Monday, December 16, 2013

2013's Best Television Series and Episodes

1-Breaking Bad (AMC)

breaking bad finale

Where, and how do I start to explain the brilliance of the last season of this show.  Week after week Breaking Bad had a pay off, the emotional heightened sense, proving the shows creator had plotted out each point in the shows history carefully.  Gilligan is a talented man, and anything he does after this show will have a lot to live up to, no pressure, just stating the obvious.  Gilligan wrote and directed the series finale, Felina, but that wasn't even the best episode, sure it was amazing but Gilligan surround himself with a team of regular writer directors throughout the years to create excellent episodes week after week.

Two director who stood out (beyond Gilligan) over the many seasons of the show were Rian Johnson (Looper) and Michelle  MacLaren .  MacLaren directed the most episodes of the show 11, this year her crowning achievement was the first step to the fact paced ended entitled "To hajiilee."  Johnson has directed more film, but he also directed three of the best episodes in the shows history including this seasons "Ozymandias."  On the writing side Gilligan's strongest writers this season was Moira Walley-Becket, who wrote "Ozymandias."  These are just a few names of his creative team who helped make Breaking Bad great over the years.

In the last season everyone had a purpose.  You saw characters like  Hank (Dean Norris), and Marie (Betsy Brandt), become more than window dressing, but key components to the emotional journey.  Everything they did before, minus Marie's shop lifting made sense.  Then you Anna Gunn who was hated, and may still be hated by many, but boy did she make me a believer in that character.  Aaron Paul is the man, he plays Jesse Pinkman with the hidden vulnerability of the little kid lost so well.  Then you have the man himself Walter White aka Heisenberg.  When you have Anthony Hopkins sending you letters about the greatness of your performance you know you are doing something right.

I remember when I first started to watch this show, and thought with every season this can't possibly get any better, but it did year after year.  This is one of, if not the strongest finale season of a television series ever.  The journey was worth it, and they ended at the right time, place, without giving in, best show of the year, too easy. 

2-Behind the Candelabra (HBO)

After his Oscar win for Traffic appreciation for auteur/director Steven Soderbergh went away, for some reason.  Yet he has continued to make some of the most consistent films made, Ocean's Eleven, Side Effects, and many more.  Behind the Candelabra opened at Cannes, and was then show on HBO to rave reviews.  Soderbergh crafted an excellent film, and HBO grabbed the right to this when no film company was brave enough.

While some call the film cold, I think Richard LaGravenese who wrote the script does an excellent job of adapting Scott Thosrson's one sided book, showing the complexity to Liberace as a persona, and the nature of Scott at 18 growing older without gaining maturity.  The film knows these two men well, and is one of the best pieces of television from this past year.  Mix all this with excellent performances, beautiful cinematography, and costumes that capture the opulence, and you almost feel like your in Vegas with Lee himself.

3-The Good Wife (CBS)

Someone said calling this "the best network television series" is a slap to this show, and I agree.  The Good Wife is one of the best shows on television.  Television series are becoming braver, and changing things up to keep their series fresh.  This year Florrick/Agos is at the heart of the continued quality in this show.  The writing from Michelle and Robert King (and team) is some of the best it reminds me of hybrid Gilmore Girls, and The West Wing, there is a quickness, and clever nature.  Mix that with direction from Robert and even star Josh Charles and you have some of the best sequences of the year.

Charles has always been a standout on the show as an actor, but he has sunk his teeth into the material he has been given.  While Charles is a standout this is one of the best, if not the best ensemble on television.  Julianna Margulies is the star as "The Good Wife" but the rest of the cast works together so well.  The Good Wife in its fifth season has only gotten better over the years, something, which rarely happens, except for with the number one and number three of this year.

4-Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

Wow did Netflix launch itself into the television game, well internet television game.  With several shows this year Netflix makes the list twice, and is only bested by HBO who has 3 shows on this list.  Of all the shows they released Orange is the New Black is the most cohesive, and created the strongest binge watching experience.

You start with this privileged white woman, Piper, but then Jenji Kohan and team explore the depth of the other women she is in prison with through their rich back stories, and you get to see the complexity of human nature along with the concept of what happens to prisoners once they leave the system.  While HBO explored the intrinsically dark side of human nature in Oz, Orange is the New Black takes a complex look at women, and what happens to them before and during their stay in prison, while creating fuller richer characters. 

5-Game of Thrones (HBO)

Game of Thrones is a journey, each moment within this show builds as though you are working to an operatic conclusion.  In many seasons you were drawn in by Peter Dinklage who commanded the series.  This season used different characters to create the most compelling stories, from the journey back with Jamie Lannister and Brienne of Tarth to Emilia Clarke as Khaleesi one of the strongest female characters on television on the march to the throne with her dragons. Thrones maintains the intense complicated nature of its story telling, and boy was that the most intense wedding I have ever seen.

6-Veep (HBO)

This year there was no ensemble funnier than Selina Meyer and her team.  Julia Louis-Dreyfuss has knocked it out of the park once again, and this show only got better in its second season.  There were too many laugh out loud moments to count on one hand, but Selina being awkwardly hit on in Helsinki, or running into the glass door, or Selina being doped up and telling Gary she wanted to go to his parents anniversary party, and of course the battle between whether she runs for the Presidency again.  This show has a great ensemble, and was the funniest show of the year.

7-Masters of Sex (Showtime)

The show just ended last evening, and its one of four shows in their first year, which makes the list.  The show follows Masters and Johnson on their road to the discovery of what drives people during sexual intercourse.  The characters build and are some of the most complex this year.  Michael Sheen plays one of the most unlikable anti-heroes on television at the moment, Bill Masters is clinical lacking emotion, but the conviction you see within him and the role is brilliant.  Then there is his partner in crime played by Lizzy Caplan who is just beyond talented, and handles this role fantastically.  No show has explored sex/sexuality in this nature, the show is both brave and one of the best of the year. 

9-House of Cards (Netflix)

Francis "Frank" Underwood aka Kevin Spacey breaks the fourth wall, and fills the audience in on his master plan, with little nuggets of gold.  Beau Willimon who wrote Ides of March has an excellent grasp on modern politics, and the nature of innocence, in this show to some extent that's Peter played by the brilliant Corey Stoll, and the dark beleaguered older politician Frank.  As you watch the the journey of these two different men there is an honestly to the darkness within the nature of politics today, and the way it corrupts the soul of the players within the modern political game on various levels.  The show builds to a frenzied end game, letting the cards fall, showing politics is as flimsy as a "house of cards."

10-Orphan Black (BBC)

Clones, science versus religion, great performances from Tatiana Maslany, and an edge of your seat mystery that only gets better with every episode.  This show is something I stumbled upon because of blogger Michael Ausiello at; he talked up this show for a long time, and I had to tune, and I was not disappointed.  While Maslany carries most of the show on her back, the drama week after week is fantastic, pushing boundaries and bringing science fiction to the forefront in a unique way.

Best Episodes (in No Order)

Breaking Bad-"Ozymandias"
Written by: Moira Walley-Beckett
Directed by: Rian Johnson

The penultimate episode was the best, and most emotional television experience I have ever had, and while its better than the series finale, "Ozymandias" was meant to be the second to last episode.   Picking just one episode from this season is difficult, but this one makes the cut.

The Good Wife "Hitting the Fan"
Written by Michelle and Robert King
Directed by: James Whitmore Jr. 

One of the most intense hours of television this year, I watched with a friend who had never seen the show before, and he said you just added a new show to my list.  This episode was perfection, and has set this show, and its characters on an interesting new course.

Parks and Recreation "Leslie and Ben"
Written by: Michael Schur and Alan Yang
Directed by: Craig Zisk

All I have to say is "I love you and I like you," truer words have never been spoken, and the wedding of Ben and Leslie was one of the best, most heartfelt moments in television.

Game of Thrones-"The Rains of Castamere"
Written by:David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
Directed by: David Nutter 

The reactions of fans through video all over the internet are proof that this episode along with the last few minutes were some of the most shocking in television history, unless you have read the books.  "The Red Wedding" as it is known was a jaw dropper, making this one of the most memorable episodes of the year.  The clip has massive amounts of spoilers.

The Office "Finale"
Written by: Greg Daniels
Directed by: Ken Kwapis

The show should have ended when Steve Carell left, but this finale was one of the most emotional I have ever ever seen, as a fan it made me laugh, cry, and feel the sense of closure you need when a show ends.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Khaleesi!!! DO I HAVE TO WRITE GAME OF THRONES REVIEWS FOR YOU TOO?! ;) and there might be another tense wedding coming up for those crazy Westerosi … dun dun dun