2014 witnessed the continuation of the death knell for network television. Oh sure, we still tuned into NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX. It’s just that the best programming – the Mad Men, The Walking Dead, and the True Detectives – continued to emerge from alternative TV sources. In fact, 2014 marked the year that Netflix would become a programming force with acclaimed dramas like House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black becoming worldwide phenomenon.
It was the year in which many of our beloved characters bit the dust. Suddenly, no one seemed safe on prime time TV. It was also the year of the ‘limited’ series, a series with a distinct shelf-life and a pre-established end. Not a miniseries, but a ‘limited’ series. The distinction wasn’t always that clear, but the quality was.
2014 was also the year of The Catch, the year we finally got to know the ‘Mother’, talk shows prepped for a shake-up, and the year where Homer met Peter and all animated hell broke loose. Of all the changes television saw in the last year, the following are the forteen absolute craziest that had everyone talking.
*Spoiler Alert: Lots of them!*
14. The Host Is Toast
Germany may have won it all in the end, but it was their World Cup semi-final, the obliteration of host Brazil, that stands out in most viewers’ minds. Losing 7-1 in soccer doesn’t happen too often – and surely not before a worldwide audience.
The second half was notable for all the camera shots of the despondent Brazilians in the stadium looking like their world had just collapsed. The world looked on in a mix of stunned horror and admiration as Brazil was annihilated rapidly and wholly in one of the most iconic matches in World Cup history.
A 1-0 loss would have achieved the same result, but this was all about national pride.
13. How I Met Your Mother (and Killed Her Off)
Boy. Talk about alienating your audience. Fans of this sitcom hung in there for nine seasons in an effort to find out who the ‘Mother’ was. And then she was quickly introduced, we just about got a chance to like her, and she was promptly killed off. Say what?
Also included in the finale’s many annoying moments was philandering Barney getting married then divorced five minutes later and widow Ted eventually ending up with Robin. Man, nine seasons and now they’re in a hurry? Apparently, after an uproar from fans, an alternative ending will accompany the DVD release.
12. The King Is Dead
Game of Thrones lost a great, horrible villain when it poisoned the inbred King Joffrey last spring. And at his wedding no less. The look on his face when he knew he was dying was a moment of supreme vindication.
Very few tears were shed by the cast of characters. Joffrey was a pretty unlikable, sadistic sociopath. Finding someone who didn’t have a reason to murder him would have been a challenge. As seasons go, Game of Thrones had its share of shocking moments in 2014, and a seriously climactic battle, but this was the biggest moment of them all.
11. The Late Show With…?
Satirist Colbert surprised a lot of people by walking away from his nine-year-old show The Colbert Report this month. Colbert sought new challenges – specifically as the replacement for David Letterman on The Late Show in 2015. More than a few TV pundits wondered aloud who exactly Colbert would be when he isn’t doing his satirical conservative TV persona. Is he even remotely interesting? We will soon find out.
10. The Good Death
The makers of The Good Wife did a great job of maintaining its biggest secret – the death of lawyer Will Gardner – right until the end. Fans were truly shocked by his courtroom gun death, as were most of the characters on the show. Actor Josh Charles had actually decided to pursue other acting challenges. As for the show, it seemed to gain strength without that whole Will/Alicia sexual tension.
9. Mad Singing and Dancing Men
Advertising vet Bert Cooper (Robert Morse) went to the big ad firm in the sky in the Mad Men half-season finale. Founder Bert passed away just after Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. His last word was ‘Bravo!’. Well, sort of. Death didn’t stop Bert from dancing and singing ‘The Best Things In Life Are Free’ in a Don Draper hallucination. Mad Men returns in 2015 for its handful of final episodes.
8. Lost and Not Found
It was a mystery that intrigued us all, but CNN took a lot of heat for its endless coverage of the disappearing Malaysian Flight 370. Though it offered wall-to-wall stories on the plane’s fate, ultimately it also offered a lot of nothing. It was a drama without an ending, and many called into question the journalistic ethics of persistently reporting on a ‘breaking news’ story with no new information.
Precious little happened after the flight’s disappearance, though many on-air experts made a living off of talking about it. It appears now the mystery of what happened could remain forever unsolved.
7. Dead and Still Inscrutable
The return of Sherlock Holmes after his apparent death/suicide wasn’t much of a surprise for fans of the series. It wasn’t like they would continue a show called Sherlock without an Sherlock. However, we all tuned in to see just how the detective had pulled off his disappearing act. And the answer was… Well, it wasn’t all that clear in the end.
]But it was still nice to see Benedict Cumberbatch back in the role for a few more episodes. The best moment though was saved for Watson (Martin Freeman) who finally got to punch Sherlock for putting him through all that pain and suffering.
6. Murdering Your Way to the Top
It was hard to believe that Kevin Spacey’s ruthless politician Frank Underwood could do anything more to shock us in Season Two of House of Cards. But he did – right in the first episode – shoving inquiring reporter/former lover Zoe in front of a subway train. Whoa! Underwood plays for keeps. He would eventually lie, steal and manipulate his way all the way to the Oval Office. Should make for an interesting Season Three.
5. Blood on the Snow
Fargo didn’t get as much attention as True Detective, but maybe it should have. The eccentric FX crime show featured violence, weird accents, falling frogs, snow storm shoot-outs, and a first-rate cast headed by Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman.
The best moment had to be when manipulative drifter Lorne Malvo (Thornton) launched a lone assault on a mob hangout. We didn’t see a thing in the massacre, which made it all the more entertaining. Unfortunately, Season Two of the FX series will be a prequel that won’t include any of the original cast.
4. Alright, Alright, (Better Than) Alright
True Detective was the most talked-about show of the season – and with good reason. It had a great cast (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson had never been better), an epic plot that covered three separate time periods, and a creepy, violent undertone. The best moments were the quiet ones involving Rusty Cohle (McConaughey) and his beer can statues.
Remember his assertion that ‘time is a flat circle’? The plot ultimately left a huge cliffhanger and much confusion, but this was more a show about characters and mood. Unfortunately, like Fargo, a second season will feature none of the first season’s cast.
3. Did You Miss Me?
It was the year of the comeback, and the year of The Comeback comeback. First Rosie O’Donnell returned to her controversial seat on The View, generating some controversy but no discernible rise in the ratings.
Then, Lisa Kudrow returned after a quiet nine years in the role of the much-loved, neurotic sitcom star Valerie Cherish in The Comeback. In the revamped HBO series, Valerie gets an acting job on an HBO series with Seth Rogen (played by Seth Rogen) where she must give him…uh…oral pleasure. A Seth Rogen climax is definitely a ‘moment’.
2. Homer Vs. Peter
It was the animated crossover we all wanted to see. Yet, somehow, this highly rated meeting of Homer Simpson and Family Guy’s Peter Griffin didn’t generating much in the way of comedic sparks. The one hour special was fine, but was hardly a great episode for either series. Even the epic fight between Homer and Peter seemed like just a retread chicken fight.
1. The Catch
New York Giant Odell Beckham earned a spot in the highlight reel Hall of Fame with his fingertip snag against the Dallas Cowboys. His stretch for the ball seemed beyond human, with many football commentators immediately declaring that moment the greatest NFL catch ever. Hard to argue with that unless you can come up with a better one. Anyone?