25. Orange is the New Black
It seems like everyone we know binge-watched the first season of OITNB. We were no different. As such, nearly everyone on the planet, couldn’t wait to watch the second season. While we enjoyed watching Season 2, we didn’t exactly countdown the days until the show returned to Netflix. Maybe it was because we knew that the enigmatic Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) wasn’t returning for this season. Maybe we simply enjoyed the show without having OITNB fever, like so many others. Whatever it was, we did binge-watch Season 2, but we found it lacking from the quality of the dynamic first season. Still, the show was good enough to receive the last spot on our best shows list. That’s gotta say something.
OITNB features a gaggle of fascinating characters and intriguing storylines, all while handling serious topics with a touch of humor. Truthfully, we don’t care very much for the protagonist, Piper (Taylor Schilling), but we greatly enjoy the stories of the many other women in Litchfield Prison. Our favorites include Red (Kate Mulgrew), Nicky (Natasha Lyonne), Lorna (Yael Stone), and Sophia (Laverne Cox). The absence of Sophia throughout much of the second season was felt. What a disappointment to the season, by relegating her to random encounters and hair stylings. Her story in Season 1 had a deep impact. Also, while the storyline with Vee (Lorraine Toussaint) overstayed its welcome, the ending was both enjoyable and worth the wait.
We’ll watch Season 3 when it comes out, in June, but we still aren’t counting down the days. We are sure it will be good and we’ll enjoy it, which is why OITNB made our list.
24. Bates Motel
The success of any show rests on a number of factors that range from things like time slot to writing. The idea is to find the best actors that can bring the most compelling story to the table and half the battle is already won. No matter what, Bates Motel comes to the table with Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. That, in itself, has helped this show to succeed. Well, that and the fact that America has a twisted love affair with Norman Bates.
While Farmiga is everything we could want in a Norma, it’s Highmore’s channeling of Anthony Perkins, in all his creepy glory, that makes us love this show and allows us to keep coming back. We fell in love with many of these shows right off the bat and Bates Motel is one of the rare shows that we knew we’d love before it even started. There is something about the relationship between Norma and Norman that is both familial and frightening, bordering on incestual, at least enough to make someone thoroughly uncomfortable, that makes this show so fun. As if that weren’t enough, now that the bypass is in motion and business will become far less secure, Norma is sure to become even more interesting (or unstable — or both!). Here’s to the next season! May it be as good as the last!
23. The Goldbergs
We both grew up in the 1980s, so we were absolutely thrilled to find The Goldbergs on ABC. For us, it’s like taking a delightful ride back through time, to our childhood, providing only our happiest of memories. The Goldbergs is like a breath of fresh air in a sea of not so funny sitcom-style comedies. Every Gen-Xer will find something to appreciate in this amazing blast through the past. Who doesn’t love the kar-a-tay loving Barry (Troy Gentile) or the nerdtastic Adam (Sean Giambrone)? Even big sister, Erica (Hayley Orrantia), provides loads of laughter, though just because Hayley can carry a tune doesn’t mean the writers need to find places in the script where they can fit in a song for her to belt out.
Of course, the true gem of the show is the insane yet hilarious Beverly (Wendi McLendon-Covey). Her crazy obsession with her “delicious” children is complemented by the non-pants wearing, sports loving husband of hers, Murray (Jeff Garlin), and her ladies man of a father, Pops aka Albert (George Segal). Beverly is the crazy mom who is up at the school every day. She isn’t the “cool” mom, but she loves her children with a kind of passion, devotion, and unnatural fixation that can only mean one thing. She would do anything for her family. Whether Beverly is off skating, or Adam is lying about breaking his arm while flying on a hoverboard, the show guarantees a reminder of why we love the 80s, and miss our much simpler, technology-free childhood.
It takes a little time to get into Rectify; the story moves at a slow enough pace that it is only about a week after the events of Season 1, when the second season begins. However, if you wait patiently, the show is well worth its weight in gold. This series is well written, with a tightly woven story and exceptional writing. Daniel Holden (Aden Young) isn’t exactly a likable protagonist, but he is someone you can empathize with, for the ordeal he has gone through, in spite of his weirdness.
Arrested for the murder of his teenage girlfriend, when he was just 19, Daniel has been incarcerated, on death row, for 19 years, when DNA testing fails to find a match to his DNA, though it does find a profile in semen from the crime scene for another, unidentified male. Having multiple strands of DNA, it appears more than one person was involved, so a shadow remains cast on Daniel, who could face a second trial. The days following his release from prison, in his small southern town, are reflected in the first season leading into the second. The second season is intense, and the show is addicting, as more information about Daniel and the murder unfolds. This is a must watch show, on the Sundance Channel. That’s really all we have to say.
21. Criminal Minds
We went in to this season not intending to put it on this list. We’ve been with Criminal Minds from day one and we have loved it since the beginning. The thing we were worried about was the fact that it’s been around 10 seasons. We’ve seen some excellent episodes and seasons from this show, but how can it consistently get better? Well, we can’t give a specific answer to that but we can say that it does! Each episode is engaging, well acted, and worth watching. Even though the show is essentially a crime drama the cases are continually new and interesting, and it’s also as much about the characters, as it is the crime.
Since Prentiss (Paget Brewster) left, the show has seen more than one replacement. The newest being that of Jennifer Love Hewitt. We weren’t sure what to think of that, at first, but it’s clear that she’s fitting in just fine, and she adds some spice to the group in all the right ways. It’s excellent to see Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) being utilized more, as she is such a great asset to the group, and the others, well we have known and loved them for years. Criminal Minds is one of those comfort zone shows. It’s familiar and it’s always entertaining. Still, it continues to offer new and exciting aspects that ensure the show will continue for more seasons to come.
20. The Americans
Who would have thought we would have liked this show? We were not sure when we saw the first commercials for The Americans, but we actually really got into this drama about a couple who are secretly KGB agents living in Washington D.C. in the 1980s. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys have excellent chemistry and tension, which is probably why they’re dating, off the show. However, it is the entire ensemble of the show, including Annet Mahendru as fellow Russian spy, Nina Sergeevna, and Noah Emmerich as FBI agent, Stan Beeman, who make the show worth watching. In Season 2, the children of Russell’s Elizabeth, and Rhys’ Philip, take on a more prominent role, as they begin to age, rebel, and question their parents’ marriage, as well as their motivations. The eldest, Paige (Holly Taylor), turns to religion, a completely American concept, and one that angers her parents. It is hard on these Russian agents to be raising American children, without the culture impacting their family, in some way.
While some have complained about the lack of neatness concerning missions in Season Two, we actually enjoyed the messy nature that has evolved as the show progresses. The Jennings are doing dangerous work and that is being reflected in the way things evolve. Sure, certain liberties have been taken, to accommodate the fact this is a television show. and to keep things interesting, but the occasional over the top nature is just a reflection of the somewhat over the top nature we remember from growing up during the Cold War, in the 1980s. With excellent acting and interesting writing choices, it wasn’t hard to add The Americans to this list.
Benedict Cumberbach and Martin Freeman. That’s really all we have to say, when attempting to explain why Sherlock is so good. It is a pity we only get three episodes at a time, because this show restores our faith in Moffat. After disappointing us since taking over as showrunner for Doctor Who, Moffat needed to redeem himself. Granted, the area where Doctor Who suffers the most is in Moffat’s inability to make strong female characters, and Sherlock doesn’t really have many (any?) strong female characters, but in this British bromance that kind of works.
It is the chemistry between this duo that really helps to take Sherlock to the next level. In the third series, the relationship between Sherlock and Watson changes. They are no longer living together and John has even gotten involved with a woman who will have a lasting impact on both men. The cases they solve, which fit in nicely with the overall Series 3 plot lead to a rather engaging and unforgettable best man speech, by Sherlock, at John’s wedding. While their relationship changes, their bond still remains, and that is the focal point of this very strong series. The shows just keep getting better, which is why we’ll keep watching.
It was quite humorous to us, to include the other Sherlock Holmes inspired show directly before the British show Sherlock. For shows based on the same concept, Elementary and Sherlock couldn’t be more different. Truthfully, we struggled with which show to put first. In the end, Elementary just barely slid past Sherlock. Frankly, we believe the biggest factor affecting this decision was the number of episodes. Elementary had several more, which allowed for more character development, and more bonding between Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller), Watson (Lucy Liu), and the new assistant, Kitty (Ophelia Lovibond), who really is a delightful addition. Add in Aidan Quinn, as the Captain of the police, whom Sherlock consults for, and this show is an acting powerhouse.
Where Elementary differs from Sherlock is its formulaic nature. However, the key to its greatness is the same as Sherlock; it is the bond between Sherlock and Watson that makes this show terrific. Sure, she’s Joan, not John, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Like in Sherlock. the two titular characters share a unique bromance, all their own. While Joan works with Sherlock because she grounds him, Kitty works because she’s equally as screwed up as Sherlock, and in some way, together, they can keep each other from self-destructing.
To say Shameless is an ensemble dramedy would be the understatement of the year. There are so many great characters on this show that they keep us coming back. Kevin (Steve Howey) and Veronica (Shanola Hampton) are constant favorites, as is Sheila (Joan Cusack). Sure these aren’t the Gallaghers, which the show is supposed to be about, but they add so much to the show that it keeps it going. Of course, when your family has the talented likes of William H. Macy, as Frank, the constantly fucked up patriarch of the family, and Emmy Rossum, the eldest daughter and equally screwed up but more sober than daddy, guardian, what could you possibly expect?
Everything about this show is dysfunctional. It’s one of the best things about it. You can’t possibly think you’re life is that screwed up when you’re watching this because we’re certain you don’t have it this bad. We’ve seen struggles with mental illness, getting and keeping jobs, and Frank needing a new liver. We’re not sure what to expect in future seasons, but we can guarantee that we will be watching. We highly recommend you check it out, too. This is one of the most underrated shows on our list and it’d be nice to see it get the attention that we know it deserves.
16. Game of Thrones
Winter is still coming. We’re unsure when it will arrive, IF it will arrive. We’re pained this season wasn’t rated higher. There were some great moments. Geoffrey’s death was something we’d been waiting for, but there were also some disappointments. Daenerys was relegated to standing around in her court and talking to people; it was such a shame after the fiery preceding season! Bran also disappointed us with his weird trip up north. We didn’t particularly care if Jojen lived or died. We preferred that plotline end altogether. That being said, even with all the disappointments of this season of Game of Thrones the show is still amazingly good. It made our list because in spite of the disappointment we felt, we will keep watching in the upcoming season, and we never felt the show was bad enough to quit watching. We just worry that with so many characters some of the most important ones are ignored or do little that is entertaining.
Our favorites, excluding Dany, were in top form. Arya is set to sail off on a new adventure. She grew a lot this season, taking a life, and proving she can be a badass. The highlight of the season, though, was Tyrion. His imprisonment, trial, and decision to duel with his champion was brilliantly acted and written, and the ending, with his escape made so many people cry out a celebratory whoop! The imp showed them all and kicked ass, while doing it. While we mourn the loss of his champion, we cannot wait to see what awaits Tyrion now that he is free. The acting, especially his, is always superb on Game of Thrones. Just please do something meaningful with Dany in season 5!!
How many ways can Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) spiral out of control? With the 2014 season of Homeland aka Season 4, we get to see Carrie losing it in a whole new way. I know all the shows on this list have great writing and acting, but seriously, shows that did not have these things would not be considered for our best of 2014 article. Like many of the other shows on television, Homeland features actors/actresses you’d expect to primarily see in Hollywood films. Television has become the new cinema with far more engaging stories, and more time to expand and tell them. Claire Danes is fantastic, and has been for the past four seasons. Honestly, that’s why she keeps winning awards. She’s come a long way from My So Called Life. We fell in love with her when she was Angela Chase, and our love for her hasn’t waivered. It’s also nice to see Mandy Patinkin’s Saul in the thick of the action, this season. Mandy has been a favorite actor of ours since he was Inigo Montoya. Television is lucky to have him.
Rupert Friend’s Peter Quinn has become a favorite character of ours, and his devotion to Carrie and Saul is inspiring, as the season progresses. Every episode kept us glued to our chairs, though we must admit we were a little disappointed the action wasn’t as shocking as past seasons. While this season remained solid, the show will have to up the ante in 2015, to remain fresh. Staying mainly in Islamabad throughout most of the the season, even for Saul, who generally sticks close to home, did add something to the story, but Carrie remains the same. Her Bi Polar can only be used sparingly in future seasons, because the crazy Carrie off her meds is beginning to become stale. Luckily, this season explained this in a fun new way, but we fear the end may be near, for this series. For now, we’re content with this season, and the three that preceded it, though the fact Season 1 or 2 would have made our top 5 says volumes concerning Homeland‘s placement on this list.
14. Sons of Anarchy
We’ve been with Sons of Anarchy like many fans, from day one. This season was rather bittersweet being that it was the Final Ride. We know what that means now, but it’s still hard to think of it being over. This final season had some of the best and most disappointing moments in the entire series. One of the real highlights for us was seeing the blossoming relationship between Tig (Kim Coates) and his transgender girlfriend, Venus (Walton Goggins). One of the saddest moments was the loss of Bobby (Mark Boone Junior). Even though we knew some of the men would die, Bobby has always been a favorite, so it brought back the hurt we felt when it was Opie’s time to go, as well.
While we felt the final episode left much to be desired, and did not hold the emotional pull that many of the other episodes have, we understand that saying goodbye is never easy and the point of the episode was to bring things full circle, which it did. Even though the ending wasn’t everything we wanted, the rest of the season is not to be missed. Despite its repeated snubbings at the Emmys and other award shows, Sons of Anarchy, for the past seven seasons it has been on, has been one of the best acted and most entertaining shows on television.
The thing we love most about Justified is the main character, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), and his nemesis, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). This show has been on FX for more than five seasons, and it’s part of the reason that FX has had such success. While some might see a typical cop show (Raylan is actually a Marshal), it’s actually more about the area that Raylan is working and the connections he has with the people, both good and bad. He’s coming home, even though he doesn’t want to, and many people see his power as Marshal as him selling out who he was or should be. At times, this presents as a very Hatfield/McCoy kind of vibe, which just makes the show even better.
This season, we saw Boyd go to Detroit, which was certainly interesting, but it was just the set up for the dealing with out of state family, Mexican cartels, and a shitload of problems due to his heroin business. Ava (Joelle Carter) offers some contrast with her exploits in prison. We’re sad to see Justified ending with this new season, but we know that the writing that made the series strong to begin with, will lead us out with a bang.
12. Boardwalk Empire
Nucky (Steve Buscemi) and the gang returned for the final season of Boardwalk Empire, in 2014. It was nice to see the usual gang back to finish the series. Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) has established herself in New York, Al (Stephen Graham) is finally facing judgment for his misdeeds, with Luciano (Vincent Piazza) in the midst of things, New York’s crime syndicate sees power change hands, Eli (Shea Whigham) is just Eli, and Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) makes a mad dash. As for Nucky, his story comes to an end in a way we figured it would, but not without being bittersweet. We’ve been watching the show since the beginning, and what Wahlberg and Scorsese have developed is the ultimate film on television. With talk of a Boardwalk Empire movie coming out, the characters may resurrect on the big screen, where many believe this story belonged. Of course, television has changed to where cinema quality shows are becoming the norm, and this is amongst the greatest in the bunch.
As bad as Nucky is, you consistently root for him, which is the epitome of a great protagonist. To say the acting is great would be an understatement. Steve Buscemi was on television, and we’re so lucky we were here to witness it. He’s been paying his dues, for years in Scorsese films, and other organized crime themed films, and he hit the payload with the role of Nucky. He got to play the role for 5 amazing seasons, and it was him who made Boardwalk Empire so great. In the final season, we get a look back at how young Nucky turned into the man he was, and why he always was destined for greatness. Nucky is embedded in the history of Atlantic City, and his story is the pinnacle of the elegancy and debauchery that occurred there in his time. We will miss Nucky and we will miss this show, so let’s hope the movie happens.
Where do we begin concerning one of our favorite shows on television? Green Arrow never seemed to be anyone’s favorite superhero, especially when it came to movie efforts. So, we figured this would go either way, but Stephen Amell manages to take the Arrow and make him something both enthralling and addicting. As much as Amell has made Arrow a success, he did not do it alone. He is surrounded by some of the best actors on television for a show like this, and he manages to have the necessary chemistry with all of them. His partners, Roy (Colton Haynes) and Diggle (David Ramsey), are both insecure and flawed (in the case of Roy), while consistent, strong, and always trying to show Oliver deserves a better life (Diggle).
We’ve had some ups and downs with this season. It was hard seeing Sara go and harder seeing Laurel (Katie Cassidy) attempt to take her place. Admittedly, Laurel, or the portrayal of her, is our biggest problem with the show. In a world where the good guys seem to care about everyone, but themselves, Laurel stands as a pillar of justice, only out for herself and with everything about her personal needs/wants/opinions. She is the least apathetic of all of the people trying to do good in Sterling City, yet she has ever reason to be as selfless as those around her. Despite our disinterest in Laurel, we can’t get enough of Arrow. The beautiful blending of flashbacks and present day material show us why Oliver Queen is the man that he has become today. The show is really brilliant, and it deserves a bigger fan base. The good news is that when someone watches it, they usually become a fan quite quickly, so we doubt the show will be going anywhere, anytime soon.
The only thing missing is that Oliver/Felicity romance, but in the meantime there is definitely enough to keep us coming back for more.
10. The Good Wife
We had watched The Good Wife when it first aired, but somehow, around Season 3, had fallen behind. It was nice to catch up over the holidays, because boy has a lot of things happened. In the last season, which aired in 2014, the story revolves around the imprisonment and impending trial for Cary Agos, the partner in Alicia’s firm. Cary has evolved quite a bit over the course of the series. The only part of this season we were not in love with was the semi-triangle between Kalinda, the fed, and Cary. Her involvement with Cary detracted a bit from the overall story.
Beyond that, the series, which features consistently excellent writing, remains suspenseful, even after six seasons. Alicia, herself, has evolved from the housewife that stood by her husband, to the partner in a law firm who might run for the State’s Attorney job. The acting is superb, but look at the cast: Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, Christine Baranski, Chris Noth, Alan Cumming. Margulies is a likable protagonist, even if she isn’t always a good person. She carries the show, and she keeps us coming back for more.
9. Da Vinci’s Demons
If there was one show that ensured we would keep purchasing Starz, it’s this one. There are so many things we love about Da Vinci’s Demons, and while it may not be the most historically accurate show, as a period piece, we can’t get enough of it. Tom Riley stars as Leonardo Da Vinci. He is curious and he makes the world look as if it is filled with wonder. At the same time, he is tormented by his place in the world, and the expectations that he has in it. In a place, such as Florence, Italy that thrives on their own version of religion, Da Vinci is an artist and a freethinker. He has a great mind, despite being troubled by the weapons that he is able to build to destroy the world he so loves.
Every show is a group effort though, and Riley is not alone. Da Vinci’s friends Zoroaster (Gregg Chillin) and Nico (Eros Vlahos), may not understand his motives, but are always there for him, no matter what. Likewise, he has ups and downs with love interest, Lucrezia Donati (Laura Haddock), but they compliment one another beautifully. However, the most interesting relationship Da Vinci shares with anyone, may be that of his enemy, Count Riario (Blake Ritson). We don’t normally advocate giving your cable company more money than you have to, but if you don’t have Starz, this show is one hell of a reason to consider picking it up.
8. House of Cards
Frank Underwood has every attribute necessary to become the President of the United States. He has a great poker face, he’s an incredible liar, and he’s ridiculously ruthless. He’s goal oriented and if that means pushing someone in front of a subway train – so be it! The goal of the Underwoods is not to be honest. It’s to do what needs to be done to get ahead without getting caught. We could tell you the acting is flawless, but Kevin Spacey is consistently terrific, so we won’t bore you by singing his praises. We will say that Robin Wright shows us that there are some roles for women over 30 left in the world, and her’s is one of the best. As the no-nonsense wife to Francis, Claire is even more driven, and sometimes (if not all the time) appears to pull the strings that lead Francis to the White House.
This isn’t the only good show that is a Netflix original. It is, however, one of the best of them. Now that Frank and Claire are assuming the roles of the President and First Lady, in the upcoming season, we can’t wait to see where their roles take them, and what they will do to keep them. Season 2 deals with the Vice-Presidency, and how they claw their way up from there. From top to bottom, there isn’t much about this show to complain about. If you’re living under a rock and haven’t seen it, spend the $8 to get Netflix or steal your friend’s account (like Frank would do), and check this out!
7. The Walking Dead
Sometimes The Walking Dead can be hard to watch. Say, for example, like when there is a meaningless death (fans know what we’re talking about, here). Still, while there are some parts that feel like wasted opportunities (the trip to Terminus versus the climax), and others that feel like they just drag on for too long (the Hospital), but the dynamics between the main group (and the hope they don’t kill too many more of them) keeps us watching, while being continually impressed by this show about the Zombie Apocalypse.
The thing we like most about TWD is how much the show manages to evolve. It’s no longer a competition where you’re either Team Daryl (Norman Reedus) or Team Rick (Andrew Lincoln). Now the group is more like a family (although we’re still pretty Team Michonne, like everyone else). Our favorite part of this season is how much Daryl has opened up. The vulnerable Daryl is still as awesome as the hardcore redneck, but it’s nice to see Reedus being able to offer some range. With one or two prequels/spin-offs in the works, it’s no wonder why this is one of the highest rated shows on our list. Zombie lover or not, this show offers plenty of reasons to watch, though we admit, we like the zombies, too.
We weren’t sure how anyone would pull off the exceptional portrayal of Hannibal Lector after Anthony Hopkins owned the role in The Silence of the Lambs. However, the tight writing of Hannibal, and superb acting by Mads Mikkelsen, take the character to a much darker, even more depraved level. In Season 2, this shines, as Hannibal continues to deceive the police, throughout much of the season. By calling into question the already questionable sanity of profiler, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), Hannibal is able to get away with…well murder and cannibalism, with relative ease.
This show is dark. It is haunting. It isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you can embrace the darkness, it’s hard not to get enveloped in this insanely good story. Hannibal is someone from our nightmares, so to consider that a human being could exist who is like him, is a terrifying thought. From the shocking ending to all of the episodes preceding, Hannibal is a continuous thrill ride from start to finish. Only the brave will enjoy the ride, so be ready to be freaked out pretty much continuously, as Hannibal proves to be one step ahead of Will and the rest of the FBI, throughout the entire season.
In case you haven’t noticed, we’re suckers for a good period show. Vikings is on the History Channel, and while we cannot speak to any sense of its authenticity, in terms of any complete factual nature, we can say this is one hell of a television show. You may have to suspend your disbelief, if you’re overly familiar with this time period, but it appears from at least an art standpoint, that things are reminiscent of this particular era in time. Beyond the historical, the actual storylines offered are fantastic. The downside to this season was that King Horik (Donal Logue) overstayed his welcome. Seeing him go in the way that he did, made it all worth while, though. Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) played a big part in the season, which is never a bad thing, and we got to see him get married, which was nice.
We confess we love many of the actors and characters on this show, but there is one that just thrills us every time they fill the screen. Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) is one of the most badass female characters on television, today. She isn’t about to take anyone’s shit, she’s a shield maiden, and she’s all about grace when the time requires. She is one of the many things that make Vikings great, and we hope to see much more of her in the future.
4. Downton Abbey
To say that people love Downton Abbey would be such an understatement. People can’t seem to get enough. Until a week or so ago, we were some of the few blissfully, ignorant, unaware folks. We watched our first episode about a week ago, and were caught up for Series 5, in no time. There are plenty of reasons to love this show, and virtually none to complain about. The acting is nearly flawless, the storylines are sometimes as juicy as old soap operas, but better told, the writing is good, and the show flows seamlessly from episode to episode.
The only bad thing about Downton is that there were only 9 episodes in this season. Lady Rose (Lily James) played a more prominent part this season, showing off her wild side and giving everyone a run for their money, in trying to keep her better behaved. It’s also a big season for Mary, who begins the season as a widow, still mourning Matthew and ends up learning that she is his sole heir. She eventually grows to where she wants to be able to move on, and eventually marry again by the end of the season. The show is very much an ensemble show, with the main family and the servants both offering interesting storylines that will keep the majority of viewers coming back. Some of our favorite characters are the servants. Between that and doing the death count on Mary’s love interests, we couldn’t ask for a better show.
3. Peaky Blinders
This is our third Netflix Original on the list, and it’s one of the best they have to offer. Peaky Blinders takes place in the early 1900s and it’s about a gang in Birmingham, England that sews razorblades into the peaks of their caps (hence the name). The leader of the gang Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy), wants nothing more than to take the gang, mostly, legit and run things like a business. Of course, to do that you can expect a moderate amount of bloodshed. If you don’t like shows containing violence, this might not be the show for you. It’s also a period piece, so if you’re looking for things like equality and understanding, you won’t find it here. Taking it for what it’s worth, you end up with a fine period piece with a compelling story. It does have violence, but it rarely feels gratuitous.
If Netflix continues putting out shows like this, network channels are going to have to up their game. Otherwise cable will be going out of business. The acting on Peaky Blinders rivals any of the best shows on television. Like a lot of foreign television options, Blinders only has around six episodes per season. The good news, for new viewers, is that it won’t take any time to catch up. The bad news, for the rest of us, is that you can binge watch this show in a day, and be stuck waiting for the next season.
We wrote about how awesome the series Wentworth is, quite recently for Inglourious Fiction. We discovered the show on Netflix, and subsequently devoured the first two seasons in a 2-3 day stretch. This show makes Orange is the New Black look like sleepaway camp. This isn’t comedy. It’s high drama, and addicting cannot even begin to describe how we feel about this series. The show is made and airs in Australia, so it is a wonder we were able to find it on Netflix, but we’re so grateful that we had the chance. The writing is excellent, with tight storytelling, fascinating characters, and a fast moving plot. Wentworth is best described as, ‘if Oz and OITNB mixed with The Sopranos and had a baby’, but even that isn’t quite accurate. A unique opportunity to raise issues about the treatment of women in prison, the show also shows the violent means some women will go to, to achieve the spot as top dog.
The protagonist of Wentworth is Bea Smith, played by an actress we’ve loved, for a long time, Danielle Cormack. Cormack is a fully fleshed out, empathetic character. Even in her worst moments you root for Bea. It has been a blast seeing her evolution throughout the two seasons of the show, and we’re dying to see the fallout, as the result of the series 2 finale. There are so many characters we love on this show. From the adorable yet dangerous Franky (Nicole da Silva), to the pregnant, always wants to do the right thing, Doreen (Shareena Clanton). Even the Wentworth prison staff have fully integrated storylines. With questions about right and wrong, and who really deserves to be the prisoners, this show will go far, if it continues to remain so enthralling. It was hard not to make it our #1 choice.
1. Orphan Black
Orphan Black is our number one television show of 2014, with good reason. The show is fantastic, addicting, well written, and superbly acted. Tatiana Maslany plays as many as nine different characters, and each one has a distinct accent, personality, and look. If they were not all clone-like in appearance, we are sure people would assume multiple actors played the roles she plays. It is Maslany who makes the show. Without her, it wouldn’t be nearly as exceptional as it is. Not only are the characters different, but nearly all of them are likable. Our favorites are Alison and Cosima, but we cannot help but adore the protagonist, Sarah, as well.
In Season 2 of Orphan Black, Sarah is drawn further into the mystery of her clone-age. Working with Alison and Cosima closely, Sarah’s life is constantly threatened by newly emerging adversaries, and she sets out to protect her young daughter, at any cost. With her allies questioned and new potential allies being made, the only constant in her life is her brother, Felix, played by the fantastic Jordan Gavaris, who is marvelously devoted to all the clones, in a brotherly kind of way. With Alison the witty and entertaining comic relief, and Cosima consistently cool, Sarah remains likeable and charming. The other clones are all fully fleshed out, too, even Beth, whose death kickstarted the series, and Jennifer, who we only see on video tape have somewhat developed histories. Helena is a character you sympathize for while being heartbreaking and insane, and we cannot wait to see how many more characters Maslany can play! We’re also looking forward to seeing how Project Castor unfolds in Season 3.
As you can probably tell, we’re pretty obsessed with Orphan Black. It’s damn near perfect in every way. You should check it out. Not even people on IMDB are complaining about this show. When does that ever happen?
Dominick Evans helped me write this list. You can read more of his work over at his blog, Dominick Evans Online.