Season 4 of the funnyman’s eponymous Comedy Central series Key & Peele (along with partner Jordan Peele) proved funnier than ever— an especially impressive accomplishment considering Key also showed some dramatic chops in FX’s acclaimed Fargo and proved himself a winning rom-com leading man in USA’s underrated Playing House. Throw in guest spots on Parks and Recreation, The Middle, Bob’s Burgers, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and Robot Chicken — plus a role in the big-screen smash The Lego Movie and appearances on Hell’s Kitchen and Talking Dead — and it’s not a stretch to say 2014 was the Year of Key.
You know you’ve made it when you earn your own damn night of the week (TGIT). Yet, instead of rest on her laurels, the Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder EP kept her nose to the grindstone, developing four – count ‘em, four – TV movies for future broadcast and playing herself (as a beer pong champion, no less!) in an episode of The Mindy Project. Pass the Red Bull – we’re pooped just thinking about it all!
For his Season 3 turn as Watson to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, Freeman won his first Emmy in 2014, while his role as Lester Nygaard in FX’s acclaimed Fargo earned him both Emmy and Golden Globe nods. Freeman capped his very big year by hosting one of Saturday Night Live’s strongest outings of the season to date.
Most actresses would be more than satisfied with a year that included a chance to play characters as fantabulously dysfunctional as Fiona Wallice and Valerie Cherish. But, of course, the erstwhile Phoebe Buffay is not most actresses. So, when not starring in Web Therapy and The Comeback, the multi-tasker contributed stories to the former series, wrote episodes of the latter, produced a fifth season of Who Do You Think You Are? and (with Comeback-Web Therapy cohort Dan Bucatinsky) put together the LGBT-empowering docu-mini-series It Got Better. Oh, AND she took part in Jimmy Kimmel’s spectacularly awkward Friends reunion. Whew!
In addition to reprising his roles as How I Met Your Mother’s Captain and Portlandia’s Mayor (as well as costarring on NBC’s Believe), MacLachlan truly popped this year with his recurring run as The Good Wife’s AUSA Josh Perotti and as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s volatile Doctor aka Inhuman Skye’s father Cal. What does one possibly do for an encore? How about booking a long-awaited Twin Peaks revival!
Berlanti is the real-life, TV equivalent of a superhero. This year, the prolific producer parlayed the success of Arrow into an even bigger hit with The Flash, which sped off with fanboys’ hearts and The CW’s highest-rated premiere ever. The Tomorrow People may have not earned a renewal, but Berlanti had the last laugh when The Mysteries of Laura quietly became a solid performer for NBC. (In Berlanti’s pipeline for 2015: Supergirl, which already has a series commitment from CBS, writing the Oscars and, presumably, no sleep.)
Hail to the chief, indeed! This year, while Scandal’s POTUS dealt with Smelly Mellie, his portrayer went all Big Love in the Lifetime movie Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs and birthed (as well as directed the first two episodes of) WE tv’s sublime but ill-fated first scripted drama, The Divide. Then, to top it all off, he also stepped behind the camera twice to helm episodes of the ABC hit on which he stars.
The Reno 911! alumna isn’t just having a moment, she’s having… well, a whole bunch of them all at once! In the last 12 months, she wrapped Season 3 of The Soul Man, began playing doctor on The Mindy Project and classed up a few episodes of Bad Teacher. But, even if she hadn’t done any of those things, she’d still be an MVP to us, thanks to her Emmy-caliber work as Getting On’s gloriously grounded Nurse DiDi.
Bomer turned in a revelatory performance in The Normal Heart, shedding 40 pounds to play Felix Turner, a New York Times reporter who succumbs to AIDS. The astonishing physical and emotional transformation earned the actor a Critics Choice Television Award and an Emmy Award nomination. But Bomer wasn’t done surprising audiences. He followed up the HBO film with a guest spot on American Horror Story: Freak Show as a hustler who was stripped down and murdered, and then he put his best suit back on for White Collar‘s twisty swan song.
“I’m not a bitch, but I play one on TV!” reads Davidson’s tagline in the new season of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, but that’s a slight understatement. Davidson is, in fact, currently juggling two HBIC roles in daytime: The Young and the Restless‘ Ashley Abbott and Days of Our Lives Kristen DiMera, for which she won a 2014 Daytime Emmy Award. Soap star by day, reality star by night, it feels like every second of Davidson’s year was documented on camera — and something tells us she wouldn’t have it any other way. (To quote her on Housewives, “Please pay attention to me!”)
Huisman dominated the small screen in 2014 with gigs on some of the buzziest shows on TV. He won the heart – and sex drive – of Orphan Black‘s Sarah, Game of Thrones‘ Daenerys, Nashville‘s Scarlett and even Gisele Bündchen in a Chanel N°5 campaign directed by Baz Luhrmann. Given his magnetic presence, we can’t say we don’t understand why. (Sorry, Hot Paul.)
Tambor’s nuanced, sympathetic performance as a transgendered father of three turned Transparent into Amazon’s first breakout original program — and served as the foundation for yet another in-demand year for the brilliant character actor. Indeed, Tambor racked up more guest credits in 2014 — on The Good Wife, Raising Hope, Law & Order: SVU, The Millers and Jennifer Falls — than many actors land in an entire career.
Janney scored not one, but two Primetime Emmy Awards this year — as Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and Guest Actress in a Drama — for wildly different roles: Mom‘s bawdy, brutally honest recovering alcoholic Bonnie and Masters of Sex‘s repressed (but awakening) Margaret. Not only was the actress’ acceptance speech for the former trophy was one of the highlights of the Emmy telecast, but she also scored huge laughs as the virgin fiancée of an elderly billionaire on Web Therapy and is gearing up to host the 2015 People’s Choice Awards next month. Whew!
Yes, his Emmy-winning turn on Scandal came to a bloody end with the awful murder of plucky reporter/political spouse James Novak, but Bucatinsky’s dance card remains enviably full. Not only did he reprise his hilarious roles as Web Therapy‘s Jerome and The Comeback‘s Billy (serving as executive producer on both Lisa Kudrow projects), he also became a series regular as one of Casey Wilson’s mercurial dads on NBC’s Marry Me. Where he found time to serve as a consulting producer on Grey’s Anatomy and usher in a fifth season of the genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?, only he (and his agent) know for sure.
It’s one thing to play a crucial character on a single TV show. It’s another thing entirely to accomplish that feat on three shows. Brown did just that in 2014, portraying baddie Archer Petit on Hostages (yep, its finale aired last January) before pulling double duty on Sons of Anarchy (as gangster August Marks) and How to Get Away With Murder (as Detective Nate Leahy). Add to that a guest appearance on TNT’s Legends, and we’re left wondering if Brown even slept in the last 12 month.
As Glee prepares for its swan song in 2015, Murphy has found more than enough ways to stay busy, including two upcoming series — American Crime Story and Scream Queens — that have already generated significant buzz. Perhaps more impressive than Murphy’s number of projects, though, is the wide range the writer-producer has demonstrated this year. From the deeply poignant Normal Heart to the extra-creepy American Horror Story, it’s safe to say Murphy outdid himself in 2014 — with no plans to slow down.
With Parks and Recreation nearing its end (and holding its Season 7 premiere until midseason), we half-expected to see much less of the comedian this year. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Her successful foray into executive-producing (Broad City, Welcome to Sweden), multiple voiceover gigs (The Simpsons, The Awesomes) and hilarious Old Navy commercials have made the last 12 months some of Poehler’s busiest and most successful yet. Oh, and there’s this little thing called the Golden Globes, which she’ll be co-hosting with Tina Fey for a third time in 2015 (after crushing the gig the two previous year).
It’s been a crazy year for Parrish, whose Pretty Little Liars character was finally killed off after five seasons of constantly poking the beAr. Not only was her character, the deliciously twisted Mona Vanderwaal, resurrected (as a ghostly guide) for the ABC Family drama’s Christmas special, but Parrish also found new life on the dance floor, placing third on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Actress, dancer, ghost — this woman redefines “triple threat.”
We already knew that Parsons would deliver comedically this year, with another stellar turn as Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. What made 2014 a particularly major year for Parsons — aside from another Emmy win for TBBT, of course — was his dramatic turn as AIDS activist Tommy Boatwright in HBO’s The Normal Heart. Parsons couldn’t have been further from his sitcom character, and we couldn’t have been more impressed by the actor’s impressive range and immense talent.
The Good Wife fan favorite guest star returned as Elsbeth Tascioni for several wildly entertaining episodes – anti-Semitic bears! Clown visions! Awkward flirting with Kyle MacLachlan! – causing viewers to shout, “Spinoff, please!” Although that dream has yet to come to fruition, Preston was all over the TV in 2014, finishing her run on True Blood with an arc that found her Arlene finally overcoming her fang-phobia while shacking up – and getting hot and heavy on a pool table! – with vamp Keith. The actress also found time to make another visit to hubby Michael Emerson’s show Person of Interest as the love of his character Finch’s life.
With hit reality series on three different networks — NBC’s The Voice, ABC’s Shark Tank and CBS’ venerable Survivor — you’d think Burnett wouldn’t have time for many side projects. Think again. In 2014, Burnett exec-produced the 40th Annual People’s Choice Awards, prepped CBS’ The Dovekeepers miniseries (starring Cote de Pablo and set to premiere March 31) and announced plans to reboot Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader? (for Fox) and bring a new series, 500 Questions to ABC.