There’s a lot of great TV every year. But not every season is worthy of my Top 10. Below are the best of the rest.
Arrested Development — “Colony Collapse”
The biggest overall problem with Season 4 of Arrested Development was its inability to get everyone in the same room for more than a few minutes. That’s the way Hollywood goes sometimes, but there were still some standout episodes. It was a close race for my favorite of the season, with GOB’s finest hour/biggest humiliation narrowly beating out George Michael’s (disturbing) sexual awakening. But as for those episodes featuring Lindsay? You may have wished you were caught in a roofie circle.
Behind the Candelabra
Deemed “too gay” for film audiences, Steven Soderbergh’s swan song is an absolutely gorgeous tale of an ugly man and how he seduces, then abandons his lovers. By the way, that ugly man is Liberace, played masterfully by Michael Douglas. Matt Damon is far too old to play Scott Thorson, the young man he literally molds into his own image, but he’s perfect as the man aware enough to know he’s upgrading someone Liberace has outgrown, but too naïve to think he’ll one day be replaced. Plus, the incomparable Rob Lowe in a scene-stealing performance.
Bill Cosby: Far from Finished
No, Comedy Central didn’t give him license to be dirty. But it also didn’t give him license to be boring. No, Cosby still commands the stage from his chair, delivering thoughtful monologues and gut-busting stories. He’s still got it.
The Bridge — “Take the Ride, Pay the Toll”
Like Breaking Bad‘s “Ozymandias,” many thought this should have been The Bridge‘s finale. They wouldn’t be wrong, but I liked what they did in the two remaining hours. While The Bridge was never as haunting as I wanted it to be, this was the series’ high point, the most intense hour of the season, and that was after all the near-death experiences.
Community — “Herstory of Dance”
Not many people loved Season 4 of Community. I think it had its share of issues (namely trying too hard), but unlike a lot of people, I didn’t write it off from the get-go. This was my favorite episode of the season, an absolute delight, featuring a Sophie B. Hawkins Dance. Abed’s (literal?) dream girl, played by the lovely Brie Larson, should make another appearance in the Dan Harmon-led fifth season.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart — John Oliver’s summer as host and tearful goodbye
Last year, I promised not to include the consistently great Daily Show and Colbert Report in my Top 10, despite both shows deserving a spot every year. But I must bring special attention to John Oliver, who commanded the host’s chair all summer while Stewart was in the Middle East directing his first film. There shouldn’t have been so much great news, but Oliver was there to give his take on it all. He did so well he’s now got his own show on HBO. The teary goodbye was a fitting tribute to a man who made us laugh so hard.
Girls — “It’s a Shame About Ray”
This wildly inconsistent second season of Girls had me angrier than almost any show on TV. Yet at its best, it was unlike anything on TV. So daring with its characters, I didn’t always like what happened, but it was never stale. The season’s best half-hour finds Hannah’s dinner party going awry, with Alex Karpovsky stealing the show as the curmudgeonly Ray.
House of Cards — “Chapter Eight”
Netflix’s first full-fledged foray into production (excluding the Norwegian co-production Lilyhammer) would have made my Top 10, if the show only had 10 episodes. Stretching out to 13 episodes, there was a lot of fat to be trimmed. But not in the eighth episode of the season, which finds Frank headed back to his alma mater, a Citadel stand-in. Moving out of the Beltway and removing Frank’s guarded emotions, we get to see the man who once had a heart but sold it long ago for career success.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia — “Gun Fever Too: Still Hot”
As the gun debate rages on, with gun advocacy groups out-shouting those of us who wish to make it harder to own them, leave it to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to leave it in a hilarious draw. Charlie and Mac appointed themselves as a grade-school militia. Dee and Dennis tried to prove how easy crazy people like them to purchase guns. They all lose. The only winner is Frank, who partly owns a gun store.
Modern Family — “Goodnight Gracie”
This was the first year Modern Family didn’t make my Top 10. And since it’s been on an upswing lately, that just shows how much good TV is out there. But this episode was a stone-cold classic, one that hit me right in the heart. With both my grandparents passing away this year, it’s always going to be hard to see any show or movie where an older person dies. But this episode didn’t just pluck my heartstrings. It was hilarious and moving all on its own. It would be mentioned here even without my personal connection.