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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

SEASON IN REVIEW: 2014-15 New Dramas

Yesterday, I tackled the new comedies of the season. Today it is onto the dramas. While I liked some of the comedies a lot, I feel like this was perhaps the best year for new dramas since 2011-12. There were three that came out of the season as regular viewing options for me and a handful more that were pretty good. Plus there was nothing dreadfully horrible. Not a bad year for the dramas.

Check back tomorrow for my final season in review post!

Past Years: 2013-14   2012-13   2011-12   2010-11

How to Get Away with Murder (ABC) - I went back and forth between this and Gotham for the Best New Drama but I ultimately chose Murder because I was always more excited to watch it each week. It wasn't perfect, but it was fun. The academic setting added a lot to the feel of the show and it stayed twisty and suspenseful right up to the end. With a strong ensemble led by a star turn from Viola Davis, I'm curious to see where the show goes next. It certainly added to the Shonda's night of thrill rides.

The Runners-Up
Gotham (FOX) - I thought Gotham was very strong during the first half of the season but it got a little bogged down in the second half of the season as it delved into the mob bosses story and lost its way. However, there are a lot of great performances and the second half of the season centered on Penguin in control and the rise of the Joker sounds awfully promising to me.

Madam Secretary (CBS) - This show isn't as thrilling as How to Get Away with Murder or Gotham and it's not as classy as The West Wing, but it's comfort food for a Sunday night. The two leads (Tea Leoni and Tim Daly) are very strong and the show was capable of finding good world stories to tell that are relevant for now. My biggest complaint is the sometimes forced inclusion of family storylines with the kids.

Worth Mentioning: Empire (FOX), Red Band Society (FOX)

Ben McKenzie, Gotham (FOX) - As a young James Gordon in a world that's falling apart, Ben McKenzie does a good job at playing the stoic hero. He's a do-gooder but not infallible and that's important for the show because if he was perfect, there would be no need for Batman and this show is all about how Batman came to be. Ben McKenzie could stand to loosen up just a bit but he was a strong force in season one of Gotham.

The Runners-Up
Tim Daly, Madam Secretary (CBS) - Tim Daly has had several successful turns on TV from Wings to Private Practice. As Henry McCord, he plays an interesting role in the power couple on Madam Secretary. Though he is extremely accomplished, he seems secondary to his brilliant, globe-trotting wife. It's an interesting play on traditional structures and Daly never seems inferior or superior to his on-screen wife (and now real life girlfriend). They are partners.

Timothy Hutton, American Crime (ABC) - I didn't stick with American Crime all the way through season one even though I enjoyed the episodes I watched. Timothy Hutton was very strong as the father of the murdered victim at the center of the crime. It was a slow-burn drama that I didn't quite have the patience for but Hutton was so believable in his role.

Worth Mentioning: Terrance Howard, Empire (FOX), Scott Bakula, NCIS: New Orleans (CBS)

Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder (ABC) - The star turn of the season belonged to Viola Davis and her dynamic portrayal of Annalise Keating. While critics have been mixed on the show itself, Davis has received near universal praise and deservedly so. Her character has required her to jump between completely in charge and completely vulnerable and she did it with amazing ease. I can't think of another show on TV that is so reliant on its star, that would be nothing without them. Kerry Washington on Scandal comes close but her ensemble is better. Viola Davis makes this show.

The Runners-Up
Taraji P. Henson, Empire (FOX) - If it wasn't for Davis, Taraji P. Henson would be very deserving of this distinction and she has already captured the public even more thanks to Empire's mega-hit status. As the fast-talking, scheming, manipulative Cookie, Henson had a year's worth of great quotes and moments in an abbreviated first season for FOX's hit drama. Her character has been compared as a modern day version of Joan Collins from Dynasty and though I haven't seen much of Dynasty, that seems quite fitting.

Tea Leoni, Madam Secretary (CBS) - In a weaker year, Tea Leoni (or even the actresses "Worth Mentioning" below) would be worthy winners. But this was such a phenomenal year for drama actresses. Tea Leoni was very strong as Elizabeth McCord, a strong but often stressed Secretary of State. In a more passive way than Viola Davis' character, she still got exactly what she wanted and didn't give up until she did.

Worth Mentioning: Octavia Spencer, Red Band Society (FOX), Felicity Huffman, American Crime (ABC)

Robin Lord Taylor, Gotham (FOX) - Even as Gotham went through some growing pains in season one, there was no denying that Robin Lord Taylor's performance as a young Penguin was perfect. He has the mannerisms, the awkwardness, and the evilness down pat. It's very easy to see the type of criminal he will become and the show is wisely letting him have the run of the crime in the city next season where I'm sure he will shine. What an excellent casting choice.

The Runners-Up
Donal Logue, Gotham (FOX) - Another strong supporting actor in Gotham is Donal Logue's Harvey Bullock. A much more gruff and seasoned counterpart to Jim Gordon, Donal Logue brings a lot of humor to an othewise pretty dark show. He is needed to balance out both the villains and the stoic Gordon.

Alfred Enoch, How to Get Away with Murder (ABC) - As Wes Gibbins, Alfred Enoch was the most prominent of the "Keating Five" in season one of How to Get Away with Murder. He seemed so earnest yet he made some decisions that made you question if he really was any better than the other schemers on the show. Time will tell, I guess!

Worth Mentioning: Jussie Smollett, Empire (FOX), Charlie Rowe, Red Band Society (FOX)

Liza Weil, How to Get Away with Murder (ABC) - While the Lead Actress in a Drama category was exceptionally strong this year, I thought the Supporting Actress category wasn't nearly as strong. My top three choices are all from How to Get Away with Murder, but none of them blew me away. The strongest of the three was Liza Weil as Bonnie Winterbottom. Weil was not very memorable at first but became increasingly important and layered as the season went on. I think she'll figure prominently next season.

The Runners-Up
Katie Findlay, How to Get Away with Murder (ABC) - At the center of the murder all season, Katie Findlay also became an increasingly important part of the show as the accused Rebecca Sutter. It wasn't clear until the very end of the season whether she was innocent or not and I went back and forth all year on whether I believed she was or not.

Karla Souza, How to Get Away with Murder (ABC) - I didn't really have a great third person to put here so I went with Karla Souza as Laurel, perhaps the most mysterious and reserved of the "Keating Five." As I said before, this show was all about Viola Davis but Souza was solid and I hope they give her more to do next year.

Worth Mentioning: Jada Pinkett Smith, Gotham (FOX), Bebe Neuwirth, Madam Secretary (CBS)

Constantine (NBC) - There wasn't a new drama that I thought was just horribly bad this season although there were plenty that weren't any good. I went with the show that was least appealing to me and that was Constantine. This is as much about me not caring about this type of show at all as it is about anything else. But a good show can transcend its genre and Constantine certainly didn't do that. It was dark and depressing and I just didn't even get it.

The Runners-Up
The Slap (NBC) - NBC's "mini-series" about a child getting slapped has to be one of the dumbest premises for a show. I'm not suggesting that it isn't an important topic but it just struck me as gimmicky how they approached the topic. It didn't come up organically in a well-written drama, it was the premise. That didn't work.

State of Affairs (NBC) - I was hopeful for State of Affairs but that quickly evaporated when I realized Katherine Heigl couldn't act and the show couldn't deliver the thrills of The Blacklist or the insider-DC feel of Madam Secretary. The pilot was just so boring and it should have been packed with intensity.

Worth Mentioning: Gracepoint (FOX), Secrets and Lies (ABC)

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