Binge Guide

11 TV Shows From 2014 You Should Binge-Watch Right Now

RT staffers pick binge-worthy favorites of the year.

by | December 30, 2014 | Comments

By now, you may have heard of a little show called Breaking Bad, considered not only one of the greatest TV shows of all time, but also one of the most binge-worthy. With Breaking Bad off the air forever (and Better Call Saul not starting for another month), what’s one to do? Game of Thrones? Already did that one — twice! At Rotten Tomatoes, the staff has looked back over the past year’s shows and selected some of the best — not just because the critics loved them, but because they are one helluva way to spend a weekend in a state of binge-watching bliss.


Transparent

Beki Lane, Editorial Coordinator


What it’s about: Jeffrey Tambor plays a father who wants to live his life as a woman and needs to tell his adult children.
What makes it so binge-worthy: Tambor’s turn as Maura is award-worthy, but what is most surprising is how it is just one facet of this family dramedy. All the members of the Pfefferman clan are struggling with their own demons and each storyline is full and fascinating to follow. It is a study of faith, family, and dysfunction that is well worth the day or two it takes to binge-watch it.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime.

Commitment: One season.


Outlander

Marya E. Gates, Social Media Specialist


What it’s about: Based on the books from author Diana Gabaldon, Outlander starts off in Scotland just after World War II, where nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall and her husband Frank are trying to reconnect during a second honeymoon. After visiting an ancient set of rocks, Claire finds herself transported back in time to 1743 where she gets mixed up in civil war and finds protection from Highlander Jamie Fraser.
What makes it so binge-worthy: Since both parts of the show are set in the past, the viewer is always immersed in sensational period set pieces. But that is just the backdrop to what really makes the show so binge-able: its cast. Stars Caitriona Balfe (Claire) and Sam Heughan (Jamie) are smokin’ hot and their chemistry is undeniable. Add to that Claire’s feisty feminist ways and Jamie’s burly, but gentle manners and you’ve got the TV stuff that dreams are made of.
Where to watch: Starz Play.
Commitment: Half season.


The Knick

Matt Atchity, Editor in Chief


What it’s about: The dawn of modern medicine in the early 20th century was sometimes a grisly affair, and this series set in the fictionalized Knickerbocker Hospital in New York City doesn’t shy away from that fact. Clive Owen leads the cast as a brilliant, driven, and drug-addicted surgeon working with a staff that is creating modern medical practices as they try to save lives and heal the sick.
What makes it so binge-worthy: A hospital drama set over 100 years ago may sound less than exciting, but The Knick turned out to be a gripping and fascinating show. Viewers get a crash course in medical history, while racial, religious, and gender discrimination come into play to remind us what has and hasn’t changed through the years. Acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh co-produced and directed every episode of the first season, and this show is some of his best work.
Where to watch: Max Go.
Commitment: One season.


Jane the Virgin

Catherine Pricci, Review Aggregator


What it’s about: A young woman gets accidentally artificially inseminated when going in for a routine pap smear. The catch? She’s a virgin. And now, a pregnant virgin.
What makes it so binge-worthy: First off, it’s 100 percent certified fresh. That should be reason enough to check out this Golden Globe-nominated show. Jane the Virgin is campy, but in a fun way. The writers really know how to give you enough of the over-the-top telenovela style but with very true characterizations. Gina Rodriguez, who plays Jane, shines in this role, bringing real emotions to the table. It is escapism at its best, full of heart and comedy.
Where to watch: Vudu,
iTunes, Xbox Video,
Google Play, and Amazon.

Commitment: Half season.


The Bridge

Tim Ryan, Senior Editor


What it’s about: El Paso Police detective Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) teams up with Ciudad Juárez detective Marco Ruiz (Demián Bichir) to solve a bizarre murder along the U.S.-Mexico border. She’s got Asperger syndrome, he’s got a host of personal problems, and they each have very different approaches to law enforcement.
What makes it so binge-worthy: The Bridge was adapted from a Danish-Swedish series, and its shaky first season shows the potential hazards of sticking too closely to the original text — its intriguing characters were shoehorned into a silly, didactic serial killer plot. When the killer was finally stopped (with two episodes left in the season!), The Bridge was able to take flight (Grantland’s Andy Greenwald wrote extensively about how the show improved by the end of its first season). What came next was pretty thrilling: a police procedural loaded with haunting atmosphere and a fantastic collection of odd personalities on various sides of the drug trade. A character like cartel assassin/bookkeeper (and former Mennonite) Eleanor Nacht (Franka Potente) is so fantastically strange that she ends up feeling more real than the typical TV cold-blooded killer; Matthew Lillard and Emily Rios share such hilarious, quirky chemistry that they easily rise above their roles as grizzled newspaper reporters. The Bridge was never going to top The Wire, but its second season was strong enough to hint at even bigger and better things, but by this point, few were watching, and FX didn’t renew the series. Still, if you’re in the mood for a different type of cop show, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything quite as off-kilter and darkly funny as this.
Where to watch: Vudu, Xbox Video,
iTunes, Sony PSN,
Google Play, and Amazon.

Commitment: Two seasons.


Orange Is the New Black

Corie Wicks Clayton, Analytics Specialist


What it’s about: Loosely centered around Piper Chapman, an unlikely resident of Litchfield federal prison, Orange is the New Black expertly unfolds the backstories of the women who populate the prison.
What makes it so binge-worthy: Darkly humorous, thoughtful and dramatic, this Netflix original reflects the complicated nature of humanity in the most inhumane of settings. With more origin stories and present-tense plot twists by season two, OITNB offers complexity, heart, and some extremely satisfying servings of revenge. It’s not quite accurate to laud the supporting cast, because it’s the outstanding ensemble who steals the show with the help of fresh writing and thoughtful character development. By the last episode you’ll be champing at the bit for season three, and extremely thankful that Netflix is rumored to once again release the full season all at once (even if it’s a few months away).
Where to watch: Netflix.
Commitment: Two seasons.


The Divide

Grae Drake, Senior Editor


What it’s about: The Divide opens 11 years after two men were convicted for brutally murdering a Philadelphia family, focusing on the impassioned case worker determined to find the truth about the crime.
What makes it so binge-worthy: Cancelled too soon, it may seem counter-intuitive to binge an incomplete show. That said, The Divide is just that good. The number of people in prison for crimes they didn’t commit is staggering, and the necessity for organizations like The Innocence Project to help them is ever-increasing. It’s with this in mind that executive producers Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King, Beautiful Creatures) and Tony Goldwyn (Scandal) co-created The Divide, an atmospheric and nuanced melodrama about a family of African Americans murdered by two white men — or so the Philadelphia courts say. The show features incredible performances from Nia Long, Paul Schnieder, Clarke Peters, and Damon Gupton. If you love Law and Order, Scandal, and The Good Wife, then this show is for you.

Where to watch: iTunes, Amazon, and WeTV.com.
Commitment: One season.


Veep

Jeff Giles, Associate Editor


What it’s about: The trials and tribulations of Vice President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a onetime contender forced to toil in the political shadow of a President who clearly has no real place for her in his administration. While Selina struggles to cement her legacy in an effort to set herself up for another shot at the presidency, she has to deal with a staff (including supporting players Tony Hale, Matt Walsh, and Anna Chlumsky) who are either frantically fixing her PR gaffes or making fresh blunders of their own, as well as trying to balance her all-consuming career against her responsibilities to her daughter (Sarah Sutherland) and her semi-disastrous romantic pursuits.

What makes it so binge-worthy: If all Veep had going for it was Louis-Dreyfus’ gift for embodying emotionally needy, occasionally cluelessly arrogant characters, it’d still be a pleasant watch, but the show’s never settled for an easy setup. A spiritual spinoff of Veep creator Armando Iannucci’s BBC government satire The Thick of It (which later inspired his Oscar-nominated film In the Loop), it’s a rapid-fire, densely interwoven tangle of sharp dialogue and constantly converging plot points, finely balanced between Beltway politics and good old-fashioned sitcom laffs. Louis-Dreyfus is the glue that holds the whole thing together — hence her three consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards — but Veep is a true ensemble piece, and although there’s a definite narrative arc over this HBO hit’s three seasons, the plots are secondary to the pure pleasure of watching the cast at work.
Where to watch: HBO Go.
Commitment: Three seasons.


Orphan Black

Ryan Fujitani, Editor


What it’s about: Orphan Black tells the story of a young, streetwise single mother who inadvertently thrusts herself into a vast conspiracy littered with other women who all look exactly like her.

What makes it so binge-worthy: If you know nothing else about this BBC America sci-fi mystery, you’ve probably at least heard someone bemoan the omission of star Tatiana Maslany from any sort of awards recognition, and with good reason. Maslany plays not only the lead character, Sarah Manning, but also every one of Sarah’s doppelgangers, often in the same scene. The miracle of it all is that somehow, thanks in part to some clever camera tricks but mostly due to Maslany’s remarkable performance(s), each clone feels distinctly like its own character, from the uptight soccer mom to the troubled Ukrainian assassin. Physical similarities aside, you actually forget you’re watching the same actress pull off this amazing stunt. But Tatiana Maslany is only the prime reason Orphan Black is so easily binge-able; the storytelling is twisty and propulsive, the supporting players are solid, and there’s plenty of emotional complexity to keep things interesting. Just keep your fingers crossed that the writers don’t kill off your favorite clone.
Where to watch: Vudu,
iTunes,
Xbox Video, Sony PSN,
Google Play, and Amazon.

Commitment: Two seasons.


Getting On

Kerr Lordygan, Review Aggregator


What it’s about: The adaptation of the UK BBC comedy series showcases the careers and personal lives of doctors and nurses in a Long Beach hospital extended-care wing.

What makes it so binge-worthy: Folks who like your brilliantly-delivered slapstick comedy to suddenly jolt you with shocks of empathy and grab your heart only to throw it against the wall and watch it slither to the floor where it gets rolled over by a squeaky, old wheelchair occupied by a vibrant but terminally-ill senior citizen who screams something naughty as she begins to dance naked in the hallways of the hospital wing, bringing you to tears of laughter once again, will absolutely love Getting On. Laurie Metcalf, Niecy Nash, and Alex Borstein as the three leading ladies are hysterical and heart-wrenching all at the same time. Cameos by the likes of Betty Buckley and June Squibb are an extra stellar treat.
Where to watch: HBO Go.
Commitment: Two seasons.


The Strain

Sarah Ricard, TV Editor


What it’s about: When a vampiric virus grabs New York City by the throat, it’s up to troubled CDC head Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll) and his ragtag gang of civilian strigoi fighters to defend the world from utter catastrophe.
What makes it so binge-worthy: First of all, every episode of The Strain ends on a cliffhanger, so you’ll be happy you’re binging it rather than waiting a week between each installment. Then, there’s one of current TV’s best villains, the terrifying vampire/concentration camp guard Eichorst (German actor Richard Sammel — the dude has been an onscreen Nazi 22 times, so he must know a thing or two about playing bad guys). But mostly, Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Hobbit, Hellboy), a writer and producer known for his highly imaginative storytelling, places you in an alternate universe where New York City is overrun by no-brain vampires and Corey Stoll has hair. It’s a world you’ll want to spend a winter weekend, full of squeals and shocks. Simply put, The Strain is simultaneously campy and smart, with healthy doses of scares and heart.
Where to watch: Vudu, Sony PSN,
iTunes,
Xbox Video,
Google Play, and Amazon.

Commitment: One season.

What was your favorite binge of 2014? Tell us in the comments below!


 

 

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