While 2014 may have been a rough year for many of us it has been a terrific year in television. I’m pleased to compile a list that includes zero reality shows and instead a mixture of scripted dramas and comedies which have made the year slightly more tolerable.
The absolute highlight of the 2014 TV season for me has been Gotham. Like many I have a great love of Batman, which borders on obsession at times, so I was actually a little hesitant when it came to an origin show. How could they possibly make a show about Gotham City without our favorite Dark Knight patrolling the streets?
It seems that every Batman movie in the last 30+ years includes the same flashback: young Bruce Wayne in downtown Gotham with his parents, mugger comes out of the shadows, gunshots, broken string of pearls, etc. And that’s all we see of that, next thing you know Bruce is dressing like a giant bat, saving the city his parents loved. Gotham is that missing context and it is fantastic.
In addition to young Jim Gordon, a fresh-faced detective with GCPD, partnered with the rarely used character of Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), our favorite villains are also given their time in the spotlight. Oswald Cobblepot, better known as Penguin, has landed himself a prime spot in the middle of the mob war about to engulf the fair city. Newly created character Fish Mooney, played by Jada Pinkett Smith, is an ambitious and somewhat terrifying mobster keen to move her way up world. Then there’s a very young Selina Kyle, already a cat burglar befriending Bruce, and Ivy, orphaned and clutching a plotted plant. Edward Nygma meanwhile has a day job with GCPD working in forensics and with the coroner. Then of course there’s young Master Wayne along with the ever trusty and suddenly quite badass Alfred Pennyworth, played quite delightfully by Sean Pertwee.
Gotham manages to combine the lore of Batman with a procedural cop drama, two of my favorite things in one show. Brilliantly acted, beautifully filmed to resemble the pages of a graphic novel without being obnoxious, it’s like an hour-long movie each week. Perfect for week-to-week watching or a nice binge.
Airs Mondays on Fox
This show had me at, “Nazi Occult division” and “locked in the original magic safe.” First thing I thought during the pilot episode was that this show was picking up where the beloved Warehouse 13 left off. Although The Librarians are a little less steam punk purple and a little more Indiana Jones sepia tone, the concept is somewhat the same. Grumpy, know it all librarian whom fans of the films will recognize, Flynn Carsen suddenly finds himself with a team of misfits, including his new guardian Eve, played by Rebecca Romijn. The motley crew of new librarians are left in Eve’s care to be prepared for their role serving the library and keeping magic from falling into the wrong hands. More than anything this is a fun show, it has humor and heart.
Anyone who has watched a lot of TV will spend most episodes playing a few rounds of, “Hey, isn’t that…?” The guest stars are constant and impressive. If you aren’t interested by now, allow me to seal the deal with this: Bruce Campbell appears in episode four.
Airs Sundays on TNT
I defer to fellow writer Captain Israel on this show as it has been sitting quite neglected in my queue for far too long while I rewatch Gotham.
As an avid comic book nerd I love comic book based shows and unlike the Arrow the show Flash spun off from, which is darker in nature, Flash is more lighthearted and funny. Barry Allen, played by Grant Gustin is geeky kind of character who’s lived a hard life, but he still has a positive outlook on the world, he helps people and he’s fast. The cast of the show is great, the writing is just as amazing as in Arrow. Spinoffs are a hit or miss and this is a definite hit. The Flash is a fun adventure show, with a splash of mystery, some romantic touches, and a lighting of fun, from the banter, the Caitlin and Cisco and the odd Dr. Wells as well as Iris West and her father. I look forward every week to see what else happens, what new meta-human they will face. WB/CW finally stepped away from Batman and Superman and Justice League cartoons to deliver us a second comic book based show and the Flash’s creators opened the door for more characters and incredibly stories that would not quite fit in Arrow, but would fall right into the world of Central city and the Flash.
Airs Tuesday on The CW
After an impressive freshman season I thought that there would be no way season two could measure up. Naturally I was wrong and have been consistently blown away every week. In the first half of the season alone we’ve had a few more reveals than one might have expected for a show that likes to play it close to the vest. I won’t offer any spoilers, but if you’ve put off watching this now is the time to catch up before the show returns from break in February. James Spader is in fine form as Red while Lizzie has undergone quite the change since the truth about her husband was revealed in season one.
Airs Mondays on NBC
The Mindy Project
A lot of people might consider this a show for girls, which I concede but it is so unfailingly funny. Mindy Kaling is a prime example of just how funny women can be. The third season has continued with the tradition of taking a basic sitcom formula and reworking it for a modern female audience. Unlike the stick figure blondes we all like to pretend are relatable, Mindy actually is. She works hard, loves what she does, and occasionally embarrasses herself. There’s the bonus of occasional nods to those of us who are not of the liberal persuasion (IE “Mindy isn’t going to move from a blue state to an even bluer state” and “married in a week? It took me longer to get my hand gun permit”). Unlike many other shows on the air right now, there are not a lot of heavy-handed political statements or jokes at the Right’s expense. It’s funny without being cruel.
Airs Tuesdays on Fox
Like many I was quite nervous about the new Doctor. No offense to the fans of Ten and Eleven, but with each I was a little let down, as my favorite of the rebooted series remains to be Nine. The latter was somewhat serious, down to business kind of Doctor while Ten and Eleven have been interesting and lovable but not overly endearing to me personally. I like my Doctors dark, moody, and older I guess, which is why Twelve was a refreshing change to me. Peter Capaldi brought such enthusiasm and excitement to his role that you could just tell that he was having a great time. The season opened in a steam punk Victorian England that one might find in a Gail Carriger novel and closed with Santa stepping in to help the Doctor and Clara return to common ground. This was a season of great growth, providing us with a mysterious and at times infuriating, new Doctor.
House of Cards
It seems like forever ago when season two premiered on Netflix on Valentine’s Day 2014. And what a season it was! I know that some people still haven’t watched this amazing show and I shan’t punish them with spoilers. That being said, it was amazing! There were a number of gasp worthy moments, even to someone who watched the British version and knew what was coming. House of Cards is a formidable show and one that is proving just how quickly streaming content could oust network programming.
Season Three premiers February 27th, 2015 on Netflix
Another from early in the year that I completely forgot about until I sat down and began to compile this list. The Americans is another example of a stellar second season from a show that managed to cover a lot of ground in their freshman year. We were left with a cliffhanger last year, Elizabeth had been shot, and the fate of our favorite Soviet agents was unknown as their children were kept in the dark about who their parents were. Fast forward a few months, Elizabeth is returning home while Phillip continues their work. It was a jammed pack season with a fellow spy family exposed and brutally massacred, scaring our leads into over-protection. While Paige, their eldest child, is rapidly working her way to figuring out what is so different about her parents. We were once again left with a heart-pounding finale.
Season Three premiers January 28th, 2015 on FX