Such was the abundance of good shows that aired in 2013 – which included the conclusion of my second favorite program of all time – I have an “honorable mentions” list that is nearly as long as my top 10 list, but I wanted to stick to a round ten rather than expand it to (SEO and all that jazz). A side note, I have heard great things about the Netflix show Orange is the New Black and Showtime’s Masters of Sex, but I have not had the opportunity to watch either as yet so they will be absent from my top 10 list.
Top of the Lake: A beautifully directed, compelling show set in New Zealand and starring Elisabeth Moss, I enjoyed Sundance’s first foray into original programming, but it was a little heavy going and when a couple of episodes piled up on the DVR, it felt like something of a chore to get through, rather than the enjoyment that other shows provided.
Veep – Creator Armando Iannucci’s imaginative use of swearing is the highlight of this show, but there is plenty more beyond that, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s hilarious performance as the Vice-President. It also gave me my favorite line of the year: VP Meyer had been consistently telling Jonah – on one of his many visits to the office “on behalf” of the President – to f*ck off, then bates him once more:
Meyer: So let me get something straight, you like to have sex and travel?
Jonah: (Enthusiastically) Yes!
Meyer: (Mouths) So F*CK OFF
Justified – The search for Drew Thompson was not a bad plot, but the best part of Justified is when Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) share screen time, which they just did not do enough of this time around. It continued to provide a thoroughly enjoyable hour of television each week however, but unlike last year, this time it did not crack into my top 10.
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – And in particular, the guest host stint by John Oliver when the main guy was directing a movie over the summer. Oliver is a fantastic comedian and proved himself adept in the big chair, something that has earned him his own show on HBO in 2014 – his writing and correspondent gigs on The Daily Show will be missed.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee – The web series from Jerry Seinfeld was once again fantastically funny and an enjoyable way to spend twenty minutes. All of the guests in season two were hilarious, but the Chris Rock installment was my favorite and I cannot wait for the new episodes to come on, starting on January 2nd.
Arrested Development – The much-anticipated return of Arrested Development finally happened for real in May, when 14 new episodes were released on Netflix to a mixed critical response. While they were not as good as the first two seasons of the show – I thought the third year, when they were focusing a lot on the fact that they were being cancelled, was less funny – the new episodes when considered as a whole were clever, witty and enjoyable, plus they provided closure for all of those who wanted the show to be brought back. Of course, they still might make that movie…
Treme – With non-stop action this year…just kidding, the pace of David Simon’s most recent television show remained slow throughout the five episodes of the final season, but that was part of what was enjoyable about the look at the New Orleans music and culture scenes after Hurricane Katrina hit the city. Despite a shortened run, Simon still took the time to let us enjoy some extended moments, most notably: Davis having a multitude of musicians into the radio station to perform a live version of “Sing Sing Sing”; and the goodbye to Albert Lambreaux from his family and fellow Indians at the start of the finale.
Dexter – I had seen the first half of the final season when they first aired, but then did not have Showtime for a few months and, even though I could now go back and watch the finale, I have not found the will or motivation to do so, such was the poor quality of the last few years of this once great show.
Bates Motel – I am a fan of Hitchcock’s original movie and the A&E series about Norman Bates’ early life sounded much better than it turned out to be.
(Major spoilers for all of the shows listed so do not read on if you do not want the latest seasons ruined)
Top 10 List
10. Hello Ladies
Of all the shows I watched this year, none made me laugh as much as Hello Ladies, the new HBO show by co-creator of The Office, Stephen Merchant. The supporting cast – in particular Nate Torrance – were funny, but it was Merchant’s performance as Stuart Pritchard that was the standout aspect of the show, which borrowed some of the material from his standup tour of the same name. Hello Ladies continues the tradition of The Office and Extras of providing harsh, painfully funny situations – the type of humor that will not always be to everybody’s taste, but makes me crack up – but it does slightly surprise me that out of Merchant and Ricky Gervais, it is the former who made a show like this, while the latter made a bittersweet one about kindness (see number 5).
9. Mad Men
This was the only show that I attempted to do episodic reviews of in 2013 – though I saw the final two episodes late and did not get the opportunity to complete the season recaps – but ultimately Mad Men has shifted to a program that I enjoy watching, but do not think it will ever reach the standard it set in its first few years. Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm with the ending was because I was convinced that this year’s run of episodes was leading up to the death of Megan Draper – who seemed to be drowned out by sirens whenever she spoke – and was disappointed to be wrong (not because I wanted the character out of it, I just thought I had found some hidden clues). Nevertheless, the Bob Benson/Pete Campbell storyline was fantastic, Don Draper’s Hershey pitch was also brilliantly done and Mad Men remained one of the better written and acted shows on television, the only thing it falls down on is by comparison to its own first three seasons. Continue reading