The Best TV Shows in 2014

I realize I have been AWOL from blogging for the past two weeks, thanks to a busier work schedule, a cold, and getting ready to go on a mini-vacation tomorrow. That said, I’d like to thank everyone who’s taken the time to read the posts I’ve published, as well as who have left comments and feedback. My goal is to get back to my now 200+ feed first thing next week . . . so expect a flurry of likes/comments from me in the upcoming weeks, folks.


Now let’s get back to this post . . . last week I wrote about my favorite books I read in 2014. Now I’m going to mention the best TV shows – some old and some new – that I watched last year.

Best Returning Show

24- Live Another Day

Despite it’s sad and open-ended finale, I totally dug 24‘s (2001-2010) return to the small screen. I think everyone was hoping for some more Jack Bauer, so it was nice to see Keifer Sutherland give in and share some of his alter-ego with us. The idea of the show returning in a mini-series format worked well, offering the same cliff-hanging episodes that kept us on the edge of our seats. Switching the location added to the freshness of the show’s return, and a cast filled with vetted actors and actresses (which included three familiar faces from previous seasons) made longtime fans of the show like myself that much more excited to tune in. And if there’s every a takeaway from 24, it’s that you shouldn’t get close to Jack . . . because you’ll probably end up captured, tortured, dead, or all three.

Best Comedy

While the final season of Arrested Development (2003-2013) arrived on Netflix in 2013, I had never seen a single episode until last year. It’s probably the most off-beat show I’ve ever watched, and yet the writing keeps me coming back for more. Even for a show where multiple characters are unlikable, Arrested Development still knows how to make people laugh. The show runs on a continuous gag reel, forcing new viewers to start from the beginning of the show if they want to appreciate the ongoing jokes. What makes the show work so well is its ability to subtly hint at being funny without announcing the punch line. The fourth season surely received its fair share of criticism for its format, but for me, I felt like the storyline suffered more by not returning to what made everyone laugh about it in the first place. Regardless, I think the first three seasons are worth multiple viewings.

Best Drama

The Killing‘s (2011-2014) final season hit Netflix in 2014, after the streaming service picked up the original AMC show. Perhaps it was all just luck that I discovered the show one day while I was looking through Netflix titles, and I’m so thankful I did. Rarely do crime dramas feel as rough, believable, and original as The Killing. Although it’s based off a Danish show with the same name, this American re-make works as if it was wholly original, at least for American audiences. While I enjoy The Walking Dead (2010-) more than most shows, it was The Killing that had me binge-watching (to my shame) until I completed it. The two leads – played by Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman – is what makes The Killing, particularly the latter. It’s certainly some of the most compelling TV I have seen in a long time. If you want to watch a great crime show, check out The Killing. It’s that good.

Best British Show

So there’s a good chance I created this category just to throw a little of Sherlock into the mix. The third series arrived on Americans’ TV screens in January of 2014, a long two-year wait since the previous series. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat fail to disappoint, attempting to top the series two finale that left everybody’s mouths gaping. There are always shocks and thrills in Sherlock, but never the cheap kind. We find out what’s happened since Sherlock’s fall, and we get to witness Sherlock and Watson’s bromance grow deeper, while yet another one of their major nemeses reveals himself in the third episode. Most everyone is familiar with the show’s lead, Benedict Cumberbatch, who has recreated a modern-day Sherlock whom everyone loves, despite his sociopathic tendencies.

In regards to British shows, I also thoroughly enjoyed the first season of Broadchurch (2013), which appears to have a second season in the works for later this year. I was not the biggest fan of Doctor Who‘s (2005-) latest outing, despite the actors’ best efforts. I am also a newbie to Orphan Black (2013-) this year, so I’ll get to see what all the fuss is about.

Best New-to-Me Show

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what category Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) ought to go in, given its balanced mix of drama and comedy. So I created a category for this show, because it’s absolutely one of my favorites from 2014. (Note – I’m not finished with the show yet [middle of season 5], so please don’t include any spoilers in the comments.) Where to start? The pop culture references, the offbeat townspeople of Stars Hollow, Kirk?!, Lane’s hilarious bandmates . . . Gilmore Girls seems to have that perfect balance of intertwining multiple storylines while still keeping its focus on the two main girls: Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel). Netflix has given the show a brand new generation of fans just discovering it. I highly recommend Gilmore Girls, especially if you want to see a show that has Alexis Bledel’s, Lauren Graham’s, and Melissa McCarthy’s best roles-to-date.

What were your favorite shows you saw in 2014?

Movies and Video Games: A Crossover of Actors and Voicework Talent

Sean Bean and his character Emperor Martin Septim in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Guest Post by Matt Phelps

Just recently, Kristin came walking into the room while I was playing the latest iteration in the Elder Scrolls franchise, Elder Scrolls Online (2014). After watching for a couple seconds, she shouted out “that’s Michael Gambon!” in somewhat bewildered disbelief. Sure enough, the aged character with a staff in Elder Scrolls Online was voiced by Dumbledore himself, Michael Gambon. In a marketing ploy to ultimately bring more dollars in, Zenimax Studios hired several well-known screen actors to voice characters inside the video game, including Michael Gambon, Bill Nighy, Kate Beckinsale, Alfred Molina, Malcolm McDowell, and John Cleese. This isn’t the first time an Elder Scrolls game has brought in talent from the big screen: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006) had Sir Patrick Stewart, Sean Bean, and Terrence Stamp while The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) utilized Christopher Plummer and Max von Sydow’s talents. The publisher itself, Bethesda Softworks, has been known to tap screen talent for its games, bringing in Liam Neeson for Fallout 3 (2008) and Ron Perlman as a narrator for the Fallout series’ marketing materials.

Check out this fun video featuring interviews with the cast of Elder Scrolls Online:

 

Why are video game publishers trying to bring in big name movie actors? Is it truly because of talent, or just to bring in more money so they can develop the next installment in the series? Popular consensus seems to suggest that studios should leave the voice acting to the voice talent and leave the screen acting to the screen talent and any crossover is just a money-grabbing scheme by big corporations.

Let me submit that perhaps being a good screen actor and being a good voice actor are not mutually exclusive. Many film and TV actors have found success from lending their voice to a video game character. My opinion is that there is a pool of acting talent out there from which films, TV shows, and video games all draw. One video game character that I find to be pretty cool is Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins (2009) and Inquisition (2014), who is voiced by Claudia Black, an actress who gained recognition from acting in the sci-fi TV shows Farscape (1999-2003; which I still haven’t been able to bring myself to watch) and Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007). Yvonne Strahovski, who came to prominence as Sarah in Chuck (2007-2012), starred as a main character in the video game Mass Effect 2 (2010), won a Saturn Award for her guest work on Dexter (2006-2013), and most recently, starred alongside Keifer Sutherland on 24: Live Another Day (2014).

Yvonne Strahovski and her character Miranda Lawson in Mass Effect 2

Perhaps in today’s age of interconnected everything, actors at their core transcend just the screen- or voice-talent stereotype. Maybe acting now consists of being more than just a pretty face for the big screen. One of the more brilliant actors I know of, Benedict Cumberbatch, has an extensive resume that covers film, TV, theatre, radio, and video games. Now more than ever before, I believe actors are breaking out of the traditional boxes created for them and showcasing their talent in a variety of ways.

So while I do agree that a lot of big-name hires are done just for attention, I think it does some good as well in breaking down traditional lines drawn for types of media. A future of overlapping and intertwined media is inevitable, so why not start now?

It’s your turn now. Have you noticed any actors’ voices from video games? Do you have any favorite video games that feature big screen actors’ voices? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!