2014: The year in seven paragraphs
In just a few words - well 859 actually - we'll take a quick run through of TV in 2014. Let us know what we missed that you were watching - good or bad.
Some big US shows struggled in 2013, but Agents Of SHIELD came back stronger after an interesting end to its first season; Bates Motel continued a twisting, weirdo narrative that felt consistent with the Norman Bates we’re familiar with; and Hannibal really carved its niche as the go-to show for twisted psycho-drama and some genuinely horrible scenes. Homeland nearly lost it, then got it back, and ended up even closer to the new 24 than it started. And speaking of 24 that rose from the dead, but in London, the same old lovable, torturing 24 though. The Newsroom ended, The Flash started, and Arrow continued being great fun. We also said goodbye to Sons Of Anarchy, but hello to the disappointing The Strain, and the fantastically, obsessively depressing (and brilliant) The Leftovers.
In the UK the BBC upped its game with the first truly scary TV show for many a year; Remember Me was headlined by Michael Palin but was a success on its own terms, genuinely jumpy with a story to keep you watching. Your standard Sunday night fare was provided (on a Tuesday) by Our Zoo; the heart warming tale of how Chester Zoo came to be, it played up to all the British tropes it could lay its hands on. The Driver took a more grim view of the UK with inner city crime lords and taxi drivers at its core, providing a pair of strong performances; from David Morrissey at the everyman central character and Colm Meaney’s threatening supporting turn as a Mancunian mobster. Returning was The Fall which had a misstep or two along the way but managed to keep the nation gripped as Paul Spector almost evaded Stella Gibson. Over on ITV they were also spreading their sleepy Sunday night dramas throughout the week; Friday nights accompanied the surprise return of Lewis, and new boy Grantchester brought an investigating vicar, and a really good Robson Green, to prime time telly.
Whilst most of the focus in 2014 has been on drama there were some comedy shows that made a mark. In the UK Cuckoo came back for a second series, minus Hollywood star Andy Samburg but plus Hollywood B-lister Taylor Lautner. It was OK, and improved, but didn’t hit the heights of its debut series. Birds Of A Feather made an unwelcome return, Vic and Bob made a more welcome return with the ridiculously funny House Of Fools; Derek courted controversy... again. In the US Veep and Parks & Recreation kept going strong, as did Modern Family. On streaming Orange Is The New Black grew in strength, though whether that’s a comedy show is debatable; and Black-ish was the funniest new show, though comparisons with that 80’s show starring an African American family quietened down. Finally on the comedy front, Community continued, against all odds, towards its six series and a movie fate. Somethings are just written in the stars.
Reality shows continued a-pace, The Apprentice lost Nick Hewer, The X-Factor lost viewers, and Strictly Come Dancing won Saturday nights. I'm A Celebrity followed exactly the same formula for the eleventh year, and Celebrity Big Brother brought out the weird and the wonderful - hello Gary Busey - again. The big winner though was Gogglebox, that most meta of shows; the viewer watching people watching TV. It was fascinating, mind-bending, wince inducing, cringe worthy, and funny stuff.
2014 was a sad year for comedy panel shows though, Never Mind The Buzzcocks got a new host but continued to limp on with Noel Fielding looking totally uninterested; Have I Got News For You also trundled on in the same old format with Paul Merton looking totally uninterested; and Celebrity Juice continued to be as hit and miss as always. Even the dependable old stager QI is starting to look it’s age. Against that you have the continuing brilliance of Friday night mainstay The Graham Norton Show where the excitable puppy / cheeky chappy style of its host continues to make it head and shoulders above the competition. For a show that’s all about the guests Norton somehow makes even the weakest line-up must watch TV.
Over in the US thing got interesting in the late night chat show circuit. Not content with already mixing things up with his satirical Daily Show with Jon Stewart Stewart took a sabbatical and ended up making a star out of John Oliver. Now Oliver’s own show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, has become must watch, water cooler TV. Add to that the viral video magnet that is The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live! with its genius ‘Mean Tweets’ segment, and the US chat show is the best it’s been for many a year. Expect 2015 to add to that as Stephen Colbert takes over from 22 year veteran Dave Letterman on The Late Show, and the UK’s own funnyman James Corden replaces Craig Ferguson on The Late, Late Show.