The Best TV Moments Of 2014

Highlights of the past 12 months, from Game Of Thrones bloodiest fight yet to Russell Brand's new anti-graph stance on Newsnight

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A lot has happened on the small screen this year, from McConaughey’s triumphant – if slightly unhinged – turn in True Detective to erectile dysfunction cropping up on The Apprentice. We've also had a new president, witnessed Martin Freeman have a meltdown and prepared to say goodbye to one of the world's finest stand-up comedians.

To celebrate these moments and more from an outstanding year, we've compiled our highlights below. 

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If you're not up to date, be warned that spoilers follow.


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We’ve already named it our favourite Game Of Thrones moment so far, but six months later we still can’t get over the way Oberyn Martell’s head turned to mush in the hands of The Mountain, like this


An outstanding Tom Hardy cropped up as a Don Logan-esque character in Steven Knight’s Brummie Boardwalk Empire, Peaky Blinders


Fans had long suspected that season five of AMC’s zombie spectacular The Walking Dead would open with Rick & Co at the mercy of cannibals, but the merciless premiere – and this grisly trough scene in particular – are what finally made those cynical critics take notice.


As part of his on-going effort to lead us to an as-yet-unspecified utopia, Russell Brand appeared on Newsnight to promote his book, Revolution. Paxman replacement Evan Davis found himself on the angry end of the comedian, who “ain’t got time for a bloody graph.”
 

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A 10-part take on the Coen Brother’s 1996 ironic crime classic starring Tim from The Office should never have worked, but somehow it became the snow-bound crime sensation of the year. From Bob Odenkirk’s moustache to Billy Bob Thornton’s hairpiece, there was much to admire, but the scene of Martin Freeman frantically trying to cover up a murder – chilling and darkly comic in equal measure – was the show’s stand out moment. Thumbs up for the Minnesotan accent too.


It’s summer, the football’s on and you’re working from Brazil’s famous Copacabana beach – what could go wrong? Adrian Chiles, Glen Hoddle and co. somehow managed to commit sartorial blunder after sartorial blunder by displaying more dad fashion than a Matalan-sponsored edition of Top Gear


Ok, we’re aware Clive Owen might not be everyone’s favourite actor, but his turn as a cocaine-addicted genius surgeon (who happened to be romancing Bono’s daughter) in Steven Soderbergh’s 1900 New York City hospital drama The Knick deserves a tip of the hat. The white shoes / black suit combo in particular was impressive, while Cliff Martinez’ 80s synth score is the best thing he’s done since Drive.
 

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Nucky Thompson has never been the most interesting mob boss on Boardwalk Empire so it was difficult not to feel a sense of elation when he literally bit the bullet at the hands of Jimmy Darmody's long-lost son Tommy. So long, Nuck. 


Never one to do things quietly, first Paxman stepped down, then he claimed Newsnight is made by a group of “13-year-olds” in June this year before ruling himself out of the running for mayor of London. We'll miss you Jeremy. In fact, with Evan Davis at the helm, we're missing you even more than we thought we would.

Yes, there were many great moments in the first season of True Detective (the ‘tache, the soundtrack, Michelle Monaghan’s pink underwear) but it’s the six-minute tracking shot – playing out like a real-life version of GTA - that’s stayed with us and has arguably played as big a part in McConaughey’s stellar year as the Oscar win and his pretentious jaunt into space.

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A cooking show that people surely only watch with irony in mind, The Great British Bake Off has joined other reality-based “entertainment” programs as the new obsession for people who enjoy Mary Berry insisting that “some of them have got a good forking.”

We called it “a British drama to match the Americans” but somehow, that didn’t stop Channel 4 drama Utopia getting cancelled after its second season, which admittedly was less assured anddramatic as season one. In its final run Neil Maskell’s turn as hitman turned family-man Arby remained the stand-out performance (and a good reason never to Google anything again).


As we near the end of Mad Men, Don has started to come apart at the seams (seven years of hard drinking will do that to you). The midseason finale, with Don hallucinating the late Bert performing “The Best Things In Life Are Free”, might just be the show’s strangest moment yet, or at least until the final seven episodes air in April.


We could argue all day over whether or not Dr Who is only for nerds and middle-aged men, but in March everyone in offices across the country became caught up in the news that The Thick Of It star Peter Capaldi was announced as the twelth doctor. Did this signal the first every sweary, Scotsman in the Tardis? Did it b*****s, but at least it put an end to the era of the bow-tie wearing posh boy (at least for the time being).

We still haven’t got over Frank Underwood selling out Freddy, barbecue expert extraordinaire and one of Frank’s only actual friends, but the murder of snooping reporter Zoe Barnes takes the crown for this season’s most unexpected moment. Extra points for Frank’s trilby and the fact it happened in the very. First. Episode.

As the four-part Sky Atlantic series Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond proved, Ian Fleming was not quite the man who inspired Bond, but his exploits alongside the Royal Navy from 1938 to 1945 provide an entertaining enough series full of heavy drinking, gambling and a wardrobe that wouldn’t look out of place on Connery himself.


In The Trip To Italy Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon returned for more culinary adventures seasoned with spot-on impressions. This time there were fewer Michael Caine and Ray Winstone hacking up phlegm impressions and more Tom Hardy’s Bane and Michael Parkinson. The highlight of course, has to be the spot-on Godfather impressions.

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If you can tell us what The Leftovers is actually about you’re clearly more perceptive than us. That said, there were a number of strong style moments in the first ten episodes, most notably Esquire's recent fashion model Justin Theroux’s aviators and bomber jacket combination. Also, Emily Meade was on top form too. 

It helps to think of Brooklyn 99 as a slightly wacky take on trans-atlantic crime. Featuring a maverick young cop who won’t play by the rules, flashbacks to Shaft-esque 1970s scenes and Terry Cruz as the Cowardly Lion in a police uniform, the show is the perfect antidote to overly serious NY crime dramas like American Gangster and Serpico. The highlight is simply watching Samberg's transition from singing about boats with The Lonely Island to becoming a fully-fledged TV actor in a role that led to his first Golden Globe. Impressive.


Billy Connolly's Big Send Off was a heartbreaking two-partner in which the Big Yin explores our relationship with death while revealing his own illnesses. Starting with a description of his “funny week” (his first hearing aid on Monday, a diagnosis of prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease on Wednesday) it’s hard not to feel a bit choked up at what might be one of the last times Britain's biggest stand-up is on our screens. TV will be a worse place without him, and a lot less foul-mouthed

Louie CK’s sitcom/stand-up show has grown into possibly the greatest TV comedy right now, the fourth season returning stronger than ever after a year hiatus. Almost as funny as these videos of a 20-year-old CK performing stand-up in 1987, with hair.  
 

Honestly, just watch the video.

Anything we've missed?
 

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