Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Favourite Television of 2013

2013 was an awesome year for television. I'm not even going to bother with the givens like Mad Men, Parks and Recreation, Breaking Bad, and so on. I could go on about those forever.

Old Favourites

The Killing
Oh dear. It all fell apart in the end, didn't it? I already had my rant about the last episode (warning, spoilers ahoy), but up until then, Season 3 was excellent. Although I was a big fan of the first two seasons, I did feel that there were faults, and this season showed they had learned some lessons from those. The break out character was of course Bullet, the tomboy streetkid who strikes up an uneasy friendship with Holder. Their relationship was gold, and their chemistry amazing. If only that final episode never happened. *sigh*

Hayden Panattiere is SLAYING in this show. Seriously - why is she not raking in awards? She is so under-rated it's ridiculous. This is still the glitzy, mildly trashy soapy drama that it was in the first season, though they have moved away from the slightly boring political subplot and concentrated more on the more fun conflicts of music industry shenanigans. They have also done a really great job of fleshing out previously one-note characters (Juliette, Avery), and turning them into complex people you can care about. The songs are amazing - there is a wealth of songwriting talent involved in this show, and if you have the slightest liking for country music, the show is worth watching for the music alone.

Bob's Burgers
This is the funniest show on TV - no question. I laugh myself stupid through every episode, and this year was no different. Linda Belcher is my spirit animal. "Mommy doesn't get drunk, she just has fun!"

Boardwalk Empire
At the time of the season finale I wanted to write a long, heartfelt blog post about it, but I was just too emotional. I am not even kidding. I had the same feeling afterwards as having been dumped - my heart literally hurt and I kept tearing up spontaneously for a day or two after. It was devastating, but it was also a brilliant end to a brilliant season. I know a lot of people moan about this show being slow but those people can suck it. This show is fucking PERFECT.

New Favourites

Bates Motel
This show was so much better than I expected it to be - who could have thought an updated interpretion of Psycho could be anything but an ill-conceived disaster? The crazy double act of Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore is casting gold. The only dull note is some billionaire having bought his daughter a part as the love interest for Norman/Dylan. She is EXECRABLE. I honestly don't think I've ever seen a worse actor on anything, not even Home and Away. The rest of the cast more than make up for her awfulness, though.

Sleepy Hollow
Another show that on paper looked like it would be a hot mess, and the pilot didn't do a whole lot to dispel that. However, Lily and I were willing to give it another go and by about the third episode we were hooked. One of the things television seems to have gotten so right this year is chemistry in casting - the two leads of this show are smoking hot and play off each other beautifully. Unfortunately the Tumblr usual suspects have embraced this show wholeheartedly so no doubt their demented fandom will eventually ruin it for the rest of us, but until then, it's well worth checking out - completely bonkers and loads of fun, with occasional genuinely scary moments.

Orange Is The New Black
I did not shut up about this show for weeks after watching it. I think I heard about it on a podcast, had it in my head to check out sometime, then Ben told me he'd been binge-watching episodes on Netflix and insisted I watch it. Unlike him with my recommendations (The Inbetweeners, It's Always Sunny, Bob's Burgers, The IT Crowd), it didn't take two years and a recommendation from someone else for me to get around to it. I was hooked from the beginning - I don't think the Taylor Schilling character was the most interesting, but certainly not as hateful as many people seem to find her. The rest of the prison inmates were the real stars though, especially Kate Mulgrew, who made me squeal and clap every time she came on screen. The only sour note for me was Laura Prepon, whose dreadful tadpole eyebrows distracted me every time I saw them. I'm glad her character is gone next season - not required.

The Returned
A French drama about a group of people from a small town who suddenly return from the dead. They're not zombies as such, they look and act like normal people and at first don't realise they are dead. I know, it sounds bizarre, but this show is A-MAZ-ING. Awesome cast of people I've never seen before, incredibly evocative music score that keeps you tense and concentrating throughout, and it's super creepy without being schlocky. There were many questions left unanswered, so I'm glad to hear there is going to be a second season.

This was another show I banged on about nonstop for weeks after watching it. On the surface it's a standard British crime drama - young boy in a small town dies, many people under suspicion, other secrets are revealed, etc. etc. But it was so much more than that, not least because of the incredible acting of Olivia Colman as a detective and a friend of the child's family. I don't want to say anything more about it other than if you haven't seen it yet, watch it. NOW.

The Fall
Jamie Dornan is a serial killer - this is not a spoiler, it's revealed in the first few minutes. Gillian Anderson is an English detective seconded to Ireland to investigate the outcome of another crime who realises that said crime might be the work of - guess what - a serial killer. What's creepy is the normality of the killer's life - his wife, his kids, his job. He's one of us. I was so tense watching this I was literally sitting straight up on the edge of my seat most of the time. The heavy Belfast accents are hard going at times, and Gillian Anderson tends to mumble through her teeth, making her even harder to understand than the Irish, but that's a small complaint - it's well worth paying close attention.

My Mad Fat Diary
I don't even remember where I heard about this - I just randomly picked up on it somewhere and decided to check it out. I watched 3 episodes back to back and then made Lily watch it with me from the beginning again. Loosely based on a memoir, it's about a teenage girl with serious mental health issues who just wants to fit in and be normal. It's funnier than you would expect, but also devastatingly heartbreaking. There aren't many adult characters - mainly the main character's mother and her therapist (played by the brillian Ian Hart), but they're both wonderful. It's the kids you really love though - the friends she eventually finds. I loved this so much, and I cannot wait for the new season starting in a few weeks.

Masters of Sex
In a nutshell, it's Mad Men with rude bits. I was very interested to see this because I love period dramas, but I wasn't sure how it would go. Lizzy Caplan - much as I love her - has always struck me as someone very specifically modern. I wasn't sure she would fit in to a show set in the 1950s. I was wrong though, happily - she's brilliant. As is Michael Sheen, and Beau Bridges, and the kid who got all stressed about the vote count in Election. But the shining star who effortlessly steals every single moment she is on screen is Alison Janney, whose portrayal of a middle-aged woman unknowingly married to a gay man is so heartbreaking that I'm choking up a bit now just thinking about it. She deserves every award going for this role - she's just phenomenal.

In The Flesh
This scrapes in as I watched it the weekend before the end of the year. Set in a small English town, it's about the return of former zombies ('partially deceased') after a cure has been found. For some reason I thought it was a comedy, but it's actually incredibly moving and sad. It's not an OMG ZOMBIES show at all - it's a drama that people looking for some brain-eating action might find insufferably slow. I adored it; when Lily came back from holiday with her dad I rewatched it with her and she adored it too. I'd put off watching for ages and as it turns out it's one of my favourite shows of the year.


  1. Enjoyed a lot of these shows too, writing the rest down to binge watch when the kids go back to school.