The 99 best movies under 99 minutes on Netflix Canada

A movie’s runtime is increasingly becoming a major factor in the likelihood of me ever watching it.

Of course, there are directors I love whose work I follow almost religiously. And I, too, get sucked into festival and awards buzz. But when I’m home and want to watch a movie before bedtime (8 p.m., and I’m only sorta kidding) lurks, I’m not looking for epics or films with entr’actes. More than once, I let my The Great Escape (172 minutes) DVD set continue gathering dust in favour of shorter films I had available to watch (The Italian Job – the Michael Caine one – and Run Lola Run – an 80-minute German thriller – come to mind).

The next time you’re looking for a movie to watch and want to make sure you’ll be conscious by the time the credits roll, you don’t have to just fire up another episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, like I’ve been doing for the last two weeks. You *can* watch a movie! As Buffy herself sang at the 2002 MTV Movie Awards, “movies kick absolute, total and complete ass.”

Here are 99 great films under 99 minutes currently streaming on Netflix Canada.

(Netflix Canada catalogue @ June 1, 2015)

My favourites

1. Fargo (1996), 98 minutes

Fargo

Why I’ve even bothered including 98 other films on this list is beyond me. We should all just be watching Fargo 99 times back-to-back. The Coen Brothers classic stars Frances McDormand as the badass, no-bullshit, pregnant detective Marge Gunderson, who’s investigating three murders in her town, all occurring after the disappearance of the wife of bumbling Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy).

2. A History of Violence (2005), 96 minutes

History of Violence

Tom Stall and his family are about to get a rude awakening. After a news story hailing him as a local hero garners some national attention, Tom’s past life catches up with him. Viggo Mortensen stars in Canadian director David Cronenberg’s film, with Mario Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt. One of Cronenberg’s best.

3. His Girl Friday (1940), 92 minutes

His Girl Friday

How far can one man go to try to lure his ex from her new beau? For newspaper editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant), the limit does not exist as he tries everything to keep Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), his ex-wife and his ace reporter, in town.

4. 20 Feet From Stardom (2013), 91 minutes

20 Feet from Stardom

The Oscar-winning documentary follows back-up singers who lent their vocals to some of the most famous and popular songs ever, yet are not household names, including Darlene Love, who stole the show at the 2013 Oscars and was a frequent guest on David Letterman’s Late Show.

5. Fruitvale Station (2013), 85 minutes

Fruitvale Station

A haunting portrait of the last day of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area man shot by police on the platform of a train station, that’s become more haunting and poignant since its release. I also highly recommend Roxane Gay’s essay on Fruitvale Station, “Last Day of a Young Black Man.”

6. Stoker (2013), 99 minutes

Stoker

Chan-wook Park’s first film in English is Stoker, about young India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska, in her best work ever) coping with her father’s death, her mother’s (a bone-chilling Nicole Kidman) grief, and her mysterious uncle’s (Matthew Goode) sudden and creepy interest in her.

7. Blue Jasmine (2013), 98 minutes

Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine is the rags-to-riches-to-rags story of Jasmine Francis, a role that earned Cate Blanchett her very deserved second Oscar.

8. Mean Girls (2004), 97 minutes

Mean Girls

The endlessly quotable and rewatchable Mean Girls is also only 97 minutes long. Has a shrine been erected in honour of Tina Fey yet?

9. I Am Divine (2013), 90 minutes

I Am Divine

I’d only heard of Divine and knew nothing of Harris Glenn Milstead, the man under her wigs and makeup before watching I Am Divine, the fascinating documentary about the drag icon who was John Waters’ muse and starred as Edna Turnblad in the 1988 film version of Hairspray. 

10. The Cabin in the Woods (2012), 95 minutes

Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods is a send-off of every horror movie trope, wrapped in a bonkers, over-the-top horror-comedy of its own, co-written by Judd Apatow and Drew Goddard.

 Animation

11. Shrek (2001), 90 minutes

Shrek

Shrek‘s influence on the animated-film landscape is undeniable, even though the series has fallen out of the grace of some fans because of subpar third and fourth entries.

12. Shrek 2 (2004), 93 minutes

13. How to Train Your Dragon (2010), 98 minutes

14. Un chat à Paris (2010), 70 minutes

15. Kung Fu Panda (2008), 92 minutes

16. Ernest et Célestine (2012), 80 minutes

17. Antz (1998), 83 minutes

18. Monsters vs. Aliens (2009), 94 minutes

19. L’illusioniste (2010), 80 minutes

Action/Thriller/Crime

20. Red Eye (2005), 85 minutes

Red Eye

Wes Craven is a true master of suspense, and in the breezy 85-minute Red Eye, starring Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy, Craven builds one of the most gripping thrillers of the last decade.

21. Premium Rush (2012), 91 minutes

22. Dredd (2012), 95 minutes

23. Haywire (2011), 92 minutes

24. Salt (2010), 99 minutes

25. Grindhouse: Planet Terror (2007), 91 minutes

26. Big Trouble in Little China (1986), 99 minutes

27. A Company Man (2012), 96 minutes

28. The Matador (2005), 98 minutes

29. Killing Them Softly (2012), 97 minutes

30. The Guard (2011), 96 minutes

31. Blue Ruin (2013), 90 minutes

32. Croupier (1998), 94 minutes

Documentary

33. Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011), 92 minutes

Page One: Inside the New York TImes

Blame my print journalism bias for the first three documentary picks: Page One, about the behind-the-scenes, production side of putting together The New York Times, with a deep and now-bittersweet look at the work of the late David Carr; Bill Cunningham New York, about a NYT photographer who literally invented street fashion photography; and Stripped, about cartoonists at newspapers discussing how the fall of print media is affecting their craft.

34. Bill Cunningham New York (2010), 84 minutes

35. Stripped (2014), 85 minutes

36. Side by Side (2012), 98 minutes

37. Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show (2014), 88 minutes

38. Blackfish (2013), 83 minutes

39. The Imposter (2012), 99 minutes

40. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2013), 81 minutes

41. From One Second to the Next (2013), 34 minutes

42. The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (2013), 38 minutes

Drama

43. Bicycle Thieves (1948), 89 minutes

Bicycle Thieves

Netflix’s catalogue of classic films is sometimes lacking but often changing based on which studios it inks deals with. The 1948 Italian film Bicycle Thieves is a heartbreaking and hopeful film about a man and his son searching for a stolen bike that is crucial for the father’s job. Honorary Oscar winner in 1950 for foreign-language film, before the competitive category was established in 1956.

44. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), 93 minutes

45. Omar (2013), 98 minutes

46. Wadjda (2012), 98 minutes

47. Blue Caprice (2013), 93 minutes

48. Tiny Furniture (2010), 99 minutes

49. Diego Star (2013), 87 minutes

50. Rabbit Hole (2010), 91 minutes

51. My Week with Marilyn (2011), 98 minutes

52. The Station Agent (2003), 89 minutes

53. Love Is Strange (2014), 94 minutes

54. Punch-Drunk Love (2002), 95 minutes

55. Short Term 12 (2013), 96 minutes

56. Smashed (2012), 81 minutes

57. The Bling Ring (2013), 90 minutes

58. Moon (2009), 97 minutes

59. Carnage (2011), 79 minutes

60. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008), 94 minutes

Horror

61. The Strangers (2008), 85 minutes

The Strangers

There’s a fine line between “predictable” and “hits exactly the right note exactly when it’s supposed to.” That is The Strangers, a 2008 horror-thriller starring Liv Tyler as a woman being taunted by three masked assailants at her and her husband’s isolated vacation home.

62. Teeth (2007), 94 minutes

63. The Descent (2005), 98 minutes

64. Carrie (1976), 98 minutes

65. The Fly (1958), 93 minutes

66. Frailty (2002), 99 minutes

67. In Fear (2013), 85 minutes

68. The Woman in Black (2012), 95 minutes

Comedy, Romcom, Dramedy

69. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), 99 minutes

Grand Budapest Hotel

The latest film by Wes Anderson was a surprise hit, and a rare early-in-the-year release that was able to sustain its momentum come Oscar time, taking home four awards in technical categories and being nominated in nine overall. The film stars Anderson regulars and has a most impressive cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, and Tony Revolori, in a memorable breakout film role.

70. Baby Mama (2008), 98 minutes

71. Zoolander (2001), 89 minutes

72. Office Space (1999), 89 minutes

73. Wet Hot American Summer (2001), 96 minutes

74. Bring It On (2000), 98 minutes

75.  Liar Liar (1997), 86 minutes

76. Intolerable Cruelty (2003), 99 minutes

77. Dan In Real Life (2007), 98 minutes

78. 13 Going On 30 (2004), 97 minutes

79. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012), 85 minutes

80. Midnight in Paris (2011), 94 minutes

81. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), 96 minutes

82. Enough Said (2013), 92 minutes

83. I Love You Phillip Morris (2009), 97 minutes

84. Hamlet 2 (2008), 92 minutes

85. Frank (2014), 95 minutes

86. Gayby (2012), 88 minutes

87. Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012), 92 minutes

88. Easy A (2010), 92 minutes

89. Your Sister’s Sister (2011), 90 minutes

90. The Full Monty (1997), 91 minutes

91. Clueless (1995), 97 minutes

92. The Addams Family (1991), 99 minutes

93. Fever Pitch (1997), 98 minutes

94. Alan Partridge (2013), 90 minutes

95. Harold and Maude (1971), 91 minutes

96. But I’m A Cheerleader (1999), 85 minutes

97. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), 92 minutes

98. Frances Ha (2012), 85 minutes

99. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999), 81 minutes

Oscars 2015: My predictions

Oscars

I seem to have plateaued. For 2013 and 2014, I predicted 18 of 24 Oscar winners correctly, a personal best since I’ve started wasting my life with this stuff. Can I do better this year?

Here are my predictions for the 2015 Academy Awards:

UPDATE: 18. Again. I started hot and Birdman ruined me.

Oscars Ballot 2015

Academy Awards Oscars 2015 ballot

You can get your ballot at The Hollywood Reporter.

The Oscars air on ABC/CTV Sunday, Feb. 22, at 8 p.m. with host Neil Patrick Harris. Yes, these are the 2015 Oscars.

The year 2017 according to Parks and Recreation’s seventh and final season

Parks and Recreation Season 7

After seven seasons and 125 episodes, our friends from Pawnee said their final goodbye on Feb. 24. Undoubtedly, they’ve left a void in television (and my heart) that I don’t envision being filled, ever (I just don’t see any new sitcom or comedy like Parks and Rec getting the green light at any of the big networks, let alone making it to seven seasons).

For its seventh and final season, the NBC show jumped to 2017 (spoilers ahead): Leslie and Ben had their triplets and have a damn good nanny, it would appear; Leslie works for the National Parks Department and Ben is city manager in Pawnee; Ron no longer works in government after founding the Very Good Construction Company; Donna runs Regal Meagle Realty and is getting married; Tom Haverford is a self-described mogul and successful restauranteur; April is looking for her calling while hubby Andy has found his entertaining children on the popular Johnny Karate public-television show; Terry (formerly known as Jerry and Larry, but actually named Garry) is a licensed notary public but still does menial work for Leslie.

But the world outside Pawnee has also changed and gone on, and Parks makes some funny and bold predictions for 2017 in sports, pop culture and technology:

Is Jermaine Jackson going to die? There’s a Jermaine Jackson Memorial Ballroom at the Pawnee Super Suites (the Jacksons are Indiana natives).

Jermaine Jackson Memorial Ballroom

Phones will be clear and expandable into tablets, which will be expandable into skateboards.

The Bourne franchise will be rebooted with Kevin James as the titular hero (Andy heard it’s supposed to be pretty funny, while Leslie thought the role was miscast).

Shia LaBeouf will design wedding dresses (Donna’s splurging to walk down the aisle in one). LaBeouf will also be designing jewelry!

The Chicago Cubs will win the World Series and Chicagoans will be in a great mood.

There’s going to be a Hitch 2, starring Jaden Smith and subtitled Son of a Hitch.

Celebrity feud: Morgan Freeman and Shailene Woodley, and it’s baaaaad apparently.

The Game of Thrones season finale will see Khaleesi marry Jack Sparrow (it makes sense if you read the books, Ben says).

Joe Biden will publish a book of poetry, Biden the Rails: 1,001 Poems Inspired by My Travels Through Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

Biden the Rails

Nicki Minaj throws shade at Jesse Eisenberg at the BAFTAs. (Nicki Minaj gets invited to the BAFTAs, so I guess she also transitions into serious acting – I don’t doubt her ability!).

Business will be booming again for Chick Fil-A after Elton John buys it.

There will be a Pulitzer Prize for “Best Top 10 Listicle” (Anabel Porter of Bloosh won it twice so this is probably happening this year!).

Trendy things, according to Bloosh‘s Anabel Porter: oyster forks, asymmetrical overalls, angora toothbrushes, locally sourced Italian flip-flops, and beef milk (which Ron astutely points out is “fucking milk,” but Donna clarifies that a gallon of beef milk is $60 and there’s a waiting list for the stuff!).

LeBron James goes back to Miami!

Elbow art salons will be very popular. Bedazzling elbows, basically.

Bruce Willis and Christina Aguilera Live together in Beverly Hills.

Kennedy, Ginsburg, Roberts, Breyer, Sotomayor and Thomas will still be on the Supreme Court in 2017.

SCOTUS

Things that will still be things in 2017: Subway sandwich restaurants, Etsy, Coachella.

The Twin Peaks reboot is gonna be boring, according to April Ludgate.

U.S. politicians still around in 2017: Sen. Barbara Boxer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, John McCain, Madeline Albright. Cory Booker and Gary Hatch are also in a Polynesian folk band.

Unfortunately, MRAs will also still be around, but their protest signs will be amazing.

MRA Parks and Rec

 

The one-hour series finale also went beyond 2017. Here’s where Parks and Recreation sees

In 2023, they’re going to build a Space Haystack in Seattle next to the Space Needle; Seattle real-estate market is booming; Middle Korea will be a tourist hot spot; they’ve stopped teaching math in schools; door-knocker earrings will be a thing.

Travel by submarine!

The United States will run out of beef.

Have I missed anything? Let me know on Twitter, @Chris_Hanna.

Golden Globes 2015: If I could vote

Golden Globes

Rather than try to predict who the elusive Hollywood Foreign Press Association will honour at the 72nd Golden Globes ceremony, I decided it would be less embarrassing more fun to pretend to be a member of the HFPA and fill out my own ballot.

Here’s how I would vote, if I could …

Golden Globes

Golden Globes II

The one prediction I will allow myself is this: Hostesses Amy Poehler and Tina Fey will kill it. They’ve done it twice already, so this is not a bold prediction. But not only is this their swan song, Poehler and Fey both have projects to plug. Poehler’s Parks and Recreation (neither she nor the series are nominated in the TV comedy categories tonight) starts its farewell season on Tuesday; Fey’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt premières on Netflix on March 6; Fey and Poehler star in the comedy Sisters, due in theatres in Dec. 2015.

The Golden Globes are on NBC/CTV starting at 8 p.m. You can print your ballot via PopSugar and follow along on Twitter, where I will be live-tweeting and taking part in the Montreal Gazette‘s live blog. Get ready for whatever the hell this means:

Best of 2014: Movies

What a diverse year at the movies 2014 was, and what a thrilling adventure every trip to the theatre has been. I’ve been tinkering with my Top-10 list for days and have come up with this group of 10. Enjoy.

10. 22 Jump Street

22 Jump Street surprised me. I thought 21 was OK, but was looking forward to 22 because of what Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum had been up to since the first film’s release. The duo’s chemistry and the film’s fun silliness make it one of the best buddy-cop films of the decade. Among my favourite moments of 22: a Golden Girls reference about Blanche doing heroin, Jonah Hill trying to convince himself he is Beyoncé post-Destiny’s Child, and an end-credits sequence for the ages. Sometimes a movie’s just fun. (112 minutes, dirs. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller)

9. Whiplash

Who knew a movie about a drummer and his teacher could be this nerve-wracking? J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller star. Look for Simmons to clean up on the awards trail. (107 minutes, dir. Damien Chazelle)

8. Mommy

With five films to his name in his short career (and life – he’s 25), Xavier Dolan’s specialty has become the lush, over-emotional melodrama. With Mommy, he hits all the right notes. And bless Anne Dorval and Suzanne Clément, who turn in incredible performances. (139 minutes, dir. Xavier Dolan)

7. Force majeure

I prematurely tweeted out my thoughts on Force majeure after I left a screening of the Swedish film during the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in the fall, suggesting the film was a force moyenne. Almost three months later, I still think about the film. Daily. It’s funny, tragic and poignant, often in the same frame. A vacationing family has a close encounter with an avalanche at the amazing ski resort they’re staying in (seriously, I don’t ski and would start if it meant staying where these guys stay in the film!), which puts more pressure on what we find out is a very strained marriage. (118 minutes, Ruben Ostlund)

6. Locke

Two words for why and how Locke, a movie that takes place entirely inside a car in which you ever only see one man, works: Tom Hardy. The British actor made a splash in Christopher Nolan’s Inception in 2010 (though he has been active since 2001, with a small role in HBO’s miniseries Band of Brothers) and he’s been busy ever since. In 2015, he’s slated for five movies, including the Mad Max reboot and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s The Revenant, which will also star Leonardo DiCaprio. Locke shouldn’t work at all, but it very much does. (85 minutes, dir. Steven Knight)

5. Enemy

After Incendies and Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve changes gears without toning down the intensity with Enemy. It’s just a wallop of a film with a knockout ending. Can’t wait to see this one again. I quite liked this analysis of Enemy, via Slate. (90 minutes, dir. Denis Villeneuve)

4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is what summer blockbusters should be like. Smart and epic in scope, the franchise continues on the right path since its impressive 2011 reboot. Andy Serkis is back as as ape Caesar, with a new human cast (Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Jason Clarke) and director Matt Reeves, who’s signed on to the next Apes instalment due in 2016. (130 minutes, dir. Matt Reeves)

3. Nightcrawler

I was expecting Jake Gyllenhaal to be getting the kind of attention and recognition for Nightcrawler that Matthew McConaughey got for Dallas Buyers Club last year. Then I remembered that unlike McConaughey, Gyllenhaal wasn’t in terrible movies for almost a decade before turning his career around. People love a redemption story, and Gyllenhall has become astonishing after being good for a long time. Nightcrawler made me nervous. Mostly, it felt like it could teeter out of control at any moment; mostly, it was because of Gyllenhall’s unhinged portrayal of a sociopathic, psychopathic, greedy Louis Bloom. Nightcrawler is the Wolf of Wall Street of broadcast journalism. (117 minutes, dir. Dan Gilroy)

2. Gone Girl

To make this as spoiler-free as possible, here’s what I’ll say about one of the best thrillers (and most fun/frustrating literary and cinematic experiences I have had in a while) of the year: David Fincher directs this adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel for which Flynn also wrote the screenplay. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike star as a couple with problems (“Marriage is hard work,” after all), as do Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Missi Pyle, Casey Wilson and Kim Dickens. Pike’s character, Amy Dunne, goes missing on her and Nick’s (Affleck) fifth anniversary. A search is launched, of course. And the shit hits the fan. Again. And again. And again. Even though I knew what was coming, it felt just as exciting and new as it would have had I been totally unfamiliar with the story. I think. (149 minutes, dir. David Fincher)

1. Under the Skin

Under the Skin

My biggest cinematic regret of 2014 is missing Under the Skin in theatres. I ended up watching one summer night (it’s available on Netflix Canada) on my modest 40-inch TV with the sound turned way, way up – I’d heard how great the score by Mica Levi was. Under the Skin was the most astounding, hypnotizing, immersive movie experience I had in 2014. Scarlett Johansson stars as an alien on a mission in Scotland. Director Jonathan Glazer has the ability to craft an intriguing and satisfying mystery around this character, an opportunity Johansson truly relishes, giving a gentle humanity to a creature who’s up to some terrible deeds. (108 minutes, dir. Jonathan Glazer)

Honourable mentions: Boyhood; Chef; Dear White People; Edge of Tomorrow; Guardians of the GalaxyThe LEGO Movie; Life Itself (as a rule, I keep documentaries off my Top-10 lists because I think their goals are different and should not be judged against artistic works of fiction. Life Itself moved me. Like thousands, I am sure, Roger Ebert introduced me to film writing and dozens, if not hundreds, of films I would never have thought to watch.) The One I Love; Snowpiercer; Veronica Mars.

Best of the rest: Blue Ruin; Elaine Stritch: Just Shoot Me; Godzilla; Grand Budapest Hotel; Happy Christmas;Neighbours; Obvious ChildOnly Lovers Left AliveTop Five; Wild.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Here’s my Top 10 list for my favourite movies of 2013.

2014: The movies I watched

At the movies

My final tally for 2014 was 262 movies, at a total runtime of 28,025 minutes – or 467 hours and 5 minutes, or 19 days, 11 hours and 5 minutes.

Why I did this (watched this much and kept this diary), I’m not entirely sure, and I’m surprised I kept it up all year. First, I wanted to know just how many movies I was watching. Then I wanted to know how much time I was wasting spending watching movies. Then I thought it would be neat to know the medium on which I was doing my movie watching (of the 262 movies I saw in 2014, 99 were on DVD – my own, the library’s, friends’, video-store rentals – and 57 were theatrical releases. I saw 39 movies on Netflix and 67 in “other” ways – mostly these were films that were on TV, or screeners, or movies I watch at other people’s houses, or movies I watched at/for work when I worked for a subtitling company. Side note: I spend way too much money every month on my cable package, but I am making the most of it.)

I hadn’t set a goal for myself when I started this thing, though I was on course for a 400-movie year. In January and February, I’d easily average eight to 11 movies a week. But then I stupidly got myself a full-time job (I was in grad school at the beginning of 2014), then a part-time job, then another. Employment gets in the way of spending 22 hours a week watching movies.

I never went to film school and I’ve always felt like a bit of a fraud keeping up with current releases but not delving deep enough into film history, including the silent era. I’ve become re-acquainted with my library card, which I use almost weekly for my DIY film school. But I’m not done. Not even close. That’s the great thing about cinema: As much as you watch, you’re never, ever done.

My 2015 movie wish list: quality over quantity; that Montreal’s movie theatres’ schedules become double-feature friendly again; go to more film festivals; watch more foreign films; watch more classics; keep a diary, again.

Here’s my 2014 film diary:

Continue reading

Best of 2014: Television

There literally aren’t enough hours in the day for any human to work, sleep, eat, bathe and watch all of the great television we are #blessed to have available pretty much 24/7, but damn it, I have to try. When I made this list last year, I opted for the Nussbaumiam honour roll, listing 17 series that captivated me in 2013. This year, I’m going Top 10. Here it is:

10. Veep (HBO)

Armando Ianucci and his team’s sharp scripts are the perfect fit for an ensemble cast – led by the incomparable Julia Louis-Dreyfus – whose takedowns are legendary.

My favourite 2014 episode of Veep: “Clovis”

9. BOB’S BURGERS (FOX)

Bob’s Burgers final two episodes of 2014 alone – the Christmas instalment “Father of the Bob” introduced us to the elder Belcher patriarch, and “Tina Tailor Soldier Spy” was the perfect vehicle for the eldest Belcher daughter – made it the best animated series on television for me. The show has the ability to put its characters through familiar stories while still making them seem fresh and funny.

My favourite 2014 episode of Bob’s Burgers: “Father of the Bob”

8. Vicious (PBS)

On paper, Vicious could sound like a quaint, sweet little series: it’s about an aging gay couple who live in a fabulous apartment and have friends over. In fact, Freddie and Stuart hurl insults at each other any chance they get. Created and written by Gary Janetti, who has a most funny, ferocious Twitter feed (he has also worked on Will and Grace and Family Guy). Vicious stars Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi.

My favourite 2014 episode of Vicious: “Episode 1.2″ in which Freddie suspects Stuart of cheating, but he’s in fact got himself a job in a clothing store. The Christmas Special was top-notch, too.

7. Key & Peele (Comedy Central)

Key & Peele ditched its Chapelle-like live-to-tape format for a darker fourth season that saw Key and Peele pushing the envelope and creating new characters, on top of tackling racial and social issues the way they have always done – in a funny, snarky, important and often scathing way.

My favourite 2014 sketch from Key & Peele: “Georgina and Esther and Satan” and “Aerobics Meltdown”

6. The Leftovers (HBO)

Some found it unsatisfying, I found HBO’s The Leftovers completely engrossing. Two per cent of the world’s population disappears one day, and as long as you’re not expecting answers, or to find them in some other dimension, The Leftovers will not disappoint. Hooray for the great cast, especially Carrie Coon, who was also in David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Great year for her.

My favourite 2014 episode of The Leftovers: “Two Boats and a Helicopter,” a great showcase for Rev. Jamison (Christopher Eccleston)

5. THE COMEBACK (HBO)

I knew I had to watch The Comeback before compiling this list. I’d been slowly making my way through Season One of the resuscitated HBO series starring Lisa Kudrow and was loving every cringe-worthy second. Almost 10 years later, Kudrow is back as Valerie Cherish, a faded sitcom and reality star. The Comeback is as biting and sharp as ever. See it! I watched all of Season Two in two sittings. And that finale … 

My favourite 2014 episode of The Comeback: “Valerie Gets What She Really Wants”

4. Parks and Recreation (NBC)

With just the second half of the show’s sixth season airing in 2014, Parks and Recreation is gearing up for its February finale. I’ll need more time to prepare, but I trust the best comedic ensemble on TV to stick the landing.

My favourite 2014 episode of Parks and Recreation: “Farmers Market” and “Ann and Chris,” ’cause awww …

3. Hannibal (NBC)

If Hannibal was on any of the cable networks, it might be even grittier and creepier than it already is on NBC. Whether it’d be more popular is up for debate (I think it wouldn’t be), but I do believe it would be more acclaimed and possibly even get some awards love. Mads Mikkelsen is pitch-perfect as the titular cannibalistic therapist, as are Hugh Dancy and Caroline Dhavernas. Rivals The Silence of the Lambs for most chillingly terrifying Hannibal adaptation.

My favourite 2014 episode of Hannibal: “Mizumono”

2. Jane the Virgin (CW)

The best new show of the season is also the happiest, sweetest, most fun I’ve had the pleasure of following in years. A remake of a telenovela (hold on) about a devout Latina (hang on!) who gets accidentally artificially inseminated (please, wait!) and decides to go through with the pregnancy is the most charming show on television. I grin every Monday, 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., because of CW’s perfect Jane the Virgin.

My favourite 2014 episode of Jane the Virgin: All of them, but let’s go with “Chapter One” – love at first watch.

1. The Good Wife (CBS)

What can I say about The Good Wife I haven’t already embarrassingly and gushingly tweeted? I was in the middle of catching up on the series on Netflix when that Season 5 episode happened in the spring. I was worried that the show had gotten desperate and killed off a major character in an attempt to shake things up creatively (I was, at the time, watching the tabloidy Season 4 of the series, and was worried The Good Wife was headed in the wrong direction). How wrong I was. Not only was the character’s death very important and well handled, it became the catalyst for important emotional development in Alicia Florrick, the great-as-ever Julianna Margulies.

My favourite 2014 episode of The Good Wife: “Dramatics, Your Honor”

Honourable mentions (in alphabetical order): Black-ish, for Tracee Ellis Ross; Fargo, because the fact that it was ever considered in the same league as that HBO series (you know the one) still boggles my mind; How to Get Away with Murder, for craziness and Viola Davis killing it week in and week out; Inside Amy Schumerfor this, but mostly this poignant, scathing indictment of the militaryMad Men, because it’s still gorgeous when it’s not going anywhere, and can Elisabeth Moss please win an Emmy already?; The Mindy Project, because Mindys Kaling and Lahiri are aces; Scandal, because it’s still appointment viewing even though it’s lost its way this season; You’re the Worst, because terrible people need love, too.

Blind spotsThe Knick, which is polarizing, but about which I have been told it’s sickeningly wicked; the second season of The Americans, which has been on my PVR since FX aired a marathon of it in May; the new season of Homeland, on which I’d given up because of its infuriating previous season but which Twitter tells me has got its groove back and then some; The Walking Dead, for the same reason as HomelandTransparent, because Canada.