15. VeepBy the third season, shouldn't we be sick of Selina Myer and her staff? Not when they deliver quality laughs week after week, leaving us wanting more. Bless HBO for bringing this show to us each season, but also curse the network for its limited series runs. 10 episodes simply isn't enough time to spend with this lovable band of buffoons. In season 3, we followed Selina as she prepared to run for president, going through a series of public relations snafus, a handful of variably qualified campaign managers (narcissistic Dan somehow ends up being the worst of them, suffering a nervous breakdown in the process), and somehow finds time for a ludicrous affair with her personal trainer (guest star Chris Meloni brings the funny). Creator Armando Iannucci's acidic political humor is still as sharp and clever as ever, while also letting this incredible ensemble engage in old-time sitcom scenarios, as in "Crate", when the gang has to figure out how to delete incriminating comments from a reporter's digital recorder he accidentally leaves behind.
Best Episodes: "Detroit", with Selina's pacifist daughter punching out a gun rights protester who threatens to get physical with Selena / "New Hampshire", where Selina and worshipful assistant Gary (Tony Hale) share the best moment in the series upon learning some astonishing news / "Clovis", where Selina & Co. visit a tech company (shades of Silicon Valley) while also dealing with Jonah, now a popular political blogger whose viral video about Selina provides another thorn in the campaign's side.
Best Episodes: "I Get Psy-chic Out of You", where Linda believes she is psychic and gets involved in solving a local crime spree with no-nonsense Sergeant Bosco (Gary Cole) / "Tina and the Real Ghost", where Tina finally gets a boyfriend...who's a ghost trapped in a shoebox / "Dawn of the Peck", the Thanksgiving episode with a town-wide attack by killer turkeys, ducks, and geese (it's as crazy as it sounds)
Best Episodes: "Looking for the Future", the best episode of the series so far which follows Patrick and his romantic interest Richie as they spend the day together wandering San Francisco and getting to know each other / "Looking for a Plus-One", with Patrick's mother telling it like it is at his sister's wedding/ "Looking Glass", the finale, with intriguing and open-ended conclusions to each of the leads' story lines
Best Episodes: "Snatch Game", for obvious reasons / "Glamazon by Colorevolution", with some of the funniest challenge sketches from the queens this season / "Drag Queens of Comedy", where we finally see Bianca Del Rio in her element, but also some surprisingly excellent work from other contestants [note: all the corresponding Untucked episodes are also excellent and required viewing]
Best Episodes: "Who Goes There", with the epic tracking shot during a violent attempted robbery in a dangerous neighborhood / "Haunted Houses", where the split between Cohle and Hart is illustrated vividly and uncomfortably / "Form and Void", the finale
Best Episodes: "A Whole Other Hole", revealing Lorna's back story while also featuring a great competition between Boo and Nicky / "You Also Have a Pizza", featuring Poussey's flashback, with an astonishing performance from Samira Wiley / "Appropriately Sized Pots", focusing on Rosa as she continues to undergo cancer treatment and looking into her past
9. The Comeback
Lisa Kudrow's Valerie Cherish made an incredible return to HBO, almost a decade after the first season of "The Comeback" came and went. The show, though, became a cult sensation and Kudrow and show co-creator Michael Patrick King were just as surprised and pleased as the fans to be asked back by HBO to update us on what's happening with the self-aware sitcom has-been we all know and love at this point. The greatest surprise of all? This season managed to raise the bar. Unlike, say, the fourth season of "Arrested Development", a bizarre train wreck best left forgotten, this long-awaited second season of "The Comeback" brought us a more mature and thoughtful look at the price of fame and the fickle and unusual ways of Hollywood stardom. How Kudrow didn't get a second Emmy nomination for her work here is a mystery, and a crime, if you ask me. The two seasons are so wildly different from one another, and it's not fair to say one is better than the other, but they complement each other in many wonderful ways.
Best Episodes: "Valerie Makes a Pilot", the first episode of the new season that gives us a little of the old with a refreshing hint of the new to come / "Valerie Faces the Critics", with Valerie and husband Mark having one of the most gripping and honest couples' confrontations on television / "Valerie Gets What She Really Wants", the hour-long finale that was practically perfect, with laughs, tears, and perhaps the best final scene of television all year
Best Episodes: "So Did the Fat Lady", which gave guest actress Sarah Baker, playing a larger woman interested in Louie, a major career boost / "In the Woods 1 & 2", an hour-long flashback to Louie's youth and his first experiences with drugs; Devin Druid (as young Louie), Jeremy Renner (as a charming but dangerous drug dealer), and Transparent's Amy Landecker (as Louie's mom) give three of the best performances the show has ever seen / "Pamela Part 3", the finale with one of the best and warmest final scenes of any show this year
Best Episodes: "The Gathering", as Claire attempts to escape her hosts, with a great boar-hunting sequence / "The Wedding", where almost the entire episode is spent in the bedroom of bride and groom as they explore and get to know one another / "Both Sides Now", the mid-season finale
Best Episodes: "I'm So Bad", where Amy learns about military protocol while playing a video game and she and her friends beautifully play those women you love to hate...for good reason / "Allergic to Nuts", where Amy lands a great gig voicing an animated cartoon character and finds herself mysteriously attracted to a magician / "Slow Your Roll", with a therapy session most young people can completely identify with
5. Mad Men
Like "RuPaul's Drag Race" (maybe the only comparison one could make between these two shows), this season of "Mad Men" was bemoaned by viewers who were uncertain if the show was good anymore, wondering if the fire had gone out. I can say unequivocally that it hasn't and I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the final 7 episodes. Which leads me to why this show isn't listed higher, considering I love it so much: splitting the final season into two parts isn't new ("The Sopranos" did it), but giving us just seven episodes and then disappearing for a year was a pretty great disservice to the fans. Rather than the standard 13-14 episodes per season, maybe Matthew Weiner could have super-sized things to 16-18, giving us a few extra shows per half-season. In any case, this year saw more provocative Peggy stories, veering from Lucille Ball-style misunderstandings to moving reflective moments, Roger encountering the dark side of his love affair with the counterculture, and Don paying his dues all over again while juggling his crumbling marriage to Megan (still Team Megan here, no hate). We only saw Betty briefly, which is a plus, and she is still a frustrating character; some good Bob Benson material; Pete somehow has landed a California Real Estate Barbie for a girlfriend; and Ginsberg, oh Ginsberg.... "Mad Men" is a show I revisit in its entirety once every year. It's a show I've loved since the beginning and will continue to love after it exits the screen.
Best Episodes: "Field Trip", with the most awkward day at the office for Don, as he awaits a partners' meeting to OK his return to work / "The Strategy", with the best Don and Peggy moments since "The Suitcase" / "Waterloo", with the moon landing, the loss of a beloved character, and Don passing the baton to Peggy
4. Please Like Me
A slowly developing cult following has built around this Australian sitcom, the product of 28-year-old wunderkind Josh Thomas. He is sort of the gay male Lena Dunham, the young alternative voice of a certain generation. Take that however you wish, but don't let it stop you from watching this show. This year saw the second season, with more episodes than the debut season, and Josh has upped his game in terms of storytelling, characterization, and humor laced with pathos. His best friend Tom is still a mess, he is still navigating the messy waters of dating after coming out, his mom has gone from an amusing nutcase to a full-fledged mental home patient, and his dad and stepmother have welcomed a new baby into their home. Enter new characters Patrick, the new gorgeous roommate Josh has a crush on, and Arnold, a troubled potential love match. Where the show excels are in its dialogue scenes, where characters interact believably and have engrossing conversations where they discover more about themselves as we, the audience, are as well. The show should still be available on demand and it's a pure pleasure to discover for yourself.
Best Episodes: "Ham", with a birthday party for Patrick gone wrong / "Scroggin'", where Josh and Mum go on a camping-trip (this is one of the best not-quite-a-bottle-episode's I've ever seen) / "Truffled Mac and Cheese", where Josh locks Tom in his room for stealing Josh's special mac and cheese and the two guys share an amusing and revelatory afternoon with old friend Claire
3. Masters of Sex
When "The Affair" won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Series, I was shocked that Showtime had campaigned so hard for its new show, which is decent, and had apparently thrown its crown jewel to the wolves. If possible, season 2 of "Masters of Sex" was better than the first, pursuing the relationship between Virginia and Bill in unexpected ways, revealing another surprising side of Libby, delving into the sham marriage of Betty and her meal ticket, and following the Masters and Johnson team as they jump from place to place in search of an accepting environment for their "sex study". Perhaps most poignant was the storyline of Lillian DePaul, the hard cancer researcher facing her own mortality each day, with Virginia, a woman she clashes with constantly, as her only confidante. Betsy Brandt ("Breaking Bad") also made a major impression as a sexually dysfunctional patient in a role that should have been given more attention come awards time, and comedienne Artemis Pebdani gave another wowza recurring performance as a diet pill huckster. This season moved quickly, even jumping forward in time around mid-season, and each episode continued to build and grow the show into something truly spectacular. "Masters of Sex" was easily the best drama on TV this year, and it's just a shame that more people haven't recognized that.
Best Episodes: "Fight", most of which is a bottle episode in a hotel room with Bill and Virginia discussing their relationship, but also features a moving subplot about a hermaphrodite baby / "Blackbird", with Lillian and Virginia's final clash / "Mirror, Mirror", with new patient Barbara reaching a psychological breakthrough about her dysfunction (Betsy Brandt, you are a revelation here) / "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", the gripping finale which must have been Lizzy Caplan's "for your consideration" episode
Amazon has its first big hit on its hands, winning Best Actor and Best Comedy Series at the Golden Globes, and, perhaps not surprisingly, it deserves all of its accolades. There has never been anything like "Transparent" on television before, not just in terms of its focusing on the transitional period for transgender men and women, but in its interplay between such an unusual and compelling, though not entirely likable, family. You'll also be hard-pressed to think of another openly Jewish family on television today, but this show revels in the Jewish lifestyle and traditions of the Pfefferman household. Take that, "Goldbergs"! All of the press about this show is true. Tambor is mesmerizing and brilliant as Maura (formerly Morton), who has decided to take the long-awaited steps towards transitioning into the woman he has always been; the show's humor is dark, but genuinely funny and true, as the Pfefferman family recognizes Maura, but also takes the opportunity to re-examine their lives; the entire cast is perfect, including Gaby Hoffmann (long overdue for this career renaissance as of late), Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, Judith Light, Melora Hardin, Rob Huebel, Carrie Brownstein, Kathryn Hahn, and Bradley Whitford, they're all giving career-best performances here. It's fun to see Holly Woodlawn and Alexis Del Lago, drag legends from the New York scene, in cameos at the LGBT retirement community where Maura lives, as well as footage of the late great Crystal LaBeija (in footage from 1968's The Queen) under the show's title card. I cannot wait for season 2!
Best Episodes: "Pilot", one of the best and practically perfect pilots I've ever seen / "Moppa", where Ali and Sarah go on a field trip with Maura / "Best New Girl", a flashback revealing Morton's previous friendship with a cross-dresser named Mark and their journey to a transvestite summer camp
1. Broad City
My favorite of the year, without question, was "Broad City". It's a show I've watched over and over, with ease, as it only lasted eight episodes. It's the best show about young millennial life, the best show about living in New York, and it features the strongest and most enjoyable friendship on television at the moment (RIP Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins). Springing forth from their popular YouTube series of the same name, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer have created what has become affectionately known as the "anti-Girls", a show that follows twenty-something women in New York with raucous humor often hiding the commentary on millennial lives. Most importantly, "Broad City" isn't as concerned with selling its message to the viewers...it's a show that wants you to laugh at and with these two wild and crazy gals. And how could you not? The upcoming season will hopefully be just as good, if not better, as Abbi and Ilana navigate their way through the streets of the city in search of their next big adventure together. Best show of 2014, hands down.
Best Episodes: "Working Girls", the first masterpiece of the season where Abbi has to go to great lengths to get her neighbor's package after she misses the delivery window / "Fattest Asses", where the girls go all out for a rooftop party and have a hilarious encounter with a pair of douchebag DJ's / "Destination Wedding", where the girls and their group hop all over town trying to find a way to Connecticut to make an old friend's wedding / "The Last Supper", the season finale where the girls' posh dinner for Abbi's birthday goes horribly wrong