The recent 2014 primetime Emmy nominations were dominated by the popular long-form style of TV shows and the characters that star in them.
It was evident in both the series and the actors that were selected; House of Cards, True Detective, Fargo, Game of Thrones and Orange Is the New Black were just a small sample of the depth of talent among the program nominees.
But it’s the characters that make a great series exceptional, and this year we have seen old favourites continue to flourish, such as Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones, Saga Noren from The Bridge and House of Cards’ Frank Underwood, but there has also been a whole host of new names to add to our collective TV memory.
Alongside probably Australian TVs strongest character this year Janet King, new faces such as Eva Green in the acclaimed horror series Penny Dreadful and Matthew McConaughey, who broke new ground in the eight-part crime drama True Detective, have shone among some very bright stars.
So who’s won us over? TV writer Patrick James has picked the characters that have owned the small screen in 2014.
Some will definitely surprise you, and there will be big names left off the list, but these are the players that have made turning on the tele utterly addictive.
10. Janet King: Janet King
Australian TV may not be earning the international recognition of its US or Scandinavian counterparts, but Marta Dusseldorp was the embodiment of her tough-skinned Crown prosecutor Janet King in the spin-off of the successful 2011 series Crownies. As King, she not only negotiated the minefield of being a top female lawyer in the male dominated legal world, but she also brought some much-needed normality to a same-sex relationship on TV. Dusseldorp played King with femininity and feline strength.
9. Vanessa Ives: Penny Dreadful
French actress and model Eva Green stars as the clairvoyant Vanessa Ives in the 19th century horror/drama series Penny Dreadful (slated for release in Australia later this year). Produced by Oscar winning director Sam Mendes and John Logan, Penny Dreadful, set in 19th century London, is a series that centres around literary figures Dorian Gray, Van Helsing and Victor Frankenstein. Ives is the beautiful and mysterious medium, struggling to maintain her own sanity in the face of her very real inner demons. It’s an impressive step up for Green and assures she is not seen as just a pretty face.
8. Piper Chapman: Orange Is the New Black
At the centre of Orange Is the New Black is its breakout star, Emmy-nominated Taylor Schilling, who plays Piper Chapman, the respectable New Yorker sent to jail for drug smuggling she’d committed 10 year previously with her then girlfriend. Piper must navigate her way through the world of women’s prison, which over time has begun to take it’s toll: at the beginning of the series Piper was somewhat innocent, eager to stay out of trouble, but as time has progressed, we see she has grown increasingly angry and more willing to manipulate others to do her own bidding. Season two of Orange Is the New Black is currently on Foxtel’s Showcase channel.
7. Virginia Johnson: Masters of Sex
Playing a thoroughly modern woman in a conservative time, Lizzy Caplan is excellent in her role of one part of the famous Masters & Johnson sex–researchers, Virginia Johnson. As the single mother determined to be taken seriously in an overwhelmingly sexist age, Caplan brought wit to the role of Johnson, who struggles to make her mark on the medical establishment whilst trying to sift through her complicated sexual entanglements. Season two of this acclaimed show premieres on July 31 on SBS.
6. Oberyn Martell: Game of Thrones
Yes, no Tyrion on this list – but that doesn’t mean we don’t love him. This year Game of Thrones introduced audiences to the swarthy Oberyn Martell; the only character who embodied the Westeros equivalent of a Latin sex God. Martell, (played by Chilean born actor Pedro Pascal), arrived in Kings Landing for the Royal Wedding brashly announcing his disdain for the Lannisters and gloating about his infamous swordsmanship. Martell would serve as judge at the trial of Tyrion Lannister, before acting as his champion in a trial by combat. As he was about to win their fight, his hubris got the better of him, having his skull crushed in by his humungous opponent. He will be well remembered.
5. Alicia Florrick: The Good Wife
Now in its fifth season, The Good Wife has gone from strength to strength to be one of the most popular dramas on TV. The cast is brilliant but the woman at its centre is the glue. Playing the straight woman in this old-fashioned legal series, Julianna Margulies is sexy but solemn as the wronged-woman-come-good, Alicia Florrick. While The Good Wife focuses on the coming and goings of a busy Chicago law firm, and Florrick’s ability to cope following her husband’s cheating and fall from grace, the strength of this character is her no-holds-barred approach to being a mother and a worker; she is unwilling to compromise. Season five of The Good Wife is currently airing on Network Ten.
4. Frank Underwood – House of Cards
Evil genius is probably the best way to describe Frank Underwood – a Machiavellian master who is so manipulative his hands are practically dripping with blood. Season two of this series saw Underwood continue to use his influence to flip the balance of power in his favour in Washington. Kevin Spacey has always been considered a wonderful actor and it seems Underwood is the role of his lifetime. It’s almost going to be impossible to separate him from his role when the writers call it quits. Almost.
3. Lorne Malvo: Fargo
Sporting a Lloyd Christmas haircut, Billy Bob Thornton graced the screens as the chief antagonist on the television adaptation of the Coen Brothers 1996 Academy Award winning film of the same name. Malvo was an icy sociopath with a grim sense of humour, one who enjoyed meddling in the lives of complete strangers, often for the fun of it. Thornton has the rare ability of making his character appear completely evil, whilst never losing his dark sense of humour; creating intricate and outlandish schemes to ensnare his victims, all the while antagonising the very polite residents of small town Minnesota.
2. Saga Noren: The Bridge
Fans of this cult Danish/Swedish suspense crime-drama have come to love Detective Saga Noren, (Sofia Helin) as much for her blunt Asperger Syndrome-affected personality as for her ability to solve almost any crime put in front of her. Alongside, and with the help of, her partner in crime, so to speak, Martin Rhode, Saga is learning how to negotiate the world without having the necessary social queues to understand and empathise with pretty much any body else. Helin brings remarkable subtlety to this complex and oftentimes sad character who really just wants to be loved. Bring on season three.
1. Rustin Cohle: True Detective
Over the eight-episode first season of True Detective, Matthew McConaughey dazzled audiences as Rustin Cohle: a remote and intense detective given to immersing himself in his murder investigations, pontificating on the lot of humanity and musing on the nature of time. Throughout the series, viewers were treated to a young, brooding Cohle from 1995 and the grizzled, alcohol laden 2012 narrator going over the events of the Dora Lang investigation. Viewers never lost sight of the Cohle’s moral compass and his philosophical centre. McConaughey was given the role of a lifetime that would ensure no one would be making shirtless jokes ever again.