NGN’s Best of 2014: TV Shows

Once again, The Good Wife topped my list of the year's best TV shows.

Once again, The Good Wife topped my list of the year’s best TV shows.

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone (or Happy New Year depending on your time zone and when you’re reading this post)! For my last installment of NGN’s Best of 2014 series, I want to take a look at the best TV shows of the year. If you’re interested in reading a list from someone who has an even more comprehensive grasp of the current TV landscape than I do, I strongly suggest checking out Heather’s list. And, as always, I hope you leave your picks in the comments, so we can talk about what a great year this was for television.

From dramas that made me weep to comedies that warmed my heart and everything in between, here are my picks for the very best the world of television had to offer in 2014.

1. The Good Wife
The Good Wife is a show that has mastered the art of reinvention, emerging from each huge shift in its plot as a stronger and more compelling show. This year, it took a big risk and used the departure of Josh Charles, one of its lead actors, to create one of the most realistically devastating examinations of the grieving process I’ve ever seen on television. It created a story arc that allowed the audience to mourn a sudden, shocking departure along with the characters, and I think the show has never been better than it was in those episodes immediately following Will’s death. And this season has upped the tension in a remarkable way with Cary’s impending jail sentence, once again effortlessly shifting the show into new territory. With each new chapter, The Good Wife is buoyed by some of the strongest writing and one of the most brilliant casts on television. I challenge anyone who believes there are no good network dramas anymore to watch The Good Wife and still hold that assumption.

2. The Mindy Project
Television is becoming the place where the best romantic comedies are found, and leading the charge in that movement is The Mindy Project. This was the year this show found its voice, giving more depth not just to Danny but also to Mindy, allowing Mindy Kaling to show her range as an actress alongside Chis Messina. And by giving these characters room to grow, the show created one of the most entertaining, funny, and heartwarming couples on television. Romance isn’t dead; it lives and breathes and makes me laugh and cry every Tuesday night on FOX.

3. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
This show has become my happy place. It makes me laugh harder than probably any other show on television right now, and that’s not even my favorite thing about it. It’s only in its second season, and already Brooklyn Nine-Nine has richer characters and more compelling relationships between them than most other comedies on television. Yes, the budding romance between Jake and Amy is adorable, but this show remembers what so many seem to forget: Life is about more than just romance. The friendships on this show (most notably the one between Jake and Rosa) are wonderful, and I could watch every possible combination of members of this cast interact, which is great because this show excels at pairing different characters together in fun situations. And no mention of this show is complete without stating that Andre Braugher keeps getting better and better, and if you’re not watching his work as Captain Holt, you’re missing out.

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NGN’s Best of 2014: TV Episodes

danny and mindy

This was another great year for television, featuring a plethora of memorable episodes that will live on long after 2014 is over. For today’s installment of NGN’s Best of 2014 series, I attempted the difficult task of choosing just 10 of the best episodes of television I saw this year. Remember to leave your own picks in the comments because there are plenty of amazing episodes to discuss! (And be sure to check out Heather’s list of the year’s best episodes, too!)

1. “Danny and Mindy” (The Mindy Project)
I’m a sucker for a good romantic comedy, and the best romantic comedy I’ve seen in years was this glorious season finale of The Mindy Project. Mindy Kaling’s writing has never been sharper, funnier, and more emotionally evocative than it was in this half-hour tribute to a genre she holds close to her heart. Every rom-com reference was perfect, but this episode was about so much more than just referencing a genre’s classics; it was about creating a new classic. From the heartbreaking bathroom confrontation between Mindy and Danny to their perfect concluding kiss, this was an episode filled with both the strongest acting and writing this show has ever seen. And I dare anyone who loves romantic comedies to say they didn’t smile during this episode’s Springsteen-backed climactic race to the top of the Empire State Building.

2. “The Last Call” (The Good Wife)
The Good Wife is becoming known for its ability to reinvent itself, and what’s most impressive about that is the different tones with which its reinventions announce themselves. Last year’s “Hitting the Fan” was a game-changer defined by bursts of anger, while “The Last Call” was another sharp turn for the show defined by quiet grief. There was nothing flashy about this episode; it was driven by emotional honesty and realism rather than melodrama. Every talented member of this show’s ensemble was given a moment to shine in this episode, and each moment of grief beautifully reflected each character—from David Lee’s private tears to Alicia and Diane’s heartbreaking hug. “The Last Call” was about sudden, senseless death—the ways we deal with it, the helplessness and confusion it leaves in its wake, and the support systems we lean on when it happens. It was one of the most moving episodes of television I’ve ever seen, and it had the best acting of any hour of television that aired this year.

3. “Ann and Chris” (Parks and Recreation)
Friendship is very important to me. It’s one of the driving forces in my life, and my best friends will have been there—positively influencing my life—long before any romantic partner someday finds their way into my heart. For a long time, I felt like this strong belief in the power of friendship (especially female friendship) was one I’d never see reflected on television. But then “Ann and Chris” happened, and an entire half-hour of TV was dedicated to honoring the importance of having a supportive best friend. The episode itself had plenty of moments of laughter, but it was the emotional beats that focused on pairs of friends—Ann and April, Ben and Chris, Leslie and Ann—that gave this episode its soul. “Ann and Chris” represented the way Parks and Rec is so utterly fearless when it comes to wearing its heart on its sleeve, and the fact that this episode’s heart was so firmly focused on friendship made it unlike anything else on TV this year—in the best possible way.

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NGN’s Best of 2014: TV Moments

Orphan Black's big dance scene was my favorite moment on television in 2014.

Orphan Black’s big dance scene was my favorite moment on television in 2014.

This year was a great one for television, featuring plenty of memorable moments to keep us talking from the beginning of 2014 to its end. Whether those moments were happy or tragic, they stayed in our hearts and on our minds long after the episodes that featured them were over.

Today’s installment of NGN’s Best of 2014 series features my picks for the 10 best moments on TV this year. I hope you all share your picks in the comments because there are so many excellent moments to talk about!

1. Clone Club Dance Party (Orphan Black: By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried)
Orphan Black is a thrill-a-minute kind of show, but it was at its most impressive when it took a deep breath and allowed its characters to simply have fun dancing together. What made this moment the best of the year, though, wasn’t just its happy tone in the middle of chaos, it was the technical brilliance that went into making that scene. Besides the wonderful Jordan Gavaris, every other character in this scene was played by Tatiana Maslany. The way Maslany was able to convey the distinct personalities of each clone through their dance moves speaks to her incredible talent. There’s no one on television like Maslany, and there was certainly no scene on television in 2014 like this one.

2. Will Gardner Dies (The Good Wife: Dramatics, Your Honor/Last Call)
Death often blindsides us, and The Good Wife’s ability to blindside its audience with the death of one of its lead characters was one of the most talked-about happenings in the television world this year. In the two episodes surrounding Will’s death, The Good Wife delivered the most emotionally resonant hours of television in 2014. Every actor rose to the challenge, giving each scene weight and ensuring that no one would end either hour with dry eyes. Will’s death made everyone who watched The Good Wife think about the senseless nature of tragedy and the unanswered questions left behind when loved ones die. But even more than making us think, watching these characters grieve made us feel—and that’s what great television is all about.

3. Castle and Beckett Get Married (Castle: The Time of Our Lives)
I love a good wedding. And after months of waiting, Castle gave its fans a great wedding. Cheesy backdrops aside, everything about the scene was beautiful—from Beckett’s perfect wedding outfit and the way Castle looked at her in it to every word of their deeply personal vows. Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic put such joy and love into their performances in that scene, and it created a beautiful moment of joy for casual viewers and longtime fans alike. And as someone who has been invested in this relationship since the show’s pilot first aired, I can say this wedding produced more happy tears than any other scene I watched on television in 2014.

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NGN’s Best of 2014: TV Relationships

I hope all of you who celebrate the holidays had a very Merry Christmas yesterday and a Happy Boxing Day today!

Once Upon a Time's Emma and Hook were my favorite TV couple in 2014.

Once Upon a Time’s Emma and Hook were my favorite TV couple in 2014.

The television landscape in 2014 was filled with complex, compelling relationships—from old friendships to new romances. This was a great year for “shippers” of all kinds, with kisses we all rewatched 100 times, weddings that made us cry, and romantic moments that filled our hearts with joy. It was also a great year for platonic relationships, with friendships playing an even more important role than ever on some of my favorite television shows.

For today’s installment of NGN’s Best of 2014 series, it’s time to take a look at my 10 favorite relationships that developed on our TV screens this year. After you’ve read my picks, I’d love to read yours in the comments section!

1. Emma and Hook (Once Upon a Time)
Is there anything better than watching a brand-new fairytale develop right before your eyes? That’s what Once Upon a Time is doing with the slowly-developing love story between a princess with a fighter’s spirit and a pirate with a hero’s heart. The beauty of this love story is its realism in the middle of a world of magical true love and soul mates discovered by fairy dust. It’s a story about two people who’ve been broken by love slowly learning how to open their hearts again to a sense of hope and happiness. That’s a kind of love story that’s easy to believe in and rewarding to watch—from first dances and first dates to emotionally-charged kisses and moments of quiet intimacy that highlight the fantastic chemistry between Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue. Emma and Hook’s relationship has made both characters stronger and happier, and their scenes together this year have been some of the show’s best and most beautiful.

2. Mindy and Danny (The Mindy Project)
In 2014, the best romantic comedy wasn’t found in a movie theater; it was found every Tuesday night on The Mindy Project. Through smart writing and excellent performances all year from Mindy Kaling and Chris Messina, the relationship between Mindy and Danny went from everyone’s favorite “Will they or won’t they?” to everyone’s favorite “They did, and it’s awesome!” Mindy and Danny’s relationship is an exploration of what happens after the ending of a romantic comedy, and it turns out the answer is even more great comedy and character growth. The chemistry between Kaling and Messina is electric, and it shows no signs of faltering now that these characters are in a real relationship. From a race to the top of the Empire State Building to a very revealing striptease, this relationship has found the perfect balance of heat, humor, and heart.

3. Leslie and Ann (Parks and Recreation)
Once upon a time, a beautiful tropical fish met a passionate, stubborn steamroller, and the two of them became one of television’s best examples of female friendship. This year, Leslie and Ann’s friendship took center stage as the latter moved away from Pawnee to start a family in one of the year’s most emotional episodes of any television show, “Ann and Chris.” That lovely episode paid tribute to the power of female friendship in a way that was touching and true-to-life. It’s a rare thing for a television show to let one of the great loves of a character’s life be their best friend, but Parks and Rec is a rare television show that honors the beauty of friendship as much as it honors romance. Leslie and Ann’s friendship is as genuinely supportive and healthy as it gets, and that’s such a wonderful example for people to see in the media. My wish for every woman is that she finds the Ann to her Leslie (or the Leslie to her Ann)—a friend she can talk to about anything and a friend who loves her like the first soul mate so many of our friends often are.

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NGN’s Best of 2014: Character Arcs and TV Performances

The women of Once Upon a Time, including Emma Swan, had some of my favorite character arcs on TV this year.

The women of Once Upon a Time, including Emma Swan, had some of my favorite character arcs on TV this year.

With the holiday season upon us, it’s always fun to reflect back on the year that was. Here at Nerdy Girl Notes, that means reflecting on all of the best things to happen in the worlds of television, movies, and books in 2014. In the days leading up to the start of 2015, I plan to share some lists of my favorite things about the media I consumed in the past year.

Because one of the things I enjoy most about running NGN is hearing about why all of you love what you love, I hope these lists can serve as a starting point for discussion about what meant the most to you this year. I’d love to see you share your own lists in the comments, and I hope you’re checking out plenty of other “Best of 2014” lists, too, including the ones made by everyone’s favorite beautiful tropical fish, Heather!

Today’s “Best of…” list is all about character arcs. This was a fantastic year for rich, complex character development on television, which means it was also a year filled with outstanding performances, as talented actors brought these character arcs to life. From first ladies and lawyers to evil queens and clones, here are my 10 favorite character arcs of 2014.

1. Emma Swan on Once Upon a Time (Jennifer Morrison)
If Once Upon a Time’s motto is “Love is strength,” then Emma Swan’s character arc this year was all about becoming her strongest self by opening up to love. In 2014, Emma found a home, made a friend, confronted her forgotten past, fell in love, and made the choice to love her true self even when that choice seemed anything but easy. Emma’s journey this year was a journey of vulnerability, and Morrison made me feel every painful and beautiful step of that journey. But it was also a journey of joy, of coming to choose hope and happiness after a lifetime of pushing those things away out of fear of them being taken from her. And, for as much as Morrison showed Emma’s growth so well in moments of tearful vulnerability, she showed it even more in moments of quiet joy and intimacy. It’s not easy to make a smile feel as important to an audience as an emotional breakdown, but Morrison managed that feat, making Emma’s choices to believe in love, in the people around her, and in herself resonate with me. They felt as heroic as fighting any wicked witch or evil spell.

2. Regina Mills on Once Upon a Time (Lana Parrilla)
This was a fantastic year for the women of Once Upon a Time in terms of character development. Regina started 2014 ripping her own heart out to save herself from having to feel pain, and she ended the year choosing to cause herself pain in order to spare someone else loneliness and loss. Regina’s journey towards becoming a better, more selfless person was a true joy to watch this year. Whether it was shown through making peace with Snow White, giving her heart to Robin Hood (in every way she could), or choosing to let him go in order to do the right thing, Regina proved that she’s become so much more than the Evil Queen. And Parrilla has found the perfect balance of sass and sincerity to completely captivate me as a viewer every time she’s onscreen. I want a happy ending for Regina so badly even though I used to actively root against her, and if that’s not the sign of a well-written and well-acted character arc, then I don’t know what is.

3. Louis Litt on Suits (Rick Hoffman)
In the barren landscape of summer television, Suits is an oasis of great characters played by incredible actors. And this summer, it was Louis (and Hoffman) who stood in the spotlight. Louis’s character arc in 2014 was all about emotion and the pitfalls of letting that drive you in a world as cold as the one he inhabits. Louis lost so much this year—his fiancée, his job—but he seemed to gain a real friend in Donna and more respect than ever from Harvey. But ultimately, Louis’s character arc led up to a final, climatic moment of emotion where he discovered Mike’s secret and used it to demand the one thing he’s always wanted: to become a name partner. Thanks to the brilliant work Hoffman turned in this year, I cried for Louis, I celebrated with him, and I ultimately shared his anger and sense of betrayal, too. But the fact that I genuinely feared him in his final confrontation with Jessica is the real mark of Hoffman’s skill and the genius of the way Louis is written. He could have been a one-note office antagonist or bumbling idiot, but he’s now one of the most complex characters on television.

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