The big four networks continued to make strides toward irrelevance as they continued to offer such earth-shaking fare as Dancing with the Has-Beens, American Shrieker, Modern Smug and Unfunny Family and Three and a Half Douchebags. Cable, as always, was the place to see imaginative and innovative work.
With Breaking Bad all done and The Walking Dead deteriorating into a bloody bore, FX rushed in to grab the edgy programming mantle from AMC, and brought some good stuff to the screen this year.
|The Master in The Strain|
Multi-layered and constantly shifting through locations and time periods, it's packed with so many ideas that you'd think your eyes would roll into the back of your head from the complexity of it all, but Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, working from their novels, manage to keep it all fitting together like the world's most complicated jigsaw puzzle. And we get trademark Del Toro creepy flourishes, too. I can't wait for Season Two.
Back for its fourth season on FX is American Horror Story: Freak Show. Unless this season makes some serious missteps, it will stand as one of the most unique and moving testaments to "otherness" that television has ever offered. In one fell swoop, creator Ryan Murphy takes on prejudice — against minorities, the LGBT community, and people who just happen to look different — and grabs it by the throat, throttling it until it's (hopefully) dead.
|AHS: Freak Show's pinheads|
I just hope it resists kitchen sinking in the way the first and third seasons did. Murphy needs to trust the plot and character decisions he's made, and resist the temptation to heap incident upon incident until it all comes crashing down. Coven, after a hilarious "who's come back to life now?" season, devolved into a ridiculous Bewitched episode for the finalé. Let's hope that fate doesn't befall Freak Show. Some wags are already complaining, but it hasn't jumped the shark for me yet.
|The Silicon Valley gang|
Packed with turtleneck-wearing Steve Jobs wannabes touching their fingertips together and endlessly harping about "making the world a better place," the show centers on a small company, Pied Piper, and its first experiences navigating the treacherous waters of Palo Alto.
Having worked in the Valley himself in the late '80s, Judge has a feel for how these characters talk and behave — and all the inherent pretentiousness. This is another series I'm looking forward to continuing with next year.
|Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of Cosmos|
Tackling such heady subjects as black holes, the expansion of the universe and the way light works, Tyson made them comprehensible but no less "whooaahhh"-inducing. And the fact that it made so many creationists' heads explode was an added bonus. They even petitioned deGrasse to give them equal time on the program in order to present a "fair and balanced" view of how the universe began. Fair and balanced? Where have I heard that before? ...
|Jamie Bell and Seth Numrich in Turn|
Veteran shows that I'm looking forward to continuing with next year are Shameless, Nurse Jackie and Episodes. They all finished strong this year and it looks like the shit is really going to hit the fan for the two aforementioned titles. And what will Sean and Beverly do next? Masters of Sex is another one I'll look in on in 2015, but as I mentioned earlier, The Walking Dead appears to be living up to its title — if the 2014 season is any indication.