We polled the Spinoff writing team and hauled out the ol’ abacus to tally the results. The results are in: these are the ten best international shows of 2014.
This surrealist journey following two twenty-somethings stumbling through life in New York City is like Girls dipped in optimism, Dorito-dust and pure hilarity. Despite stepping frequently into scenes of absolute absurdity (that package delivery episode! the real estate agent!), it’s the most genuine representation of female friendship I have ever seen on screen. Broad City is a celebration of being young, lost and not giving a shit, without the champagne sheen of Gossip Girl or whatever other shows there are out there about young people. / AC
The first half of the final season showed Draper broken and humbled, brought low by forces which traversed time, gender and family. While less immediately dazzling than its predecessor, its work with ageing and the fleeting nature of talent and energy were beautifully articulated. There is a sense that this show, at once revolutionary and traditionalist, has gotten comfortable with its place in the world, and was exhaling ahead of its final push. But Mad Men is so ludicrously strong that even when cruising it was magical. / DG
Alright alright alright! One of the many twinkling jewels in the McConaughnaissance crown, this gritty crime drama squashed the whole television world into a flat circle and ate it for breakfast. Following a serial killer case over 17 years, the hunt for the yellow king gave way to some of the best onscreen performances, and ponytails, of 2014. / AC
Game of Thrones
George RR Martin tweeted earlier this year that a brilliantly staged early-season death was merely one of a number of bombs coming. That never quite happened, but the sense that the key characters, having been flung to the four winds, are now inexorably converging gave it a gripping momentum which built right through to its now-routine monumental closeout. / DG
Based on the creator Mike Judge’s real-life experience in the technology industry, this look inside the world of the startup company is made doubly hilarious by the stellar cast of Next Big Thing comedy stars. Featuring the likes of Thomas Middleditch, TJ Miller, and hound dog Gabe from The Office, it’s packed with likeable characters in a bizarre and interesting new world rarely seen in comedy (computers and that). / AC
When Steve Soderbergh announced he was quitting movies last year, it confused many: why would a guy so driven, talented and productive drop it all while still so young? The Knick was the answer – he’d figured out the TV was where the action and freedom was, and came to make one of the year’s best new shows. Clive Owen stars as a drug-addicted surgeon in turn of the century New York, and everything from the soundtrack to the generous gore is the product of immense thought and vision. / DG
The Amazon original series was widely acclaimed as the year’s best new show, with Jeffrey Tambor playing Maura, a trans woman slowly revealing her new identity to her shambolic adult children. It’s a “comedy” full of truly beautiful moments as well as heartbreaking drama, with Tambor’s Maura remaining the calm centre of the family storm throughout.
Orange is the New Black
Heralded as one of the most groundbreaking shows on television at the moment, Orange is the New Black follows Piper Chapman as she falls from middle class suburbia to the depths of a women’s prison. Depicting women of various ethnicities, sexuality and class through the huge ensemble cast, the bravely unique characters are the beating heart of this incredible show. / AC
Louis CK’s comedy about himself crested in 2014, but only because the leaps made during seasons two and three took the show way out into the cosmos, and it’s not at all certain there’s much more to explore in Louie-ville. The tone stayed dark and brutal, with CK’s self-loathing to the fore. But that strange combination of profound, heavy cynicism coupled with a near-childlike zest for life’s grubbiness ensures the show remains one of the most original and compelling anywhere. / DG
Nathan For You
One of the simplest yet most original ideas for a reality/comedy show in years. Take a business “expert” (the deadpan Nathan Fielder) and get him to save failing stores, zoos and mall santas with his ridiculous genius ideas. Yoghurt store in trouble? Try a poo flavoured yoghurt! Santa out of work? Take discount photos all year round! Even more hilarious than Nathan are the unreal characters that he meets along the way, from enraged customers to the blissfully unaware aspiring shop owners. It’s just, really great. / AC