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10. Turn (aka: Turn: Washington's Spies)
Season 1 (April 6-June 8, 2014) – AMC
The brainchild of Nikita co-creator Craig Silverstein, Turn started slightly tepidly but hit its stride just a few episodes in. Set during the revolutionary war, the show is at its best when we see the scope of the conflict both on the townships and the city of New York circa the late 18th century. The melodrama between lead Jamie Bell's Abraham and his wife and father is where the show falls short., But this is more than made up for in the great supporting cast of soldiers and mercenaries played by Angus Macfayden, JJ Feild, and the extra dastardly Samuel Roukin. For those looking to get a good taste of the Revolutionary setting, Turn is worth a spin.
Season 4 (October 5-December 21, 2014) – Showtime
I was one of the many who thought season 3 of Showtime's superstar CIA drama had jumped the shark with the death of one of the show's main characters. So it was rather begrudgingly that I started watching season 4. This was proven somewhat true for the first few episodes of the season. But after we got past Carrie's stupid baby drama and Peter Quinn's sexually questionable decision making, the season evolved into a tense spy plot that played out very well across the majority of the episodes. Is it fantastical? Of course. But given the corner the series painted itself into, I'd say they did a pretty damn good job of delivering an enjoyable season. I'll be back for number 5.
8. Silicon Valley
Season 1 (April 6-June 1, 2014) – HBO
Mike Judge is one funny dude. I don't think anyone doubts that. But the relative failure of his live action endeavors (in the marketplace that is) have left some questioning if his skills were best suited for the animated space. Thankfully Silicon Valley came along and silenced all the critics. The only knock against this sendup of tech startup culture is that eight half-hour episodes isn't nearly enough. Give us more for 2015!
7. Orange is the New Black
Season 2 (June 6, 2014) – Netflix
Following up one of the standout new series of 2013, the sophomore effort for Jenji Kohan and company might not have been as revolutionary as the first go around, but it was certainly enjoyable from beginning to binge-watch end. Pulling focus away from Piper proved a great way to expand the world of the show and mapped out the way OitNB will continue past just a season or two. While this created a bit of series schizophrenia, it had the side effect of providing us with less Jason Biggs - whose character has been the weak point of the show since the beginning.
6. True Detective
Season 1 (January 12-March 9, 2014) – HBO
Oh what could have been. Had the series lived up to what it presented in the first four episodes, this not only would have been the number one show of the year, but maybe of all time. Even without a stuck landing, the first season of this stand-alone series (huh?) was still some of the most enjoyable and certainly most "must-see" TV of the year. It's definitely hard to find a show that invaded the zeitgeist with more fervor.
Season 3 (April 6-June 8, 2014) – HBO
Easily the funniest show on TV, round three of Veep was quite certainly the best season of the show so far. With odd parallels to the show at number four on this list, a trip inside Selina Meyer's presidential campaign was oddly informative about the political process, all the while being entertaining week after week.
4. House of Cards
Season 2 (February 14, 2014) – Netflix
How do you follow up one of the most groundbreaking first seasons in television history? You start with one of the most shocking first episodes in season two histories. Solid. Episode after episode, House of Cards delivers one of the most reliable TV-watching experiences around with top notch acting, writing, and teleivisionmaking throughout. It's pretty obvious this show is already one of the very best around, but if it can continue to improve, the day Netflix drops the new season will soon need to be declared a national holiday. (And perhaps the next couple days after as well).
3. The Knick
Season 1 (August 8-October 17, 2014) – Cinemax
Aspiring TV writers take note, convincing Steven Soderbergh to direct all 10 episodes of your debut season is a good way to guarantee success. Putting together a wonderful cast headlined by Clive Owen, Andre Holland, and Eve Hewson is a good second step. Setting the show in an incredibly realized gritty turn-of-the-century New York City is a brilliant twist. And as a coup de grace, hiring Cliff Martinez to compose what is quite frankly the best score in television means you've got the best 10 hours ever aired on Cinemax.
Season 1 (April 15-June 17, 2014) – FX
In a lesser year, this mini-series/episodic-series/what-is-it-series could have been the best show on TV by a country mile. As it stands, this Coen Bros. adaptation created by Noah Hawley comes in a very narrow second. But with some of the best acting and tightest writing in a very crowded year, in this case second place is definitely not "first loser." With things buttoned up so nicely after season one, I'm fascinated to see where they take this for round two. Maybe it will be good enough to get the top spot for 2015.
1. Game of Thrones
Season 4 (April 4-June 14, 2014) – HBO
In the age where headlines are made by entire seasons of shows being released in one day, there is no show on TV that causes more buzz when each episode airs on a weekly basis. If you're watching GoT on delay, don't even consider opening up your twitter app once the sun goes down Sunday night. This is the first year I've done this list, but there's no doubt Game of Thrones would have been near the top the last three years as well. And to all that, Season 4 has been the very best yet. Long live winter!