Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2014 Edition: 3-1

10 Apr

Finally, we’re here. The top three. All entering these heights for the first time, all in their second seasons or earlier. One on broadcast, one on basic cable, and one on amazon. Let’s do this.

Intro here and 43-40 here and 39-36 here and 35-32 here and 31-28 here and 27-24 here and 23-20 here and 19-16 here and one-offs/shows ineligible for the list here and 15-12 here and 11-8 here and 7-4 here.

3. Transparent – 2013: Not Eligible


I watch a lot of pilots. Most I dismiss out of hand. Some I consider, but eventually decide another episode isn’t worth my time. Some are borderline. Some I choose to watch another episode based on one or two aspects that strike my fancy. Some are solid. And very, very few inspire me, after simply one episode, to feel like I absolutely know I’m starting on a great show. Obviously you can only put so much material in one episode, so there’s at least a little bit of feeling and hunch that goes along with that distinction above and beyond what’s actually in the episode. Transparent had it though. Immediately, I know there was something there, and I hungrily devoured the remaining episodes in the course of a weekend. It’s a truly great show, and a great show in an area that hasn’t been covered much on TV lately. It’s about a family, and the hook is that the patriarch is coming out to his children as a self-identified female. That’s important, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Transparent is simply a transcendent family dramedy that makes you immediately want to watch the next episode regardless of any big plot points. The actors are great, the story is great, the characters are great.

2. Hannibal – 2013: 8


Hannibal has absolutely no right to be as good as it is. More or less, on paper, it’s a cop show, about an FBI agent who chases serial killers, often for an episode at a time, but sometimes over the course of several episodes. Hannibal is his mentor slash nemesis, manipulating him and befriending him at the same time. And yet Hannibal is so much more than that. The depth of Hannibal and Will’s relationship defies easy categorization. No show delves deeper into the depths of the human mind than Hannibal. Crimes, murder, in Hannibal, are about understanding, yearning for someone to figure out if anybody really knows anyone else. No show is more visually stunning than Hannibal; taking place as if in a dream world, which disturbingly blood and visceral displays of dead bodies that are troublingly startlingly beautiful. Hannibal’s cooking looks so delicious I want to eat it even knowing what went into it. The world of Hannibal is so much more than the sum of its parts, and there is no other experience like it on TV.

1. The Americans – 2013: 9

The Americans

When everything is working, everything is working, and The Americans was simply on fire in its second season. When The Americans started, I worried I’d tire quickly of its high concept premise, and get frustrated in particular having to root for monstrous characters who kill and maim and torture all in the service of an ultimately fickle and pointless cause. And on paper that still sounds right. But that’s not at all how it feels watching the show. The Americans is dynamic, and for all the killing and wigs and spy missions, the show is about family at least as much as it is about spies. The complicated cold war premise is a brilliant mechanism for discussing issues of secrets and lies, family and love, togetherness and loneliness. The layers of secrets and lies that run through The Americans is staggering. The season long plot unfolded brilliantly – and while the show can admittedly be somewhat on the nose, it’s so well done, and the characters are so fully formed that it entirely doesn’t matter. The Americans does something great shows do; it takes what start as side characters, and quickly makes them fully evolved; look at the FBI, or the Russian Rezidentura, which have become rich settings of their own right, not just merely in relationship to Elizabeth and Philip. A stunning finale capped off the season, with a twist that felt surprising but also well-earned and dealt with the season’s concerns while moving right into next season’s.

And there we are. Congrats, The Americans, congrats 2014. I’ll have a recap of the list up shortly.

One Response to “Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2014 Edition: 3-1”


  1. Ranking the Shows I Watch – 2014 Edition: Recap | Television, the Drug of the Nation - June 11, 2015

    […] Intro here and 43-40 here and 39-36 here and 35-32 here and 31-28 here and 27-24 here and 23-20 here and 19-16 here and one-offs/shows ineligible for the list here and 15-12 here and 11-8 here and 7-4 here and 3-1 here. […]

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