15. Chozen (Season 1)
FX’s original animated sitcom ‘Chozen’ has become a breakout animated hit for me despite being cancelled after only one season. Written and produced by Grant Dekernion (‘Eastbound and Down’), ‘Chozen’ details the life of a 28-year-old white rapper of the same name just after a lengthy prison sentence. The lead character is voiced by Bobby Moynihan and the show also features Michael Pena, Method Man, and Danny McBride. The show ran briefly from January to March 2014 and its inclusion of an openly gay male character fresh out of jail is more than enough reasons for it to start watching.
14. 24: Live Another Day (Season 1)
Everyone loves Jack Bauer, so the reboot of FOX’s serial series ‘24’ literally warmed my heart during the first half of 2014. On ‘Live Another Day’, Jack and his techie assistant Chloe O’Brien travel into new territories to ensure all hell doesn’t break loose in central London. In addition to O’Brien, the limited event series also stars my favorite ‘Dexter’ alum Yvonne Strahovski as lead (but corrupt) agent Kate Morgan. Despite only having twelve episodes, ‘24’ fans were pleasantly surprised to see the show’s same authenticity with the new season – set four years after the original season eight series finale. When I heard that first time clock to signal the first hour of ‘Live Another Day’, I knew I was in for a treat. The only thing missing was another cool Black president.
13. NCIS: New Orleans (Season 1)
After appearing in two episodes of the backdoor pilot episodes during the eleventh ‘NCIS’ season, Emmy-award winning actor Scott Bakula returns to lead the New Orleans spin-off of the crime drama. Dubbed ‘NCIS: New Orleans’, Dwayne Pride (Bakula) leads the investigation of unique crimes in the New Orleans area. The show also stars C.C.H. Pounder as medical examiner Dr. Loretta Wade – a role much more catered for her acting persona than as an Assistant District Attorney. There’s plenty of jazz (a la HBO’s ‘Treme’) and just enough crime fighting to make you think that this could be the original ‘NCIS’ series.
12. Once Upon A Time (Season 4A)
As the only show with two entries on my 2014 TV list, season 4A of ‘Once Upon A Time’ shined brighter than any other show for one simple reason – and sadly, it wasn’t the ‘Frozen’ storyline. Elizabeth Mitchell, who played the Hans Christian Andersen “Snow Queen”, dazzled critics nationwide with her chilling (but dramatic) performances. Back to the ‘Frozen’ plot, newcomer actress Elizabeth Lail added lots of humor and wit to the character Anna, but ‘Fringe’ alum Georgina Haig failed to do the same as Elsa. If she were played by anyone else (and I do mean anyone), 4A would’ve ranked much higher.
11. Californication (Season 7)
Aptly named after my favorite state, the risqué Showtime comedy ‘Californication’ is David Duchovony’s true outlet to shine. The Golden Globe winning actor stars as up-and-coming writer Hank Moody struggling with sex, drugs, and fame in Los Angeles. In the midst of his own battles, he’s also balancing raising a teenage daughter with his intermittent girlfriend Karen (Natascha McElhone). In its final season, the inevitable breakup happen while leaving critics wondering if the show ran its course seasons ago.
10. True Detective (Season 1)
HBO’s latest original programming ‘True Detective’ became much more of a promising anthology series than ‘American Horror Story’ could ever be. The first season featured Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as detectives in Los Angeles unraveling a difficult crime. The clever mix of novelty and crime-solving propelled the show to receive twelve Emmy nominations. McConaughey’s off-duty story line shined while Harrelson’s became too emotional to bear at times. However, at only eight episodes per season, it’s kind of hard to become fully invested when other shows have double (or even triple) that amount.
9. Iyanla Fix My Life (Season 4)
It seems as if motivational speaker guru Iyanla Vanzant has been churning through seasons of her hit original OWN series ‘Iyanla Fix My Life’. After three seasons since 2012, the fourth season has received quite the expansion given high ratings and a 2014 NAACP Image Award win. Standing at sixteen episodes, the latest ‘Life’ season gained newfound popularity for two reasons. First, there’s a ridiculous father (Jay) who has a staggering 34 children by 17 different women. Second, the mid-season premiere features an episode on the Mike Brown tragedy and protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Both episodes peaked on the Saturday night #deathslot in mid-2012.
8. The Leftovers (Season 1)
Based on the Tom Perrotta novel of the same name, HBO’s adaptation of ‘The Leftovers’ floored me with its dramatic storyline. When 2% of the world’s population vanishes in thin air, the townspeople of Mapleton, New York address the crisis in many different ways. Each person that disappeared is referred to as a Departure while the Guilty Remnant represents an expatriate organization strongly against celebrating the lives of those who have departed. Each character’s dynamic is tested when the Guilty Remnant reaches a shockingly offensive plateau, leaving me literally on the edge of my seat waiting for the reset that will likely occur in the show’s second season next year.
7. Black Dynamite (Season 2)
I never really watched all of ‘The Boondocks’, but Adult Swim’s latest urban programming ‘Black Dynamite’ is way better than its predecessor. Shows with 1970s themes are always fun because of its nostalgic effect, but this show takes it to new heights. Pair ‘Dynamite’ with its stellar graphics and laundry list of celebrity guests gives the show its own lane in the world of indie black comedies. My favorite main cast member is Kym Whitley as Honeybee, but Tommy Davidson, Michael Jai White, and Byron Minns each hold their own.
6. Project Runway (Season 13)
I’ve been referring to the thirteenth season of ‘Project Runway’ as the #redemptionseason as it was the first season in which two previously eliminated designers coasted all the way to Fashion Week. Amanda Valentine came in eighth place during season 11 and returned two years later to become the first runner-up of season 13. Char Glover, on the other hand, is a different story. After receiving the exclusive #timgunnsave in episode six, Glover returned during the next episode and was “saved” again by Tim just a few weeks later angering the last bit of talent left in the final five. The dramatics may have been on high, but Sean and Amanda delivered two of the best finale collections…ever.
5. Looking (Season 1)
Jonathan Groff, widely known for his role as the flamboyant Jesse St. James on ‘Glee’, impressed me much more on the HBO dramedy ‘Looking’. The show centers around a small group of LGBT friends in San Francisco, California. As Groff’s character (video game designer Patrick Murray) explores the city, he meets plenty of potential suitors. The portrayal of gay men dating in a big city is effortlessly done on ‘Looking’, and has led to barriers being broken in primetime television.
4. Once Upon A Time (Season 3B)
As a Oncer, the fate of the world’s favorite fairytale characters is of great importance to my consumption of all things pop culture. On the third season of ‘Once Upon A Time’, writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz took my imagination to another level by introducing the Wicked Witch Of The West (Rebecca Mader) as the estranged sister of…the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla). The dynamic of two of the most evil fairytale characters being sisters kept me at the edge of my seat for every single episode of OUAT 3B. Mario Van Peebles (yes – of ‘New Jack City’ fame) directed my favorite ‘Once’ episode in 2014 – Zelena’s emotional origin story that explained how she became “green” with jealousy.
3. Ray Donovan (Season 2)
‘Ray Donovan’ filled a void in my TV schedule after the eighth season of ‘Dexter’ in 2013. Sabretooth, or Liev Schreiber, plays the titular character in this gritty crime drama set in Calabasas. In an Emmy-nominated role, Jon Voight plays his wickedly evil father Mickey Donovan. The two clash violently over keeping secrets just to stay alive while keeping their families safe from various mobs and the (crooked) police. Pooch Hall (‘The Game’) is quite the standout, starring as the estranged, random Black son amongst three equally corrupt older brothers.
2. Orphan Black (Season 2)
First things first, anyone who can portray ten completely different versions of themselves in a twisted plot about clones should be applauded. BBC’s Tatiana Maslany is now on her second season of ‘Orphan Black’ and it seems like she gets more comfortable acting out the personas with each episode. The latest episodes introduced a transgender clone while keeping main clones Alison, Cosima, and Helena intertwined in Sarah’s mayhem. ‘Black’ is beyond stellar television, but it hasn’t garnered the Emmy nomination for Maslany that it rightfully deserves. After numerous petitions and social media outcry, she (finally) nabbed her first major award nomination earlier this month.
1. Sons Of Anarchy (Season 7)
There’s just no storytelling like Kurt Sutter’s ‘Sons Of Anarchy’. Shows that are wrongfully popular like ‘Scandal’ and ‘American Horror Story’ try to match the legacy that Sutter’s ‘Anarchy’ is leaving behind for television, but it won’t happen. Charlie Hunnam and Katey Sagal’s performances during the last quarter of the #finalride are equally breathtaking. Sagal won an Emmy for her ‘Sons’ performance in 2013, but Hunnam – like Maslany above – has yet to score a nod. As the crow “flew straight” and Jax received his #mayhemvote, the poetic outro to America’s best outlaw drama proved its Hamlet comparisons to be completely right.