Thursday, December 12, 2013

YEAR IN REVIEW: What were the best television shows of the year?

To say the new television season has been disappointing would be an understatement.

The truth is, I’ve only stuck with one new television show this year: Being Human. The show isn’t the best, but I like both leads and I’m still intrigued. That’s all I can say about it.

In truth, this year’s crop of television shows has been all over the place. Even the best shows have had astounding highs and unbelievable lows.

So, what were the year’s best television shows?

10. Game of Thrones: The cast is getting more streamlined, but that doesn’t mean that this show
doesn’t feel like it’s stretched too thin at times. Peter Dinklage still steals the show as Tyrion, but the ensemble cast (for the most part) steps up admirably to give him a hand. There are still a few acting missteps here – Emilia Clarke and Kit Harrington, most notably – but this show is so grand and so emotionally riveting that viewers can’t turn away. Then, when you add in the Red Wedding? Yeah, things are about to get bloody kids.

9. Bates Motel: As viewers, it’s hard to know how this story is going to end and still invest in the characters. Vera Farmiga as Mrs. Bates and Freddy Highmore as Norman Bates make it hard to resist getting attached, though. The show is set in the modern day – which creates a quirky conundrum for viewers – but if they allow themselves to embrace the differences, viewers can’t help but fall in love with the new product. The ensemble cast, including the mesmerizing Max Thieriot, anchor the show to a fantastic and heavy realism that leaves viewers pondering bigger questions once the episode is over. You can’t ask for much more.

8. Hannibal: Who would have thought that a show about a murderous cannibal would be one of the
most nuanced programs to hit the airwaves in recent years? That’s exactly what you get with Hannibal, based on the beloved Silence of the Lambs movie (and novel). Mads Mikkelsen mesmerizes as the sociopathic Hannibal Lecter, a psychologist that likes to play with his food (so to speak). It’s Hugh Dancy, though, that proves to be the real heart of the show. Viewers know they shouldn’t invest in Dancy’s Will Graham. The performance, though, that makes it virtually impossible not to do just that.

7. Homeland: This show has some of the best performers on television, but the plots are starting to get more and more ridiculous. Claire Danes is such a commanding force that viewers want to like her – even though she often vacillates so wildly on screen you’re likely to be left with whiplash. There are a lot of avenues to investigate in Homeland. Let’s hope the show runners get back on solid footing before they tackle another season. Otherwise? Viewers are probably going to start turning on the show.

6. The Americans: This could have gone either way. A spy thriller set in the 1980s – where we’re
supposed to root for Russian spies infiltrating the U.S. – could have been a no-win scenario. The espionage is definitely at the forefront of this story, but it’s the crossroads of a marriage that is what draws viewers in. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell have sizzling chemistry as a couple that were forced to marry for their jobs and now find themselves actually falling for each other. The action is harsh and often uncomfortable, but there are also entertaining bits – usually dealing with the kids. It was one of the few shows last year that actually had some lasting impact.

5. Sons of Anarchy: This isn’t a pretty show. It’s not filled with beautiful people and happy endings. Okay, some of the people are beautiful. None of the endings are ever happy, though. This season, the show took on some uncomfortable tones – including the ever-polarizing debate on gun control. These are bikers with a conscience – kind of. The season finale also saw hero Jax do the right thing for his children – even though it meant hurting himself. Of course, his evil mother wasn’t going to let that happen so her murderous instinct took over – and it claimed an original cast member in the process. Jax getting a happy ending was probably never going to happen – but the death at the end of this most recent season essentially guarantees that can’t happen. That’s a gutsy show.

4. Justified: This show doesn’t get any of the love it so richly deserves. Timothy Olyphant and
Walton Goggins are two of the most charismatic performers on television. They both command the screen alone, so when they’re together, you can imagine the fireworks. Season four of Justified saw a lot of different changes. Raylan is struggling with being a father – even though the child won’t be part of his everyday life. Boyd has decided that he’s not even going to pretend he’s not a bad guy anymore. And Ava? She’s in a lot of trouble right now, but I’m sure Boyd is going to figure out a way to get her out of it. Besides the characters, the location of Harlan County itself is a major player in the series. There’s a gritty realism to the show that can’t be denied. It’s simply fantastic.

3. Big Bang Theory: There aren’t a lot of comedies on television that actually make you laugh. Is there anyone that still watches Two and a Half Men and still finds it funny? How about How I Met Your Mother? The Big Bang Theory, though, is different. While the show started out with a limited scope, the years have been kind – and creative. Penny is no longer the only female. With the additions of Bernadette and Amy, the Big Bang Theory has hit a hilarious stride that is about more than Sheldon’s social anxiety and Leonard’s longing for normalcy. This is a show about picking your family through your friends – and then sticking with them no matter what.

2. Breaking Bad: What a way to go. This show has been one of the best acted and plotted shows out there since it was introduced. What the writers, actors and production people managed to put out there for the finale was nothing short of greatness. When a show gives you a hero that’s a murderer and drug dealer and asks you to root for him – that’s a tall order. The fact that Breaking Bad gave you a couple of characters that did terrible things – and yet  you still rooted for them – says a lot about the strength of the writing and the acting. This is one show that went out with a bang (literally) and still had creative juice inside of it.

1. The Walking Dead: This show might have moved further down the list if it hadn’t been for that stellar mid-season finale that (finally) ended the prison arc. This show is spectacularly written, acted and produced, but there are times when it lags. There was a big gap of time spent on the farm in season two that seemed to drag on forever. While the season three finale ended with an uplifting bent, the season four premiere knocked all that hope down to the ground. What’s interesting about The Walking Dead is that it’s a monster show that showcases the human emotion. With the death of the Governor and (sniff) Hershel, and our beloved survivors currently scattered to the wind, the second half of the fourth seasons promises a lot of drama and (I’m sure) more death.

Honorable mentions go to:

Girls: A lot of people complain about this show because they say it’s crass. Quite frankly, it seems a
little too true to life for some people – so they disregard it. It’s hilarious and spot-on at times and uncomfortable at others, just like real life.

Supernatural: This show has had its ups and downs – peaking with the season five finale. Season six was terrible. Seasons seven and eight were fairly forced. Maybe that’s why it’s such a surprise that season nine is so strong. Way to rebound Winchesters.

Downton Abbey: The first two seasons of this show deserved top spots on any season list. Unfortunately, season three was a little muddled and a little forced. Hopefully the show will rebound with season four.

American Horror Story: Coven: Creator Ryan Murphy is known for starting out strong and then throwing everything at the wall to ruin his creation. He’s done it with every single show he’s run. So far, season three of his horror anthology is creative and entertaining. Unfortunately, he still has time to ruin it – which he probably will.

The Killing: The third season was the best season right up until the end, when it turned into the movie Seven. Still, the acting is top-notch and the mystery was gripping.

Parenthood: This is one of the few shows on network television that isn’t a mess. The acting is great, the stories are compelling and the family dynamic is spot on.

What do you think? What were the best television shows of the year?


Blogger Josi Bunder said...

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December 23, 2013 at 1:28 AM 

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