Top 10 TV Shows of 2014

Photo Credit:

Welcome to the end of the year, where we here at The Filtered Lens have all sorts of lists for you to swoon over and compare with your own. As usual, both Matt and Mike will present their takes on the best TV shows of the year. 2014 was another landmark year in this seemingly endless golden age of television. Narrowing down our lists to ten shows was difficult, and our two lists are quite different. Feel free to argue with us in the comments!


Matt’s Take:


Photo Credit: Credit: Dan Harmon Shows (Community and Rick and Morty)

NBC put Dan Harmon through the ringer with Community. So when they fired him, he went and made an outstandingly weird Adult Swim show. But, Season 4 of Community went poorly, and Harmon was back as showrunner for the excellent Season 5. In charge of two shows at once, we got double the self-referential humor and artistic integrity. Here’s to an even better 2015, Harmon surely deserves it.


Photo Credit: House of Cards

One of the breakout hits of 2013 came back just as strong in 2014. House of Cards proved immune to the sophomore slump that plagues a lot of series, delivering more back room politics and crazier twists than ever. Claire’s CNN interview still stands out as one of the best scenes of television all year. But with how the season ended, I’m even more excited to see where the series goes with Season 3.


Photo Credit: The Comeback

The triumphant return of this cult series didn’t quite get off to the start many fans had hoped it would, but the episodes since have been nothing short of outstanding. Valerie’s new role on an HBO series has given way to meta-commentary on the current state of television. The show is once again ahead of its time, showing us flaws in the golden age of scripted television we’re in right now. Lisa Kudrow slipped right back into the role and is as good as ever. This is the comeback we’ve been waiting for.


Photo Credit: Homeland

I mean, what a return to form. Season 2 started promisingly, but ruined the show’s realism by the end. Season 3 was slow, even though it had a killer finale. Well, Season 4 has rivaled the quality of Season 1, restoring the realism and not wasting time on hated characters. Setting the season almost entirely in the Middle East creates a new kind of tension for the series. Homeland is finally the spy show it always wanted to be.



Photo Credit: Veep

Veep is just downright hilarious, and has been now for three seasons. Selina Meyer is easily one of the best characters on TV right now, with Julia Louie-Dreyfus continuing her brilliant performance. This year brought Selina closer to the White House than ever and did so without skipping a beat on the awkward humor. The supporting cast continues to shine and play off each other incredibly well. My only complaint is that at ten episodes a season, half an hour each, the season feels a little short, but nonetheless fulfilling.


Photo Credit: Game of Thrones

Four seasons in and Game of Thrones continues to have such a brutal shock value. But great twists aren’t everything and guys in charge know that. A number of characters had an excellent fourth season, including Arya, Tyrion, Sansa, and Jon Snow. With episodes like The Watchers on the Wall, the action also has never been better. But the true feat of Thrones is its ability to weave unrelated stories around each other and keep everything interesting. There’s nothing else like it on TV.


Photo Credit: Orange is the New Black

Speaking of great ensemble casts, Orange is the New Black only improved in its second season. Paying a little less attention to Piper and her fiancee, Season 2 used the entire cast to set up a power struggle in the prison that culminated in one crazy finale. This is another show that knows exactly how to weave its characters around each other while keeping things interesting. There were big payoffs across the board for these lovable criminals, and that’s something to celebrate.


Photo Credit:,,20761705,00.html3. Girls

Say what you will about Lena Dunham and her show’s cynical view of the world, but there’s not another series on the air right now that captures friendship and love in your 20s as purely as this one. Season 3 of Girls took a lot of risks, namely having Hannah and Adam as a couple for the entire season. But it totally worked. Then there was Hannah’s job, which isn’t exactly what she wants to do but uses a lot of similar skills. Yeah, all the characters are white, miserable, and probably can’t afford their apartments. But I dare you to find a more relatable show for anyone who’s been in a destructive relationship, questioned their friendships, and got lost on their way to their dreams.


Photo Credit: The Legend of Korra

“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story!” Varrick, one of Korra‘s most delightful characters, said at the close of forced clip show due to budget cuts. Nickelodeon put Korra through the ringer in 2014, moving it online mid-season, rushing out the final season without much press, and slashing the budget. We got two full seasons this year, and they were the show’s best. Seamlessly blending classic anime humor, characters you truly love, mind-bending action, and political prowess that every bit rivals House of CardsKorra was easily the most under-appreciated show on TV this year. Even though the show is ending, it’s powerful messages of finding the right balance will live on through fans for years to come.


Photo Credit: Louie

Simply put, no one is doing what Louis C.K. is doing with the television medium right now. FX is smart to let this true artist do whatever he wants, making Louie the most pure and unaltered relationship between artist and audience on TV. The show is groundbreaking in that it’s, in many ways, a variety show. Louie is whatever it wants to be. There was no “typical episode” in Season 4. The show has become a surrealist piece, never really committing to the bounds of reality. Just about anything can happen. But what we do know is that whatever we get will be interesting and probably rewarding. This show is, undoubtedly, art.



Mike’s Take:

Photo Credit: Jane the Virgin

Not since Ugly Betty has the telenovela format been sent up with this much heart and fun. Jane the Virgin wears its dubious artificial insemination premise on its sleeve, anchoring its soap operatics with strong characters, witty dialogue, and one truly charismatic narrator. At the show’s core is newcomer Gina Rodriguez, who infuses the titular protagonist with enough warmth and vitality to make even the most ridiculous of plotlines seem totally believable.


Photo Credit: How to Get Away with Murder

The school of Shonda Rhimes doesn’t really teach about realism, but it certainly extols the virtue of a classically good cliffhanger. How else could former Grey’s Anatomy writer Pete Nowalk’s endlessly entertaining legal drama keep viewers on their toes week-to-week? Add in a diverse and intriguing group of characters—led by the marvelous Viola Davis—and you’ve got a recipe for one of the most enticing new shows of the season.


Photo Credit: Homeland

Speaking of schools, in the TV yearbook for 2014, Homeland easily wins “most improved.” The espionage thriller quickly shed off the skin of its dire third season, and has risen back to the top of its game. Season 4 centers around ongoing political tension in Pakistan, with all the intimate character drama and gut-wrenching plot twists that first made this series so impressive. I’m so glad Homeland is back, because when it’s good, it’s unmissable.


Photo Credit: The Legend of Korra

While wars between benders and tribes waged onscreen, an even darker battle was fought behind the scenes between the show’s creators and its network. I’ll never understand Nickelodeon’s decision to mistreat this gem of a series, but I’m thankful that the material we got this year is easily Korra‘s best. Books 3 and 4 are filled with beautiful animation, exciting villains, larger than life action sequences, and some of the most detailed character introspection to date. It’s a shame that the series’ ending has been so rushed, but at least it’s going out in style.


Photo Credit: Transparent

Yes, Amazon’s Transparent is about a trans parent, but really, it’s about the honesty—or, transparency—that we all have or don’t have for ourselves. When Mort Pfefferman (a quietly powerful Jeffery Tambor) comes out to his wife and kids as Maura, the most shocking thing about it is that she’s the only one in the family who’s finally being true to herself. What’s so remarkable about this series is that it doesn’t aim to be a voice for an entire minority group. Instead, it highlights a singular character’s journey, and through this lens we’re able to see how weird, painful, funny, and beautiful life can be.


Photo Credit: The Affair

For the patient viewer, Showtime’s newest drama offers a real treat. Yes, the pacing is glacially slow, but it’s only so we can witness every detail of the events surrounding a mysterious crime that occurs one summer in The Hamptons. The show’s most exciting aspect, however, is its dueling narratives; giving us two sides to the same story each week. With poignant mediations on love, loss, and desire, and a pair of expertly nuanced performances from leads Dominic West and Ruth Wilson, this is certainly an affair to remember.


Photo Credit: Orange is the New Black

With its sprawling cast and immense popularity, there were already high expectations for Orange‘s second season. Well, not only did Jenji Kohan’s prison dramedy continue its hot streak, it improved upon it’s previous outing in just about every way possible. Opening up to examine even more of Litchfield’s inmates, Orange featured some excellent character work this season. With heartfelt drama, riotous laughs, and the wonderfully dark villain Vee (Lorraine Toussaint), this is one prison I don’t ever want to be released from.


Photo Credit: Broad City

Broad City is, hands down, the funniest show on TV right now. It takes the 20-something city experience and twists it into something simultaneously surreal and relatable. It features daring and inventive set pieces that need to be seen to be believed. It’s episode premises are so simple, and yet they springboard into fantastical new heights. None of this would work, however, if it weren’t for the effortless chemistry between the show’s two leads and creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. Their breezy back-and-forth is really what sells it, making you realize Broad City is a passion project between two hilarious best friends.


Photo Credit: Masters of Sex

For it’s second season, Showtime’s sensuous period piece did the opposite of a sophomore slump. It took its good, but problematic first entry and made it into something outstanding. Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan are once again terrific as William Masters and Virginia Johnson. What’s most surprising is that the sex scenes have become the show’s least interesting facet. Using a combination of smart directive choices, focused characterization, and impactful themes of equality and societal norms, season 2 officially cemented the show’s status as one of the great prestige dramas of today.


Photo Credit: Hannibal

Bryan Fuller’s blood-soaked masterpiece features arresting performances, powerful ruminations on mortality and humanity, and some of the most gorgeous art direction to ever grace the small screen. It works within the confines of network TV to create something more alluring and provocative than much of its cable competition. It’s also nearly impossible to categorize as it seamlessly shifts between crime procedural, mind-bending horror, and cerebral human drama. Season 2 is bookended by a brutal home invasion, but it’s everything in between that makes sure your eyes are glued to the screen by the finale. Hannibal is a series that defies all expectations, and that’s why it’s the best and most important show of the year.



What do you think of our lists? What were your favorite shows of 2014? Let us know in the comments below!


By Matt Dougherty and Michael Papirmeister

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