You don’t see it very often these days, but once upon a time, some TV critics insisted on only including new series in their top 10 lists. This was, of course, the glory days of print journalism, when space was a precious resource and no one had room for the zillions and zillions of bonus lists (like this one) we have online, and those critics preferred to use their limited column inches to spread the gospel for new material that hadn’t been lauded for years on end. I could always respect that argument, even as I would decide there was no way I could have a best of the year list that didn’t include, say, “The Simpsons” on it.
I wouldn’t say I ever came close to selecting 10 all-new shows for this year’s top 10 list, if only because “The Americans” season 2 was always a contender for the top spot. The final list wound up being evenly split between new and returning shows, but I could imagine a list that only had “The Americans” to represent the non-rookies, or that was entirely composed of first-year shows, and it would be one I think I would have been satisfied with. That’s how many great new shows we got this year, some from familiar places (HBO, FX), some from relatively new players to this game (Amazon, WGN America). Some arrived with great fanfare (“True Detective”), while others (“Review”) snuck up on us, their own networks not even sure what they had. There was uproarious comedy, devastating drama, thrilling superhero action, and shows that mixed so many styles at once I’m not sure how I would try to classify them.
It was a spectacular year for new product, which is why I didn’t want to just honor the five shows on the overall list – “The Leftovers,” “Transparent,” “Review,” “Fargo” and “True Detective,” in case you forgot – and instead follow up last week’s list of 10 great returning shows that finished outside the top 10 with a similar list of great new shows (which may or may not stop at 10), several of which I’d have been very comfortable sliding onto the main list if my mood had been different on a given day.
Take a look and then tell me what new shows (whether these or ones I didn’t mention) caught your fancy in 2014.