The 10 Best TV Shows of 2014 Thus Far

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It doesn’t take much time for the calendar to elapse for me to start putting together lists of the best television of the year in my head, and apparently I’m not the only one.  So I now feel compelled to unspool from my brain a preliminary list of the best of 2014.  There are plenty of shows not on this list because they have yet to debut or have just barely debuted, or because they were not quite as good as those that I selected.  It’s looking like, when all is said and done, this could be the most difficult year ever for putting together a definitive ranking.  It has been a strong year for new shows, with half of my selections having debuted in 2014 (or late 2013).

Here are my top 2, listed in alphabetical order:

Hannibal – Unbearable in the best way possible.
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Rick and Morty – More inventive than I thought was possible.
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And now here’s numbers 3-10, also in alphabetical order:

Billy on the Street – There’s a lot of hilarious New Yorkers out there.
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Broad City – Just the right amount of wild and zany.
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Community – An excitable comeback.
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Fargo – It’s got a lot of character.
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Louie – I’m not sure if I would prefer to live in the dream world of Hannibal, or the dream world of Louie, and that’s a compliment to both.
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Mad Men – Great job tying it all together.
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Review – What is this thing we call life?
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True Detective – Mystical, but also personal.
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Best Episode of the Season: Mad Men Season 6

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Season Analysis: After watching Mad Men regularly for the first time despite only ever having watched a handful of episodes from the first season, I can report that it is a show that is surprisingly easy to jump into in the middle of (just so long as you can eventually get the large cast straight).  And I can also report that Season 6 turned out much like I have heard previous seasons turned out: more interesting than engaging at the start, but then it really gets going by the end of it.

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“Favors”
On many episodes of Mad Men, not a lot happens.  Well, plenty happens, it’s just that people are usually sitting those happenings happen.  People tend to talk, more so than act.  So when people actually do act, it tends to be thrilling.  And when that action involves storylines that have been simmering all season coming to a head, those thrills are profoundly satisfying.  And it wasn’t just that Sally discovered Don’s affair with Sylvia.  It was that she discovered the affair just after Don enlisted Ted’s help to contact someone in the National Guard to help with Sylvia and Arnold’s son now that he was eligible for the draft.  And it was that she discovered the affair the first time that Don and Sylvia were resuming it after having previously called it off.  Every character on Mad Men is constantly lying to every other character, and it is moments like the climax of “Favors” that make it clear just how thick and tangled those lies are.

Honorable Mention: “In Care Of”
I will have to concede that my ignorance of Mad Men Seasons 1-5 may have hindered my appreciation of “In Care Of.”  I did appreciate that everyone leaving Peggy, Roger going to Joan’s for Thanksgiving, and of course Don taking his kids to the house where he grew up resonated with what the entire series has been building towards, but I might have appreciated them even more if I had actually seen all that building.