2014 has come and gone, and as we start our new year, let’s take a moment to look back on what made the previous one great and what made it teeth-grindingly frustrating. Here are the best and worst of 2014 as voted by you! Thanks to everyone who voted, hope to see you back here at the end of 2015 for more judgment!
Best New Miniseries/Show
Readers’ Choice: The Crimson Field
The World War I drama walked off with the prize this year (beating the other two choices 2 to 1). It got off to a rocky start and seemed like it was going to be another cliché-ridden eyeroller, but it quickly improved. It boasted a fine cast (how nice was it to see Kevin Doyle play someone who wasn’t getting crapped on all the time?), good writing, and some genuinely interesting storylines. Shame it won’t be back, but it shall live on here.
My Choice: The Knick
Showtime’s gritty hospital drama stripped away everything we like about costume dramas (pretty people in pretty clothes speaking beautifully while sipping tea and exchanging bon mots) and trashed the hell out of it, slithering along the underbelly of turn-of-the century New York. Not a single character escaped untainted and unscathed (even the noble Bertie had some eyebrow-raising moments towards the end there) but they still managed to be human and, for the most part, relatable. They might not have all been likeable, but at some point, I genuinely felt for each and every one. And I loved Cleary and Harriet’s relationship. There were times when the writing let the show down (ugh, the dialogue between Thack and his ex-lover!) but I looked forward to each episode, and I can’t wait to see what sort of insanity takes hold in series 2.
Worst New Miniseries/Show
Readers’ Choice: Death Comes to Pemberley
What. The. Hell. A talented writer takes on a beloved classic and this is the disaster we end up with? In all fairness to P.D. James, I didn’t read the book, so maybe it’s far, far better than this trainwreck which, amongst other things, was hampered by serious miscasting and the complete character assassination of Colonel Fitzwilliam. God. That still makes me angry. If there was one saving grace, it’s that Matthew Goode made a surprisingly excellent, smarmy Wickham, and Jenna Coleman was spectacularly slappable as Lydia.
My Choice: New Worlds
Oh, dear god, this show. What a horrible, horrible, horrible waste of time and money it was. There’s absolutely nothing to redeem it. The characters were unbearably stupid, the story was all over the place, nobody was interesting or relatable, and the thing sounded like it was written using the Big Book of Cliches. So, so bad.
Readers’ Choice: Matthew, a lawyer and sole heir to a massive estate, failed to make out a will before he died, Downton Abbey
It was neck-and-neck until the very end, but this forehead-slapper finally took the big prize. What the hell, Julian? How stupid do you think your audience is? There is absolutely no way this would have ever happened. Ever. It’s not even worth thinking about. The fact that this was the only way he could come up with to introduce tension to the start of series 4 just highlighted how badly the show needs more writers to help out.
My Choice: Tommy Darmody infiltrates Nucky’s gang, then decides to shoot him months later, driven by his grandmother’s resentment, which was planted when he was a toddler, Boardwalk Empire
As absurd as the winner was, I’ve come to expect stupid subplots from Downton Abbey, because it’s basically a soap opera. But I expected better from Boardwalk Empire which, for the most part, actually made some attempt to make sense over the years. But talk about fumbling at the 10-yard line. This was a hugely disappointing way to end the series, because the more you thought about it, the stupider it became. Who told Tommy that Nucky killed his father? Gillian, presumably, but what 3-year-old kid takes that kind of information in and soaks up the accompanying bitterness to the extent that he’s willing to go kill the guy decades later? Why did he wait so long to kill Nucky? Was that his endgame all along, or did it just occur to him later? What happened here? Not a very satisfying way to end the show at all.
Readers’ Choice: Trixie and Tom, Call the Midwife
It’s about time someone besides Jenny got a date. How adorable were these two? Remember the disastrous ‘date’ that was actually a boy scout trip that went terribly wrong? Awww! And yet, Trixie was willing to give it another go. Atta girl! And good for you, Tom, for persevering! Let’s hope these two have a slightly easier time of it when the show returns.
My Choice: Mardle and Florian, Mr Selfridge
This one just barely came in second to Trixie and Tom, and much as I love TnT, these two really stole my heart. Poor Mardle got so emotionally beaten up by that jackass Grove I was really rooting for her to find someone better, and then this adorable Belgian showed up and really treated her right. And of course Grove almost ruined it (jackass!). But hallelujah, all is right with the world again, and we get a lovely, tender, believable love story to balance out all the nonsense with Agnes that I still can’t bring myself to care about, even a teensy bit. More Mardle, please!
Readers’ Choice: Tom and Edna, Downton Abbey
Man, it wasn’t even close. I don’t think all the other votes added together equalled this one, and for good reason—this relationship sucked. Well, ‘relationship’, because it was actually more like a stalking/harassment/rape/blackmail situation. Good thing Tom had Hughes around to pull him out of this mess, because could you imagine him married to Edna. I shudder to think about it.
My Choice: Beth and Abe, New Worlds
Terrible. Terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad. Their relationship made little sense to begin with, unless you’re totally going for the Stockholm Syndrome explanation, and it managed to get worse from there. Awful.
Readers’ Choice: The Nonnatus Crew, Call the Midwife
Another one that ran away with all the votes. Were I in need of a midwife in mid-century London, I’d definitely want one of these ladies. They’re awesome.
My Choice: Vanessa, Ethan, Malcolm, Frankenstein, Sembene, Penny Dreadful
As great as the Nonnatuns are, this crew fights off demons and vampires. Kinda hard to beat that.
Best New Character
Readers’ Choice: Patsy, Call the Midwife
Patsy was re-introduced after appearing the previous season while Jenny was working in the hospital. Her no-nonsense but not too tough approach was a welcome relief from Jenny’s waffling and whining.
My Choice: Oberyn Martell, Game of Thrones
It’s always good to see someone come into a situation eyes open, able to say whatever they want, totally not giving a shit. Oberyn was fun to watch, and a fierce fighter. Shame about that whole head-crushing thing. He will be missed.
Worst New Character
Readers’ Choice: Lord Loxley, Mr Selfridge
Loxley just barely managed to beat Delphine, another unfortunate addition to the Selfridge cast (though she, at least, seemed a bit interesting at the beginning). What a terrible character this was. Paper-thin, lacking any redeeming qualities whatsoever, armed only with a ridiculous plan that would never have worked in the real world. Let’s hope he won’t be back anytime soon.
My Choice: Beth, New Worlds
Beth was so unbelievably stupid I’m amazed she was able to get out of bed in the morning without messing up somehow. For heaven’s sake, she walked her half Native American baby into the midst of a bunch of armed adolescents who were training to kill Native Americans! Who the hell does that? Beth does, that’s who.
Most Badass Moment
Readers’ Choice: Arya kills the man who stabbed her friend and takes back Needle, Game of Thrones
Yeah, that was pretty great.
My Choice: The Knick staff and surgeons escort black patients to safety through a race riot, The Knick
1900 New York was not a great place or time to be a black person. Or anyone who wasn’t a white man, as this episode proved. Despite the fact that many of the Knick’s staffers had been pretty vocally racist in the past, they all banded together, remembered the Hyppocratic Oath, and did the right thing, resulting in one of the series’ most satisfying episodes.
Hell Yeah! Moment
Readers’ Choice: Someone poisons Joffrey, Game of Thrones
Even if you knew it was coming, it was still deeply satisfying seeing that little shit choke to death. The night is dark and full of terrors, Joffrey. Enjoy hell!
There’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing a much-loved but much-crapped-upon character finally just say, ‘fuck this noise’ and really let everyone have it. Are you enjoying breathing, folks? Are you ladies enjoying not having been raped to death? Are you enjoying the glory you received for showing up at the 11th hour, dad? That’s nice. And it’s all thanks to me, not that any of you ingrates seems to remember that, because god forbid the dwarf who is a good 100 IQ points and 6000 badass points higher than all of you put together get any credit for anything good, ever. Enjoy your lives, however much of it is left, because I’m pretty sure things are going to seriously go to shit once I’m gone.
Readers’ Choice: Jenny suddenly decides to leave Poplar and become a cancer nurse, Call the Midwife
Maybe this was true to actual history, but the show did a terrible job of setting it up. Just one episode before Jenny was chomping at the bit to go back to being a midwife, and then all of a sudden she says, ‘nope! Cancer for me!’ Whaaaa?
My Choice: Beth purposely shows off her half-Native baby to a group of people being trained to kill Natives, New Worlds
Seriously, who the hell does this?
Most Shocking Moment
Readers’ Choice and My Choice: Anna’s rape, Downton Abbey
There was absolutely no contest. Sybil’s death aside, We’re used to Downton being pretty fluffy, and then all of a sudden we get a brutal rape, played out while the rest of the household and guests smile through a performance by Dame Nellie Melba. I think our collective shudder at that moment shifted continents.
Best Example of Suicidal Stupidity
Readers’ Choice: Edna tries to blackmail Branson, Downton Abbey
Oh, Edna. You don’t mess with Hughes. Ever.
My Choice: John denies the Papist Plot, despite knowing it’s treason to do so, New Worlds
This family was not a brain trust. If it wasn’t Beth almost getting her child killed, it was her stepfather getting himself killed by putting himself in a position to deny the Papist Plot. Darwin Award nominee, perhaps?
Readers’ Choice and My Choice: Chummy embraces her mother as she dies, Call the Midwife
God, I bawled when this happened. Granted, I had given birth two days before I watched this, so I was inundated with all sorts of crazy hormones, but still, I guess my reaction wasn’t unusual. Lady Chomondley-Brown was a pill and a half, but she managed to win us over at the 11th hour and make things up with her beleaguered daughter, which made her passing that much sadder. Fare thee well, your ladyship. Way to redeem yourself.
Character We’ll Miss the Most
Readers’ Choice: Nucky Thompson, Boardwalk Empire
BE’s leading man just managed to edge out Ygritte for this honour. For five seasons we watched as he slowly evolved from an opportunistic businessman and somewhat crooked politician dabbling in illegal hooch to a full-on gangster. Despite all the things he did, we still liked him. Let’s give Steve Buscemi a nice slow clap in recognition.
As I said earlier, I love a character who’s not afraid of anyone and just tells it like it is. Oberyn was clever and resourceful and seemed like an excellent player in this particularly deadly game. But that Achilles Heel of his was a real problem, as it turned out. Well, at least he got the admission from the Mountain he’d been looking for, just before he got his skull busted like a ripe cherry tomato.
Character who Needs a Good Slapping
Readers’ Choice: Lydia Wickham, Death Comes to Pemberley
Oh, God, Lydia. You just want to slap her straight through Pride and Prejudice, and you want to shake and slap her here, as she plays the victimised wife to the hilt. Self-awareness? Nah, too troublesome! Enjoy America, Lydia!
My Choice (tie): Beth and Abe, New Worlds
I think I’ve already covered this, but just to add: these two got multiple people killed, cost poor people their jobs (and yet believed they were ‘helping’ them), and were just all-around selfish morons. There isn’t enough slapping in the world for these two.
Most Improved Character
Readers’ Choice and My Choice: Kitty, Mr Selfridge
Who would have thought that the original Catty Bitch would have wound up being such a delight to watch? Her promotion to the perfume counter did wonders, and she proved not only to be incredibly good at her job (certainly better than the supposedly amazing Agnes was at hers), but was also a great partner for Edwards. Her scenes were a delight. Bravo, Kitty!