The Top Ten New TV Shows of 2014

At around this time in December, blogs, respected publications — hell, anyone with a keyboard & a decent retention of the previous 12 months — lazily cobbles together ‘year-end’ lists as a way to get some holiday web traffic without exuding much effort.

As I’m as big of a fan as my Sessions count in Google Analytics as anyone else, and since this year was very damn good for new television, I decided to look back & compile my own listicle featuring the top ten new TV shows of 2014.

I’ve mentioned this before, but to reiterate — it’s rare for me to start watching a new show in its rookie year. I’ve been burned too often by the ‘one & dones’; Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, The Chicago Code (need I go on?). However, in 2014, I saw a lot of promise in several of the new shows that cable (and, yes, even the big nets) had to offer. And, while at least one of my top ten has already been canned (and more possibilities are coming, given it’s only mid-season), I’m confident in stating that 2014 may have been one of the best years for new TV shows in a very long time.

With that lead-in, here’s my personal list of the top ten new TV shows of 2014.

10. The Divide

We TV’s shockingly good take on a wrongly-accused prisoner & the people seeking justice has been covered on this site already — mostly, because I was quite surprised at the cable network’s first foray into scripted television. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the crime drama will return for a second year (sad, because there was a good deal left open-ended in season 1); however, if We TV can continue to produce shows like The Divide, they could find themselves a cable contender in the next few years.

 9. Murder in the First

Like a 90’s Steven Bochco effort I was also fond of (Murder One), Murder in the First follows stars Taye Diggs & Kathleen Robertson as they investigate a single case of homicide in San Francisco. Tom Felton (from the Harry Potter films) was fantastic as a sociopathic Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg hybrid. Murder in the First was an entertaining Summer show, and will return in 2015.

8. Tyrant

FX’s Summer hit Tyrant raised a bit of a stir this year for its depiction of a Middle East dictator and his eldest son — a doctor & family man living in America — mostly due to its complete lack of casting Middle Eastern actors in main roles. Regardless of any controversy, I thought Tyrant was thought-provoking & a great summer drama.

7. Transparent

Though I may not rank Transparent as highly as some reviewers, Jeffery Tambor’s portrayal of a late-in-life transformation to womanhood has been magnificent (and, at alternating times, humorous and emotional). The Pfefferman family redefines dysfunctional — with Tambor’s Maura seemingly the most “normal” of the bunch.

6. The Strain

The Strain might be the first TV show I’ve watched in quite some time that actually made me jump. Though I’ve called the show a bit cliched, it was also hugely entertaining & full of action that reminded me of the early days of The Walking Dead. Not really sure how much further the show can take things, but The Strain will be returning to FX in 2015.

 5. Gotham

Since Christopher Nolan’s reimagining of the Caped Crusader on the big screen, Batman is back in the mainstream in full-force. Created by Bruno Heller (The Mentalist), Gotham takes a look at the early days in The Metropolis — Bruce Wayne is but a child (who just witnessed his parents’ murder), and James Gordon just a lowly, but driven, police detective. Gotham is visually one of the best shows on TV — though, I’m not sure how long viewers will keep tuning-in without seeing Batman in all his glory.

4. The Leftovers

Viewers have been split on the Damon Lindehoff-helmed end-of-days HBO drama; especially given that Lindehoff & co have already disclosed that they don’t plan on revealing the exact rationale behind those who disappeared as a result of The Rapture. The Leftovers is a bit confusing, I admit — but, it’s also a dark, intriguing look at a world that can’t begin to understand its place anymore. Personally, I can’t wait to see where the show goes in season 2.

3. Silicon Valley

HBO’s Silicon Valley is this nerd’s televised wet dream — a funny, intelligent look at the world of tech startups (and the geeks that run them). The half-hour comedy might have a rather niche audience, but with a 94 rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Mike Judge’s latest foray into television seems like it might just have staying power.

2. True Detective

2014 might have been the first time anyone has uttered these words: Matthew McConaughey (on True Detective) was absolutely brilliant. The HBO anthology would have made for an easy #1 choice (if it weren’t for Billy Bob Thornton) — but, despite its second-place ranking on this list, True Detective season 1 may go down as some of the best written 8 episodes of TV in years. The casting for season 2 has some people doubting the longevity of the show; however, I’ll hold off on any opinion until 2015 episodes actually air.

1. Fargo

I had my doubts about Fargo when I saw FX promoting the show several months before it aired. These qualms were extinguished — to my delight — before the first episode was halfway through. Billy Bob was in classic form. Martin Freeman’s downward spiral was riveting. Allison Tolman & Colin Hanks were the quintessential small-town cops. Fargo was arguably better than the movie it was loosely-based on; and, absolutely, a must-watch for fans of any cinematic and/or televised genres.

There you have it folks — damn near 1000 words later, and we’re at the end of my ten best list. What did you think of the shows I named? Are there some you think I’ve left off, or that should rank higher/lower? Let me know in the comments!

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