1. Fargo (FX)
This season of Fargo was literally as good as TV can get for me, and nearly everything I watch in the future will be measured against this one particular season. The show had its flaws, but they were minimal, and every second spent with the show was worth it. I've seen every episode probably at least 4 times, and think you should see it even more than that. If you didn't watch it, why not? If you want to watch it, what are you waiting for? My last note is that it is absolutely criminal that Martin Freeman didn't win the EMMY for Lead Actor in a Miniseries or whatever the category is called. It's rare to see two absolutely stunning performances in one TV season, and I'll get to the other a little later in this list.
2. Hannibal (NBC)
The goriest show in network TV history takes the number 2 slot with an incredible second season. This show has constantly been on the chopping block for NBC, but it managed to get renewed for a third season. Because of that, I think we'll get to see every season Bryan Fuller originally intended to make. Stranger things have happened, but we should get 4 more seasons of this show. I'm not into the gore, but the artistry, storytelling, and acting make it well worth your while. The stupid EMMYs might feel comfortable with ignoring it, but I'm not. Keep up the good work Fuller and team.
3. The Missing (BBC/Starz)
Coming as the biggest surprise on this list was the BBC/Starz show, The Missing. Even with an ending that might polarize you, it's well worth the ride. The surprise portion of the program is that it's ahead of True Detective in my list. While True Detective was an incredible ride, it had plenty of flaws that The Missing didn't, and that's why The Missing is ending up above True Detective for me.
4. True Detective (HBO)
When this show was airing, I thought there was no way it would end up below number 1 on my list for 2014. Little did I realize how great this year would be for TV. Viewed through the lens of character study, the show completely worked. Viewed through the lens of a "case", it might leave you feeling a little flat. Matthew McConaughey's performance was one of the best I can ever remember seeing on TV, and Woody Harrelson's work really elevated as the series went along. It had a few problems, but none of them warrant it falling any lower than this on my list.
5. Veep (HBO)
By a wide margin, this is my favorite comedy. It has great performances top to bottom, and is the most consistently funny show I watch. Only one other comedy will end up in my top 15, and it's the one that makes me laugh the most. I love this show, and if you're not watching it, you're missing out...almost as much as how much The Academy is missing out on Hannibal.
6. Person of Interest (CBS)
This show being at number 6 should be a very good indication of how great 2014 was for TV. Person of Interest didn't get any worse than previous seasons, it just got passed. I think you should be watching it, but if you haven't started by now then maybe it's best you never do. If you start watching it now, you'll have to wonder why you didn't watch it before. If you don't want to live a life filled with regret, either start watching it now, or don't watch it at all.
7. Justified (FX)
This season had a few problems, but I really enjoyed it overall. I was very surprised to find that some people didn't like it. Maybe their meds need adjustment...or I need to start taking meds. I guess we'll never know which. We're coming up on the final season of what I think is truly one of the top 15 or so shows in TV history (and I actually have awareness of TV existing before 1990). If you haven't watched this show yet, you're doing yourself a grave disservice.
8. House of Cards (Netflix)
This is another show that gets way more hate than it deserves. I get that people want this to be some kind of realistic political drama, but I LOLHARD@U if that's what you think the show is trying to do. This show is easily the most elite hyperdrama I have ever seen. It has so much stuff happening in it that is patently unbelievable, but it presents it in such a way that it almost seems like it's possible. If you want any indication of how believable the show is intended to be taken, watch the first scene of season 1. If you walk away from that scene thinking this is going to be a realistic drama, you're doing it wrong. This is the type of show Scandal aspires to be. This show was as entertaining as TV gets, even if it's patently ridiculous. It also features some of the best acting you're going to see in this list, and definitely has one of my favorite directing/shooting styles currently on TV. Kevin Spacey is awesome in this part, even if you disagree. I think he'd be better at it without an accent, but what fun would that be?
9. Rectify (Sundance)
Rectify is a super unique show, told in a way no one else dares on TV. With a long leash to evidently tell its story how it wants, if you have patience, this show is for you. It features universally excellent performances, and is generally written at a very high level. While I'm not remembering season 1 as well as I'd like, I have a feeling budget cuts might have had some kind of impact on season 2. Even with any budget cuts the show might have faced, it still gets there. One scene in the second season almost made the show jump a few spots, but the scene ended in a way that kept the show right where it is.
10. Transparent (Amazon)
This show explored themes that have never been explored in the television medium in ways that these themes have never dreamed of. It's filled with a lot of discomfort, sex, nudity, dysfunction, and anything else you can think of. When people talk about the show in stuff I've read, I hear of authenticity being applauded. I kind of disagree, and think it plays on the edge of authenticity. The themes explored in the show are so crushing and painful for the players involved that this show wasn't even a remotely fun watch. However, when I started ranking my list, the show was just objectively better than the rest of the shows appearing in the top 15 below it. I think it's a bit overrated, but not by a ton.
11. The Bridge (FX)
The Bridge got canceled, and I was pissed. This was a great show, and while season 2 was significantly different than season one, it was still a great show. In any other year, this would have made my top 10, but it couldn't get there this year. I'm not sure what turned viewers off about season 2, but it might have come down to the fact that the show was far more complex and the storylines were a lot harder to follow in comparison to season 1. If you never watched this show, you're missing out. The fact that Tyrant returns while this was canceled is an absolute travesty.
12. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX)
While Veep is the most consistently funny comedy I watch, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is by far the funniest comedy I watch. I generally get 4 or 5 great belly laughs per week, and just absolutely love the show. When I first started doing my "favorites" list in 2011, I didn't think there was any way I wouldn't have Parks and Recreation in my list. This just shows how far TV has come for me in the last few years (now that I've actually had time to watch TV again). Brooklyn Nine-Nine takes its place for me now, and that's just fine by me.
13. Happy Valley (Netflix)
This show is basically in the same type of genre as The Missing, but it's told in a completely different way. I think its writing is far more simplistic than The Missing, but many of the performances were every bit as good as other shows on this list. Sarah Lancashire was absolutely fantastic in this show, and one of the characters in this show made me very worried that cops over there didn't carry guns. At times it's a slow watch, and at others it is extremely intense. There's nothing polarizing about the ending in this show, but the ride is significantly less "fun" than The Missing.
14. Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)
When Halt and Catch Fire was at its best, it would be well into my top 10, but when it was at its worst it would easily fall into my lumps of coal list. The vast majority of the show fell somewhere in the middle, and I think the show has a tremendous amount of potential to improve in season 2. I'm just placing it here to try to help it gain awareness. Scoot McNairy and Lee Pace were absolutely tremendous in the show, and it was worth watching just for them. It was also every bit as good at the period look as The Americans, even though some of its choices didn't feel like I was experiencing the same part of the 80s the people making the show were (a lot of Cameron's music choices seemed way off for me). I have high hopes for season 2 even if I have no clue where they're gonna go with the show after the end of the first season.
15. Bates Motel (A&E)
Fighting for the last spot on my list were Bates Motel and The Americans (FX). The Americans continues to not live up to its potential for me, so I'm leaving it off the list. I fully expect The Americans to either make my list next year, or be in my lumps of coal. It's at its crossroads to reach its potential, and if it doesn't next season it never will. But, we're not talking about that show here, we're talking about Bates Motel. I'll freely admit that season 1 was often a frustrating experience, that mostly got there by the end of the season. Then, season 2 started as an almost absolute dumpster fire. Its true low point was Norma Bates doing musical theater. She's very talented, but ain't no one got time for that. I almost quit the show 3 times, but each episode did just enough to hook me in. Then, it happened. The show got GOOD. It never let off that accelerator the rest of the season, and I have very high hopes for season 3. I even now believe we have a Norman Bates "trigger" that is believable to me, something that was a major struggle for me to get past in season 1. If you ever had any interest in the show, give it a shot. If you still don't like it by the time the big event happens in season 2, you can feel free to drop it. This pick is again an awareness pick. Not enough people are aware of this show, and that's a shame, especially since it does plenty well enough in the ratings to stick around. Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore are outstanding in the show, and I really felt for what Freddie had to go through at various points in the season.
The Americans (FX), Grimm (NBC), Silicon Valley (HBO), The Mindy Project (FOX), Parks and Recreation (NBC), Psych (USA), Forever (ABC)