Billie's Best of 2014, Binge-Watch Edition

For me, this was the year of the catch-up binge watch. Coincidentally, all five of those binge-watching obsessions featured strong, interesting female leads. (And Derek Jacobi.) Even better, all five shows are still airing, so I get to be around for the finish.


2014 is the year I fell in love with the time travel series Continuum. I had liked the pilot when it aired back in January of 2013, but the episodes that followed made me think Continuum was just a cop procedural with a time travel twist, so I stopped watching. What can I say? When I'm wrong, I'm wrong. When I finally retried it this year, I was kicking myself for not sticking with Continuum just a little while longer.

We were supposed to hear about fourth season renewal back in August. And nothing happened. Months passed, and Continuum fans got more and more discouraged, expecting to eventually hear that the clock had run out and the series was over. I lost heart so completely that I stopped doing retro reviews halfway through the second season. And then, a few weeks ago, we finally got word that we were getting a fourth and final season consisting of six episodes.

After a brief bout of renewal euphoria, I started getting depressed again. Why only six more episodes? I thought the third season kicked major league ass. But apparently, I didn't realize how divisive season three had been. Much like the sixth season of Buffy, half the fans were crazy about it, and the other half hated it. Ratings dropped. Oh, well. At least Simon Barry is getting a chance to finish his story. Let's hope he can satisfactorily wind it up in just six episodes.

House of Cards

After putting it off for too long, I finally tried House of Cards this year, and zipped through the first two seasons like especially delicious hotcakes. And as much as I love Kevin Spacey, the reason House of Cards got to me in a big way was Robin Wright's amazing portrayal of Lady Macbeth Claire Underwood. She is mesmerizing and unpredictable, and the chief reason I'm watching. Season three drops on Netflix on February 27, and I'll be there.

Last Tango in Halifax

One of my dearest friends is a huge fan of Last Tango in Halifax, a currently running British series, and I finally gave it a try. I laughed, I cried, and I really enjoyed it.

There's something so refreshing about a show that treats the romance of two senior citizens (Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi) as if they were interesting individuals instead of elderly caricatures. Honestly, until I got into this show, I didn't realize how ageist most television is, and how few good roles there are for the elderly. Last Tango in Halifax also focuses on Celia's daughter Caroline and Alan's daughter Gillian (Sarah Lancashire and Nicola Walker), both in their forties, and on the difficult blending of these two completely different families. The third season is airing in the UK right now, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing it. That is, whenever it finally winds its way across the pond.

Switched At Birth

Katie Leclerc, Vanessa Marano
This year, I discovered an ABC Family show called Switched At Birth. It centers on the two sixteen-year-old switchees, Daphne (Katie Leclerc) and Bay (Vanessa Marano), and their families. Daphne, who is deaf, was raised by a disadvantaged single mother, while Bay was raised in a wealthy two-parent family. Although the actors are all good, I particularly like the girls -- especially Vanessa Marano, whom I first noticed when she gave an exceptional guest performance on Dexter as the teenage daughter of the serial killer Trinity.

What I'm finding so intriguing about Switched At Birth is its deft exploration of a unique dramatic situation. There is no standard way for these two families to relate to each other. What happens legally? What about parental authority if you're not legally a parent? What sort of relationship could these two girls have with each other?

I'll admit that the series tends to be more heartwarming than my usual fare, but I've been consistently surprised and pleased with how twisty and heavy it gets. (And almost embarrassed at how quickly I zipped through 72 episodes.) I particularly like how Switched At Birth explores deaf culture, with many scenes and even an entire episode performed in American Sign Language. They've also done interesting and powerful "what if" episodes that explore what would have happened if the switch hadn't occurred, or if it had been discovered at a different time. I'm looking forward to season four, which starts January 6.

The Good Wife

So it took me five years to get into one of the top dramas on television, but honestly, I have a great excuse. I thought The Good Wife was just a case-of-the-week courtroom drama. And maybe the feminist in me was a bit turned off by the title, and by Alicia Florrick standing by her man (Chris Noth) in the pilot episode. A fan of a show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer should never judge a book by its cover.

Instead, I've discovered that The Good Wife is all about the arc story and its fascinating, complicated characters -- especially the women. Alicia Florrick (Juliana Margulies) appears to be this quiet, unemotional, feminine sort, but that is a facade concealing a tough, sharp lawyer who has remade her life entirely on her own terms. Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi, who also did an amazing job in The Fall) is my favorite character, a brilliant investigator with a poker face and a mysterious past. Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski, whom I've never liked in anything before this) is the tough and surprisingly fun senior partner in the firm. And don't get me wrong, even though the female characters are the standouts for me, the male characters are also good. I especially like Matt Czuchry as the deviously adorable Cary Agos.

Archie Panjabi and Juliana Margulies, The Good Wife

Since I'm still in the middle of season two (so please don't spoil me!), it's possible that The Good Wife won't continue to hold my interest. But right now, I am loving it. And since most of the current shows are on hiatus, I'm watching three or four episodes a night.

(By the way, The Good Wife is the only show of my 2014 binge watches that doesn't stream on Netflix. It's available on Amazon Prime.)

Ah, the disappointments

Justified. After knocking it out of the park so many times, I was really unhappy with the penultimate season last winter. It's possible that this previously outstanding show couldn't recover from the death of its literary creator, Elmore Leonard. The final season begins January 20, and I am of course hoping that they'll catch their breath and go out with a bang, not a whimper.

True Blood. The final season had its moments, but the show ultimately did go out with a whimper. I dutifully reviewed it, but just didn't enjoy it much because I kept worrying that they would kill off my favorite character for the sake of easy drama. The final episode, and I won't spoil you, was so unexpectedly weird that the fans argued about it for weeks afterward. I honestly think that True Blood's producers went in the wrong direction when they chose to focus on Stephen Moyer's Bill Compton instead of the character the fans were crazy about, which was Alexander Skarsgard's Eric Northman. They were then stuck with trying to make their choice work. It never did.

Doctor Who. Sigh. I wanted to like the new Doctor, and I thought I would because Peter Capaldi was awesome in Torchwood: Children of Earth and last season's The Musketeers. But I just don't like this season and this Doctor. Am I not "getting it" because I'm an American? Because I'm a fan of the new Doctors and didn't experience the Capaldi-like old ones when I was a child? Whatever it is, I'm sad to report that Doctor Who has lost me. Maybe the next Doctor will grab me, whoever he is. Or she. (Couldn't we have a she?)

I still love my favorites

I am still watching and enjoying The Vampire Diaries and its spinoff The Originals, Arrow, Orange is the New Black and Person of Interest. And Agents of SHIELD, with or without its annoying punctuation. Although I don't love it as much as I thought I'd love a Joss Whedon show. I'm just not a comic book person. That's probably why.

Sleepy Hollow. Its second season hasn't been clicking quite as beautifully as its first, but it's still great fun and I'm still madly in love with Tom Mison's charming portrayal of man-out-of-time Ichabod Crane, and his heartwarming partnership with Nicole Beharie's Abbie Mills. Yes, I ship them. I know we're all supposed to be happy that a man and a woman can be partners and friends without romantic vibes, but I don't care. I mean, look at them.

The Walking Dead. Why do I love this show so much? Excessive gore usually turns me off, big time, but I just keep coming back for more. Okay, I know why I love The Walking Dead. It's an exceptionally good end-of-the-world story, and it features exceptionally good characters. And for me, that appears to trump gore.

Supernatural. The good news is that I still enjoy watching and reviewing this show, which is now halfway through its tenth season. And I'm committed to it until the end. Whenever that is.

And that's it -- this is our last "Best of 2014". Let me take this opportunity to thank every one of our readers, whose comments and support have made Doux Reviews not just a review site but a community of friends. I especially want to thank the Agents of D.O.U.X., our contributing writers, who keep on posting those reviews week after week as well as enthusiastic comments on each other's reviews. This is an amazing group of people.

Happy New Year!
Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for a ridiculously long time. More Billie Doux.


Jess Lynde said...

Thanks to you, Billie, for giving us a place to review and comment! At length! :)

I'm glad to hear you had the chance this year to binge and catch up with so many new shows to add to your favorites, even if some old favorites disappointed a bit. I agree completely on Justified. I actually had a bit in my viewing journal that Season 5 was "... just not hitting the pleasure centers the way last season did." Ah, well. They did have a few really good episodes, and I think they left things in a great place for the final season. I'm eagerly anticipating a great final ride.

Happy New Year, all!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year! Great "2014" posts, all! Sunbunny had my favorite glif...Olicity...sigh...
Billie, I'm with you, friends be darned....the shot of Ichabod and Abbie says it all...
Lots of great shows listed that I haven't watched...need to start a Netflix/DVD list of "to watch someday"


JRS said...

*takes notes for binge-watch listings for the New Year*

Switched at Birth has been divisive in its own way for the Deaf community; there have been some incredible moments although I haven't seen the entire series in order. It's on the list....

Lamounier said...

Continuum. :) Was the third season so divisive? I can understand where Buffy fans come from when they complain about season six, but season three of Continuum was all kinds of great.

I’ve been thinking about watching House of Cars for a while. Maybe 2015 I’ll finally give it a try.

I love this site, it has such a great, friendly environment to discuss our favorite shows. Happy New Year, everybody. :)

ChrisB said...

Another great list! I have heard that Switched at Birth is a great show. I think it's time to add it to my list.

Thank you, Billie, for giving all of us a place to come and pontificate on the things in life that really matter -- TV shows, movies, and books. :-)

Happy New Year everyone.

Laure Mack said...

As always, great post Billie!

I'm so happy to be a part of this site as an agent and a fan. Thank you for giving us all a place to come.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Juliette said...

Great list Billie! I've never really consider watching Last Tango in Halifax but I hear such good things about it, maybe I should give it a go.

TJ said...

Couldn't agree more about The Good Wife. Unlike you Billie, I managed to hang on to it, though I thought at first this wasn't my type of show at all.
If you are only at season 2, just hang on, the show manages to up its game with every season, and it just gets better and better...

I also agree with Doctor Who. I'm afraid I can't really get myself to like the new doctor. I know the transitions have been difficult for me before, but this time I just lost interest. Pity.

Anonymous said...

So glad you finally started watching The Good Wife, Billie. It's the best thing in TV right now.

mazephoenix said...

The True Blood ending was pretty dismal. Well it could have been worse.
Good Wife is indeed better than its title. Love Christine Baranski in it, and I wasn't a fan of hers before.
Continuum seems cool. Need to see that too.

migmit said...

Yay! Billie finally likes The Good Wife!

Heather said...

Great list!
Count me as another fan of The Good Wife who's happy you like it too! Re: Matt Czuchry -- YES. And while I'm at it -- thank you for the pic and tribute to Alexander Skarsgard/Eric Northman. :)

drnanamom said...

Thanks for the review Billie! I stopped watching True Blood because it was so much less fun than the books where Sookie Stackhouse is so much more in control of her own destiny. I may finish the series some day but not any time soon. I am still making my way through Continuum and am happy that at least we will get a chance at an ending. Thanks for this space and how it makes TV/movie viewing so much more fun!