The 2014 Television Retrospective

Well, it’s now 2015. New year, new start, some new titles, some old, and a look back at some of the things that didn’t last.

I didn’t really get to start reviewing TV for Moar Powah until the latter end of last year. As a result of that, I missed quite a lot. This is sort of my way to cover for that.

This, in turn, includes the following provisos:

  • There are gaps in here. I will confess, I’ve yet to see True Detective, nor have I finished Breaking Bad or The Legend of Korra (to pick three shows the internet made quite a buzz over this past year.) They’re still on my list, but I’m only human.
  • If I’ve already discussed it elsewhere on the site, there’s no sense bringing it up here. Feel free to read the past writeups on The Strain, Gotham, and The Flash. I’ve got more coming later.
  • Given the number of things I’m going to be going over, these are largely going to be kind of brief. There are a couple I’m going to go into, but even then I’ll try to keep that short. This IS just an overview after all.

So, if you see anything on here I missed that you feel could merit some coverage, by all means leave a note and I’ll add it to the queue.

That said, let’s begin.

First, the new business:

"Umm...shit. Guys, this isn't a trick. I could use some help here."

“Umm…shit. Guys, this isn’t a trick. I could use some help here.”

I said it before, I’ll say it again. I am still going to give Constantine a full write up when the season ends. Even with the fact that its future is standing on the knife’s edge right now, I still at least plan to give it its fair due. Of the few episodes I’ve seen so far, it’s definitely a bit rough, but it’s a new series that’s trying to make a comic like Hellblazer work on a network like NBC. I’d be amazed if there weren’t some rough patches.

"You're startin' to piss me off, ya little Hobbit son of a bitch...call me!"

“You’re startin’ to piss me off, ya little Hobbit son of a bitch…call me!”

Of what I’ve seen this year (again, see the earlier caveat so people don’t question how I missed that), if I was pressed to pick a favorite show of the newcomers last year, I would not have considered FX’s update/expansion on Fargo to be a contender. Damned if they didn’t prove me wrong though. Rather than simply just emulating the original story, they’ve crafted a concept that feels similar in theme, but takes things in its own direction. Some great casting and a good distilling of the dark humor that pervaded the source film just further add to why I’m quite curious to see where they take the next season.

The fact the show also contains scenes of a child being slapped and threatened is what I like to call a bonus.

The fact the show also contains scenes of a child being slapped and threatened is what I like to call a bonus.

Another pleasant surprise to come out of this year is Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley. When initially promoted, I was lukewarm on it. Then I got to watching and it sucked me in pretty quickly. I have to hand it to Judge as a showrunner, this further proves the man has range in what he can do with a series. The blend of intelligent characters and crude humor- probably best embodied in an equation discussion from the season finale that has to be seen to be believed (three words ‘base to tip’) – works surprisingly well and gets the show up to running speed in short order.

This is in the very first scene, where Rick decides to blow up the planet because he's drunk. So we start as we mean to go on.

Grandfather of the year. All years, all timelines.

Okay, I realize it’s a technicality since the series started in 2013, but given the bulk of its run was this year, I’d say Rick and Morty falls under this rubric. Especially given 2014 was where the show found its twisted, alcoholic voice and really took off.

It was already promising before, but between the utterly disturbed Meeseeks and Destroy, the astonishingly bleak ending to Rick Potion #9, and just about the entire mix of randomness and heart that was Rixty Minutes, the show developed a strange but distinct identity for itself. It’s still got a lot of screwball to it, but it also manages to maintain a human edge that the absurdity actually heightens in a weird way. Roiland and Harmon are two twisted bastards, but they’re not without a warped brand of empathy that really sells this show.

Space Dandy - Dandy chokes Meow

Pictured – a representation of those who expected Dandy to be another Spike Spiegel

It’s been a while since the last time American TV attempted a simulcast of a Japanese anime. The fact some of you are now trying to remember when the first was, sadly, indicates how well that one worked. In a pretty ambitious gamble, Toonami got in on the game with a simulcast of Shinichiro Watanabe’s newest series, Space Dandy. The resulting show played like Watanabe decided to completely screw with everyone who was expecting another Cowboy Bebop…and I loved it for that.

The overall series was like the mutant lovechild of Spaceman Spiff and Heavy Metal, mixing its increasingly ridiculous premises, some great animation, and a plot that, for all its apparent disregard for continuity, paid off in a pretty damn entertaining finale. I realize the show wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ll admit – it won me over.

Returning favorites:

"Fan rage...delicious."

“Fan rage…delicious.”

I won’t say too much for Hannibal just now. This is for two reasons: 1) Yes, this series will be getting covered here. To that end, I’ll be getting my thoughts out there in an overall s1/s2 look back before the season begins. 2) if I start talking about that finale, we could be here a while and this is already going longer than I intended.

It doesn't look it here, but trust me, this sketch skews into dark territory pretty quickly.

It doesn’t look it here, but trust me, this sketch skews into dark territory pretty quickly.

So, this was the year I finally discovered Key & Peele. That thud you hear is me kicking my own ass for not doing so sooner. But oh God, was this a good season to get on board with. Going into this one, they warned some of the humor would skew darker (which is always a plus for me) and they have NOT disappointed. Beyond their Halloween episode, this season has introduced some of their best sketches in a while (for two of the more prominent examples, check their YouTube channel for the Family Matters sketch and the Aerobics Meltdown). In fact, seriously, just look up their sketches. It will sell the show better than I can here.

The series needs to end with Pam and Cheryl getting married and living out the most disturbing relationship ever.

Nothing gives a character arc development quite like hulking out on cocaine.

Sometimes, a show begins to worry that its longevity means it’s becoming repetitive. Sometimes a show introduces new tweaks to revitalize its setting. Sometimes a showrunner decides ‘Screw it’ and completely blows up the whole premise. In Archer‘s case, showrunner Adam Reed took that last one literally. With their office blown up and most of their gear confiscated, the staff of ISIS (soon to be renamed for obvious reasons) found themselves left with only a large block of cocaine – and a new mission to sell it.

This was kind of a polarizing season for some people – the change of setting and some of the character shifts really threw people. I can sympathize with that, but honestly, I also have to give Reed some extra points for taking that risk. Even moreso when he figured out a way to reset the whole thing for the next season.

"Look, my other show got canned. Like it or not, you'll be seeing a lot more of me, so just lay down some newspaper now, cause there's gonna be blood."

“Look, my other show got canned. Like it or not, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me, so just lay down some newspaper now, cause there’s gonna be blood.”

The Americans. This…this got dark. I mean, the show was already dark to begin with, but nothing quite says ‘these are the stakes’ like starting the season with a whole family being murdered. This set the tone for much of the season. While first season largely kept the danger limited to Philip and Elizabeth, this season reminded them that their children could also be in the crosshairs, which also meant the kids were involved in more of the plots. Add to that the somewhat ominous note the season has ended on and this next season is already shaping up to go some dark places.

"SEID IHR DAS ESSEN? NEIN, WIR SIND DIE JÄGER!"

“SEID IHR DAS ESSEN?
NEIN, WIR SIND DIE JÄGER!”

This is the part I’ve been dreading: trying to work out how to sum up Game of Thrones in a small blurb. Really about the best I can say for this last season to keep it brief: this was a good encapsulation of the show’s strengths and weaknesses in full form. When the season was good (Oberyn vs Gregor, Tyrion’s trial, The Watchers on the Wall) it was some of the best the show had been in a while. When the season was bad (the infamous Jaime-Cersei scene rewrite, the absolute writeoff of Yara/Asha) it was really frustrating, even without the ‘this isn’t like the books’ this season had some issues. At the same time, it did enough right for me to look forward to season 5.

“Event” moments of the year:

and on top of all of that...Stephen Colbert killed Death.

and on top of all of that…Stephen Colbert killed Death.

It’s weird realizing it’s been less than a month since The Colbert Report went off the air. While I wish Colbert the best of luck with his new job, it was an odd feeling seeing him hang up the persona he’s crafted over the last several years. At the same time, his farewell was a good balance of his signature straight-faced ridiculousness and some of the genuine Colbert underneath. In particular his farewell and thank you to the audience was definitely coming from the real Colbert, and that right there was enough to make the finale. Though damned if the song number and the appearances by Santa and Lincoln weren’t fun.

"THIS MEANS SOMETHING!"

“THIS MEANS SOMETHING!”

So, this last month, after seven years, Kurt Sutter put Sons of Anarchy out to pasture. In hindsight, this is one of those shows I’ll probably file in a similar spot to The X-Files: by all means, watch the first few seasons…after a point, however, there’s no shame in jumping ship. As much as I enjoyed the first four/ five seasons of this series, it really imploded on itself in the sixth as it subjected its cast to all manner of manufactured miseries, before culminating in this final season with one of the most accidentally hilarious finales, all while trying to be profound.

I feel like a bit of a dick for ripping on it, but really, this show just went off the rails hard in those last two seasons. By this point, it was bordering on a mercy killing.

...screw it. Captions are powerless on this one.

…screw it. Captions are powerless on this one.

Too Many Cooks.

Just…Too Many Cooks.

Seriously, if you haven’t watched this, do so. It’s only 11 minutes and really, it needs to be seen for itself. Words can’t do it justice.

Go.

Go.

I’ll wait.

…okay, I’m gonna stop there. That covered a lot of ground.

Farewell 2014 season. Here’s to 2015. Gotham comes back this week, as does Archer and the debut of Agent Carter, so I’ll be fairly busy on those.

Too Many Cooks Smarf

Till then.

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This is what happens when a man takes a degree in English and the excessive analytic skills therein and chooses to use them for... ...is this evil? I'm not sure. But there are monsters and potentially robots, so there's potential for evil. ...we'll get back to you on that.

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This is what happens when a man takes a degree in English and the excessive analytic skills therein and chooses to use them for... ...is this evil? I'm not sure. But there are monsters and potentially robots, so there's potential for evil. ...we'll get back to you on that.

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