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Staff Picks: 9 Favorite TV Shows of 2014

orphan black

Orphan Black
Andy Greene: Choosing my favorite TV show is an annual exercise in impossibility, but since Game of Thrones gets enough publicity, I’m going to land on BBC’s Orphan Black. Tatiany Maslany’s greatness is unparalleled; you somehow forget that she is playing nearly every character in every scene. She’s just that seamless and genuine as each member of the Clone Club. Jordan Gavaris’ Felix is similarly a treasure. I’m a sucker for high concept sci-fi and Orphan Black has a doozy of a premise, one that they keep blowing out further and further every episode.

how to get away with murder

How To Get Away With Murder
Chris Haigh: How To Get Away With Murder is the kind of soapy, entertaining, vastly diverse delight that people like and that has plenty of room for development, particularly with Viola Davis putting in the performance of her career so far as the enigmatic, charismatic Professor Annalise Keating. It’s funny, dramatic, dark, sexy, bloody, and extremely entertaining: what more could you want in a show?

broad city

Broad City
Hillary Waldstein: In the world of Broad City, it’s okay to be high, horny, and sometimes homeless. And that’s a world I want to live in. Real-life best friends Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer star as two Jewesses living in New York City, where getting into a pop-up Lil’ Wayne concert means cleaning a stranger’s apartment in the nude and finding your lost phone means dancing topless in Central Park. Abbi, hesitant and Oprah-worshiping, and Ilana, explorative and weed-smuggling, act as the perfect foil to each other as they experience one fail after another in the Big Apple.

the 100

The 100
Isabella Garcia: If you’ve read my article on why you should be watching The 100, then you know about my deep love for its strong and emotional characters, specifically the women. But if you could please suspend your disbelief that it’s just another CW show focused only on love triangles and hot actors, then you’ll see The 100 for what it truly is: a sci-fi show about survival and the lengths people go about achieving it. Almost everyone who I talk to that binge-watches The 100 on Netflix can agree that they were pleasantly surprised at how great it was.

As many new shows approach their second season, their storylines tend to slump and not be as exciting as the first season’s, but The 100 just keeps getting better. They continuously bring new surprises in every episode that make me gasp out loud. Not to mention, each character is complex in their own way and have individual problems they must face. You can just tell how hard the cast, crew, and especially writers go about creating this exhilarating show. Unfortunately, the ratings haven’t been so great, so if you’re at all interested, catch up on Wednesdays on The CW at 9/8c.

shameless emmy rossum

Shameless
Kiesha: My favorite show of 2014 was without a doubt Shameless. It’s one of those shows that I need to see immediately when it’s available and then hate myself for watching it so quickly that I have to wait the entire next week for it to return. As the seasons continue, it’s only become more surprising, more upsetting (y’know, in the good kind of way) and well, I have to say it — more shameless. I’m counting down the days until its return early next year.

selfie john cho karen gillan

Selfie
Laura T.: Just when I had decided on Jane the Virgin being my new, favorite show for the year — winning over Outlander and Broad City — I watched Selfie’s “Imperfect Harmony” episode. And oh, you guys, this show. There are only three more episodes of the series left to air on Hulu, a fact that has lent such purpose to the latter episodes of this 13-episode, one-season series. Emily Kapnek was already known for her quick witted writing skills on Suburgatory, but in Selfie, she was given an imminent end date that pushed the fast-forward button on the show and its potentially-romantic main pairing. While Selfie had just been teasing at the Henry and Eliza relationship, in these last few episodes, the show has instead chosen to sprint towards its finish line. But it’s not so much the romance between the two leads that is so thrilling, but instead the background behind the pair.

Henry and Eliza are both such lonely, damaged people; one is overly cautious while the other is reckless to extremes, and together, they bring out different sides in one another. And with each other, they’ve both found a powerful friendship: something that’s usually deeply undervalued in our media. Maybe their relationship is something more — and I hope so, because what better way would there be to end the series? — but even if it’s not, the poignancy and beautiful draw of this show comes from seeing two lonely people find each other, through friendship or otherwise. What makes this show the best of the year for me was the realization that I had when watching “Imperfect Harmony.” As I watched John Cho singing “Wild World” at the close of the episode, I realized that I’ll be re-watching this little series for years to come. My other favorites this year will carry on — either to greater highs or new lows — but Selfie will never get that chance outside of 2014. It’s a series contained entirely in the 2014 television season, and what it did in that time was wonderful enough for it to be the best show of the year for me.

outlander starz

Outlander
Sara Linn: With its gorgeous landscapes, tense direction, and exquisite acting, Outlander is my choice for the best new show of 2014. Starz was counting on the provocative, sensual story from Diana Gabaldon’s book to enchant viewers, and the adaptation does justice to the romantic spirit of the original. Although we’ve only seen half of the first season, every episode so far has succeeded in pulling viewers into a world that is simultaneously beautiful and dangerous. As Claire, a British WWII nurse, travels back in time to 1743, the audience follows the journey almost exclusively from her point of view. The choice by Starz to keep this perspective from the book is crucial in framing Outlander as a feminine story, something sorely absent from almost every other epic battle-fantasy show on television.

By making Outlander as the story of one woman, the show carves a place for itself in a highly competitive landscape. Even more impressive is that Claire is not a teenager or a matron; she is presented as a woman in full control of her own romantic and sexual desires. As racy as cable can be, it’s still an extraordinarily rare thing to see a woman receiving sexual pleasure from her partner instead of giving it. Although sex is used sporadically across the episodes, and far less than the titular Game of Thrones, each instance is all the more powerful by staging Claire as the viewer, not the object to be viewed. If the spring episodes maintain the quality and excitement of what we’ve seen so far, Outlander will be here to stay for a good long while.

broad city comedy central

Broad City
Sarah Turner: My favorite new television show of 2014 would have to be Comedy Central’s Broad City, a raunchy comedy about two ladies taking on New York City with varying levels of success. I guess saying it’s a new show is somewhat inaccurate, because Broad City was honed as a web series since 2012 giving stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer time to polish it up so that their television premiere could start strong right out of the gate. I love how the duo are building upon what Tina Fey and Amy Poehler did for women earlier this millennium, illustrating that women obviously can, and are, funny.

Jacobson and Glazer push that idea one step further and move away from the somewhat gendered neurotic, female character characterizing both 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation main characters, by presenting a scatological stoner comedy that challenges Workaholics in how far its willing to take its plotlines. The first scene of the first episode is really enough to illustrate that the ladies of Broad City are both intelligent and weird and gross and kind of messed up, which is really all I want in a comedy.

orphan black bbc america

Orphan Black
Sirisha Varigonda: Without a doubt, Orphan Black led by the fantastic Tatiana Maslany was probably the highlight of my TV watching this past year. I enjoyed Season 2 a bit more than Season 1, with new characters Rachel Duncan, Cal, and the Proletheans. The diversity and multitude of each clone’s backstory and general profile rarely detracts from the flow of the show; everything is pieced together quite nicely. And with a killer TV soundtrack, too. With so many major characters, it’s not unusual for certain characters to be polarizing for the audience; but each clone in Orphan Black has some easy-to-relate-to piece to them and honestly, there’s not one clone that anyone truly dislikes. The show is revolutionary in the ethical debates stirred, progressive new characters (Tony), and the fact that it fails the Reverse Bechdel Test. We also get to see Allison actually performing in a musical, which might have been the highlight for me.

Season 2’s major cliffhanger with the announcement of Project Castor and male clones made me a bit skeptical about the fate of Season 3; I wouldn’t want to see these new guys take away the focus from the lead female characters. Considering the fact that Ari Millen’s character was scheduled to die, however, and was pushed into the Clone Club by writer Graeme Manson and director John Fawcett doesn’t make me too nervous. As for specific clones: poor Helena’s constant state of danger and misfortune hopefully leads to a nice beach vacation with donuts or something. And I’m really really looking forward to Rachel in an eye-patch.