Holy shit, 2014 is almost over! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? It just started! It was literally January 1st, 2014, like twelve minutes ago. Calenders and clocks are liars, time is the enemy, and I am so scared of getting older that I refuse to look in the mirror anymore because the rapidly aging adult that I see in there makes my soul frown.
But we’re not here to talk about how I am terrified of death! NO! We are here to talk about lists. Specifically, lists of thing that I enjoyed in 2014. Because I have a website and I enjoy making lists! So… over the next few days, I’m going to do just that until I’m finished or get bored with the project. Hopefully it won’t be the latter!
PLEASE NOTE: Not everything in these lists will bear a release date of 2014! As much as I would LIKE to see every movie, and listen to every album, and watch every TV show immediately upon their release, and process them, and rank them accordingly… well, there just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to accomplish all of that. Plus there’s my real job, and also I have to carve out time to be a decent husband, a so-so friend, and a middling-to-lousy family member. I’m only one man! So these lists are going to consist of things that I enjoyed during the calender year of 2014, regardless of when they were actually released, produced, aired, etc. If it makes you feel better, you can think of it as a free-form art project that serves as a commentary on society’s need to rank and categorize everything.
Or just read the damn things and marvel at my excellent taste. Or horrible taste, if you disagree with me. It’s all good! At the end of the day, aren’t we all just looking to be loved and, to a slightly lesser degree, to be presented with a really nice sandwich?
To the first list!
Top Ten TV Things of 2014
Cutthroat Kitchen – It’s fun to watch sweaty, stressed people try to make ravioli with spatulas duct taped to their hands. The secret joy of this show is that its winners usually only have like $80 left after bidding on stupid things to fuck with their fellow contestants. “You won Cutthroat Kitchen; here’s a sack of nickels for your trouble… also, you came across as mean-spirited and desperate on national TV!!! GOOD LUCK SEEKING FUTURE EMPLOYMENT.”
New Girl – The ensemble cast on New Girl is as flawless an entity as you’re going to find on network TV. Collectively, they are a humming engine of jokes, laughs, and timing, all of it in service of actual characters instead of just character types. Particular props to Jake Johnson, who is a shambling slacker comedy ninja, and to Lamorne Morris, who has, over a couple of seasons, turned his character (Winston Bishop) into one of the strangest, sweetest comic creations of 2014.
Buying Alaska – I cannot get enough of this fucking show, mainly because it is like watching people trying to buy real estate on Mars. This show has taught me many things… how people who live in Alaska do NOT care about what they look like on TV, that there are electric toilets that burn up your poop for sanitary and gross reasons, and that Alaskans are INSANE… but mainly, it has reinforced in my mind the fact that I never, ever want to live in Alaska. I like everything not being awful way too much.
American Horror Story: Freak Show – The whole American Horror Story franchise is, by and large, kind of a mixed bag. There is some AMAZING stuff in there, like Kathy Bates’ Emmy-winning turn in AHS: Coven, the big twist about 2/3rds into AHS: Murder House, and the cathartic thrill of watching Adam Levine get murdered in AHS: Asylum. However, with the good, there’s also some massive whiffs… the last two or three episodes of AHS: Coven, where everything just fizzled out into nothingness, being the most notable example. This year’s installment, AHS: Freak Show, while not perfect, has mostly been American Horror Story at it’s best… legitimately scary, darkly funny, and unafraid to swing wildly for the fences (modern songs sung by characters in the 1950’s… WHY THE FUCK NOT). Plus, it features not one but TWO of the most frightening villains ever to grace the small screen; John Carroll Lynch’s psychotic yet misunderstood Twisty the Clown, and Finn Witrock’s just plain psychotic Dandy Mott.
Billy on the Street – Billy Eichner is my screaming, gay spirit animal. If you haven’t basted yourself in the glory of his Taylor Swift-inspired music video, “Glitter & Ribs,” do so now. You will come back forever changed.
Late Night with Seth Meyers – Jimmy Fallon is a little too enthusiastically giggly, Conan O’Brien has flashes of brilliance but always seems like he’s trying too hard, Letterman checked out years ago (though he will always be my One True Talk Show Host), and Kimmel is… you know… fine. Where it’s at for me, talk show-wise, is Seth Meyers and his comedy nerd heart. Now that the nerves have settled and he’s worked himself into a nice groove, Meyer’s show is my go-to spot for breezy interviews and funny bits.
Bob’s Burgers – There will never be another Simpsons, but… if you put a gun to my head and demand that I choose a show to be its successor… then it has to be Bob’s Burgers. There’s really no other choice. Warm, yet biting. Hysterical, but with an honest emotional core. It presents a broadly funny family who genuinely care about each other, and, more importantly, LIKE each other. It’s that pervasive, familial, “we’re all in this together” spirit that sets Bob’s Burgers apart from every other animated show on TV, including the current incarnation of the big daddy itself, the aforementioned Simpsons. Boasting a murderer’s row of voice talents… everyone from H. Jon Benjamin to Kristin Schall to Bill Hader to even Jon Freakin’ Hamm… doesn’t hurt things, either.
Broad City – The funniest show on TV. Hands down. In lieu of trying to explain to you why that is… because trying to explain why something is funny is pointless and painful for everyone involved… I present you with this clip that was recently released by Broad City for the Holidays and, indirectly, as a teaser for their new season. Either you’ll pick up what they’re putting down, or you won’t. (P.S. we saw Broad City live last month and it was better than anything has ever been ever… just FYI)
Fargo – I certainly didn’t see this one coming, and I don’t think anyone else did either. A “spiritual successor” to the Coen Brothers’ movie of the same name, but not related to the movie (at least not totally). And also it’s a mini-series. Featuring Billy Bob Thornton for some reason. There is no reason that this should have worked. And yet… here we are. Fargo was one of the best things on TV this year, precisely because, in the face of all logic, creator Noah Hawley found a way to make all of these disparate parts cohere into a showcase for his own crackerjack storytelling, but also for a whole slew of award-worthy performances. Thornton, newcomer Allison Tolman, and Martin Freeman (marvelously playing against type) are all just fucking fantastic. Plus, it’s violent as all hell, which is always fun.
Transparent – Transparent is a show that stars Jeffery Tambor as the patriarch of a dysfunctional family who, late in life, decides to come out as a transgender woman. Also, it’s only available to people with Amazon Prime, via their streaming service. Those two sentences are the sum total of the information that I had about Transparent before I started watching it. And, I should point out, I only started watching it because my wife wanted me to. I doubt I would have otherwise. What I discovered was, in a word, art. Transparent is a thing of true beauty… an intensely personal work that will feel somehow totally familiar to everyone, despite its highly specific narrative. Achieving that sort of universality in a freshman show is a feat in and of itself; doing so with seemingly little effort, and with a light touch and a wicked sense of humor, to boot, make Transparent an easy lay-up for the best thing I watched on TV in 2014.
BONUS LIST: Top Three TV Things of 2014 I Haven’t Watched
Game of Thrones – I have no plans to actually ever watch this… mostly because I tend to dislike anything that falls into the “wizards and shit” category of genre storytelling… but I gather that people are pretty enthusiastic about it. Good for them.
Orange is the New Black – My wife watched it, but I wasn’t involved. I just kind of can’t get myself to the point where I’m like, “Okay, let’s do this.” Which is no reflection on the show itself. It’s me, not you, OitNB.
True Detective – I’m going to watch True Detective, I swear! GET OFF MY ASS ABOUT IT, EVERYBODY!!!