Way back when I first relaunched this blog at the beginning of the year I declared that I wanted to expand it beyond its then current scope of being solely dedicated to games. I wanted to expand into movies, comics, books and TV. And then I pretty much just started writing about movies and games. Expansion is a slow and painful process, but from now I am going to be talking about TV as well as movies and games. Well, I say from now, but since the TV season is all but over I’ve picked a hell of a time to start writing about it.
With all that in mind I’ve decided to launch my new TV section the same way I launched my movies section; with a best-of list. This is the definitive (read: what I thought) best of TV list, right here, starting with drama and followed up by comedy in a couple of days. The Emmys ain’t got nothing on me.
Like most of the recent great TV shows, Hannibal exists perpetually on the bubble, a condition which ensures two things. The first that fans of the show spend months in suspended anxiety, hoping against hope that it would be returning next season. The second is that, if the showrunners are canny enough, the show in question would throw absolutely everything onto the screen, no holds barred. In 2014 Bryan Fuller and his team created a season of television that was nothing short of magnificent. Hannibal season one was a tough act to follow, least of all after it effectively burned everything down, but because it set the bar exceptionally high for the following season. Not only did season two clear that bar, but it also cleared the bar set by every other season of TV this year. It was, as mentioned previously, a magnificent piece of storytelling.
Also Considered: Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Orphan Black
Best Lead Actress
Tatiana Maslany effortlessly gave the best performance of any actress in any TV series this season in Orphan Black. It was so good she did it many, many times. Thanks to the premise of Orphan Black Maslany needed to play many different variations of her character. There are not many actresses who could have pulled off what Maslany did and continues to do on the Canadian science-fiction series, but somehow she manages to play all of the clones so differently that you stop noticing that they’re all played by the same woman. That takes a hell of a lot of talent. Talent Maslany has in spades.
Also Considered: Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black), Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex), Eva Green (Penny Dreadful), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story)
Best Lead Actor
After every episode of Hannibal I’d always think to myself that Hugh Dancy had finally managed to top himself. And then the very next week he’d do something that would surprise me. Sure Mads Mikkelsen plays the best version of Hannibal Lecter seen so far on screen, but its Dancy’s performances as Will Graham that draw everyone in. Like the show itself, his performance is hard to describe and must be seen to be understood. His intense performance elevates almost every scene he’s in. It doesn’t hurt that he has fantastic chemistry with Mikkelsen, and the rest of his co-stars.
Also Considered: Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Matthew McConaughey (True Detective), Timothy Olyphant (Justified)
Best Supporting Actress
Orange is the New Black
When I first started watching Orange is the New Black I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to see Kate Mulgrew as anything other than uptight, bun-haired Starfleet Captain Kathryn Janeway. Now I know if I ever, for some reason, go back to watching Star Trek: Voyager I’m going to be waiting for Mulgrew to bust out the Russian accent and start buying her crews affection with tampons and lipstick. It takes a talented performer to stop seeing an actress and only see the character they’re playing, but as Red Mulgrew pulls it off. The second season of Orange is the New Black wouldn’t be half the show it was without Kate Mulgrew in it.
Also Considered: Susanna Thompson (Arrow), Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black), Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black), Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones)
Best Supporting Actor
There’s not a lot to be said about Aaron Paul that hasn’t already been said. For me he made Breaking Bad. He was the heart of the show, the character you truly rooted for and, for me personally, Jesse Pinkman was the main character and the whole reason I watched the show. Paul’s ability to switch from comedy to drama in the blink of an eye was outstanding. In a show primarily starring detestable characters Jesse was the one guy you wanted to see good things happen to, and all of that was down to how well played he was by Aaron Paul.
Also Considered: Manu Bennett (Arrow), Michael Ealy (Almost Human), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Josh Hartnett (Penny Dreadful)
Best Guest Star
Probably one of the hardest roles to play on screen is that of an emotionally reserved character. Get it wrong and the entire performance is one not. Get it right, however, and all of a sudden you’ve got a character who is nuanced. There aren’t too many actors who can pull it off. I’ll be honest I wouldn’t have thought Anderson was one of them, but her turn as Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier in Hannibal has me convinced that she’s a stunningly talented actress. She plays the role to perfection, to the point that it was genuinely exciting to see her name pop on the screen every time she guest starred in Hannibal.
Also Considered: Raul Esparza (Hannibal), Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black), Yael Stone (Orange is the New Black), Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones), Alex Price (Penny Dreadful), Mark Sheppard (Supernatural), Lorraine Toussaint (Orange is the New Black), John Hurt (Doctor Who)
Orange is the New Black
Taylor Schilling, Michael J. Harney, Kate Mulgrew, Jason Biggs, Uzo Aduba, Danielle Brooks, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning
If you ever watch a TV series wondering where the heck all of the good, well written female characters are hiding, most of them are in Orange is the New Black. The series has the most stacked roster of actors this side of Game of Thrones, and refreshingly does away with the quota that most shows seem to have of only having one or two women per series. The whole cast gels exceptionally well together and refreshingly there isn’t a dud in the pack.
Also Considered: Game of Thrones, American Horror Story, Hannibal, Breaking Bad
Best New Series
I had never heard of Penny Dreadful before the first episode aired. That first episode created a tremendous amount of buzz that apparently no amount of pre-air marketing had managed to do, either that or I was completely oblivious to it. But Penny Dreadful grabs you from the first episode and doesn’t let go until the last. Boasting a stupidly talented cast that includes Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton and Eva Green, Penny Dreadful was a stand out display of great television, which was no easy feat in a season that was by and large excellent.
Also Considered: True Detective, Masters of Sex
Most Improved Series
I can’t be the only person who thought that Arrow had probably peaked with it’s marvelous first season finale, right? Last year it was a show that started out slow but became something I would happily make time to watch. Within a few episodes of its sophomore season Arrow had suddenly become compulsive viewing, hitting you with cliffhangers at the end of every episode, some of which would have me desperately anticipating the next episode and watching the 30 second previews on You Tube over and over. As much as shows like Hannibal and Orange is the New Black were better shows, Arrow was the one I looked forward to watching each week.
Also Considered: The Walking Dead, The Newsroom, Supernatural
Breaking Bad (season 5, episode 14)
“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.” Not only was Ozymandias as close to perfect as Breaking Bad was ever going to get, it was the most aptly titled episode of a TV show since season four’s Face Off. It was easily the best episode of TV in the 13-14 season for it’s unapproachable writing and directing and it’s stunning depiction of a man’s world crashing down around him. Ozymandias was the episode that Breaking Bad was created for, and there’s not much higher praise you can give an episode of a TV series than that.
Also Considered: We Have Manners. We’re Polite (Orange is the New Black), Three Ghosts (Arrow), The Watchers on the Wall (Game of Thrones), The Mountain and the Viper (Game of Thrones), Possession (Penny Dreadful), Who Goes There (True Detective), Shot All To Hell (Justified), The Day of the Doctor (Doctor Who), Mizumono (Hannibal), Takiawase (Hannibal), Arrhythmia (Almost Human)