Manhattan

THE COMPLETE REVIEW OF SUMMER TV 2014

Usually summer is the time when American network TV experiments with half-decent shows and cable TV comes out with somewhat decent-ish programming. But over the last couple of summers, the quality of super shows to come out of the summer has increased exponentially, especially from cable TV channels/streaming services. This summer was especially awesome and some fabulous shows were released; although I have taken the liberty of adding some new shows that premiered slightly earlier in the year; as well as British TV shows too.

I watched *everything* so you don’t you have to. Here are my recommendations and warnings:

NEW SHOWS
I have watched the full seasons of all these shows; and 90% of them have been renewed for season 2

A++
Fargo (FX) (Anthology Series) – Structurally similar to True Detective (small town, serial killer, big names, bloody brilliant) but in my opinion, better, because of the humanity. Stars Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, and the brightest star of the future: Alison Tomlan.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) (News Comedy) – The best and funniest news comedy show ever made. John Oliver is the hero the world needs. Period.
True Detective (HBO) (Anthology Series) – Matthew McConaughey.

A+
Happy Valley (BBC One) (Anthology Series): Tense, heart-pumping Brit crime drama/thriller with a fantastic emotional core. Not to be missed.
Manhattan (WGN) – Still on, but hasn’t got one note wrong so far. Set during the World War II, about the making of the atomic bomb. Writing and direction-wise reminds me of Studio 60, perhaps because Thomas Schlamme (Studio 60’s exec producer) is exec producing. But what a show. Flawless writing.
Silicon Valley (HBO): The funniest show on TV after Veep with a phenomenal cast. About a bunch of geeks trying to launch a start up in silicon valley, created by Office Space’s Mike Judge. Hilarious is understating it.
The Honourable Woman (BBC/Sundance) (Mini Series): Brit series starring a phenomenal cast of the best character actor talent of UK, led by Maggie Gylenhaal. A spy drama/thriller about the Israel-Palestine issue. Complex, intelligent, real, layered: a stunning achievement.

A
Broad City (Comedy Central): About two girls slumming it in New York. Funnier, more real and more awesome than Girls can ever be.
Deadbeat (Hulu): Tyler Labine-led comedy about a slob medium who tries to solve the problems of ghosts. Quite funny.
Penny Dreadful (Showtime): A horror TV series, set in the 19th century during a time when everyone from Frankenstein to Dorian Gray and Van Helsing co-habited London. An outstanding show because of one main reason: Eva Green. Better than American Horror Story; also stars ex-Bond Timothy Dalton and Josh Hartnett.
Satisfaction (USA): A complex comedy-drama about marriage and extra-marital affairs and middle-age crisis. Hard to explain why this series is so good; but it really is.
The Assets (ABC) (Mini Series): This mini-series belonged on cable but got screwed because ABC picked it. A brilliant CIA spy drama set during the cold war about the mole that almost cost US the war. Fabulous cast led by Jodie Whittaker (a favourite) and Paul Rhys. Very reminiscent of The Americans, one of my favourite shows on TV.
The Divide (WE): Fantastic legal drama about race, politics and morality, when an old case is revealed to be wrongly convicted. Featuring a fantastic cast: Marin Ireland (new TV crush), Damon Gupton, Joe Anderson, Nia Long, Reg E Cathey. Really loved it.
The Knick (Cinemax): Created and directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Clive Owen, set in 1900s New York at a time when modern medicine was just about being invented. Only three episodes in, but super strong. Also great find: Andre Holland.
The Red Road (Sundance): Starring Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo and future Aquaman) and Martin Anderson, about a conflict involving the native Indian tribe and the white population of a small city. A solid crime drama and very, very well acted, especially by Julianne Nicholson.
You’re the Worst (FX): An R-rated FX take on dating; hilarious because of a fantastic young comedy cast featuring stars of tomorrow – Aya Cash, Chris Geere, Desmin Borges and Kether Donohue.

B+
Married (FX): An R-rated FX take on marriage; hilarious because of the all-star comedy cast of Judy Greer, Nat Faxon, Jenny Slate (who’s awesome) and Brett Gelman.
Murder in the First (TNT) (Anthology Series): Good timepass; a straight-up crime thriller about an investigation into a couple of murders. Starring Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy); has some emotional nuances that you don’t see in a NCIS or CSI.
Outlander (Starz): Based on a novel about a WWII nurse who gets transported to 18th century Scotland in the middle of civil war. Four episodes in; interesting but very slow. Will possibly move up to A by series end.
Rush (USA): Five episodes in, still not sure where it’s going, but it’s a guilty pleasure. Like all USA network shows, it’s slick, stylish and makes up in gloss and humour what it lacks in story. Also I can’t stop watching it because it’s created by Jonathan Levine, who I’m a HUGE fan of (search The Wackness).
The Leftovers (HBO): Spiritual sequel to Lost: About a city trying to deal with the loss of their loved ones who inexplicably disappeared one fine day. Quite good, but not a patch on Lost, even if it’s on HBO.
The Musketeers (BBC One): Brit action drama about the three musketeers. The same story, with a generous dose of humour. Good fun.
The Strain (FX): Campy, addictive and a guilty pleasure. Not a brilliant show by any stretch but damn good fun. Pre-apocalyptic series about the rise of some very weird vampires in New York city, created by Guillermo Del Toro.
Turn (AMC): Period Drama set during the American revolutionary war about the first American spies converted by George Washington. A bit slow, but quite good. Starring Jamie Bell.

B
Halt and Catch Fire (AMC): With a star cast led by Lee Pace and Scoot McNairy, this should’ve been at the top. Set during the computer revolution of the ‘80s, interesting story marred by campiness.
Power (Starz): Produced by 50 cent, about a major drug player trying to go legit; but obviously not having it easy. Surprisingly decent.
Prey (ITV) (Mini Series) – A three part crime thriller on the lines of The Fugitive; about a copy who is accused of murdering his own family. Good timepass.
Sequestered (Crackle): A legal drama based on 12 Angry Men; but with the twist of politics and power and shit going wrong. Interesting cast, feat Jesse Bradford and Patrick Warburton, but very bingeable because every episode is only 22 minutes long!
Tyrant (FX): This is not a good show. Basically Godfather set in Middle East type plot, but a major misfire from FX. I still watched it till the end because of one fantastic actor – Ashraf Barhom – who’s basically carried the series, and because it’s bout Middle East politics, which fascinates me endlessly. Likely to get cancelled.


THE OTHERS
I have watched 2-3 episodes of all the following shows; some I may binge on later, some I may avoid

Not Good
Crisis: Even with Gillian Anderson and Dermot Mulraney at its helm, this is a bad, bad, bad show. A political drama about the kidnapping of rich people’s kids and what ensues. Even worse than last year’s Hostages.
Crossbones: Pirates. John Malkovich. Very weird.
Legends (TNT): A spy show. Sean Bean is fantastic, Ali Larter is fantastic, the show is created by Howard Gordon (Homeland and 24) but even after three eps, it fails to take off. Not as bad as the other shows here, but just, pointless.
Partners (FX): Stars Kelsey Grammar and Martin Lawrence and still worse than any other comedy on TV. Saw two episodes, couldn’t watch more. Cannot fathom what went wrong.
The Last Ship (TNT): It’s the summer’s big hit, and it is produced by Michael Bay. So now you know why it’s not good, and now you know why it still works. Couldn’t watch after 2 eps. Bad. Just like last year’s Under the Dome.

Timepass; may binge on long flights
Dominion (fantasy), Extant (sci fi; Halle Berry), Faking It (comedy), From Dusk to Dawn (vampires; Robert Rodriguez), Garfunkel and Oates (comedy), Matador (Robert Rodriguez), Taxi Brooklyn (comedy); The Lottery (scifi-ish), Welcome to Sweden (comedy; celeb guest stars)

Timepass; generic or not for me
Gang Related (crime), Rake (legal dramedy; Greg Kinnear), Reckless (legal dramedy), Salem (witches and stuff), Sirens (comedy), The Night Shift (medical drama), Twisted (teen/mystery), Undateable (comedy), Witches of West End (witches and stuff), Working The Engels (comedy)

RETURNING SHOWS OF THE SUMMER
All the shows I’m addicted to, that have already had one season or more – does not include pre-summer shows like Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, etc.

The Ones I Loved:
The Americans (BRILLIANT – MUST WATCH), Masters of Sex (AWESOME), Rectify (GREAT), Suits (GREAT), Bates Motel (GREAT), Orphan Black (GREAT), Veep (HILARIOUS), Vice (BRILLIANT)

The Ones I Really Liked:
The Bridge, Ray Donovan, Banshee, Utopia, Vikings, Hannibal, The Killing, Da Vinci’s Demons, American Horror Story, Doctor Who (ALL GOOD)

That’s all, folks! Please come back Next Monday: I’ll be doing weekly lists on TV you must not miss :). If you agree/disagree, feel like trolling me for no reason, please leave a comment below!


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8 thoughts on “THE COMPLETE REVIEW OF SUMMER TV 2014”

  1. Outlander is definitely NOT an YA novel, as it is about a nurse in her early 30s, if I remember correctly, and has an anal rape scene.

    1. Yeah, lol at the author thinking Outlander is YA. No. Not even remotely. Did you even watch the show?

      Several of the scifi-ish/zombie shows are total duds and I can’t imagine who’s watching them. My parents are watching The Strain but it looks so dumb and I’m shocked they’re still watching because it’s totally not the type of thing they usually like. Agree with you about The Last Ship, I was so bored I didn’t even finish the pilot. Extant looks kind of stupid too, stupid and weird (Halle Berry really has nothing better to do than this??)

      I don’t believe Fargo is continuing btw. It’s based on a true story and as far as I know the story ended its first season so I’m not sure how they’d keep it on unless they now just make it all up instead of basing it on what happened in real life.

      1. That was my bad. I seem to have read it somewhere that the book was YA and believed it to be true. Should’ve cross checked. I apologise. Have changed it in my piece. Thanks for pointing out :).

        The Strain has gone way down in my ratings after the first season. Even Z Nation is better at being campy than The Strain. Extant *was* stupid too.. and I really couldn’t get through it. Fargo is not continuing the story of the first season, but similar to True Detective, they will have a second season featuring another story 🙂

  2. Best get your glasses checked, lol. Outlander is not now not has it ever been a Young Adult novel. If you have finished watching the first eight episodes, perhaps you would be willing to comment?

    1. That was my bad. I seem to have read it somewhere that the book was YA and believed it to be true. Should’ve cross checked. I apologise. Have changed it in my piece. Thanks for pointing out :).

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