Grading the 2014-15 Television Season: Shows We Loved, Hated and Side-Eyed

Empire

To say Fox’s Empire was a hit would be an understatement. It was groundbreaking. Empire proved that water cooler television still exists; all it takes is great entertainment. The new series put a modern spin on classic 80’s primetime soaps with its retelling of King Lear set in the Hip Hop business. One of the best gifts that Empire gave us was the character of Cookie Lyon. Fresh out of prison, Cookie was in search of not only revenge on her ex-husband, who left her to rot, but in search of what she lost as a result of her sacrifice. The Lyon family’s dysfunction tittered effortlessly between being over the top and grounded. Each week in brought scandal, sex, crime and high glamor into an increasing number of viewers’ homes. Season 1 Overall Grade: A+

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones can (quite literally) be a bloody mess. But that’s also a part of why I enjoy it. Nothing is sacred on the HBO series and that allows a lot of pleasant and unpleasant surprises. I never know who is going to die, get tortured, get attacked by white walkers, eaten by a dragon, or, once in a while, fall in love. Anything can really happen. The characters of GoT are all horribly flawed. Nothing is black and white, good or evil. The heroes make mistakes. The villains have moments of humanity. GoT has created a complex world that one can’t help but want to watch. This last season, the series started to heavily detour from the books from which it is based. Some of the changes have been good (Yay! Dani and Tyrion!) and some not so good (I hate you, Ramsey!) but it has kept me, for the most part, intrigued. Overall Season 5 Grade: A-/B+

orphanOrphan Black

The BBC doppelganger drama Orphan Black is in its third season and if you aren’t watching it, you should be. The series is one of the most unique shows ever, like a live action anime. It explores mythology, science, ethics and personal identity as it follows a group of clones in their quest for survival. One of the most captivating elements of the show is its lead actress Tatiana Maslany. Maslany manages to portray each very different clone with such ease and variation that viewers forget that the uptight soccer mom and the lesbian science nerd are played by the same actress. The main character, con artist Sarah Manning, is a complex anti-heroine whose shades of grey add to the show’s questions of morality. Season 3 Overall Grade: A+

Sleepy Hollow

After a brilliant first season, Sleepy Hollow went through a major sophomore slump. Its second season wasn’t horrendous, but it lacked the charm of the horror soap opera’s first season. What fans mostly missed was the chemistry and witty banter between the shows leads, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), which was given a backseat in favor of focusing on Ichabod’s dysfunctional relationship with his wife Katrina (Katia Winter). Luckily the series got back on track in the end and has set itself up for a bit of a reboot. What makes Sleepy Hollow enjoyable is the way it’s able to mix up classic monsters and history while remaining surprisingly modern with its storytelling. Those who tuned out last fall may want to give the new season a watch. I suspect that there will be more Icabbie, fun, frights and Orlando Jones. Season 2 Overall Grade: B-

-Jenn Bishop

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