Editors choose best of 2014 TV releases
New television series quickly gained the attention of viewers
Due to a lack of cable and spare time, my budget for new television shows is relatively slim. However, I did find time to check out NBC’s newest comedy Bad Judge starring Kate Walsh as Rebecca Wright, a discombobulated and questionable criminal court judge. I am drawn to the show because Wright doesn’t care about the system or expectations—she does whatever she wants while still serving as an excellent judge. Her antics are amusing and liberating—the show proves that just because she does not behave like your stereotypical judge, does not mean she is bad at her job.
Walsh may not be known for her comedic chops (her previous work has been in TV dramas Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice), but her dry wit and unfiltered performance are the perfect combination for the half hour show. Watching Bad Judge, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be Wright, hang out with her or run the opposite direction, but I was fully entertained. I enjoy the fast-paced nature of the show and the interesting court cases that Wright deals with—as well as her rulings. In one episode, she orders a man convicted of bigamy to wear a t-shirt that says, “I’m a convicted bigamist” and attend a class on feminism. Clearly, this is a non-conventional ruling we probably would not see in real life.
An excellent supporting cast also accompanies Walsh. Most notably, her court bailiff Tedward Mulray (Tone Bell), a hilarious counterpart to Wright’s antics, who deals with her life in and out of the court. Wright’s boss Judge Hernandez (Miguel Sandoval) offers a disapproving counter to most of Wright’s shenanigans and is a good foil to her carefree and crazy nature.
However, the rest of the viewers and the network didn’t share my opinion, and Bad Judge was canceled in October, although all 13 episodes will still air.
Hopefully, we’ll see more of Walsh, my favorite redhead, and there are still plenty of other sitcoms to watch. Black-ish, starring Anthony Anderson, is already another one of my favorites.
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION: Jane, played by Gina Rodriguez, gets much more than expected.
FAMILY TIES: Jeffrey Tambor (right) plays Mort, who changes his name to Maura after coming out as transgendered.
LEADING LADY: Viola Davis stars as innovative criminal lawyer Annelise Keating who both practices and teaches law on the show.
Amazon Prime’s original series Transparent was a breath of fresh air this past year. The series, which premiered in February, took on a very innovative topic—a father (Jeffery Tambor) who, in her 60s, decides to come out as transgender to her three grown children.
The premise of the show—that Mort has decided to come out as Maura—seems unrealistic at first. But the show does an excellent job of using flashbacks, dating back to the time her children were in elementary school, to reveal Maura’s constant struggle with gender identity her whole life. Her struggles to tell her children are only half the battle as she starts to go out in public, exposed to the world and, worse, to old friends.
But the drama of a transgender father who has been hiding the secret from her children most of her life is definitely not the most dramatic plotline and certainly not the only one worth watching. The three children have plenty of their own shenanigans, adding to the complexity of the show. The youngest, Allie (Gaby Hoffman), who is also the closest to Maura, struggles with her newfound adulthood, mostly learning things the hard way. Her two older siblings, despite having had more time in the real world, are still not that far ahead of her, continuing to struggle with their life decisions as they try to remake themselves. Their father’s coming out puts another hurtle in these young people’s paths, but it also ties them closer as they try to deal with it together.
The show is a refreshing break from the cop or CIA drama shows that were all over television last year. Transparent gives a—dare I say it—transparent look into a family, parsing out the struggles of the individuals and creating an all-enthralling, edge-of-your-seat drama.
Transparent won a Golden Globe for best television series in the comedy or musical category, and Tambor won for best actor in a television series.
I’ll be honest: I’m a sucker for a good comedy—bonus points if the plot is something wildly outrageous. That said, no recent comedy has had me on the edge of my seat or commanded my attention the way that the CW’s Jane the Virgin has. The show follows the titular Jane, a religious and morally convicted 23-year-old, through the aftermath of a mistaken artificial insemination that occurs during a routine OB/GYN appointment. Many would call the plot ridiculous—and it is—but the show treats the events with a certain delicacy that makes for excellent television. By adapting the new TV series from the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen, the comedy acknowledges its own cheesiness, and, in doing so, allows itself to be something more than just another soap opera.
As Jane (Gina Rodriguez) shows her comedic chops, she simultaneously demonstrates that she can be a strong female lead as well. Rodriguez expertly walks the fine line between relatable youth and responsible adult, never coming across as too whiny—or, worse, too bland—despite the show’s often absurd plot.
Rodriguez has gotten a lot of well-deserved publicity in the past few months, with many noting both her role and her recent Golden Globe win as significant for the Latino community. Ultimately, I completely agree with what critics are saying; Rodriguez, without a doubt, shows that playing a Latina character in a telenovela doesn’t mean having to play the stereotypical role, similar to those found even in good shows like ABC’s Ugly Betty (another personal favorite).
The last episode left off with a cliffhanger, and waiting for the show to come back this past month has been torture for my boredom-addled self. Fortunately, the CW renewed the series for a second season, so I highly recommend heading over to the network’s website and checking out some episodes.
How to Get Away With Murder centers on law professor Annelise Keating, deftly played by the Oscar-nominee Viola Davis. In the first episode, Keating chose several of her students to assist her in defending clients accused of murder.
The goal of the show seems to be keeping the audience on edge. About half of each episode is devoted to flash-forwards of the characters dealing with a murder they will commit, while the rest of the show focuses on Keating’s current murder cases and the relationships between the characters. This level of suspense and tension can be hard to maintain for an entire episode, but Keating and student Asher’s (Matt McGorry) one-liners help add comedy to the high-stakes drama.
How to Get Away with Murder gained notoriety for the way it broke TV’s racial and sexual taboos. For instance, in featuring Keating, it became one of the two shows on air last year to revolve around a female African-American protagonist. Whereas most shows gloss over the sex lives of characters who are not young and straight, How to Get Away with Murder gives equal focus to all of its characters’ relationships—regardless of sexual orientation or age. Season one’s closing episode brought the show’s two competing narratives together as the characters arrived at the day of the murder mentioned in the flash-forwards and revealed key details. Overall, How to Get Away with Murder is compelling, groundbreaking and absolutely worth the extra hour in front of the TV.