My top TV shows of 2014

Golden age indeed. These days, TV is up there with film in terms of quality of story, well written and believable characters and – in some cases – almost cinematic production values. And this year was a mightily good year when it came to a night on the sofa with the latest ‘must watch’ show.

From crime and fantasy dramas and zombies everywhere, to Victorian witches and oversexed vampires, here are the shows that rocked my world and floated my boat this year.

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Penny Dreadful: season 1
With a cast including Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Harry Treadaway and Josh Hartnett, this show surpassed expectations with a host of intriguing characters and powerhouse performances, particularly from Green. Every time she went into possessed demonic mode the show went up a few notches.

Fargo: season 1
Martin Freeman as a timid insurance salesman from Minnesota up against Billy Bob Thornton’s enigmatic mobster hitman. As an idea for a TV show this was perhaps an odd gamble, yet one that paid off. No doubt down to the superb writing and outstanding performances. Freeman again proving to people just how good he really is.

The Leftovers: season 1
There’s so much beauty in grief and suffering, yet it’s rarely shown in such a captivating manner. Here it was brought to life by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta – with a fine lead performance from Justin Theroux – in a story that charted the lives of a group of people, following the disappearance of 2 per cent of the world’s population.

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Game of Thrones: season 4
As the Starks, Lannisters and all other families grow further apart, each on quests of their own, the story and world of Westeros and beyond expands. This makes it tougher and tougher for the show’s writers and creators, still they deliver, with possibly the most visually stunning and emotionally engaging season so far.

Walking Dead: season 5
As it stands, we’ve only had the first half before the show hit its mid season break. It’s been good though, watching Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes slowly but surely lose his humanity, as he’s faced first with cannibals then just the general dregs of mankind that seem to now inhabit the earth and plague him at every turn.

The Strain: season 1
File this under ‘guilty pleasure’ TV. From the creepy and fantastical minds of Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro, this show (which started life as a novel, then a graphic novel) has vampires portrayed as parasites, causing chaos in New York as a small band of average heroes try to stop them, with varying degrees of success.

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Homeland: season 4
With Brody (Damien Lewis) out of the picture Carrie Mathison (Clare Danes) took centre stage this season as Chief of Station in an increasingly volatile Pakistan, on the hunt for terrorists. With drones, torture, kidnap and diplomatic backstabbing, this latest outing proved to be a marked return to form.

Forever: season 1
More guilty pleasure TV, this time in the form of a sort of mashup of Highlander meets CSI with Ioan Gruffudd’s immortal medical examiner solving murder cases in New York. Given the morbid subject, it’s an upbeat and easy watch. Thanks in part to the breezy chemistry between Gruffudd and his detective partner, played by Alana de la Garza.

True Blood: season 7
The final hurrah for this show was something of an anticlimax – or a least more of a sombre tone than its predecessors. However you have to give it credit for the seasons that went before, yet it just didn’t have the same verve and bite (ha!) after the show’s creator, Alan Ball, left after the fifth season.

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True Detective: season 1
McConaughey at the height of his powers turned his attention to TV for this deeply intense, brooding miniseries. One where he played the maverick detective to Woody Harrelson’s more straight arrow (albeit, with problems of his own) cop, both tracking down a serial killer over a period of many years.

24: Live Another Day
Despite a concern knawing away at you that this show probably should have ended some time ago, it’s risen from the ashes… so we’ll have to live with it. For the latest season it halved the number of episodes for a leaner, tighter story, with Jack Bauer legging it around London looking for people to beat up.

An ode to redheads

“All the action adventure girls have red hair,” he said. “Whenever it is an independent girl, not a sidekick person, when she has her own mind or does as good as the guys, she has red hair.” ― Marion Roach, Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning and Sexual Power of Red Hair

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Ah… the elusive redhead. What started this love affair?

They draw me in like a moth to a flame. It’s not just me either. Do a quick online search and you’ll find loads of forums and articles discussing the appeal of these exotic beauties.

Perhaps it’s the fact that red hair, genuine red hair, is vary rare. In fact it only occurs in 1-2% of the world’s population (4% in Europe and 13% of the Scottish population, those lucky devils).

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There’s also the common belief that redheads are fiery, exotic and passionate: a study was even done in the 19th century which concluded that red hair was linked to ‘crimes of lust’. And speaking of lust, onto my list of ladies I consider to be flying the flag for the flame-haired minority.

With this list, some are genuine redheads – god bless ’em – and others have adopted the look on pretty much a permanent basis; perhaps for a character which put them on the map or simply to further their careers.

Amy Adams
I first saw this lady in Catch Me If You Can  as nurse Brenda Strong, opposite DiCaprio’s Frank Abagnale Jr. Since that point her career has skyrocketed, with about 2-3 films a year for the last few years, including playing Lois Lane in Man Of Steel and, most recently, teasing and seducing Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper’s characters in American Hustle.


Jessica Chastain
Take Shelter in 2011 launched Chastain’s career onto the A-list. That year she also turned up in The Help, The Tree Of Life and Coriolanus. Not bad. Then followed this in 2012 with the role she’s best known for, Maya, in Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. This led film critic Richard Roeper to describe her as ‘one of the finest actors of her generation.’


Christina Hendricks
We all know her as Joan Harris from Mad Men (2007-2014). She’d had a few years knocking around in TV until that point, but this put her emphatically on the map. If Jessica Rabbit were real, she’d be Joan. Each day thousands of men must curse and cheer the fact that Joan doesn’t stalk around their office. Let’s face it, you’d get no work done at all, would you?


Deborah Ann Woll
Sweet little Jessica Hamby. At least, she was when she started out in True Blood (2008-2014), then slowly became more vamp-y with each season, yet retained the best qualities from her human life: compassion, empathy, vulnerability, love. She just added seduction, sex appeal, lust and animalistic hunger to the mix. One of my favourite characters from the show.


Julianne Moore
Nominated for four academy awards and with an impressive filmography, Moore is the thinking man’s redhead. That’s not to say she’s not sexy as hell too (see Chloe). With a career that started in 1984 it’s fair to say she’s had ups and downs. The ups, though, have been worth it; Boogie Nights, The End Of The Affair, Magnolia, Far From Heaven, The Hours, Children Of Men, A Single Man, The Kids Are All Right, Crazy Stupid Love… and many more.