Stephen Colbert On Ben Carson & Marco Rubio At The GOP Debate

The top moments of the last Republican debate were Ben Carson’s entrance and Marco Rubio’s robotic repetition of a single line, even after Chris Christie had already started mocking him for this. Stephen Colbert mocked all three Republicans in the video above.

It remains to be seen whether this will hurt Rubio in today’s New Hampshire primary but with the results in as I am posting this it looks like he will do at best third, and possibly worse. However, at the moment, he is leading Christie.

Update: Now that the New Hampshire results are in, we know that this could have been the moment which destroyed Rubio’s chances at winning the nomination.It also might have been a case of murder/suicide for Chis Christie, who has dropped out of the race.

Down To One Liberal And One Defender Of Civil Liberties In The Presidential Race

Colbert Hungry for Power Games

The number of presidential candidates should drop quickly now that voting has begun. It is not surprising that many of the candidates are waiting to see if they do better than the polls have predicted, which is reasonable considering how poorly polls often are at predicting primary results. Some of the more mainstream candidates are putting their hopes on New Hampshire. For other candidates, a loss in Iowa was enough to tell them that they had no chance.

On the Democratic side, Martin O’Malley announced that he is suspending his campaign while the Iowa caucus was in progress. It has been clear for months that O’Malley had no real chance with the conservative/establishment voters going for Clinton and the liberal/pro-insurgent voters going for Sanders. There was no middle lane for O’Malley, who certainly would be a far better choice than Clinton. He campaigned hard in Iowa, and there was no point in continuing once this failed to result in support at the caucuses. This leaves Bernie Sanders as the only liberal or progressive left in the race from either party.

For the Republicans, the Iowa caucus is the best shot for a candidate from the religious right to win, as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have done in the past. Republicans this year are bucking their usual trend of backing the next in line, with Ted Cruz winning this year. Huckabee at least deserves credit for realizing there is no hope and not dragging it on any longer. I wonder how much longer Rick Santorum and Ben Carson will stay in the race.

Rand Paul dropped out today, realizing it made more sense to work at holding on to his Senate seat, especially when he is increasingly being excluded from the Republican debates. While I disagree with Paul on many things, I did like having Paul criticizing the other candidates for their conservative positions on military interventionism, civil liberties, and the drug war. For that matter, while he has done so at times, I also wish Bernie Sanders would do the same regarding Clinton’s views.

With Paul out, this leaves Sanders as the only candidate opposing unnecessary foreign intervention, the only candidate opposing the surveillance state and other restrictions on civil liberties, and the only candidate who opposes the drug war. By concentrating on economic issues, where he also differs substantially from all the remaining candidates, other issues are receiving too little attention this year.

Stephen Colbert did not do his usual segment on Hungry For Power Games last night, concentrating on the caucus instead. Now he has three candidates to mock tonight.

Update: Rick Santorum is also dropping out.

Tina Fey On Sarah Palin’s Endorsement Of Donald Trump

Tina Fey returned to Saturday Night Live following Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump (video above).

Previous appearances of Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin can be seen here, here, here, here, here, and links to her older appearances are here.

Also, from recent posts, Stephen Colbert’s impersonation of Palin endorsing Trump (and others) can be seen here. A comment from Jimmy Fallon in the endorsement is posted here.

Stephen Colbert On Sarah Palin’s Endorsement of Donald Trump & Conflict In The GOP

While the Democratic race has become more competitive, Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican race. The big news of the week was that he received the endorsement of Sarah Palin, helping Trump win the idiot vote.  (“You’re fired.” “I quit.”) Stephen Colbert discussed the endorsement in the video above, starting out by exclaiming “God, I have missed you.” It was a great day for comedians, except possibly for Tina Fey who might not want to be dragged back into that role.

Colbert showed how it would sound if Palin endorsed every candidate, after he tased the part of his brain that understands sentence structure.

Colbert Palin Endorse Trump

Trump appears to be consolidating support among the GOP establishment, which appears to hate Ted Cruz even more than Trump. The exception is the National Review, which is going all out to try in stop Trump. In response, the Republican National Committee has disinvited them from an invitation to co-host a debate next month.

SciFi Weekend: The Top 20 New Shows of 2015

Once again, as I did last year, I’m concentrating, I’m concentrating on the top new shows of the past year (but will include some comments on returning shows below). This is for a few reasons:

  • Not having the time to devote professional time to television as professional television critics do, there are many shows I have not watched purely due to lack of time. Limiting to a single year reduces the impact of this.
  • Limiting to new shows eliminates the problem in many “best of” lists of including the same shows every year.
  • Talking about new shows could be of greater value. It is more likely that readers know about the top shows which have been on for the last several years, but might not be aware of some of the shows which started more recently.
  • If readers are inspired to catch up on a show from a list such as this, it is far more practical to catch up after one season than several. I know this from personal experience. This is why I cannot say much about the series finale of Justified, which has received great reviews, as I’m years behind. It was much easier to catch up on Manhattan and The 100 after missing the first season, allowing me to say more about them below.

Besides being limited to shows I have watched, this is also biased towards genre shows. Therefore, what might be the year’s biggest hit among new shows, Empire, is excluded from consideration on both counts. Rankings are also quite arbitrary, and some shows could easily be a few spots higher or lower if I were to redo this fifteen minutes later. Still, this gives a general idea of which I consider among the best as compared to those ranked lower. It is a sign of the increased number of good shows coming out, partially due to the increased influence of steaming video along with cable, that I have expanded from a top fifteen list last year to a top 20 list this year.

Top 20 New Shows Of 2015

Last Man On EarthCa

20. Last Man on Earth (ABC)

This would have ranked far higher if it could have maintained the quality of its original premiere, but adding new characters just led to it devolving into a number of more standard sitcom tropes. Still, while many gave up on the show, I continued to have interest in the first season finale and into the second season.

NUP_166495_0049.jpg

19. Childhood’s End (Syfy)

Adapting a novel from Arthur C. Clarke seemed like a sure winner, but there were problems I didn’t expect from doing this until I viewed the miniseries. It seemed far more dated in 2015 compared to when I read the novel in the 1960’s now that we have seen so many shows with alien visitation to earth. This story worked out much better as a novel as they could not capture important aspects of the story, including the magnitude of the ending, on television as compared to in prose. The show also failed to make the new world created in the miniseries seem believable, compared to the far better adaptations in a couple of other shows listed below. We heard about all the changes on earth, but rarely saw them, and what we did seem, such as mankind giving up science, didn’t seem believable.

Togetherness

18. Togetherness (HBO)

An excellent sitcom showing how cable and streaming have replaced the “must watch TV” from NBC and the other broadcast networks.

The Expanse

17.The Expanse (Syfy)

Syfy returns to space, with a mystery and quite a bit of world building in the series based upon the novels by James S. A. Corey. I have only seen the first two episodes so far, so my opinion of the show could change once I see more. It was just recently renewed for a second season.

Fresh off the Boat

16. Fresh Off The Boat (ABC)

Both Blackish last year and Fresh Off The Boat this year offer new variations on Modern Family. Constance Wu makes the show.

Casual

15. Casual (Hulu)

Yet another twist on a family sitcom, done far better by Hulu than the networks.

12Monkeys

14. 12 Monkeys (Syfy)

A time travel show which took aspects from the movie, but improved upon them for a weekly series. The series did an excellent job of building on its mythology, providing surprises, and moving in a new direction in the season finale.

Programme Name: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - TX: n/a - Episode: Ep2 (No. 2) - Picture Shows: Mr Norrell (EDDIE MARSAN) - (C) JSMN Ltd - Photographer: Matt Squire

13. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell (BBC One/BBC America)

An excellent adaptation of Susanna Clarke’s novel, making a world in which magic exists seem real.

Supergirl-TV-Show-Actress-Melissa-Benoist

12. Supergirl (CBS)

Another show from the produces of Arrow and The Flash, with his being much closer to The Flash in style. The show had an excellent pilot, but for a while seemed like a weaker version of The Flash. It started getting more interesting toward the end of the fall season as the show had an opportunity to develop. Spoilers ahead: Major events before the hiatus included the revelation that Hank Henshaw is the Martian Manhunter. Calista Flockhart is excellent as Cat Grant, but considering her profession can she be trusted now that she figured out Supergirl’s secret identity? So far Supergirl doesn’t know about Hank, but it is inevitable that she learns who he is. A shape shifter could be useful to show both Supergirl and Kara in the same place to fool Cat.

Sense8 Will and Riley

11. Sense 8 (Netflix)

A very ambitious show, which took time to develop its story, but well worth the wait. Enjoy the scenery from around the world while trying to figure it out in the early episodes.

agent-carter_promo-cast-photos-616x462

10. Agent Carter (ABC)

This shows how much better a network show can be when limited to a single eight-episode story.  Maybe that is why it is the only network show which cracked the top ten. Of course a network still could not compete with streaming when entering the Marvel universe.

kimmy23f-6-web

9. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)

This shows how the networks have surrendered quality sitcoms to streaming and cable. The show was originally produced by Tina Fey for NBC, but they passed on it and it was picked up by Netflix. It will be interesting to see if the show is even better when the second season is produced, knowing it will appear on Netflix rather than NBC.

Daredevil Matt and Karen

8. Daredevil (Netflix)

The first of a series of shows from the Marvel universe. Dardevil was darker, grittier, and more violent than any of the superhero shows before this. The series also took advantage of the streaming medium, often telling a continuous story, but sometimes including a more conventional single episode on a specific topic (which was still part of the greater story for the season).

Master of None

7. Master of None (Netflix)

Aziz Ansari shows how good a comedy could be on what I bet is a low budget if there is excellent writing. Besides comparisons to his character on Parks and Recreation, the show is often compared to Louie. I also see a lot of early Seinfeld in it.

Catastrophe

6. Catastrophe (Channel 4/Amazon)

The British show, also made available in the United States from Amazon Prime, was the best new sitcom of the year. It was this year’s, You’re The Worst, with Sharon Horgan playing what felt like could be an older version of Aya Cash’s chacter, and the nationalities of Jimmy and Gretchen’s nationalities reversed.

Man In The High Castle Poster

5. Man In The High Castle (Amazon)

While changes were made for the new version, Man In The High Castle was an excellent adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel, providing a realistic look at what could have happened if Germany and Japan had won World War II and occupied the United States. Changes were made in some characters, and there were plot differences to turn this into an ongoing series. Hitler remaining alive in the 1960’s provides for a difference in the politics. Instead of a book with an alternate history in which the Allies won, using film reels worked better on television. While the main storyline was tied up, the finale raised new questions, making me very happy that it was renewed. Spoilers ahead: As happened earlier in the book, the finale did show a character crossing over into an alternate universe looking like ours, partially explaining the meaning of those news reels. I still have a lot of questions about them, and if the book gave any further hints, I read it too long ago to remember. The finale did wrap up the major storyline and led to an unexpected character living in a “high castle” who was interested in the news reels. Is he really the title character, and how is he connected to the films?

Humans

4. Humans (Channel 4/AMC)

Yet another British import on this list which was also shown in the United States presented a look at how robots (Synths) could change our society, along with a thriller storyline involving a small group of  Synths which were more than they seemed. I’m not sure if the second season could be as strong as the first now that all the secrets have been revealed, but they definitely left matters open to continue the story.

MR. ROBOT -- "Pilot" Episode 101 -- Pictured: (l-r) Rami Malek as Elliot, Christian Slater as Mr. Robot -- (Photo by: David Giesbrecht/USA Network)

3. Mr. Robot (USA)

A cyber-thriller which is totally different from what anyone would expect from a show on USA. The show gave a lot of hints about one element which was not confirmed until later in the season, but still came up with surprises along the way. The season finale also left room for a lot more.

Better Call Saul

2. Better Call Saul (AMC)

Better Call Saul greatly exceeded expectations, standing on its own in addition to being a prequel series to one of the greatest television series of all time, Breaking Bad.

Jessica Jones

1. Jessica Jones (Netflix)

Netflix exceeded what was accomplished on Daredevil with Jessica Jones, staring Kristin Ritter in the title role. The series, even more than Daredevil, was like a single long movie, with only brief breaks in the narrative to fill in viewers on the back stories of the major characters. This works as a stand alone story, but also has references to The Avengers, a character from Daredevil, and sets up future shows, especially Luke Cage.

Spoilers ahead. The show did so many things well.  While many super hero stories suffer from trying to create yet a bigger danger to the entire world to fight, Jessica Jones was a personal story between Jessica and the villain, with David Tennant doing a fantastic job playing Kilgrave. Without their powers, this is essentially the story of an abused woman who once again confronts the man who abused her. Add on the super powers, and it becomes a story of a man who can have whatever he wants and does not understand why Jessica does not love him when he is nice to her.

Most of the supporting cast was also excellent, including Mike Colter as Luke Cage and Rachel Taylor as Trish Walker. One neighbor initially seemed to be a stereotypical drug addict, but turned into a significant figure. The brother and sister also living in the same building were the weakest characters, but the sister was useful to allow Kilgrave to escape. The length of the story did require a series of  near-captures, captures, and escapes. Plus it was necessary to change the situation so that the ending could take place, when earlier Jessica had reason to not only capture Kilgrave alive, but provide proof of his powers.

Honorable Mention

Grace and Frankie Season 1 netflix handout .... Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the Netflix Original Series "Grace and Frankie". Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.Ê

Grace and Frankie (Netflix) Any show staring Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston has to be good, even if some of other new sitcoms were more consistent.

Blindspot (NBC) A fascinating premise made the early shows feel like something unique from network drama, but far too often it is just a gimmick to introduce the case of the week. Whether the show becomes a great will depend on whether the underlying mystery of the show remains compelling. Also on NBC, Blacklist almost felt like a new show with Lizzie now on the run, reminiscent of how Person of Interest evolved into more of a genre show last year on CBS.

Limitless (CBS) A lighter genre show which shows potential to be entertaining, but I doubt will rise to greatness.

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix) A prequel to the movie.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS) and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (Comedy Central) were two excellent additions to light night television, a genre which I arbitrarily left out of the rankings. They help make up for the loss of David Letterman and Jon Stewart. I haven’t actually watched much of Larry Wilmore but he has been hilarious when I’ve seen clips. I’m looking forward to seeing him host the White House Correspondents’ dinner.

The Republican Debates have become an amusing reality show, featuring reality television star Donald Trump. His previous reality show had a similar format in gradually eliminating candidates vying for a job.

Besides the above changes on late night television,  this year marked the end of many excellent shows including Mad Men, Parks and Recreation, Hannibal, Parenthood, Continuum, and Justified. Downton Abbey concluded in the UK with the Christmas special, but the final season is just now beginning in the United States. (No spoilers, but the series ended well).

Last year I left out some shows only because I had not had a chance to see them yet. These included The 100 (CW) and Manhattan (WGN). These turned out to both be extremely high quality shows. and both would have made the top five if I had seen them when compiling last year’s list.

Among shows I’ve heard excellent things about, and very well might deserve to be ranked among the top shows but I have not had a chance to see so far are Narcos (Netflix), Wolf Hall (BBC Two/PBS), and The Jinx (HBO). While not as critically acclaimed, I have received a plug for another genre show, Wayward Pines (Fox).

Late Night Television: Jon Stewart Does Donald Trump Impression & Presidential Candidates Condemn Trump For Proposed Muslim Ban

Over the last few months, Stephen Colbert has established himself as the best late night talk show host. He is a worthy successor to David Letterman on The Late Show, while also in a sense both succeeding himself from The Colbert Report. For many liberal television viewers, watching the monologue and initial segment on The Late Show has also replaced watching Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

The one downside is that having the most openly liberal show on the major broadcast networks is  alienating Republican viewers, resulting in a drop in ratings. While conservatives knew that David Letterman was not one of them, he was never as blatantly political as Colbert. From the perspective of a viewer that is fine with me, but it does raise a concern as to whether CBS will continue him on the air long term.

For as long as it lasts, The Late Show is the late night television home for fans of Letterman, Colbert, and Jon Stewart. Thursday night we got a chance to see two of the three together. Jon Stewart joined Stephen Colbert in the monologue, calling for funding for medical benefits for 9/11 first responders–as he previously did with a guest return to The Daily Show. Video above.

Stephen Colbert offered advice to Jon Stewart to “Trump it up” when he thought that the pitch was boring. Colbert advised, “Face it, Jon, the media won’t pay attention to anything, it won’t pay attention to anything at all, unless you are Donald Trump.” (Others have argued the same).  This led to Colbert bringing out a Donald Trump wig which he keeps on hand just in case he has to say anything important, and Jon Stewart did his impression of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has also been criticized for his statement that he would ban Muslims from entering the country by many politicians, including on late night television. Bernie Sanders condemned Donald Trump as a demagogue on The Tonight Show (video above).

The straight-talking senator lashed out at Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country on NBC’s Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon Tuesday night, calling the Republican poll topper a “demagogue.”

“What somebody like a Trump is trying to do is to divide us up,” Sanders said. “A few months ago, we’re supposed to hate Mexicans; now we’re supposed to hate Muslims. That kind of crap is not going to work in the United States of America.”

Hillary Clinton, who previously did an impression of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live (video here), also commented on Trump. As a guest on ate Night With Seth Meyers, Clinton condemned Trump, saying she no longer finds him to be funny (video above);

“I have to say, Seth, I no longer think he’s funny,” she told the host in an interview that aired early Friday morning. “You know, I think for weeks you and everybody else were just bringing folks to hysterical laughter and all of that, but now he has gone way over the line.”

Clinton said the real estate mogul’s recent call to bar Muslims from entering the United States is not only “shameful and wrong” but “dangerous.”

“This latest demand that we don’t let Muslims into the country really plays right into the hands of the terrorists. And I don’t say that lightly, but it does,” she continued. “He’s giving them a great propaganda tool, a way to recruit more folks from Europe and the United states.”

Martin O’Malley, plus multiple Republican candidates have also condemned Trump’s statement. Even Dick Cheney criticized Trump’s statement. If you are too far right for Dick Cheney, you are really outside of the American mainstream.

Related: Stephen Colbert, Larry David, and Bill Maher On Bernie Sanders & The Democratic Race (a collection of videos)

Stephen Colbert, Larry David, and Bill Maher On Bernie Sanders & The Democratic Race

Larry David Bernie Sanders

With all the tedium of the Benghazi hearings, we can use something more amusing. Here is how a few comedians have recently covered the race, including the first Democratic debate.

Here is Stephen Colbert on the debate, mocking his use of statistics by showing how Bernie Sander would split a check at dinner. Colbert realized that due to Facebook sponsoring the debate, the backdrop will filled with “F CNN.” Noting Sanders’ comments on Hillary Clinton’s email during the debate, Colbert joked, “You know the debate was really uneventful when the banner headline the next day is ‘Elderly Man Not Interested In Email.'”

Here is Saturday Night Live’s take on the Democratic Debate. Larry David received most of the coverage for his amazing impersonation of Bernie Sanders. Alec Baldwin also had a great impersonation of Jim Webb, using his actual positions and showing why it was inevitable that he would drop out of the race. He passed on answering these questions:

“Okay, senator. Sure. You’re the only person here with an A rating from the NRA. Want to tell us why?” His  next question was, “You once said that affirmative action is racist against whites. Explain?”

Bill Maher did a segment showing how the Republicans like Donald Trump hear something totally different when Sanders said something. Watch the video for the full list, with some examples below:

Sanders said, “I supported President Clinton’s effort to deal with ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.”

Republicans  heard, “I will refocus our military on gardening and interpretive dance. We must aspire to the fighting style of the Iraqi Army: tear off your uniforms and run.”

Sanders said:“When I was a young man, I strongly opposed the war in Vietnam.”

Republicans heard, “I would have loved to fight in Vietnam, but for the other side. Not only do I hate our troops, but sometimes I lock John McCain in his office, do a Vietnamese accent and laugh.”

Sanders said that he“has a D-minus voting rating from the NRA.”

Republicans heard, “Rifles are for men with small penises. Every single gun in this country should be confiscated and melted down to make Tony Awards.”

Bill Maher also interviewed Sanders at the start of the show. Video above.

Bernie Sanders on Late Show With Stephen Colbert

Sanders on Late Night

Bernie Sanders was on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Friday. Colbert did a great job of introducing the interview earlier in the show, which is well worth watching if you only watched the actual interview. He joked about Sanders’ surprising success in the nomination battle, declaring this the most shocking upset of Hillary Clinton since the last time it happened to her. A couple of other jokes in this segment:

Bernie Sanders popularity is surprising because he’s a self-described socialist, who would also be our oldest president ever. The man is 74-years-old. That’s five years older than Donald Trump and 50 years older than anyone Trump would marry.

Sanders had 27,500 in the sport arena in Los Angeles In August, 11,000 in Phoenix, 28,000 in Portland on a Sunday. A guy in his 70s filling stadiums? Who does he think he is, a Rolling Stone?

And the actual interview:

Bernie Sanders explained his meteoric rise in the Democratic race:

“I knew we had a message that would resonate with the American people. This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, yet almost all of the income and wealth is going to the top one percent, and people do not feel good about that,” Sanders said of his rise. “At a time where we’re seeing more millionaires and billionaires, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any other major country on Earth. We are the only major wealthy country that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people, family and medical leave, paid sick time, paid vacation time, and people are asking, ‘Why?'”

Colbert asked Sanders about being a self-proclaimed socialist and a liberal, asking him why he didn’t accept these terms as the insults they were meant to be. Sanders explained his views, and also explained why he would make a strong candidate in the general election:

“If you look at the polls at me running against the Republicans, despite the fact that 20, 30, 40 percent of the people don’t know who I am or what I am fighting for, we do almost as well and in some cases better than Hillary Clinton does today, and that will only get better in the future,” Mr. Sanders said.

He added that “Republicans win when voter turnout is low” and that, through the crowds and excitement he sees his campaign building, he has the ability to not just take back the White House but recapture the Senate as well.

Sanders was especially critical of Donald Trump’s xenophobia and racism:

I think that what Trump is doing is appealing to the baser instincts among us: xenophobia and, frankly, racism. [He’s] describing an entire group of people (in this case Mexicans) as rapists or as criminals… That’s the same old thing that’s gone on in this country for a very long time. You target some group of people, and you go after them. You take people’s anger, and you turn it against them—you win votes on it. I think that is disgraceful and not something we should be doing in 2015.

What I am talking about is a vision that goes beyond telling us we have to hate a group of people. What I am talking about is saying that, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, there are extraordinary things that we can do when people come together—black and white and gay and straight—and demand the government start working for all of us—not just a few.

SciFi Weekend Part 2: The Best of 2014

Part 1 of SciFi Weekend looked at shows from the past week, including Last Christmas, this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special. Part II lists some of the top and most improved shows of the year. The point is not really to rank them so much as to highlight shows worth watching. Really, how do you compare Cosmos to Penny Dreadful? I am at a disadvantage compared to professional television critics as I have neither the professional obligation nor time to watch nearly everything. Therefore this is limited to the shows I have actually watched, and I will address this after the first list.

Rather than list the overall best shows, as most sites are doing, my first list will be limited to shows which premiered in 2014. Lists of all the best shows drive out most of the new shows, and I’m sure you are aware of Game of Thrones by now. I have limited this to shows available in the United States, including a couple which were primarily British shows but available here on cable or streaming. This list is not limited to genre but is biased by my preferences.Therefore Jane the Virgin (CW), listed by many television critics among the best of the year, did not make the list as, regardless of its quality, I still stopped watching after a few weeks due to the large number of quality shows which I’m more interested in.

Top 15 New Shows Of 2014

About A Boy

15.  About A Boy (NBC)

Family friendly sitcoms (or actually sitcoms of any nature) have not done very well on the networks recently. For that matter, relatively few network shows made this list at all. About A Boy, the second attempt to adapt the Nick Hornby novel, finally gets it right, also being a rare case of the television version being better than the movie version. The shows combines saccharin and snark, and can be highly entertaining in episodes where it gets the right percentage of each. Besides an excellent regular cast, Adrianne Palicki of Friday Night Lights and Agents of SHIELD has had a recurring role.

14. The Knick (Cinemax)
Think of this Steven Soderbergh show as being like ER, except set early in the 20th century. I don’t know if they got all the facts right, but it is an authentic look at medicine of the era.

13. Black-ish (ABC)
Another of the rare successful sitcoms premiering recently. It came along at just the right time, when Bill Cosby is no longer on his pedestal

12. Penny Dreadful (Showtime)
Imagine if the main characters of classic horror novels all lived in the same city and interacted with each other. I am  hopeful of an even better second season now that the main characters and situations were introduced.

11. Silicon Valley (HBO)
Comedy is doing much better on cable than network television these days. Silicon Valley does a great job of mocking the tech industry.

The Honorable Woman

10. The Honorable Woman (BBC Two/Sundance)
The original story has the feeling of what it might be like if John le Carré were to write a spy novel on the middle east directly for television.

9. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Fox)
Neil deGrasse Tyson was inspired by Carl Sagan as a student. Now he tries to cure some of the scientific-illiteracy which has become a serious problem in this country.

8. True Detective (HBO)
The story had moments of brilliance, and moments when it dragged, but the performance by Matthew McConaughey earned it a spot on most top ten lists.

Transparent

7. Transparent (Amazon Prime)
Jeffrey Tambor leads an excellent cast in a story about an already dysfunctional Jewish family which now must deal with the father coming out as trans-gender. This is the story which Jill Soloway has been wanting to do since Six Feet Under, and she does an excellent job.

6 .Last Week Tonight (HBO)
This new comedy take on the news came along at the right time, with Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update being awful with the loss of Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert ending his show. John Oliver has done a better job than many others who have attempted to satirize the news with in-depth segments which are likely influence opinions.

5. The Flash (CW)
The best of this year’s attempts to enter the superhero genre. Lighter than Arrow but so far this season more compelling with its ongoing story line.

4. Happy Valley (BBC One/Netflix)
This British crime mystery does a far better job than most of the American counterparts, being far more successful than most other attempts at combining  the personal story of the main character with the mystery.

3. The Affair (Showtime)
Showing the events before the murder from the perspective of two people involved in an affair is a gimmick which works well for the story. When their stories differ are we seeing failings in memory, one or both characters lying, or even the plot of one of the protagonist’s novels?

Youre-The-Worst-690

2. You’re The Worst (FX)
The best new comedy in ages, with an often hilarious look at a couple of flawed individuals, frequently skewering millennials. The show is especially impressive in both gradually developing the supporting characters and telling a story over the course of the season. The season can easily be watched in one or two sittings as one of the best romantic comedies to come along in years, even by those who normally don’t like romantic comedies. It might also be worth rewatching this time of the year as a reminder of how good television can also be educational, showing why it is not a good idea to plug a vibrator into a string of Christmas lights. The more you know.

Billy Bob Thornton stars as Lorne Malvo in the Emmy award-winning series Fargo

1. Fargo (FX)
A dark comedy and crime drama which does justice to the movie which inspired it, and easily stands on its own. There is both outstanding writing and an excellent cast led by Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Allison Tolman, and Colin Hanks.

Honorable Mention:
Among shows which did not make this list, and which aren’t mentioned elsewhere in this post, there are a some other good shows with a genre element: Gotham (Fox), Outlander (Starz),  How To Get Away With Murder (ABC), The Last Ship (TNT), Leftovers (HBO) (which has made many lists of both best and worst of the year), and Resurrection (ABC).

Some of the new genre shows which were left off this list were intentionally omitted.  Extant (CBS) might have made at least honorable mention if they stuck to the story of the AI child and stayed away from the ludicrous alien plot. Some shows couldn’t be ranked as I have not seen them, but reliable sources have recommended others to me which very well deserve to be highly ranked, and which I will hopefully catch up on later. These include The 100 (CW) and Manhattan (WGN). There are also two limited run shows which I have recorded and have heard excellent things about but have not seen yet: Olive Kitteridge (HBO)  and The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (PBS).

Most Improved Shows Of 2014

Some shows do better in their first year, often due to first raising a situation, but are not able to sustain the quality for a second season. Sleepy Hollow (Fox) has not been able to maintain the quality of the first season, but perhaps it will improve now that they appear ready to move on to a  new storyline. Orphan Black (BBC America) also couldn’t maintain the quality of the first season, when everything was still a mystery, but still remains better than most shows on television. House of Cards (Netflix) also did not have as great a second season as first but remains worth watching.

There are six shows which many consider better in their second season, or at very least did not deteriorate a bit going into their second season, listed in alphabetical order:

Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
The show was mediocre until Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released. It became much better late in the first season as it mirrored the movie developments, and has become even better this season as it is now ahead of planned Marvel releases.

the-americans-fx

The Americans (FX)
This was one of the best television shows of 2013 when it premiered, and was even better in its second season. The season was successful for both its season-long mystery and for how it combined the personal and professional lives of the main characters. It did one thing far better than other shows such as Homeland: making good use of a teen-aged daughter.

Arrow (CW)
The second season of Arrow started in 2013 but extended into 2014, allowing the show onto this list.  The second season surpassed the second season. The third season, starting in fall 2014, isn’t as good, but I’m still hoping it will return to the level of the second season.

Hannibal (NBC)
It is just amazing that a show of this quality can be shown on network television.

Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Actually a close call between the first and second season, with both worth watching.

Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
Another example of a great show becoming even better in its second year, as the show successfully went beyond Piper to tell major stories with other characters.

Once again this list is limited to shows I have actually watched. Based upon recommendations from others, I hear that Rectify (Sundance) was another show with an excellent first season and an even better second season in 2014.

There are a couple shows which might not make a list of the best of the year, but these two shows which improved tremendously from their pilots in 2014:

Selfie Karen Gillan John Cho

Selfie (ABC)
The pilot was awful and the show never recovered, but it has gotten much better over the course of the season. Unfortunately this wasn’t soon enough as the show was canceled. The remaining episodes are being shown on Hulu and, with one left to go, have been worth watching.

Married (FX)
This show initially received more hype than You’re The Worst which followed it, but it was soon apparent that this was by far the weaker of the two. Still Married did manage to improve after a weak pilot and, being on cable during the summer when low ratings were expected, was able to survive to get renewed for a second season.

While I concentrated on second season shows in order to provide more coverage to relatively new shows in the list above, there are a few longer-running shows which have improved this season which are worth noting, also in alphabetical order:

Homeland (Showtime)
The show was at its best with the Brody storyline of the first season and they managed to stretch it out through a second season. The third season was just too much, and they finally let it go. The fourth season was mixed as they tried to reestablish the show with only a cameo from Damian Lewis in a hallucination. Some episodes dragged, including the season finale, but there were also some excellent moments during the season. Homeland not only must contend with the loss of Brody. Now it being criticized by Pakistani officials who are furious about how their country was portrayed.

New Girl (Fox)
I had stopped watching around the time that Nick and Jess were getting together, but heard it is much better with the two broken up but saying dumb things to each other, and I have resumed watching.

Person of Interest (CBS)
This was a good show from the start but every season gets better as the show has successfully transitioned from a procedural mystery of the week with a genre gimmick to a true genre show, which is also topical with current controversies over surveillance.

I added the networks to the show listings after I compiled these lists and find it notable that FX has the top two new shows along with one of the best shows of 2013. As expected, HBO and Showtime are well represented, with CW also doing quite well. Amazon has joined Netflix as a valuable streaming service with original shows. The broadcast networks are represented, partially due to having some successes among the larger quantity of original programing than any other source, but are frequently being beaten in quality by cable and streaming sources, which in some cases are owned by the broadcast networks. Showtime and CW now have better shows than CBS as FX has better shows than Fox.

SciFi Weekend: Sleepy Hollow; Better Call Saul; Jessica Jones; Star Trek; Star Wars; Peter Pan Live; Into The Woods

Sleepy Hollow Irving

The networks have avoided new episodes around the holidays for a while, but they seem to be more formally dividing the seasons in recent years, including making the midseason finales a major event. Sleepy Hollow ended the fall season with major changes. This included the death of Frank Irving and Henry killing Moloch. This leads to questions as to whether we will see Irving again in some form and whether this suggests redemption for Henry, or will he now become the major big bad?

Variety interviewed executive producer Len Wiseman:

So, you just killed the show’s Big Bad halfway through the second season, which is a pretty bold move. Talk me through what went into that decision.
We were always leading up to wanting to [see how] Henry comes into his own. Henry has devoted his life to Moloch; he has served Moloch; and then to find out that he is just a servant, that another will take his place, and to see that he doesn’t have an importance to Moloch, is a big deal. We were always leading up to that fight within Henry. So where do we go from there, what happens? We also really wanted to present the idea that it’s not all about Moloch, and that’s why we decided that Moloch doesn’t die at the very end of the season, he dies at the midseason finale, because he’s not the endgame.

Obviously Ichabod (Tom Mison) and Katrina both want Henry to be redeemed, and killing Moloch seems like a step in the right direction, but is it as simple as that for Henry, or are there other motivations at play?
To your point, “is it?” That’s really the question: who is he doing that for, who is he trying to protect? Is he trying to protect his mother? Maybe. Is he trying to save himself? Maybe. What is the reason why he killed Moloch, ultimately? That’s what we’ll find out in terms of Henry in the rest of the season. And [that’s] what our characters are going to question. It’s not going to be clear to them why that move was made and how he benefits from killing Moloch.

The episode also said farewell to Frank Irving — what was the impetus behind that decision from a storytelling standpoint?
That decision, in terms of an ultimate sacrifice… He is controlled and he had sold his soul to evil, so that’s the one last power that he has — the fact that his soul is already taken — in having the power to wield the Sword of Methuselah. It gives him a strength and a power because he’s spent so much time regretting that choice that he made when he was tricked into selling his soul. He wants to be able to use that trick on Henry.

Since Henry was holding Frank’s soul, now that he’s dead, does that mean he can be raised by Henry in some way, or is he actually free?
It’s a pure sacrifice, it’s a soul for a soul, so it is a real sacrifice. He’s free, and where his soul goes may be something that we will find out and our characters will search out, but it’s definitely a sacrifice and he knows it is — it’s not a trick.

How does the second half of the season differ from the first 11 episodes, now that Moloch is gone?
What really takes a different turn is between Katrina and Crane, as well. There’s a lot of curiosity about why Katrina is struggling with her powers and her place in this war, and I’ve heard people say is her character underutilized — I would say there’s a difference between underutilized and not realized. When she discovers her full potential, things really get out of control.

Other fall finales coming up include Skye meeting her father on Agents of SHIELD and The Flash meeting Reverse Flash (will it be Harrison Wells?)

When we last saw Deathstroke on Arrow, he was locked up in Oliver’s island prison. He will be returning later this season.

Sneak peak of Better Call Saul,  in which Saul meets Mike in the video above. The Breaking Bad spin-off starts February 8.

Krysten Ritter, who also appeared in Breaking Bad, has been cast to star in Jessica Jones:

The Jessica Jones drama is one of four shows centering on Marvel heroes that Netflix has picked up straight to series. The streaming service has committed to a minimum of four 13-episode series, which will begin rolling out in 2015 and are slated to culminate in a miniseries about The Defenders, comprised of a dream team of heroic characters.

Ritter will play Jessica Jones, the cynical, sardonic and tough-as-nails, but innately cool and sexy, title character. Jones is described as a superhero suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder that leads to her hanging up her costume and opening up her own detective agency, where she ends up helping people and assisting other superheroes.

Jessica Jones Kristen Ritter

Netflix has also  announced that the third season of House of Cards will become available February 27.

The final season of Parks and Recreation will start on January 13 and the series will conclude on February 24.

January Jones has already landed a post-Mad Men role in The Last Man On Earth, a post-apocalyptic comedy on Fox.

Benedict Cumberbatch, already having major genre roles in Star Trek Into Darkness and Sherlock, now enters the Marvel universe as Doctor Strange. The looks like a good move. Doctor Strange does not have as large a following as many of the other Marvel characters, and with the large number of comics-based movies being planned, a big star such as Cumberbatch will help to keep this from getting lost among bigger name movies.

Robert Orci was called in to direct the upcoming Star Trek movie after J.J. Abrams left for Star Wars. It has been announced that Orci is no longer directing. Edgar Wright’s name is coming up the most often as probable replacement but some fans are pushing for Jonathan Frakes. Frakes might be a great choice as someone who (as opposed to Abrams) understands Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek.

The second season of Broadchurch doesn’t start until next month but it is rumored that a third season is already planned.

Stephen Colbert explains why the new style lightsabers in the next Star Wars movie are a good idea in the video above. It might take you two weeks to understand.

Allison Williams said we could not hate-watch Peter Pan Live, but what about snark-watching? The play was so much more fun to watch while following on Twitter. Some reviewers have said that NBC should have used actors more accustomed to acting in plays. Both these critics and Allison Williams missed the point. Sure we made fun of her at times, but that does not mean we wanted a better stage actress in the role or like Allison Williams any less even though she wasn’t perfect in the role. The point was the fun of the evening, including watching Allison Williams live out her childhood dream of playing Peter Pan, not to see a top notch Broadway-quality play on television.

There is only one actress I would have wanted to play Peter Pan other than Allison Williams, Jane Krakowski. Here is her leaked audition tape:

The highlight of the play was when Peter began to fight the pirates and declared himself to be an Avenger. I hope that most people did not turn off the show before the credits were over and miss the scene with Peter and Tony Stark going out for schwarma. My only complaint about the play was that, in order to be more topical, the “dead maid” in the closet should have shouted out, “I can’t breathe.” I also don’t understand how Wendy grew up to be Minnie Driver and didn’t look a day older.

Anna Kendrick was among the most prolific, and amusing, celebrities tweeting during Peter Pan Live. There is symmetry here as the play began with Wendy reading Cinderella to her younger brothers and Anna Kendrick is playing Cinderella in the movie version of the Broadway play,  Into The Woods. The movie doesn’t come out until December 25 but Disney has released the audio below of Anna Kendrick singing a modified version of the Broadway version of On the Steps of the Palace. Audio below: