10 Best TV Shows of 2013
by Julian Spivey
10. “Doctor Who”
The second half of the most recent “Doctor Who” season, the part that aired in 2013, was frankly one of the weakest segments of the series since its reboot in 2005. The eight episodes of the season and the Christmas special (which doubled as Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith’s farewell) didn’t live up to expectations, but the show’s 50th anniversary special in November which featured Smith, David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor and John Hurt as “The War Doctor” was so epic that it makes it necessary to have the series on my top 10 list of the year in television. Seeing Smith and Tennant together was a dream come true for this Whovian and the addition of the supremely talented Hurt didn’t well, hurt, either. The “The Day of The Doctor” special also greatly impacts the future of the series going forward by righting the Doctor’s biggest wrong. This special was the definition of appointment television.
9. “How I Met Your Mother”
Many fans of “How I Met Your Mother” don’t seem pleased by the long-running CBS sitcom’s final season, judging by online chatter and fan reviews, but you can count me as one of those really digging the farewell season. The problem many fans have with it is that the entire season is being told over the span of one weekend, the weekend of Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) and Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) wedding and the weekend Ted (Josh Radnor) finally meets The Mother (Cristin Milioti). Some think the writers have been forced to include too much filler with the storyline taking place over one weekend, but I think they’ve done a remarkable job at making the story of this magical weekend interesting. The highlight of the season thus far have been the all too brief moments between Ted and The Mother, shown in flash forwards, which leaves me excited for the second half of the season to see the two spend more time together.
The character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs” may likely be my favorite character in the history of film, so when I heard that Bryan Fuller was adapting the character to a television series it immediately piqued my interest. The show may take Hannibal’s name, but “Hannibal” is perhaps more interesting for Hugh Dancy’s spectacular turn as FBI Special Agent Will Graham, who’s trying to track the mysterious “Minnesota Shrike” serial killer while battling something that’s similar to Asperger’s Syndrome. Dancy should’ve gotten more awards consideration for his fantastic portrayal. Of course, “Hannibal” wouldn’t be all too successful without a great portrayal of the titular character and Mads Mikkelsen is effortless in his portrayal of serene snobbery mixed with vicious imagination. The companionship between Graham and Lecter is something that truly brings the viewers back for more every week. “Hannibal” is also one of the most visually stunning and beautifully photographed series on all of television.
I watch an excessive amount of crime dramas and sometimes the procedural-ness of the genre can get a little bit boring or typical. This is why BBC America’s “Broadchurch” was such a breath of fresh air in 2013. The British import featuring David Tennant as a tortured police detective and Olivia Colman, as his at first disgruntled partner, featured one of the best and most tightly knit storylines of any show in 2013 and kept viewers guessing who the “who” in the whodunit was until the very end. Tennant and Colman also made for one of the best acted duos on television this year giving terrific performances that are worthy of Emmy nominations when the time rolls around.
6. “The Mindy Project”
Fox’s “The Mindy Project” is the funniest and best sitcom currently on television; it’s also the least watched sitcom on network television, which unfortunately makes its cancellation imminent (meaning you should start watching it live every Tuesday evening at 8:30, so it might have a shot at survival). The show revolves around Mindy Kaling’s Dr. Mindy Lahiri and her co-workers at the Shulman & Associates’ OB/GYN clinic. Dr. Lahiri, as created, written and portrayed by Kaling, is one of the most fully realized female characters on television and Kaling’s “do-it-all” talent is on par with that of the great Tina Fey’s days on “30 Rock.” The “will-they-or-won’t-they” relationship between Dr. Lahiri and Dr. Danny Castellano, the brilliant Chris Messina, is also the best of its kind currently on any sitcom on television.
Keith Olbermann’s glorious return to ESPN this fall with his nightly show named after himself is the sports show I’ve been waiting on for many years and honestly never really knew it. But, the first time I watched the series I was shocked by just how awesomely witty and informational it turned out to be and surprisingly it continues to be so every single night. The highlight of “Olbermann,” truly the thinking fan’s show, is the opening monologue each night where Olbermann tackles the biggest sports stories of the day or simply just interesting topics that he feels the need to shine a light upon. The rest of the show is filled with entertaining highlights of the night’s action, nobody calls highlights like Olbermann, and fun segments like “The Worst Persons in the Sport’s World.” Olbermann frequently touches upon sports topics that are never given thought or time on ESPN’s body of networks (or any other sports network for that matter), but often should be. “Olbermann” is essentially the way sports broadcast journalism should be done.
In its fifth season on television (and quite possibly its last due to unfortunate low ratings) you know what you’re going to get from NBC’s family drama “Parenthood.” The show has been the most reliable on television remaining faithful to its incredibly realistic storylines and portrayals of family. The show, created and run by Jason Katims, Emmy winning writer and producer of “Friday Night Lights (which shares its realistic tone with “Parenthood”), is often heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time and includes the most naturalistic performances from its amazingly talented cast on any television show since “Friday Night Lights.” “Parenthood” simply captures real life like no other show currently on network television.
3. “Orange is the New Black”
“House of Cards” may have been the more critically acclaimed (although barely) of the Netflix original series that debuted in 2013, but “Orange is the New Black,” is the one that seemingly had the biggest impact on American fans. The based on a true story dramedy of a woman’s stint in a women’s prison featured some of the most delicious performances of the year by an incredibly talented and mostly previously unknown cast. There isn’t a single character in this entire series that isn’t likable, even the ones that would be the furthest from likable in real life (I’m looking at you Pornstache). The series follows popular, hipster-ish Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) who’s being sentenced to time in a women’s prison for transgressions in her young, lesbian days. What she finds in the prison is an entirely new world that she’s not used too nor ever knew existed, a frightening prospect at first, but one she warms up to quite well as the season rolls along. Chapman’s immersion into this world and all of the immensely unique characters that inhabit it makes this series one of 2013’s most fascinating shows and one that you’ll have a seriously hard time not bingewatching completely over a day or two.
ABC’s “Scandal,” which I hadn’t seen live in its first two seasons, but bingewatched thanks to Netflix before the start of its third season this fall is probably television’s most addictive show. The majority of characters on this series truly are a trainwreck, but prove to be one that you not only can’t help but look away from, but also root for to continue. “Scandal” is a show that revolves around Kerry Washington’s good guy at all costs Olivia Pope, who’s surrounded herself with essentially an entire cast of killers, some of which she’s friendly or even in love with. This makes for a uniquely interesting show in which you know many of these people are flawed, if not horrible individuals, but you just can’t get enough of it. The storylines developed and written by showrunner Shonda Rhimes and crew are so intertwined with fantastic secrets and twists that as soon as one episode comes to an end you simply cannot wait for the next.
by Julian Spivey
Just when you think that there was no way possible for “Saturday Night Live” to add another classic Christmas sketch to its already long list of classic Christmas sketches they surprise you.
Host and former ‘SNL’ cast member Jimmy Fallon and breakout ‘SNL’ star Cecily Strong turned in one of the all-time ‘SNL’ Christmas greats with their unique and hilarious take on the great Christmas classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” on this past Saturday night’s (Dec. 21) episode.
When the duo began the performance of the timeless song I figured it was going to be a sketch about how potentially rapey the song sounds, but they surprised me by turning it into a version your typical “hit-it-and-quit-it” male would sing after getting what it is he wanted.
Fallon and Strong are both at the top of their comedic game here. The urgency he shows trying to get her to stay at first and then later leave really is hilariously spot-on, as is her clichéd clinginess after the fact.
You could tell the duo was really having a ball with this sketch, which added to the classic-ness of the whole thing, and I’m frankly surprised that Fallon, notorious for cracking up in the middle of sketches, was able to keep his comedy cool on this one.
Among the best lines of the parody performance are Fallon’s “I said a lot of things” and especially “can you take the trash when you go?” Then the whole thing goes from incredibly funny to charmingly cute in its finale making it truly the perfect holiday sketch.
The look on Fallon and Strong’s faces and the warm embrace the two shared just after the sketch before the show went to commercial was a little added bonus, because you could tell how much they truly enjoyed it, almost as much as we enjoyed watching it.
Kudos to whichever ‘SNL’ writer, I wonder if Fallon had anything to do with it, came up with this terrific idea for a sketch, one I’m sure we’ll be seeing for many years to come on ‘SNL: Best of Christmas’ specials.
10 Best TV Characters of 2013
by Julian Spivey
I debuted my yearly 10 Best TV Characters of the Year list last year with Jeff Daniels’ Will McAvoy on HBO’s drama “The Newsroom” taking the top spot. Despite there being multiple characters from my 2012 list that could’ve easily made a repeat appearance this year I’ve opted to go with a completely new list of 10 interesting and well-acted characters.
10. Scarlett O’Connor (Nashville)
There are probably better characters on ABC’s soapy drama “Nashville” – the bratty diva Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) or my personal favorite Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) – but lately Clare Bowen’s performance as the shy little flower of a girl Scarlett O’Connor has been one of the highlights of the show, especially in its second season. O’Connor, seems like a character that might annoy a good many people, but something about her shyness, mixed with her lovable, occasional feistyness and that angelic voice of her character make her one of television’s best characters of 2013. Though, that pouty, childish reaction recently to her finding out about the Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Zoey (Chaley Rose) relationship was almost enough to kick her off of this list.
9. Piper Chapman (Orange is the New Black)
I’ve seen many critics lauding Netflix’s original series “Orange is the New Black” with the caveat that its main character Piper Chapman, played by Taylor Schilling, may actually be the show’s weakest character. I couldn’t disagree more. Any character that goes from scaredy cat hipster to a one-of-the-girls badass who beats the hell out of that ignorant, racist Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) in just a 13 episode span is a character that I find supremely interesting. Sure, I could have easily replaced Chapman with Kate Mulgrew’s fantastic Russian cook and mother figure Red Reznikof, or Pablo Schreiber’s creepily sadistic prison guard Pornstache or even the every screw loose Crazy Eyes, played by Uzo Aduba, but Chapman’s transference from better than thou odd duck to “I am no different from anybody else in here” is the heart of the show to me.
8. Huck (Scandal)
I said recently after an episode in which Huck tortures his friend and co-worker Quinn (Katie Lowes) that the character played terrifically by Guillermo Diaz on the ABC drama “Scandal” is the scariest character on television, and this is a guy who’s basically a good guy. Huck may indeed be one of the “white hats” of “Scandal,” but his love of torturing and killing people and his desire to do whatever it takes to please Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope and keep her safe makes him one of the most interesting characters on all of television. Huck’s struggle between good and evil is one of the true highlights of a show in which almost all of its characters struggle with similar issues.
7. Ichabod Crane (Sleepy Hollow)
I thought the idea of Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” series was laughable coming into the 2013 fall TV season, but boy was I wrong. The series has turned into quite possibly the best new drama of the fall season (it’s only real competition is NBC’s “The Blacklist”) with its fun, often good campy storylines, perfect chemistry between its leads and science fiction-styled revisionist history. A big part of the success of “Sleepy Hollow” is that of Tom Mison’s breakthrough role as Ichabod Crane, a Revolutionary War soldier for the patriots who is brought back to life in modern times, along with the Headless Horseman, who’s head Ichabod lopped off during the war, via a spell put upon him by his wife, secretly a witch, Katrina (Katia Winter). Mison’s chemistry with Nicole Beharie, who plays his partner, police lieutenant Abbie Mills, is impeccable and Crane’s constant struggles with the changes of a world 230-plus years after his time are, almost a full season in, still entertaining and hilarious to watch.
6. Hank Rizzoli (Parenthood)
Ray Romano’s acting growth from “Everybody Loves Raymond” (not a knock on that hilarious show) to “Parenthood” via TNT’s underrated and sadly short-lived “Men of a Certain Age” is one of the most marvelous things I’ve ever seen. Romano has proven to be one of the most naturalistic actors on television with his performance of the grumpy, but extremely lovable, single, middle aged photographer Hank Rizzoli on the NBC family drama “Parenthood.” Rizzoli started out as a love interest to Lauren Graham’s Sarah Braverman (my favorite of her love interests), which I was sad to see come to an end, and has transferred to a mentor and friend of sorts to Max (Max Burkholder), the Asperger’s diagnosed son of Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina (Monica Potter) Braverman. Romano’s brief scenes as Hank on the series are truly Emmy-worthy.
5. Mitchell Pritchett (Modern Family)
I always feel that Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s performance as Mitchell Pritchett on ABC’s highly popular sitcom “Modern Family” is underrated or too forgotten by the show’s fans, critics and award shows alike. Ferguson’s portrayal of the sarcastically witty Mitchell has turned into my favorite performance on the series, and unlike some of the other performances (Phil’s constant loopyness, Cam’s melodramatics, Claire’s bitchiness) it never seems to get old for me. But, while Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen have all received Emmys for their respective performances, Ferguson has always been shut out. It’s high time we give some praise to Ferguson’s supremely snarky performance at Mitchell Pritchett.
4. Cyrus Beene (Scandal)
How has Jeff Perry not received an Emmy nomination for the maniacal, do-gooder by any evil means necessary chief of staff Cyrus Beene on ABC’s “Scandal”? Beene is one of the best characters on television thanks to Perry’s indelible performance and show creator Shonda Rimes’ and the show’s great writing staff’s words, often giving Beene these wonderfully epic monologues and rants to recite. I don’t think anybody is doing a better job on television of portraying anger and conniving viciousness as Perry is doing as Cyrus. I said earlier that fellow “Scandal” character Huck is the scariest character on television, but Cyrus Beene might just be a close second.
3. Don Keefer (The Newsroom)
For the second year in a row the television character that I would most like to be in real life comes from Aaron Sorkin’s terrific HBO drama “The Newsroom,” but instead of it being Jeff Daniels’ Will McAvoy (my number one best TV character from 2012 and a recent Emmy-winning performance) it’s Thomas Sadoski’s Don Keefer this year. Don has had the most growth of any character on “The Newsroom” in the show’s first two seasons and has gone from an absolute jerk early on in the series to being one of the most endearing and best written characters of the series. Sadoski’s realistic, almost effortless turn as Keefer and the character’s sardonic sense of humor really hit home for me. I think Don Keefer was the best thing about the second season of “The Newsroom,” even if other characters/actors seemed to get more time to shine. Also, any scene between Keefer and Olivia Munn’s Sloan Sabbith is priceless.
2. Joss Carter (Person of Interest)
Taraji P. Henson’s performance as Joss Carter on the first half of the third season of CBS’ “Person of Interest” is as badass as it gets, at that’s almost unbelievable because the show feature’s the epitome of badass in Jim Caviezel’s John Reese. The show shocked the world by killing off Carter in what might be my favorite television episode of the year, “The Crossing,” but the performance by Henson in the episodes leading up to her character’s demise were definitely a swan song of major proportions. Carter was the toughest female character on television and also got to show off a nice sensitive side every now and then, especially in her final episode when feelings between her and Reese are revealed. Her character is sincerely going to be missed on “Person of Interest,” but damn that was a terrific way to go out.