Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Best of TV 2013

Honorable Mentions:
The Amazing Race - for being a beautiful reality show the whole family can watch
Boardwalk Empire - for production design, Michael Shannon and Jack Huston
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - for still being worth watching
Hell on Wheels - for Christopher Heyerdahl's creepy Swede
The Killing - for Joel Kinnaman and Peter Saarsgard
The Office - for a fitting series finale
Project Runway - for Heidi & Tim, who know how to keep this franchise afloat
The Simpsons - for being funny again after a decade or so of not
Survivor - new twists are keeping it fresh
True Blood - for its continuous wild weirdness

==The Second Best Ten==

AMERICAN HORROR STORY (FX) - Each season takes the actors and gives them new characters in a new setting. It means each year no one is safe, but we still know we'll get most of them back anyway. Coven has seen the addition of Angela Bassett and Kathy Bates, and hopefully they'll stick around for future installments.

THE BIG BANG THEORY (CBS) - Still funny, especially the girls.

THE BRIDGE (FX) - Diane Kruger gave a very interesting performance as an El Paso detective with Asperger's. It felt too mannered at first but it grew on me. Meanwhile Damian Bechir gave a heart-breaking performance as a Juarez cop who's just tired of how corrupt the system is. I liked the supporting turns by Annabeth Gish (Brotherhood) as a widow who can't get away from her late husband's illegal activities so she decides to make them work for her, and Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo) as a scuzzy reporter.

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE (FOX) - Andy Samberg's found the perfect vehicle for his talents, and the show is already a fully-realized ensemble of seven.

GETTING ON (HBO) - Remember how biting the humor was on BBC's The Office?  The Americanization of this import hasn't lost any of its sting, as basically good-hearted nurses have to deal with insecure managers and egotistical doctors. I like that it doesn't feature a star, but just an ensemble of really good vets (Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein, Niecy Nash). Ten times funnier than Girls.

MAD MEN (AMC) - Last season was kind of slow, which in a way makes me glad they're winding down.  The final season will be two eight-episode chunks that'll play a year apart, which is AMC's way of admitting they don't have a lot of quality series on the docket right now. I keep rooting for Sal to pop up, and for Joanie to find happiness.

MODERN FAMILY (ABC) - It hasn't been the most even show of late, but when it's inspired it's good. I love the episode when Phil pulls a Godfather and helps Luke get revenge on his enemies.

KEY & PEELE (COM) - Every once in a while I'll watch it and there's usually at least one good sketch.

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (Netflix) - This dramedy about lost souls stuck in prison is quite moving. It's also one that makes me anxious, since I'm rooting for Piper to just finish her time and get out, but the only way for the series to keep going is to slow down the time it covers, or have her get framed for things to have time added to her sentence.

PARKS & RECREATION (NBC) - It's never been a ratings hit but this live-action Simpsons is still as good as it's ever been. Someone give Amy Poehler an Emmy already!

And now my

==Top Ten==

10.  BATES MOTEL (A&E) - Surprisingly good prequel to Psycho, about when teenage Norman Bates and his mother first moved into the motel. Turns out their town is full of Twin Peaksian secrets, and Norman's already showing signs of insanity. But he's still a good boy; he wouldn't hurt anyone, would he?

9.  VEEP (HBO) - Terrific DC satire with Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the vain vice-president with higher aspirations who keeps getting stuck with meaningless diplomatic missions, all while undermined by her ambitious or incompetant staff.

8.  THE AMERICANS (FX) - It's 1981, and Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are "the good guys", undercover Russian agents who've assimilated into the US for several years and are in a position to provide intelligence during the Cold War.  But the longer they've lived in America, the more fondness they have for the people, and the more worried they are about their children, who think their parents are normal American travel agents.

7.  DOWNTON ABBEY (PBS) - The upstairs/downstairs drama remains in good form, as fortunes crumble, favorite characters die, and the family finds a way to carry on.

6.  JUSTIFIED (FX) - It comes out early in the year; maybe that's why it keep getting overlooked come award-time, but it's just as good now as ever. The dialogue just dances off the tongues of Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins, Nick Searcy, etc.

5. HOUSE OF CARDS (Netflix) - Netflix used their own research with numbers to figure a remake of the British miniseries starring Kevin Spacey and produced by David Fincher would be successful in attracting viewers.  Yes, but it still has to be good.  Well, it was.

4.  THE GOOD WIFE (CBS) - Best season yet, as Alicia and Cary have broken from Lockhart/Gardner, and now former allies are bitter enemies, yet it's done in a way where we want both sides to win. Will Gardner hasn't really changed his ways but when he's throwing his arsenal against Alicia, we see just how few scruples he actually has left.

3.  THE WALKING DEAD (AMC) - This year we got the second half of season 3 and the first half of season 4.  Woodbury vs. The Prison culminated in ultimate tragedy as several regulars were killed, and then the midseason finale saw The Governor return to reap some final devastation. Now the prison's gone, and the survivors are separated into several different groups. Can't wait for more.

2.  GAME OF THRONES (HBO) - Nice day for a Red Wedding. Dany continues to build her army across the ocean while the houses of Westeros thin each other's ranks. The previously unredeemably evil Jamie revealed he actually does have a soul, and the show continues to be a study of politics and power, with some magic stuff sprinkled around the edges. Fantastic jobs by the usual (Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke) but also Charles Dance as Tywin, Jack Gleeson as Joffrey, and Michelle Fairlay as Catelyn, who made the RW particularly heart-breaking.

1.  BREAKING BAD (AMC) - The empire that Walt built collapsed in devastating fashion in the Ozymandias episode, and in the end, karma paid back everyone. This will go down as one of the greatest shows in the history of television. Put it right next to The Sopranos or anything else. A masterpiece.

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