1. Andy Daly as Forrest MacNeil in "Review"-In his tragically misguided (and quite hilarious) quest to push the boundaries of human understanding, Forrest turned himself into the ultimate human punching bag: He got institutionalized, suffered the heartbreak of divorce, developed an addiction to cocaine, committed manslaughter, awkwardly made his way through an orgy, and came to the realization that he might have had pedestrian racist tendencies. On the flipside, he saw space (with the corpse of his late father-in law in tow), enjoyed a brief marriage to Maria Thayer, and rediscovered how important his family was to him.
"Review" was one of the year's most enjoyable roller coaster rides and Forrest's discombobulation was disturbing, shocking, cringe-worthy and incredibly fun. Andy Daly, who has carved an admirable career for himself in straight man and supporting roles, has really found his niche here.
3. Stephen Colbert as Stephen Colbert (with a silent t) in "The Colbert Report"-Colbert's epic cameo-saturated swan song capped off a nine-year run in which he was second to none at the intersection of comedy and politics. Brash and ambiguously oppositional, Colbert used his whip-smart improv ability with chief political and academic figures of the era to produce some of the most memorable, hilarious and insightful interviews of the past decade. Because he was on every night, it was easy to take the Colbert Report for granted, but we can be thankful that Colbert and his prolific team has produced a Fort Knox's worth of comedy gold on reserve.
4. Nick Sandow as Joe Caputo in "Orange is the New Black"-Although he might have morally erred in the series finale with Fig, Caputo stepped up at Litchfield to become a hypothetical source of hope among the administration that Piper (and the audience) thought would never happen. It remains to be seen whether he will be trampled by the system like his predecessor, but for now Caputo is riding high and in a show like Orange is the New Black which tugs at the viewer's emotions, Caputo's ascension and (mostly) noble intentions were cathartic this past season.
5. Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates in "Bates Motel"-The mercurial woman whose son will grow up to become the iconic knife-wielding serial killer. In the second season, Norma pulled a "House of Cards" on us and slowly crept her way up the social scene of White Pine Bay. Although we know that Norma will eventually become her son's toy skeleton, the relationship between the two is so interesting to watch because there are only hints of dysfunction underneath that we know will grow. The unexpected surprise of "Bates Motel" is that "Psycho" was never a character piece and this show is such a slow simmer.
6. Clive Owen as Dr. Thackery, The Knick- Owen's brilliant portrayal is not particularly removed from Hugh Laurie's curmudgeonly doctor on "House" except Thackery's backstory or emotional complications don't get any analysis. What fascinates me about Dr. Thackery is that he's not so much a hero or an anti-hero as he is just a crusty opium addict who happens to be in charge.
7. Chris Parnell voicing Cyril Figgis in "Archer"-Cyril finally developed some backbone in standing up to Archer and briefly ran a Central American country more efficiently than the dictator who came before him. Attorney, accountant, field agent, military strategist, is there anything this guy can't do?
8. Karen Gilliam as Eliza Dooley in "Selfie"-The cancelled-too-soon show had a great pairing at its center in Eliza Dooley and Henry Higgs. Together, the two personified the changing landscape of etiquette in the media age with Dooley and Higgs occupying extreme ends on the spectrum between too much or too little reliance on your cell phone. Naturally, the social media obsessive is the more fun character and Karen Gilliam goes to town with the role. Brushing aside the questionable plot hole of how Eliza managed to amass such a strong twitter following so quickly, Gilliam hits the perfect notes as an aloof millennial with an inflated ego and all the requisite vulnerabilities of a TV romcom lead. She also has some of the best dialogue of any TV character this year.
9. Katja Herbers as Helen in "Manhattan"-I've always felt that "Manhattan" is about outsiders at heart and Helen is no different. She's a woman in a man's club and is (secretly) Dutch, but she mixes that peripheral sense with a swagger that makes her stick out in a good way. She has a no-nonsense demeanor that allows her to cut through the BS (a trait that's useful for a drama set in the repressed '50s) and is unapologetic about her sex life.
10. Robin Lord Taylor as Oswald Cobblepot in "Gotham"-In its first half-season, "Gotham" has had its share of flaws for such an ambitious comic book adaptation, but the show deserves a lot of credit for bringing back a potentially campy character and fleshing him out. Ultimately, you could see Robin Lord Taylor's Penguin fitting in with one Batman's better adaptations. Taylor's performance is rich with nuances from the physical to the tics that slyly hint at a sociopathic mindset.
|Source: ABC/Bob D'Amico|
13. Jim Jefferies as himself in "Legit"-Jefferies and his sitcom fall under the category of "Goshdarnit, I like this guy!"Jefferies doesn't do much of anything except hang out and fuel the moral depravity of his two roommates but he has an amicable style that wins me over because the show is so tonally congruent with the show and its characters. The show's second season saw Jefferies grapple with death, friendship and love a little more than the first, while still hinting at a slow evolution.
14. Ramon Franco as Fausto Galvan in "The Bridge"-With his sloppy casual attire and his penchant for buying boats, Fausto Galvan does not conform to the typical image of a mob boss but he's a brilliant tactician and knows how to intimidate an enemy. As a childhood friend of Detective Ruiz, Galvan is also an ever-present reminder of the direction Ruiz's life might have taken in the show's morally ambiguous world. I, for one, enjoyed the show's more Fausto-centric view of Juarez.
15. Mark Feuerstein as Dr. Hank Lawson in "Royal Pains"-Even if "Royal Pains" isn't one of the most respected shows on TV, Hank Lawson deserves praise for being such an uplifting and relevant character. He's just a desperado concierge doctor equipped with a scalpel, lightning-quick diagnosing abilities and the mysterious ability to constantly be around some of the rarest medical emergencies ever recorded. He was my #2 character last year (although I pretty much copied and pasted his entry).
16. Ashley Zukerman as Charlie Isaacs in "Manhattan"-It was partially due to a strong cast of characters that "Manhattan" made its way onto my viewing schedule this year and Charlie Isaacs is the hot-shot alpha male of the bunch with his dashing good lucks, smoking hot wife and (considering this is Los Alomos) his brains. Because my basis of comparison for this show is the 1989 film "Fat Man and Little Boy" and there are inevitable comparisons between Charlie and the John Cusack's character who was heavily colored by 80's conventions, I see Charlie as a rebellious bad boy of sorts. Charlie was also an interesting character this season in that his character seemed destined for adultery and that whole plotline was sidestepped (his marriage fell apart and his wife cheated first) making him, in essence, an individual of "good" character.
17. Annaleigh Ashford as Betty DeMilo in "Masters of Sex"-The practical-minded ex-hooker was a curious foil to Michael Sheen's Dr. Masters last season as he only paid her begruding respect despite his supposed sexual tolerance. Nonetheless, DeMilo dealt with Masters with swift resolve and dangled the use of her brothel as a bargaining chip. In an expanded supporting role this season, DeMilo provided some of the heart-reaching ups and downs as her marraige fell apart while she succumbed to the temptations of Sara Silverman's Helen (Sara Silverman in a 1950's accent certainly would be hard to resist) and showed a touching solidarity with Dr. Masters by continuing to show up for work as his new hire.
18. Olivia Cooke as Emma Decody in "Bates Motel"-The first season left me wanting to see more of Emma Decody's POV. She is quietly drawn to the tumultuous Norman family but it's clear that she exists on the periphery of their trials and tribulations. The show's second season gave us a better glimpse inside Emma's world. It showed us a character who's relatively comfortable in her own skin as a disabled teenager but who's also self-aware of her desire to belong. Her relationship was also one of the sweetest examples of teenage romance on television.
19. Kat Dennings and Beth Behr as Max and Caroline in "2 Broke Girls"-Part of what keeps "2 Broke Girls" among the most comfortable shows on Television is the chemistry between Max Black and Caroline Channing. They're rat-a-tat dilaogue is a stylistic throwback to the days of vaudeville. Caroline lobs the set-up and the acerbic Max hits it out of the ballpark. The humor isn't necessarily the most sophisticated on TV but the chemistry between the two best friends of circumstance is immense.
20. Kristen Schaal voicing Mabel Pines in "Gravity Falls"-Between "Bob's Burgers", "BoJack Horseman" and this (not to mention the countless voiceover work she's doing that I'm not watching), Schaal deserves all the praise she's getting and more as a voice-over actor. She has a unique voice that creates a recognizable comic personality when you hear it (in this case, the overexcited child) and has has shown enough versatility with it to create three memorable and different comic characters. Mabel Pines' never-ending positivity is just infectious on "Gravity Falls" and visually, her sweater designs and stickers are the Easter eggs of the show.
21. Emily Rios as Adriana Mendez in "The Bridge"-Daniel Frye, Adriana's partner-in-crime, occupied a high spot on last year's list and while that entry was a way of honoring the touching Frye/Adriana relationship, I didn't anticipate that Adriana would become so much more fleshed out this year. While the Frye/Adriana pairing was still one of the underrated crime-fighting duos on television, Adriana was an interesting character in her own right. Adriana also gave us one of the dramatic high points as she was victimized by Galvan's goonies to show that no one was really a passive spectator to this conflict. It also helps that I have a soft-spot for reporter characters.
22. Megan Stevenson as AJ Gibbs in "Review"-Stevenson does so much with every facial reaction and stilted smile. The result is a a very mercurial character that makes a very strong impression with very little screentime. With "Review" renewed, the increased presence of AJ Gibbs as sole host of the show is on the top of my anticipation list for this coming year in television.
23. Aaron Paul voicing Todd in "BoJack Horseman"-In satirizing the empty lives of the Hollywood rich and famous, "BoJack Horseman" is largely about characters going nowhere and repeating the same patterns, and no one is staying still faster or as consistently hilariously as Todd. His massive ADD ensures that nothing will ever get done as long as he's around. Todd also bounces off others with supreme comic ease as evidenced by his teaming up with Quentin Tarantulino to produce a movie that morphed into a bimonthly snack subscription followed by his business partnership with Mr. Peanutbutter that produced some of the most hillariously ridiculous ideas ever to hit animated TV. It is also Todd's childlike need for approval from BoJack that keeps the tone of the show positive.
|Source: Yahoo Screen|
|Source: NY Post|
Aimee Carrerro as Lucia, The Americans; Alison Pill as Maggie Jordan, The Newsroom; Andre Holland as Dr. Algernon Edwards, The Knick; Barbara Rosenblat as Rosa Cisneros, OitNB; Damien Bichir as Marco Ruiz, The Bridge; David Harewood as Saperstein, Selfie; Famke Potente as Elanor Nacht, The Bridge; Frances McDormand as Oliver Kitteridge, Oliver Kitteridge; Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein as Toni and Candice, Portlandia; Kate McKinnon as Olga Povlatsky, SNL; Keegan Michael Key as Mark, Playing House; Kimiko Glenn as Brook Soso, OitNB; Leslie Bibb as Dakota, About a Boy; Minnie Driver as Fiona, About a Boy; Natasha Lyonne as Nikki Lyons, OitNB; Olivia Munn as Sloane Sabbath, The Newsroom; Parvesh Cheena and Hong Chau, Dinesh and Lora, A to Z; Sara Silverman as Helen, Masters of Sex; Zoe Kazan as Betty, Oliver Kitteridge
Here's a list of all shows I watched this year, for reference (that aren't in my Top Ten):
About a Boy (NBC) , Americans (FX), American Dad (TBS), American Horror Story (FX), America's Got Talent (Fox), Awesomes (Hulu), Bad Teacher (CBS), Bad Judge (NBC), Black Box (ABC), Blacklist (NBC), Broad City (Comedy Central), Brooklyn Nine Nine (FOX), Benched (USA), Crazy Ones (CBS), Chicago PD (NBC), Comedy Bang Bang (IFC), Conan (TBS), Colbert Report (Comedy Central), Daily Show (Comedy Central), Deadbeat (Hulu), Family Guy (Fox), Finding Your Roots (PBS), Flash (CW), Fugget About It (Hulu), Gotham (Fox), Glee (Fox), Gravity Falls (Disney), Ground Floor (TV Land), Hannibal (NBC), Houdini (History), Halt and Catch Fire (AMC), House of Cards (Netflix), Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central), Key and Peele (Comedy Central), Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel (NBC), Late Night with Seth Meyers (ABC), Larry King (Hulu), Librarians (TNT), Louie (FX), Marry Me (NBC), Mulaney (Fox), Madam Secretary (CBS), Mindy Project (Fox), Modern Family (ABC), Mother Up! (Hulu), Mysteries at the Museum (History Channel), NCIS: LA (CBS), Newsroom (HBO), New Girl (Fox), Nathan For You (Comedy Central), Playing House (USA), Portlandia (IFC), Red Band Society (Fox), The Strain (FX), Saturday Night Live, Tonight Show (NBC), Turn (AMC), Under the Dome (CBS), Video Game High School (YouTube), Veep (HBO), Vikings (History Channel), The Voice (NBC), Web Therapy (Showtime), The Wil Wheaton Project (SyFy), Welcome to Sweden (NBC)
Additionally, my top 12 TV shows can be found at Examiner.com this year.
1. Archer, FX
2. The Bridge, FX
3. Orange is the New Black, FX
4. Review, Comedy Central
5. The Knick, Cinemax
6. Manhattan, WGN
7. Olive Kitteridge, HBO
8. Selfie, ABC
9. Late Night with John Oliver, HBO
10. Quick Draw, Hulu
11. Masters of Sex, HBO
12. Silicon Valley, HBO
Runner-Ups: 2 Broke Girls (CBS), A-Z (NBC), Bates Motel (A&E), Bojack Horseman (Netflix), Crossbones (NBC), Finding Your Roots (PBS), Legit (FX), Portlandia (IFC), Royal Pains (USA), Suburgatory (ABC)
Additionally, I had the honor of participating in Cory Barker's end-of-the-year round table at TV Surveillance, where I contributed thoughts on the best performances in 2014 on TV, the best new TV show, the worst TV show and the best performances.
I also have just been hired at TV Fanatic and contributed to all their year-end slideshows including best plot twist, most underutilized character, best breakout character, and several more.
In short, I've now analyzed 2014 in TV to death at this point, but being included on Cory Barker's year-end roundtables and TV Fanatic's year-end polls have been a goal of mine for four years so I'm quite pleased. Some people want to build mountains or create great paintings and I just want to watch a lot of TV and discern obscure categories within that medium.