British TV production schedules and early airings not-withstanding, fans of all nationalities have waited far too long for Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s masterful take on the iconic duo of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson to return, especially given the somewhat-literal cliffhanger of season 2 finale “The Reichenbach Fall.”
It remains to be seen if the Steven Moffat-helmed series can match the delicious villainy of Jim Moriarty with Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen), or any other assorted baddies, but first and foremost, we’re dying for an explanation of how Sherlock survived that infamous fall. Sure, the explanation will likely prove more practical than powerful, but the reunion between the two leads should be all the pyrotechnics we need.
‘The Walking Dead’ Returns
We took quite a bit of flack in leaving ‘The Walking Dead’ off our Best TV of 2013 list, though our reasoning behind the slight ties into the AMC horror-drama’s presence here. The latter half of ‘The Walking Dead’ season 3 in early 2013 scaled back the momentum of the eight that preceded it, incorporating some emotional ends (SPOILERS, Merle, Andrea…) along the way, though even the highlight of Morgan’s “Clear” return couldn’t overshadow a weak ending that delayed both the Governor and the prison’s inevitable fall.
The first eight episodes of season 4 gave us a fresh start, and a few AMC-original ideas to play around with, though the bizarre structure that devoted two entire hours to the Governor’s post-apocalyptic adventures, before finally returning to the climactic ending that season 3 rightly deserved, once again kept the series from true greatness. Now, with the core survivors splintered and on the run, we have much more exciting new developments and characters to look forward to, with showrunner Scott Gimple firmly at the helm to deliver the bloody and open-ended nihilism we fell in love with in the first place.
The 'How I Met Your Mother' Series Finale
Say what you will about the later seasons of 'How I Met Your Mother' and the increasingly diminished returns of stretching out an entire ninth year amid the backdrop of Barney and Robin’s wedding, but showrunners Carter Bays and Craig Thomas rarely fail to deliver when it comes to the sentimental season-enders for Ted, Robin, Barney, Marshall and Lily. We’ve already gotten to know and fall a bit in love with the Mother ourselves, and have every confidence in CBS’ long-running sitcom to tug at our heartstrings one last time as Future Ted (finally) completes his long-winded tale.
Jack’s back! The decision to resurrect ‘24’ after eight seasons, and two years of Kiefer Sutherland’s ill-fated ‘Touch’ may seem like an odd play for FOX, what with the series’ titular formula scaling back for a mini-season approach, but they’ve certainly aroused our curiosity. Not to mention, the returning ‘24’ dream team of writer/producers Howard Gordon (‘Homeland‘), Evan Katz, Manny Coto, David Fury, Robert Cochran, Brian Grazer, Jon Cassar should inject plenty of life into Jack Bauer’s latest adventures.
So, Jack in Europe, with Chloe at his side, and Kim hopefully eaten by a cougar? What’s not to like?
Dan Harmon Returns to 'Community'
The departure of Donald Glover has us doubting that ‘Community’ will live beyond a fifth season, though with Dan Harmon back at the helm, we’d have a hard time complaining about the final 13 episodes. This time around, the returning series creator has thrown every star in the kitchen sink into the mix, rebooting the premise of the series in a way that still has us feeling like the ‘Community’ of old, try though season 4 might have.
The cavalcade of celebrity guest stars notwithstanding, we’ve seen the first few installments of NBC’s comedic gem, and the promise of what’s to come puts ‘Community’ way back on the list of must-see-TV in 2014.
Though the minimal ratings sustained by Bryan Fuller’s darkly delicious take on the iconic Hannibal Lecter character worries us for future season, it’s proven no secret among critics and “Fannibals” alike that the NBC horror-drama made a tremendous impact on the realm of TV serial killers.
Painted with elegant and dreamlike imagery amid masterful performances from Hugh Dancy and a reserved, but intimidating Mads Mikkelsen, ‘Hannibal’ season 2 will no doubt flash-fry the story forward with Will Graham catching on to Hannibal’s darkness from behind bars, while the rest of the memorable supporting cast catches up. We haven’t heard quite the same guest star buzz as last season, but ‘Hannibal’ has us eager for a second helping all the same.
Really, any of FX’s early 2014 offerings could warrant a spot within our list, what with the always-reliable ‘Justified’ heading down south to bring the Crowe clan to life, ‘The Americans’ creeping up on TV’s must-watch list for a second season, or ‘Chozen’ tackling the idea of a gay rapper with the comedic talents of ‘SNL’’s Bobby Moynihan or Danny McBride. Still, we chose to highlight ‘Archer’ in its fifth season, if only for reasons we can barely explain.
Both the addition of the surname “Vice” and the events of season 5 premiere “White Elephant” will send the ever-popular FX animated series spiraling in all-new directions, shaking things up in a manner we’ve rarely come to expect from animation. It’s that precious consideration for keeping things fresh that renews our interest in an otherwise dependable staple of the network, and could make ‘Archer: Vice’ the best and most out-there season yet.
‘Battlestar Galactica’ creator Ron Moore’s return to Syfy for upcoming biochemical thriller ‘Helix’ should prove no guarantee of success, but having seen the inaugural episodes, and the intense excitement of the most recent trailers, ‘Helix’ should rank highly among the series to watch in 2014. Fans of John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ will no doubt find familiar homages, spliced with a few zombie thrills and chills that modern horror fans have come to no so well, along with strong performances from a reliable cast that includes ‘The Killing’’s Billy Campbell, Hiroyuki Sanada (‘The Wolverine,’ ‘LOST‘) and Kyra Zagorsky.
'House of Cards' Season 2
Netflix broke out tremendously as a TV competitor in 2013, between the incredible depth and layered performances of ‘House of Cards,’ along with the unprecedented storytelling machine of ‘Orange is the New Black.’ We won’t see Piper Chapman or the Litchfield gang until sometime in spring-to-summer, but the February 14 debut of ‘House of Cards’ season 2 will more than tide us over for the months to come.
Not to mention, the loss of director and producer David Fincher doesn’t seem to have slowed things down by the most recent trailer, which looks to plumb the darkest depths yet for wily Vice President Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey), and his wife Claire (Robin Wright). Let the butchery begin, on Valentine’s day, no less!
Only recently has the awards community begun to recognize Tatiana Maslany for her starkly-convincing portrayal of at least 7 different clones, but the second season of BBC-A’s ‘Orphan Black’ also promises to delve deeper into the mysterious Neolution conspiracy that emerged over the course of the first year. It remains to be seen if the convoluted narrative and colorful supporting cast can keep up with Maslany’s revelatory presence in driving the story forward, though ‘Orphan Black’ season 2 quickly emerged as a 2013 favorite, and among the more anticipated returns of 2014.
But perhaps most pressingly of all, if our girl Cosima dies, we riot. To hell with Daryl.