Spindle’s TV Shows of 2014

2014 proved that the Golden Age of Television is far from over, and while you may be forgiven for thinking that all the good stuff was coming from the States, us Brits proved we could certainly hold our own when it comes to quality programming.

The Fall – Okay, so the second season may have been slightly preposterous at times, but taken as a whole, this Belfast-set serial killer crime show was a heart-stopping ride. Starring Gillian Anderson as the sultry cat and Jamie Dornan as the improbably gorgeous mouse, their game kept us gripped through some slightly dodgy plot points thanks to the terrific performances. Added bonus: Anderson’s collection of silky blouses.

Transparent – One of the first offerings of original content from Amazon gave us a show which had more of a feel of HBO at its finest: a sharply observed, wickedly funny story about a (presumed) man in his 60s who reveals to his family that he is actually transgender. Jeffrey Tambor’s Maura is a complex character taking her first steps into frightening, unfamiliar territory; her children, at first too easy to write off as insufferable, are slowly revealed to be victims of their parent’s addiction to secrets, proving nothing and no-one is ever quite what they seem at first.

The Comeback – There simply was no finer comic performance on television this year than Lisa Kudrow in The Comeback. Starring Kudrow as fame-hungry former sitcom star Valerie Cherish, Kudrow’s original show on HBO ended after just one season back in 2005. This year, The Comeback came back and was better than ever before, a scathing satire on fame, Hollywood and the kind of dark HBO dramedies that it had itself morphed into during the interim – as well as an unexpectedly moving character study of one woman looking to define her sense of self-worth. A million awards for the most talented Friend, immediately.

Gogglebox - Let’s write about a television show in which we watch people watch television and discuss television! Proving that perhaps you don’t need to re-invent the wheel to create compelling television, this unexpected Channel 4 hit continued to grip the nation, creating breakout stars and threatening to become a victim of its own success in the process. Let’s pray it ain’t so: Steph and Dom are my spirit animals.

Happy Valley – Although oddly marketed initially as one of those charming Sunday night shows about a no-nonsense Northern police lady played by faithful Sarah Lancashire, the actual show proved to be anything but: Lancashire’s Sergeant Catherine Cawood is a haunted woman struggling to keep it together while unknowingly on the trail of her daughter’s rapist, in a show whose kidnap-gone-wrong plot daringly relocated Fargo to Yorkshire – to brilliant effect.

The Good Wife - Remember when it seemed this CBS legal lady lawyer show was only that? Me neither, as the producers of TGW quickly performed a neat Trojan horse trick and morphed what could have been a routine network procedural into a dark, calculating masterpiece about corruption and money and power. With a team of writers unafraid to make bold choices aided by a sterling cast headed by Julianna Margulies, season five proved to be the show’s best yet. Spoiler alert: in season six this show starts morphing into a Breaking Bad/House of Cards hybrid. Unmissable.

Worthy mentions:

True Detective - There’s little to add to the millions of words already written about this brilliant, epic show about detectives on the trail of a serial killer in the Louisiana backwoods; suffice it to say it’s unmissable.

Mad Men – All singin’, all dancin’ Cooper. That’s all.

Inside Amy Schumer – Feminist sketch comedy. There, I said it. Amy Schumer’s wickedly funny show features some of the sharpest, funniest sketch comedy in years, wiping the floor with knackered old SNL.