Thursday, December 18, 2014

Year End 2014: My favourite TV episodes of the year

Do not adjust your picture, this is indeed a new entry over here on the ol' Blogspot! I continue a grand holiday tradition here at the blog (shut up, three years can be long enough for tradition) by kicking off  my year end series for 2014 with a list of my favourite episodes of television from this calendar year.

The list is extensive but still probably by no means definitive (I definitely slacked on keeping good tabs on it in the fall), but is still a reflection of some of the small's screen specific highlights over the last twelve months.

The full list after the break!

Favourite TV episodes of 2014

“Introduction to Teaching” – January 2, 2014
Community – NBC

And order was restored to the universe with just four simple words: “Executive Producer, Dan Harmon”.

“Promises” – January 2, 2014
Parenthood – NBC

In which Hank comes to the shocking realization he may have been living his entire life with undiagnosed Asperger’s. The heartbreaking performance from Ray Romano was tragically overlooked.

“The Big 5-0” – January 7, 2014
Trophy Wife – ABC

A hilarious and brilliantly written escalation of madness befalls Pete on his 50th birthday. One of many episodes that make me miss this show so much.

“Truth or Dare” – January 12, 2014
Girls – HBO

Adam, Hannah, and Shoshanna embark on a bizarre if strangely nostalgic road trip to pick up Jessa from rehab. As funny and cringe worthy as “Girls” gets.

“The Punisher” – January 14, 2014
Trophy Wife – ABC

In a different TV universe, this episode would have won Malin Akerman an Emmy for showing off Kate’s mature, parental and legitimately disciplinarian side. But hey, let’s give one of TV’s worst shows a fifth fucking gold trophy.

“Cooperative Polygraphy” – January 16, 2014
Community – NBC

The study group confronts Pierce’s death and examines their dynamics in one of the year’s best episodes of anything.

“House and Home” – January 20, 2014
The Fosters – ABC Family

In which we are introduced to Callie’s new home at Girls United, one of the best parts of the series to date. Callie’s home now, but luckily Daphne and company are still in her life.

“Birthday” – January 21, 2014
New Girl – FOX

It’s sad that New Girl has become a show where I can now put an episode of it on this list simply for being funny, but here we are. Nick’s efforts to throw Jess the surprise party of her life were a welcome reminder of what this show is capable of after a bumpy fall of 2013.

“The Carpool” – January 22, 2014
The Middle – ABC

“The Middle” offers another reminder that it can be such a nice, sentimental show without beating you over the head about it.

“Pete’s Airstream” – January 24, 2014
Enlisted – FOX

Television has never hit on the subject of PTSD quite so effectively, and especially not in what is otherwise a goofy comedy about life on a military base.

“How Your Mother Met Me” – January 27, 2014
How I Met Your Mother – CBS

I didn’t want to punch this show and everyone on it in the face when I was watching it. So there’s that. (But seriously, Cristin Milioti singing “La Vie en Rose” was pretty spectacular.)

“Muscles Mirsky” – February 4, 2014
The Goldbergs – ABC

This wasn’t really any more spectacular a “Goldbergs” episode than what they do at their best, until a final montage set to the relatively obscure (for this show, at least) “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister proved Adam F. Goldberg actually has a sense of irony and/or subtlety.

“Exes” – February 4, 2014
New Girl – FOX

Schmidt, Coach, and Winston generate some interesting ways to woo ladies, as “New Girl” once again produces an actually funny episode.

“The Party” – February 4, 2014
Brooklyn Nine Nine – FOX

In which we are taken into the home life of Captain Holt and his husband, and we learn that Holt truly is “the funny one” in the relationship. Great work as usual from Andre Braugher – boy, February 4 sure was a good night for laughter!

“Ready, Set, Robot Dodgeball” – February 13, 2014
King of the Nerds – TBS

The nerds build their own dodgeball playing robots, and Zack’s meltdowns reach DEFCON 1. Is it January 23 yet?

“Iron City” – February 16, 2014
Shameless – Showtime

Probably the best episode of the series to date and the peak of the careers for so many of the actors featured in it. Is it January 11 yet?

“Looking For The Future” – February 16, 2014
Looking – HBO

I said it in my Emmy ballot writeup – more TV episodes need to just be two people having a conversation, exposing all their vulnerabilities. What a phenomenal work of art.

“Incidentals” – February 23, 2014
Girls – HBO

Hannah lands a big interview with Patti LuPone, who makes her think twice about Adam’s acting dreams. A very strong showcase for the reliably good Lena Dunham and Adam Driver.

“Comrades” – February 26, 2014
The Americans – FX

“The Americans” begins its tremendous second season with a heart stopping and horrific reality check for Phillip and Elizabeth.

“Stolen Phone” – February 26, 2014
Broad City – Comedy Central

In which Ilana dates an improv comic who is ridiculously hot and unbelievably stupid and unfunny. This fucking show.

“Kaiseiki” – February 28, 2014
Hannibal – NBC

Rotting in his prison cell, Will discovers the shocking truth that Dr. Lecter’s Soylent Green is PEOPLE!

“Flo” – March 2, 2014
Girls – HBO

Delving into the women of Hannah’s family is unquestionably one of the best decisions Lena Dunham and “Girls” has ever made.

“The Frond Files” – March 9, 2014
Bob’s Burgers – FOX

A sort of “Treehouse of Horror” or “Trilogy of Error” type episode is really only fitting for the spiritual successor to “The Simpsons”

“The Walk-In” – March 12, 2014
The Americans – FX

Another strong “Americans” episode that focuses on Elizabeth Jennings’ conflict between mission and motherhood – featuring the gorgeous final montage set to “Here Comes The Flood” where she burns Emmett and Leanne’s letter to Jared. This show sure knows how to use a Peter Gabriel song.

“Apartment Hunters” – March 19, 2014
Broad City – Comedy Central

My God, that “Started From The Bottom” cold open is still a regular watch for me on YouTube many months later. “I also have some business with the bank...I’d like to cash these nickels, and I’ll take them in quarters please, thank you so much.”

“Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes” – March 20, 2014
Review with Forrest Macneil – Comedy Central

This is just THE television episode of the year. The moment in which what appears at first glance to be just a silly parody of reality shows becomes an incredibly sad and dark intrusion into the decay of a man who could be any of our neighbours. Bravo, Andy Daly. Bra-vo.

“Takiawase” – March 21, 2014
Hannibal – NBC

Until an episode from later on this list, no moment on TV this year had me more on the edge of my seat than when Hannibal Lecter cornered Beverly in his basement and gunshots burst through the dining room floor above them. Ho-ly shit.

“Charges and Specs” – March 25, 2014
Brooklyn Nine Nine – FOX

The best work of the season for Andy Samberg as Peralta is sent undercover in the first season finale.

“The Last Call” – March 30, 2014
The Good Wife – CBS

Fuck the haters. I know there are people who didn’t enjoy 42 minutes of Julianna Margulies’ lip quivering (and by extension that it won her this year’s Emmy) but I thought she was fantastic here. This episode also has the scene where Diane fires the random intern crying about Will’s death, which was pretty badass even if self-indulgent on the part of the show.

“Having a Best Friend, Going to Space” – April 3, 2014
Review with Forrest Macneil – Comedy Central

In terms of horrifying but side-splitting dark humour, there was no way “Review” should have been able to top the existential crisis that was Forrest Macneil having to eat 30 pancakes in one sitting. And then he killed his father-in-law on a trip to space. I love this show so, so much.

“I’m So Bad” – April 8, 2014
Inside Amy Schumer – Comedy Central

Ripping off my Emmy ballot post again, an episode that perfectly encapsulates what “Inside Amy Schumer” is – a powerfully dark satire of 21st century femininity as seen by both male and female gaze.

“The Pontiac” – April 17, 2014
Parenthood – NBC

A fantastic finale that nicely balances the good and bad feels of “Parenthood”. Jason Katims apparently knew the way to my heart is through Richie Havens, and his cover of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” scores a beautiful montage that closes a largely uneven season.

“The Price of Free and Fair Elections” – April 17, 2014
Scandal – ABC

This is the show I kept waiting for “Scandal” to become again after the season premiere. The show only works when the “OMG” moments actually matter, and the third season finale finally remembers that.

“A Day’s Work” – April 20, 2014
Mad Men – AMC

It’s hard to say anything here other than “classic Mad Men,” which is still about as good as TV gets. Seven to go...

“Martial Eagle” – April 23, 2014
The Americans – FX

In a just world, this would have been the submission that clinched the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy for Matthew Rhys. Phillip ripping the pages out of the bible and screaming at his daughter about how she respects Jesus but not her parents was so, so terrific.

“Governed As It Were By Chance” – May 10, 2014
Orphan Black – Space

I wasn’t as in love with the second season of “Orphan Black” as the first, but damn, when Helena corners Sarah in the hotel room...more television needs to be legitimately terrifying.

“So Did The Fat Lady” – May 12, 2014
Louie – FX

It is a travesty of epic proportions that Sarah Baker didn’t even get nominated for an Emmy for her performance here.

“The Strategy” – May 18, 2014
Mad Men – AMC

God, that last shot of Don, Peggy, and Pete eating together at Burgerchef like a weird little family. I’m going to miss this show so, so much.

“Waterloo” – May 25, 2014
Mad Men – AMC

“Mad Men” remains the only show on TV that could so something as bizarre and wonderful as Bert Cooper’s parting dance. Bravo, indeed.

“Optimal Tip-to-Tip Efficiency” – June 1, 2014
Silicon Valley – HBO

I was not really on board with “Silicon Valley” for its first seven episodes. Its season finale slapped me in the face with its brilliantly childish but elaborately considered metaphor of a climax.

“Crate” – June 8, 2014
Veep – HBO

The scene where Selina and Gary just break down cackling in the bathroom when they find out she’s going to become president is a hallmark moment for the careers of both Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale. Just fantastic.

“Souvenir Shop/E.L.A.I.F.F.” – July 8, 2014
Nathan For You – Comedy Central

Don’t ever say Nathan Fielder doesn’t commit to his premises. “Souvenir Shop/E.L.A.I.F.F.” is the greatest comedic build on TV for the year, even more so than “Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes”.

“Two Boats and a Helicopter” – July 13, 2014
The Leftovers – HBO

Kicking off “The Leftovers’” Trilogy of Sad Character Studies with Father Matt’s valiant and risky attempts to save his church. The roulette wheel scene might have been my most “edge of my seat” TV moment of the year.

“Act As If” – July 17, 2014
Rectify – SundanceTV

A trippy dream-like night for Daniel Holden as he shoots at pigeons and stuff – it’s just another week in which “Rectify” sneakily and quietly punches you in the gut.

“Dumb Starbucks” – July 29, 2014
Nathan For You – Comedy Central

I actually didn’t love how much this episode really only came together in post-production, but it’s hard to leave a legitimately big pop culture moment for the year off this list when it’s something as funny as this.

“Keys Open Doors” – July 31, 2014
You’re the Worst – FX

Gretchen realizes she’s accidentally asked Jimmy for a key to his place and the two worst people in the world begin to wonder if they actually have feelings for each other.

“Guest” – August 3, 2014
The Leftovers – HBO

The trilogy continues as Carrie Coon emerges as one of the year’s brightest new stars on the small screen.

“Girls Reunited” – August 4, 2014
The Fosters – ABC Family

The return of Daphne and co., hooray!

“The Garveys At Their Best” – August 24, 2014
The Leftovers – HBO

Flashing back to the day before the Sudden Departure reflects the quiet beauty of the ordinary in Mapleton and leads “The Leftovers” to its best episode of the season.

“Constant Horror and Bone Deep Dissatisfaction” – September 11, 2014
You’re the Worst – FX

Flashbacks show how Gretchen and Jimmy first meet, and by extension, how they became the sad and miserable people they never wanted to become. Beautiful stuff all around here.

“Episode 18 – Cuba Embargo, Miss America” – September 21, 2014
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – HBO

A transcendent moment for “Last Week Tonight” in which the show proves it’s not just a reliable place for comedy and necessary cultural conversation, but a powerful watchdog in a country that desperately needs one of those as well.

“Scroggin” – September 23, 2014
Please Like Me – ABC2/Pivot

Josh and Rose go camping in the mountains and the two-person bottle episode (if the Tasmanian wilderness can be a bottle) sucker in me fangirls all over the place. Also, Debra Lawrence singing the show’s theme song was so great.

“Pilot” – September 25, 2014
How To Get Away With Murder – ABC

It has not yielded a great series, but the “HTGAWM” pilot seemed to be setting up some intriguing storylines and interesting character dynamics that had the potential to pay off.

“Bill Hader/Hozier” – October 11, 2014
Saturday Night Live – NBC

Maybe for 39 cents a day we can support SNL writers to generate episodes like this on a weekly basis.

“Oppo Research” – October 12, 2014
The Good Wife – CBS

The beginning of Alicia’s campaign for state’s attorney has Eli and the team digging through her dirty laundry, producing the funniest episode of the show’s fall run.

“Family Takes Care of Beverly” – October 29, 2014
The Goldbergs – ABC

Wendi McClendon-Covey is seriously giving the most underrated performance on television. Somehow she’s making it seem as if she’s invented every hovering mother trope in the book because her energy is just so electrically infectious.

“Cock Magic” – November 19, 2014
South Park – Comedy Central

“South Park” would be wise to remember more often that straying from topical satire often yields the best episode of their season.

“The Trial” – November 23, 2014
The Good Wife – CBS

Cary’s fate is revealed (kinda) and Lemond Bishop becomes a legitimate supervillain in a good kind of bonkers episode.

“The College Tour” – December 3, 2014
The Middle – ABC

How many ways are there to say that the quiet beauty of “The Middle” is its ability to be heartfelt and touching without feeling treacly and prying emotions out of you?

Up next: My second ten best shows for another strong year in television.