Presenting the Winners of the Television Hot List


TV Executive of the Year

Michael Lombardo
President of Programming, HBO

HBO’s Lombardo continues to win the cable programming game in an age of intense competition for every single promising script, often by exploring uncharted territory. True, we’d seen serial killer shows before, but rarely as atmospheric as Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective, and never as simultaneously perverse and otherworldly as Game of Thrones. That willingness to experiment—whether bringing back cult favorite The Comeback or robbing The Daily Show of John Oliver for Last Week Tonight—ensures Lombardo will remain every writer’s dream meeting (assuming his agent can get one).


TV Creative of the Year

Shonda Rhimes
Creator/Executive Producer (Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Grey’s Anatomy)

The creator of two of the most successful shows on TV (ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal) is a one-woman empire, with a devoted fan base that wouldn’t dream of missing episodes of those shows or the net’s new How to Get Away With Murder (produced by Rhimes’ studio, Shondaland). ABC took a chance on her—would viewers really dig three straight hours of cliffhanger-heavy drama? ABC’s all-Shondaland Thursday prime-time block is the hottest thing on broadcast, averaging a 3.5 in the 18-49 demo when the three shows aired back-to-back-to-back for the first time in September.


Hottest Show of the Year

Our Choice: Game of Thrones

This HBO fantasy series based on George R.R. Martin’s stop-a-bullet-thick novels—for which the former TV scribe now writes, with David Benioff and Dan Weiss running the show—is a study in agony. The pain of not knowing what’s going to happen to your favorite characters, the shock of seeing them die unceremoniously at the hands of their former friends, the long, cruel wait for the next book (or episode) in the craftily plotted sequence—it all hurts so good.

Readers' Choice: Hannibal

Finalist vote tally:
1. Hannibal (NBC): 54.5%
2. The Walking Dead (AMC): 21.9%
3. Orange Is the New Black (Netflix): 8.4%


Hottest Guilty Pleasure

Our Choice: American Horror Story

What else would you expect from the creator of sunny, upbeat high school musical dramedy Glee than a deeply perverted horror series about what the evil people do to each other? The FX hit uses familiar tropes—haunted houses, evil witches, killer clowns—to reel us in, but the depth of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s characters is often underestimated. The show dares us to wonder the evil we could cook up.

Readers' Choice: Outlander

Finalist vote tally:
1. Outlander (Starz): 50.8%
2. American Horror Story (FX): 29.6%
3. Southern Charm (Bravo): 11.2%


Hottest Network for Comedy

Our Choice: Adult Swim

Avant-garde entertainment may seem a contradiction in terms—doesn’t it have to make sense to be fun? Then, there are Adult Swim’s offerings, ranging from bizarro-world experiments like Too Many Cooks to blaxploitation anime sitcom Black Dynamite. Viewers—young, male and diverse—eat it up with a spoon.

Readers' Choice: Comedy Central

Finalist vote tally:
1. Comedy Central: 35.1%
2. Adult Swim: 18.2%
3. Fox: 16.5%


Hottest Comedy

Our Choice: Rick and Morty

TV’s darkest, most original comedy is also the one that loves the medium most. The Adult Swim hit is an adoring mashup of '90s-era family sitcoms and today's overplotted high-concept sci-fi dramas. The resulting insanity is filled with all kinds of gleefully weird, hilarious moments. It hit a series high of 1.5 million viewers in the demo, nearly doubling the rating of creator Dan Harmon’s Community on NBC.

Readers' Choice: The Big Bang Theory

Finalist vote tally:
1. The Big Bang Theory (CBS): 42.9%
2. Rick and Morty (Adult Swim): 17.6%
3. Louie (FX): 13.4%


Hottest Drama/Thriller

Our Choice: True Detective

HBO’s amazing murder mystery dominated chatter from The New Yorker to Reddit. Cooler-than-thou performances from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson under the assured direction of Cary Fukunaga made it a monster hit, while creator Nic Pizzolatto’s devotion to local color gave the whole thing a Southern-fried Twin Peaks flair that sucked in more viewers than the net’s streaming servers could handle. The finale attracted 3.5 million viewers.

Readers' Choice, Thriller: Hannibal

Finalist vote tally:
1. Hannibal (NBC): 59.5% 
2. The Walking Dead (AMC): 23.0% 
3. Penny Dreadful (Showtime): 5.9%

Readers' Choice, Drama: Orange Is the New Black

Finalist vote tally:
1. Orange Is the new Black (Netflix): 32.4%
2. Game of Thrones (HBO): 27.1%
3. Doctor Who (BBC America): 13.5%


Hottest Reality or Competition Series

Our Choice: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

When we talked to Bourdain after this show was green-lit, he told us he was “a Conrad obsessive.” We didn’t expect he’d actually go to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and do a Joseph Conrad-themed cooking show. Bourdain, a former honorary Clio Award winner, takes his food seriously, and as CNN’s content evolves, this series proves how good nonfiction entertainment can be, even on a news network.

Readers' Choice: RuPaul's Drag Race 

Finalist vote tally:
1. RuPaul's Drag Race (Logo): 39.8%
2. The Voice (NBC): 21.9%
3. American Ninja Warrior (NBC): 13.7%


Hottest Show on Social Media

Our Choice: Pretty Little Liars

#IsEzraAlive? If you know what that means, then you’re a fan (or the parent of a fan) of ABC Family’s soapy teen mystery Pretty Little Liars, not only one of the most popular shows in the 12-34 demo but also on social media among all TV fare. An average 4.8 million viewers chat about every episode’s twists and turns.

Readers' Choice: Game of Thrones

Finalist vote tally:
1. Game of Thrones (HBO): 38.5%
2. American Horror Story (FX): 26.2%
3. Cosmos (Fox): 12.1%


Hottest Late Night Host

Our Choice: John Oliver, Last Week Tonight

John Oliver seemed a shoo-in to replace whoever left Comedy Central first (it turned out to be Stephen Colbert). But HBO surprised everyone by snapping up the comic for a weekly half-hour show. With no advertisers to worry about pissing off, Oliver gleefully pounces on everyone from General Motors to FIFA with abandon. The result is music to our ears, eyes and brain.

Readers' Choice: Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show

Finalist vote tally:
1. Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show (NBC): 43.5%
2. Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report (Comedy Central): 15.0%
3. Craig Ferguson, The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson (CBS): 10.2%


Hottest Network in Prime Time

Our Choice: HBO

The pay cable juggernaut is stronger than ever due to daring programming like Last Week Tonight and True Detective. But its corporate strategy is second to none. While other nets struggle to preserve ad-delivery metrics through authentication and wars of attrition with streaming providers, ad-free HBO is teeing up a new streaming service on top of HBO Go. Revenue rose 10 percent last quarter to a staggering $1.3 billion.

Readers' Choice: NBC

Finalist vote tally:
1. NBC: 34.4%
2. Fox: 23.2%
3. ABC: 22.8%


Hottest News Network

Our Choice: CNN

The original cable news net is in the throes of a reinvention under Jeff Zucker. One-man cameraman/producers and professional documentarians shoot segments for a huge library of video, while hosts like Mike Rowe and Anthony Bourdain dominate prime time. It’s controversial, but CNN has always been something of an ongoing experiment—while at its rivals, it's the same old news.

Readers' Choice: CNN

Finalist vote tally:
1. CNN: 27.7%
2. The Weather Cannel: 18.7%
3.Fox News: 18.6%


Hottest Network for Drama

Our Choice: BBC America

BBC America has punched above its weight for years—Doctor Who, Orphan Black, Luther and new series The Game—but it’s only now getting the recognition it deserves. With former Sundance Channel head Sarah Barnett now running the show, its appetite for drama is likely to get larger and even more ambitious. Barnett’s tenure at Sundance is notable for her championing some of the most impressive dramatic TV on the market (Top of the Lake, Rectify). She and the Beeb’s American arm seem a match made in programming heaven.

Readers' Choice: HBO

Finalist vote tally:
1. HBO: 31.1%
2. AMC: 31.0%
3. BBC America: 12.2%


Hottest Network for Sports

Our Choice: ESPN

Cable is in trouble—programming costs, consolidation, even the long-term stability of the entire business model. Not at ESPN. It’s valued at a whopping $50.8 billion—some 15 times that of its broadcast sibling, ABC. Sports scandals have put some scrutiny on the net’s reportage, but there’s no denying it’s the most successful entity in basic cable, closing in on $6 per subscriber.

Readers' Choice: ESPN

Finalist vote tally:
1. ESPN: 47.9%
2. Golf Channel: 23.7%
3. Fox: 10.6%


Hottest Family Network

Our Choice: ABC Family

ABC Family doesn’t get a lot of media attention, but it should. Its slate of tween-friendly dramas include some of TV’s most interesting shows, notably The Fosters, a well-observed series about a group of kids in foster homes, and the unstoppable Pretty Little Liars, still a hit in its fifth season.

Readers' Choice: The Hub

Finalist vote tally:
1. The Hub: 28.4%
2. ABC Family: 26.9%
3. Disney Channel: 18.5%


Hottest Kids Show

Our Choice: Adventure Time

Part SpongeBob SquarePants, part Game of Thrones, Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time is a deceptively simple-looking cartoon about a boy and his dog’s adventures in a fantasy world called Ooo. One of the most complex and coolest shows on TV, it’s also a merchandising hit, contributing handily to Time Warner’s bottom line.

Readers' Choice: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

Finalist vote tally:
1. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (The Hub): 64.6%
2. Reading Rainbow: 18.2%
3. Gravity Falls (Disney XD): 8.9%


Hottest Import

Our Choice: Attack on Titan

One of the best, most disturbing shows on TV is this half-hour anime drama from Japan (but airing on Adult Swim) about the villagers in a small town growing ever smaller as horrifying giants stomp through their protective walls and eat them. It sounds like a fairy tale, but it plays like The Walking Dead, with plot twists galore and a rich cast of heroes and villains who will haunt your dreams.

Readers' Choice: Lost Girl

Finalist vote tally:
1. Lost Girl (Syfy): 60.8%
2. Doctor Who (BBC America): 14.6%
3. Mushi-Shi (Crunchyroll): 7.1%


Hottest Movie or Miniseries

Our Choice: The Normal Heart

Larry Kramer’s four-hour play from the '80s about the AIDS crisis sounds on paper like a dated, bloated monster. But with American Horror Story co-creator Ryan Murphy directing an all-star cast including Mark Ruffalo, Jim Parsons and Taylor Kitsch, the tearjerker proved a critical smash for HBO, snagging the Emmy for best movie.

Readers' Choice: Attack on Titan

Finalist vote tally:
1.Attack on Titan (Adult Swim): 30.3%
2.The Day of the Doctor (BBC America): 24.0%
3.Sharknado 2: The Second One (Syfy): 16.8%


The 2014 Hot List Winners

View the rest of the 2014 Hot List winners here:
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