×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The 10 Best TV Dramas of 2014

Blame “True Detective,” in part, which helped kick off 2014 in rousing fashion, but the blurred line between “limited series” and just plain old series has complicated the definition of a “drama.” But for the purposes of a year-end list, the two can coexist, encompassing any program presented on an episodic basis, even if the story offered closure.

By that measure, both “True Detective” and “Fargo” — the latter categorized as a miniseries for Emmy balloting — as well as Starz’s “The Missing” can join an array of dramas that, frankly, could easily fill a “top 20” list. But who on Earth has time to click through that?

Obviously, reducing the current age of drama to an arbitrary tally is going to overlook several heavy hitters, and the roster underwent considerable tinkering right down till the end. Series like “The Walking Dead,” “Mad Men” and “Downton Abbey” – -which all would have qualified in the past –- didn’t, not because they weren’t terrific, but because the latest seasons fell short of their own high standards. Others, like Showtime’s much-improved “Homeland,” Netflix’s “Happy Valley” or FX’s consistently fun “The Strain,” accomplished what they set out to do, but a top 10 has to stop somewhere.

There’s always some risk, moreover, with including new programs prematurely, at the expense of veteran series that deserve credit for combining quality with longevity. Nevertheless, there’s something to be said for new blood, too.

So to borrow George Carlin’s joke about how the AM radio dial inexplicably ends at 540, let’s leave to the imagination all the splendid shows occupying the Nos. 11-20 slots, realizing that a list of favorite series –- like one of favorite songs –- is a snapshot of a moment, not a rigid document carved in stone. (Series presented in alphabetical order.)

The Affair: Twisty, sexy, raw and beautifully acted, this new Showtime drama deftly mixed a whodunit with a how-they-saw-it, adding a “Rashomon”-like element to the relationship between characters played by Ruth Wilson and Dominic West (pictured above).

Boardwalk Empire: Endings are important, and HBO’s mob drama took the ambitious step of building its entire final season around a flashback arc leading up to its grim, poignant and, once it was all over, seemingly inevitable conclusion.

Fargo: As it turns out, “Fargo” really was a state of mind, and the producers of this FX project — built around a chance encounter between a harried insurance salesman and a hit man, played by Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton, respectively — managed to replicate its quirkiness and tone in a way that nevertheless felt fresh and original.

Game of Thrones: Still graced with a grandeur and scope like nothing else on television, the fourth season continued to produce shocks — including a reminder not to attend weddings in Westeros — interspersed with a dizzying assortment of characters and terrific performances.

The Good Wife: The only major network program to crack the top 10, CBS’ drama took what could have been a stunt — the death of a major character, triggered by an actor’s desire to move on — and turned it into a moment that powered through the fifth season and into the sixth.

Jane the Virgin: CW’s telenovela-inspired soap hasn’t been on the air very long, but the series deserves acclaim not just for its pilot but maintaining that balance and quality — not easy to do, especially in this genre — through its initial flurry of episodes, all while introducing a largely unknown cast and breakout star in Gina Rodriguez.

Masters of Sex: Showtime’s period drama has built a classy soap around the fascinating coupling of sex researchers Masters and Johnson, beautifully played by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan. Season two continued to slowly peel back layers of Masters’ character, while exploring their unorthodox romance — and its collateral damage.

The Missing: Abducted, missing or dead children are among drama’s more manipulative staples, but this Starz series — featuring an achingly tortured performance by James Nesbitt (pictured above, right) as the grieving, anger-filled dad pining for his son — erected an utterly absorbing mystery around what happened, while jumping between the moment the disappearance took place, and its consequences eight years later.

Rectify: The second season of SundanceTV’s signature hour again showcased a one-for-the-ages part by Aden Young as a man who spent nearly two decades on death row before securing his release, and the repercussions of having him released back into society. Slow to the point of hypnotic, the tone almost obscures how meticulously series creator Ray McKinnon advanced the story.

True Detective: Murders crossed a 17-year span in this HBO series, which took TV’s most familiar genre, the cop show, and breathed new life into it. For all the talk about landing movie talent Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson at an opportune time, movie stars are hardly slumming when presented this kind of material.

More TV

  • Crazy Rich Asians

    Singapore Sees Rise in Co-productions, Competes for Foreign Projects

    As Singapore’s stature continues to grow in the entertainment world, and with international producers forever on the lookout for exotic but affordable locations, the Asian country is once again in global sights as a major production hub. Singapore’s distinctive topography of cityscapes and countryside, coupled with its unique cultural blend of East and West, has [...]

  • Charlie Corwin and John Penotti SK

    S.K. Global Makes Mipcom Debut With 'Crazy Rich Asians' Under Its Belt

    “To me, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, maybe we should wake up one morning and try something different. How about we try television?’” John Penotti, producer-financier and co-founder of GreeneStreet, one of New York City’s more long-lived independent film companies — it was acquired in 2013 after 16 years — is explaining just how he ended [...]

  • singapore Skyline

    Netflix, HBO, Other Global Content Creators Set Up Asian Bases in Media-Friendly Singapore

    Netflix runs its Asian operations from the swanky Marina One mixed-use development in Singapore, an architectural masterpiece that fits in with the streaming giant’s dedication to Instagrammable real estate. Netflix’s presence in Singapore follows other major media names over the years, including HBO Asia, Vice Media and HOOQ, all of whom have Asian headquarters in [...]

  • Sidney Kimmel film financier

    Television — Sidney Kimmel's Next Act Bows at Mipcom

    During the course of his 91 years, Sidney Kimmel has accomplished a lot. That includes making a few videos for web series “Old Jews Telling Jokes.” “John’s fault,” he says. “He dragged me over there and said, ‘You’ll get a free drink and a dinner out of it.’” John is independent movie producer-financier John Penotti, [...]

  • The Outpost -- "One is the

    Electric Entertainment Launching OTT Channel Electric Now (EXCLUSIVE)

    U.S.-based producer and distributor Electric Entertainment is launching Electric Now, a linear OTT channel that will feature its top series and library content. The channel will have episodes of “The Outpost,” the fantasy-adventure series that has just had its third season greenlit by U.S. network The CW. The new season will head into production in [...]

  • American dollars bills and coinsAmerican cash,

    Entertainment Biz Comes Under Fire for Assistants' Low Wages, Working Conditions

    It’s no secret that many assistants in Hollywood bear heavy workloads for low pay. But the entertainment industry’s labor practices when it comes to those workers have now become the subject of intense social-media scrutiny. TV writer and WGA board member Liz Alper shone a light on the issue Monday with the creation of the [...]

  • Megyn Kelly

    Tucker Carlson Plans Megyn Kelly Interview on Fox News Channel

    Megyn Kelly is returning to Fox News Channel – briefly. Tucker Carlson has scheduled an interview Wednesday with the former Fox News and NBC News anchor, who will make her first appearance on her former employer’s programming since leaving in early 2017. The “Tucker Carlson Tonight” segment would also mark Kelly’s first appearance on a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content