My biased list of top TV shows in 2014

Television is the most relevant medium today, Steven Soderberg said recently. It’s more profitable. More people turn out before their TV sets and laptops than at movie theaters. But I think that’s partly because TV looks and feels like a great film these days.

I myselft worship the experience of cinema, but television has a different pull. If great cinema is a religious experience, TV is a romantic or filial one. Your investment in the characters in television series is for the long haul. You fall in love with them one minute, and disagree with their choices the next. They become such regular fixtures of your routine, you form a relationship with them. As long as you know they’re not real people, of course, then you’re still fine.

My favorite television shows this year are peopled by unforgettable, relateable, loveable, complex or strong characters; in other words, real people. These shows and characters have made me forget books, which used to be my main thing. In a way, I wish the golden age of TV would end so I could go back to reading, but then again I do not want people to lose their jobs.

Since I am not a critic, I took to these shows and characters because of a combination of reasons, the most overwhelming of which are personal and, even, Jungian in origin. For expert opinion, there’s always AV Club.   

The Good Wife

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I am still not over the death of Josh Charles’ character, but Matthew Goode’s Finn Palmer, the emerging male lead this season, is smoother around the edges, a man your Ma will approve of — granted he’ll want to come home with you, in the first place. I can tell Alicia Florrick’s relationship with Finn is going in the direction of intimacy, and that’s enough to get me glued to my seat through the sixth season. But Carey Agos’ and Kalinda Sharma’s long over-due hook-up also works very well since I love both their characters, especially Sharma who just breaks all kinds of Asian stereotypes out there. As of episode six, I am still missing the personal life of Christine Baranski, who brings gravitas to the show.

The Americans

IMG_1402Keri Russell is so back. It was a pity that the simple act of cutting her hair pulled down the ratings of Felicity to a low it wasn’t able to recover from. But in The Americans, Russell’s Elizabeth Jennings’s steely resolve to serve Mother Russia reasserts her star. She is a study in how public and private roles meld in one persona. Her political mission does not erase her personality, but rather buttresses it, assignment after assignment. Her decision in the last episode to agree, after initially being at odds, with the Center’s directive to raise second-generation illegals is a powerful finish to an interior even melancholic season. The beguiling Nina Sergeevna is also another character who’s held my interest to the very end.

Looking

thCAB3D19KLooking gets the millenial vibe down pat. But it is more than that. The narrative arc is strong, and the characters’s stories gel well and set off each other in interesting ways. I love how unforced everything feels, and how each episode is a vignette unto itself. This is the one of the few series I’ve watched twice. This is breakfast in bed on a beautiful California (or Amihan December) gay morning. And Jonathan Groff is ridiculously good, like blueberry pancake. And Groff’s chemistry with Russel Tovery is just as good, like that of butter and maple syrup. There should be more LGBT-themed series out there like this that capture the travails and triumphs of love in the margins.

True Detective

IMG_1410Matthew McConaughey outdoes himself in this series, packing guilt, pathos, intelligence, and masculinity in one perfect punch of a character essay. I haven’t gotten around to finishing this heavy masterwork, and it will take some time before I find the stomach to do so, but from what I’ve seen so far, this is by a mile the most ambitious and most technically accomplished of all series this year. But I hope Season 2 isn’t too dark, or that I develop a thicker skin.

Girls

IMG_1404Lena Dunham still has it. Season 4 does not have an episode on par with the one in Season 3 where Hannah Horvaths cozies up to a hot doctor played by the smashing Patrick Wilson. That was wish-fullfilling art at its best. But this season is still a treat, a less H-Wood Sex and the City. Plus, Soshana, playing the part of one who is the very essence of annoyance, is always a joy to watch.
House of Cards

IMG_1409Robin Wright’s hair, a celebrity in its own right, deserves an award for defying scandal and the winds in Washington DC. Season 2 doesn’t have a Rooney Mara I can root for, but House whip Molly Parker and chief-of-staff Safina Jaffrey come close. Kevin Spacey should be snuggling with an Emmy for this role, with Matthew McConaughey sharing the bed if need be. This is the best political drama today, with brilliant camera work, and a rhythm that is ominous and urgent.

Madam Secretary

IMG_1411Madam Secretary is West Wing if Aaron Sorkin left the set. I like how Tea Leoni solves geopolitical crises without becoming hysterical, which is probably unheard of in the halls of power. The story-telling isn’t as riveting as Mr Sorkin’s opus, but a series headlined by a powerful female figure, told in a fairly straightforward manner with no messy adultery sub-plot for once, is difficult to pass up.

Newsroom

IMG_1412In a just and perfect world, I am part of the cast of Newsroom.

Favorite TV Character – Female

IMG_1406Leslie Knoppe of Parks and Recreation, for making earnestness and trying hard look cool.

Tied with Sophia Burset played by the fierce Laverne Cox of Orange is the New Black, who is the face of the sisterhood. Laverne deserves a permanent spot on The View.

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Tied with Donna Paulsen of Suits, who is the most fabulous woman on TV.  

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Favorite TV Character – Male

IMG_1408Peter Quinn of Homeland for his quiet-waters-run-deep demeanor, monochromatic long-sleeves, and unspoken love for the misunderstood Carey Matthison.

Tied with Harvey Specter, for hiring Donna, and for being emotionally unavailable and perfect at the same time.

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Favorite TV Moment

I do not watch a lot of local television, but I am happy there is a gem called Gandang Gabi Vice (GGV) on Sundays. Vice often goes for under-the-belt jokes, which turn some viewers off, but what Filipino doesn’t? In fact, I think people like her because she takes Filipinos’ overfamiliarity up a notch, filtering nothing like your not-so-favorite aunt making a very public remark on your weight or lack of love life. This year, my favorite moment in television unfolded on GGV: a fictitious, one-episode-only relationship between Vice Ganda and former UST cager Kim Lo. In this magical episode, Vice does not hide his interest in Kim very well, and Kim, unlike some men we know, flirts with her on Philippine TV like the MTRCB, CBCP and his parents aren’t watching. May your tribe increase, Kim.

(All photos filched from the internet.)