In the dark recesses of the internet, barely functioning humans with (somewhat) crippling addictions to television, film or music are looking for validation in the numerous “Best of the Year” listicles*. Congratulations! You have just discovered another one of these lists. If any (or all) of the following have ever been a part of your inner monologue, you may have come to the right place. (Probably not. Won’t hurt to read on though.)
1) Emily Deschanel, quit ruining Stiles!
2) Can you believe he tried to be all Superman and what not?! Dude, you let your wife die of consumption!!
3) ZOMG! Cricket officiating Bones’ marriage is the cutest thing ever!!
4) No, Lloyd, please don’t be that creepy Grey man.
Some of these shows are no longer on air, and some of the episodes discussed are not from the current season, but were broadcast during 2013 owing to television schedules. I mean, it would be total chaos if a complete season was broadcast Jan-Dec. What would happen to summer shows?! They’d just run in the MIDDLE of a normal running season. Yeah sure, that doesn’t sound like pure anarchy at ALL.
America’s Next Top Model
Competitive reality TV is my favorite kind of reality TV. I’ll be honest – it’s the only kind of reality TV whose existence I acknowledge. It’s entertaining when all the strings the producers have been pulling lead to exactly the kind of “unscripted” drama everybody has been hoping for. ANTM has been a fierce snoozefest for the longest time now, what with Tyra’s attempts to make “viral” videos and coin insane lexicon (that I am proudly fluent in). This year, however, with the addition of hormonal men-children (man-childs?) to the overcrowded, underfed Tyra Suite of no dignity and rock-bottom self-esteem elevated this season from background noise to something I actually looked forward to watching. In particular, watch the episodes where they had to model NAIL ART! The most insane photographer paired with the craziest modelling assignment… pure flawsomeness, I tell ya. Pure flawsomeness! (also, this runway)
I waxed eloquently (let me have my delusions) about how I much I love this show. Strong female characters, immensely quotable dialogue, and choreography I’d watch over and over again. Initially, though, I think it alienated younger audiences by focusing on the developing relationship between Sutton Foster and Kelly Bishop, sidelining the younger actresses for a couple of episodes (probably dictated by budgetary restriction, not lack of vision). But when Bunheads revealed its intent for its overarching storyline (characters thrust into surrogate parenthood), it nailed the mid-season finale’s landing. Where Bunheads excelled was crafting dance sequences that gave the characters an outlet more eloquent than anything even Amy Sherman Palladino could’ve written (and she was clearly well aware of that). Bunheads has now joined the prestigious, though unfortunate, list of classic shows that only lasted one season (like Freaks & Geeks and Wonderfalls), but the TV landscape was just a little bit brighter with Sutton Foster singing and dancing on it.
Southland was another one of those shows that didn’t receive enough of the widespread public adoration that was its due, but for those of us who followed its migration from NBC to TNT (if only for Ryan from The O.C.), it made sure the drama was top-notch. five years is a decent run for any television show, Southland got the opportunity to tell us some of its best cop stories from the surreal and absurd to the frighteningly realistic. The penultimate episode to the series finale had such a volatile, nervous energy about it that I had to walk away from my screen a couple of times. That’s how visceral the show could be at its best.
Switched at Birth
For a while now, the self-proclaimed poster child for holistic representation of misfits (a.k.a Glee) has been the most vocal about doing terrible, themed episodes based on hot-button topics like religion, school shootings and Britney Spears. I don’t think anyone thought Switched at Birth’s ASL-only episode would be remotely as catastrophic as that, but it did make one wary of how well it would land its execution (meaning how intolerably preachy and sanctimonious it could get). All my fears were unfounded because “Uprising” was a great episode. It held on to your attention throughout, the topic didn’t feel exploitative since it mostly just brought into focus the show’s overall theme of belonging (in social groups or just physical surroundings) and the silence was about as powerful a medium as the showrunners thought it would be.
Masters of Sex
A couple of shows (Playboy, PanAm) tried to jump on the 50’s-60’s period drama bandwagon with no success at all, because the characters and stories just weren’t intriguing enough to sustain any interest at all, but that was before Masters of Sex. Martin Sheen and Lizzy Caplan elevate what can, at times, be a meandering plot with their captivating, yet subtle performances as Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson. The show has even kicked up its game with a stellar supporting cast, including Allison Janney as the closeted Provost’s wife exploring her self-worth as a middle-aged woman.
Orange is the New Black
OITNB is probably on everyone’s list of the best TV had to offer in the year 2013, and why shouldn’t it be? It is funny, has one of the most diverse and representative cast lists of any show on air, and it artfully tackles themes of class, race, sexual orientation and gender. Its stand-out feats are many, but highlights include how well they fleshed out the character of Crazy Eyes/Suzanne by the end of the season (beyond her one-note obsession with Piper) and the truth about class-based and racial politics as revealed by Taystee’s return to prison after managing to get out on parole.
Comedy had a pretty lacklustre year, with the highly anticipated return of Arrested Development being a dud, and the best new comedy series haven’t felt the least bit innovative. I mean, “How I Met Your Father” is going to be a real thing FFS, so things aren’t exactly hopeful for next year either. I could’ve just as easily put Louis C.K’s HBO special on this list, but Ansari’s commentary resonated with me more, dictated probably by closeness of age more than anything else.
To be clear, I do believe Breaking Bad and Mad Men deserve to be at the top of every “Best of” and not just for this year. I just don’t think I have anything new to contribute to their brilliance. People far more articulate than I have written about them, so I figured why not talk about the shows that are spoken of very rarely. Honourable mentions include Veep and Game of Thrones. So if I’ve failed to mention a show that has been unjustly missing from all these very subjective lists, I probably haven’t been watching it. So why don’t you make a case for it in the comments section below. Happy Holidays everybody!
*this is a terrible word, let’s never use it again, except to mock it.
Shazia is part bionic, part crazy (parts not mutually exclusive), and would be happy conversing solely in TV quotes, forever hopeful she’ll be one-upped in her obscure TV references. She blogs and microblogs.