The Top 10 TV Shows of 2014: The Best and the Rest

4 minute read

TIME’s annual collection of top-10 lists is up, including my Top 10 TV Shows of 2014. (Also up is my list of Top 10 TV Episodes, which I explain in a separate post.)

Some of you will hate my choices–which, let’s be honest, is half the reason top-10 lists exist at all, so have at it. Others will have questions, and some of the same ones come up every year, so here’s a short FAQ:

* Why do you hate ____? This is not the Top 10 and Everything Else Sucks list. I liked far more than 10 shows on TV this year; these were tops. It’s not a matter of what was wrong with the shows I left off, but what was right with the shows I put on.

* Don’t you like ____ anymore? Sure I do. (Probably.) But there are no lifetime slots. Last year, for instance, Mad Men and Game of Thrones were on my list. I still love them! But this list is only about 2014: I didn’t feel the first half of Mad Men‘s last season gave me enough to put it on, and Thrones just had a weaker season. (Both, though, are on my Best Episodes list.)

* How is _____ better than _____? Beyond the first few, honestly, the rank order is fairly arbitrary and apples-to-oranges. I didn’t measure these shows with a nuclear qualitometer. Think the #9 shows should be #6? Sure, fine. Print it out and rearrange them. For that matter, there are probably 20 shows that I could just as easily put in the bottom 5 of this list.

* Aren’t top 10 lists just shameless trolling for readers? You caught us! Also, they’re sort of a lie. Yes, this is, more or less, list of what I thought were the 10 best shows of the year. But I also think a list should be a document in itself–a statement, as a whole, of what I value in TV and what TV did best this year. So it’s, sort of, a list of the 10 best shows of the year and, sort of, a list of the 10 shows that represented the best in TV this year–which are related, but not exactly the same thing.

* Um, it’s not the end of 2014 yet. Thanks for pointing that out! Because of our production deadlines, I had to finalize this list early in November. They still kept making TV, though! I may be regretting some choices already–and it’s all undeniably unfair to shows, like Jane the Virgin, that just started their seasons–but at some point you just have to let it go.

* So which shows would you pick for 11–20th place? HA HA HA HA HA NO, nice try. I will be, however, be doing a 10 best new shows list for Hitfix’s poll, and I’ll post about that later.

* You forgot _____. Probably not! I keep a running list of potential shows starting in January, and revise it throughout the year. (My top-10 episodes list, about which I’ll post separately, is a different story–I can’t watch everything, and I almost certainly I did forget things.) This is a very subjective list, but if it’s a likely candidate, I’ve probably at least considered it.

Apologia out of the way, here’s my list (but read the full writeup to see what I thought of each show)…
1. Transparent
2. The Americans
3. The Good Wife
4. Orange Is the New Black
5. Fargo
6. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
7. Broad City
8. Louie
9. High Maintenance
10. Silicon Valley

… and here, in alphabetical order, are some shows I liked, considered for the list, but didn’t quite make it (here I’ve certainly left some fine shows off)…

Bob’s Burgers
The Bridge
The Comeback
Friday Night Tykes
Game of Thrones
Getting On
Happy Valley
The Honorable Woman
Inside Amy Schumer
Jane the Virgin
Key and Peele
The Knick
The Leftovers
Mad Men
Masters of Sex
Olive Kitteridge
Orphan Black
True Detective

And post your own top 10 in the comments. Let the TV wars begin!

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