

The Comeback

Community

The Daily Show

Doctor Who

Fargo

The Flash

Girls

Gotham

Hannibal

Happy Valley

Hannibal

Hell on Wheels

The Honourable Woman

In The Flesh

Jane the Virgin

The Knick

Mad Men

Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown

Mulaney

Rebel Music

Once Upon a Time

Peaky Blinders

Portlandia

Scandal

Sherlock

Silicon Valley

Suburgatory

The Veep

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