Top 10 Dramas of 2014
For the past few years, I have made it a point to rank my favorite shows of the year. As a TV podcaster, I feel it is important to give my opinions about what I've enjoyed in a longer format than I could do a podcast episode. Feel free to agree or disagree. I welcome your comments as always.
Parenthood – Parenthood has been my favorite drama since it started airing. Over the years, the writing has gotten better and better as we have gotten more and more invested in the characters in this family. Among the stories told over the last year, there have only been a few that have made me annoyed. One was the destruction of Julia and Joel's marriage last season and part of this season. I couldn't understand why they were writing Julia as the victim and not taking responsibility for her part in their marriage crisis. Finally, this season they have finally moved forward on this. Julia wrote her line in the sand by serving him with divorce papers, but it didn't end up lasting because they are on the way to a reconciliation (kissing over the signing of the papers started that). I am very pleased with this because I never like to see any marriage break up unless their are serious issues that can't be overcome. In their case they have issues, but not anything that can't be worked out.
The second issue is the prevalence of Ruby in this final season of the show. Hank's daughter has never been likeable and now she is always around because she is living in town with her mother. I don't understand why they are spending so much time on this character when we're here for the Braverman family. This is the last season and they need to focus on the characters we care about. Heading into 2015 we only have four episodes to go until the series finale. Overall I am very pleased with how they have written the last season and I will mourn the loss of this family on my TV screen every week. I have every confidence that Jason Katims can write an ending fitting for such a wonderful cast.
Chasing Life – Chasing Life was a new show for ABC Family this summer. After a series of cancelled series for the network (RIP, Bunheads!) I wasn't sure what to expect from this one. The series follow a young woman in her 20s who is diagnosed with cancer. Despite that topic, I was immediately struck by how well this was handled. Italia Ricci (who could double for Shiri Appleby) is delightful in the part of April. She is driven by work and family and doesn't want cancer to stop her from living her life. Over the course of the first part of the season, she tries to keep the diagnosis a secret, but slowly she reveals the truth to her family and co-workers.
She is also involved in a love triangle. Her boyfriend Dominic is handsome and clueless to what is really going on with her. They break up when he takes another job on the road, but she writes an article that clues him to the truth. Cue Dominic coming back to apologize. Little does he know that while he's been away (and before), she has been becoming very attached to Leo. Leo is also handsome and charming and happens to understand April more than Dominic because he also has cancer and needs to have surgery to remove a tumor. Leo is played by Scott Michael Foster, who has appeared on Greek (which I am currently watching for the first time) and Once Upon a Time (where he just finished his run as Kristoff). If you haven't checked out this series yet, I would highly recommend it. They had a delightful Christmas special that actually moved their stories ahead and I can't wait to see where it goes when it returns in January.
The Flash – I am a huge fan of the superhero genre.I have tuned into practically every superhero movie. I have watched Arrow from the beginning. When the character of Barry Allen appeared on Arrow last December I knew he was something special, so when his spinoff was picked up to series I was absolutely on board. Obviously the show is still figuring out what kind of show it wants to be and still has more than half of a season to hit its stride. What they've done so far has been awesome. Grant Gustin is incredibly enjoyable to watch as Barry Allen. He has complete joy in learning what his powers are and how he could use them to help other. His STAR Labs team is very supportive and each has quirks that plays well off the others in the team. It is the complete opposite kind of show that Arrow is – light and fun where Arrow is dark and intense. This was even more obvious in the recent crossover episodes where the characters got to see “how the other half lives” and explore the world of the other series. I've been enjoying the kind of stories they have been telling so far and I look forward to see where they go from here.
Jane the Virgin – When one hears the premise of this show – a young adult virgin becomes pregnant by being artificially inseminated in a doctor's office – it sounds terrible. However, this is one where I heard from every critic – you have to watch it to get it. So now I say to you, if you don't believe me or every other critic out there – just watch it. As I said in my review of the pilot, I was completely enthralled from the first minute of the pilot. I'm a huge fan of soap operas and this plays every aspect of that up right. The voiceover is magical, the cast is fantastic and everything about it is amazing. But don't take my word for it – just watch it yourself.
Orphan Black – Tatiana Manslany is stunning as an actress. The way that she is able to play so many different characters with such nuance is amazing. She's able to make every version unique and you have to see it to believe it. Season One was very good, but season two took the series to whole new levels. There was the introduction of a few more clones played by Manslany and then a whole new kind of clone played by Ari Millen (whose character was supposed to be killed off very early on). I am so excited to see where the story and the characters will go in season three.
A catalyst for the actions of many of the characters came after Moira was killed last season. This had a major effect on Oliver and Thea. Oliver tried to take back his family's company but another player in town came forward for that (one last season and one this season). Thea became more attached to her birth father and learned some very valuable fighting skills from him (which Oliver recently discovered). The team rallied together to bring down The Big Bad from last season (leading to a beautifully shot fight scene between Oliver and him in the finale). Oliver finally admitted his feelings to Felicity, only to have him say that it wasn't safe for them to be together. This season in the midseason finale he fought his greatest enemy and is “nearly dead.” Since the show is about him, I highly doubt he's actually dead. Each season the show has gotten better and better and I can't wait to see how Oliver comes back from this fight.
The Fosters – The Fosters was a delightful show to discover last year. The show at its heart is a family show and, yes, also an unconventional family. The siblings form a bond that is stronger than blood and is amazing to see. The series this year has told many kinds of stories, but the ones that have been most relevant pertain to Callie and Jude.
Jude was finally able to be adopted by the family, but there was a hangup for Callie because she learned the truth about her father and had to meet him to get him to wave his rights. Enter Kerr Smith as her father (hi, Jack!) who I can't believe is old enough to play this part or be all gray! Another complication is his other daughter, played by Bailee Madison (she moved on from Trophy Wife fast!) who just wants a sister. In the summer finale, she put a plan in motion to stop Callie from getting adopted. This caused Callie to run to Brandon and they kissed again. Just when I thought they had both moved on, they do that again. Overall, it is a very enjoyable series and I'm happy to have it back for more episodes in January.
Fargo – I remember the film of 1996 by the Coen Brothers fondly. Imagine my surprise when I turned on the series of Fargo to see them say that these events took place in a totally different time frame (years later) and with different characters! Another big difference is that there is a serial killer on the loose (played by Billy Bob Thornton) and another character (played by Martin Freeman) who completely loses his marbles trying to escape the other guy.
The number one cop on the scene is played by newcomer Allison Tollman, who is a bright spot in an otherwise grim series. She's the only one in town who is putting the pieces together and no one on the force believes her. The other delightful character is played by Colin Hanks (RIP, The Good Guys!) who becomes very attached to her when the series jumps ahead in time before the end of the season. By the end of the season, justice has been served for all of the accused and the slate is clean. This sets up for another season of the show in a different setting and time period. This is what a limited series should be and exactly how American Horror Story has continued with so much success. Bank on what works and then move on.
Grimm– Last season I had the privilege of co-hosting a TV Talk show for Grimm with my buddy Justin. It was great to have someone to talk to about all the crazy things that were happening on this show. Trubel came to town and brought new life to the show. Considering the actress was finishing up college, that says something.
Besides the villians of the week getting creepier, we did have lots of development with the main characters. Adalind gave birth to the royal baby who had some crazy powers. Her arc this year has been to escape the royals and then when they gave her ultimatum she was tricked into giving her baby away. Adalind took off to the Europe to track her and then learned what really happened to her child. Monroe and Rosalee finally got married, but in the process Sean got shot and was in critical condition and Nick lost his powers because Adalind took out her revenge on him. This season they took way too many episodes for him to get them back (with aide from Sean's mother) but they're finally back on the right track. Wu is so close to learning the truth about everything and I hope that that happens sooner rather than later. Although some complain about the special effects not being great, I still believe they are top notch and superior to Once Upon a Time (which again does not make this list.)
Doctor Who – I have had very strong opinions about Doctor Who for the last few years. I don't feel that Steven Moffat is giving his all when it comes to this show because it is so inconsistent. There will be a great episode and I think things are turning around, and then it's followed by one not as great. It is so up and down and this is not the best way to keep your audience tuned in. This season I had the great privilege of joining the SQPN network via the podcast Secrets of Doctor Who. I wasn't able to be on every episode because of my schedule, but it was great to share the stage with other Doctor Who fans. Most of them have a much longer history with the show so they recognize when there are hints to past episodes and storylines. When there are five people on the panel, it's hard to make your voice heard but it's still fun to be a part of. Even the worst episodes are more enjoyable when you have others to discuss it with. Series 8 has not been my favorite by a long shot, but getting to know Peter Capaldi as the doctor, Jenna Coleman as the companion and hear the opinions of my co-hosts has made it an enjoyable experience.
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD
Again, it's only my opinion. I welcome yours..