Awards Wiz Awards: Top Television of 2013
2013 was indeed a remarkable year for the medium of television. It's been quite the journey for the tube over the years. The big 3 became the big four with the addition of Fox. Then we got MTV, HBO, the WB...and the explosion. From 3 to over 1000. Cable networks began original programming, winning all the awards and eventually convincing many people in the industry that network tv was dead. But the story wasn't over. Netflix...after a devastating drop in stocks...(after a ridiculous upcharge and name change for its dvd distribution) caught on to the fact that viewers had embraced television binge watching and announced they would be giving us a new season of "Arrested Development" as well as new original shows, 3 of which are on this list. (OK...maybe 2 since "The Fall" was actually in conjunction with the BBC). Looking at my list it seems wonderfully distributed. Part streaming, part network, part cable. And ALL good!
What does this all mean for the future of television? I think that with the onset of streaming new programming the pressure from cable on network television is eased slightly. I don't think streaming is the only future. Or that cable is the ultimate place for good drama. I think that viewers simply want options. And options they have.
There are so many wonderful shows that didn't make my top 10...shows I love that I must mention here. First of all, my favorite comedies..."New Girl" "Modern Family" "30 Rock" "The Crazy Ones" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine." "New Girl" took some time to find its footing for me...but now it is must see. Sad it didn't make my list. "Modern Family" isn't as brilliantly written as it was in its first season, but it is still heads above almost everything else out there. And although "30 Rock" had a great few final episodes it was on the outskirts of my favorites as well. I love "The Crazy Ones" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and perhaps next year, if they are both still around, they might crack my list.
In terms of dramas the biggest fall would be "American Horror Story." While technically the end of "Asylum" was in 2013...and brilliant, it just didn't make the cut with "Coven." Perhaps it was finally finishing the wonderful "Murder House" while starting "Coven," ultimately comparing the two or simply that it wasn't as good...but "Coven," though very fun, isn't worthy of a slot on my list. It is interesting that my last two number one shows "Revenge" and "American Horror Story" did not appear in the following years after I named them my favorite.
I wish I could include "Doctor Who" on this list because the beginning of series 7 was brilliant. Although I watched it in 2013 it aired in 2012. And while both "The Name of the Doctor" and "The Day of the Doctor" were fantastic, the addition of Clara in the 2nd half of series 7 did not work for me. Here's hoping that Peter Capaldi is enough to make Clara a better companion.
This year I finally started watching "Ru Paul's Drag Race," which is far and away my favorite reality show on television. Had I understood that the show had such a powerful message (in addition to bitchy cat fights) I might have watched sooner. And this year gave us Jinx Monsoon an artist I think will be around for a long, long time.
And finally I would like to mention "JFK: American Experience." It was fascinating to me that the 50th anniversary of both "Doctor Who" and JFK's assassination occurred at the same time. Marathon episodes and new specials of "Doctor Who" airing at the same time as endless "JFK" programming was fascinating to witness. Especially when I discovered that "Doctor Who" was almost canceled back in 1963 when viewers turned their televisions toward news of JFK's death instead of watching our now beloved Doctor. Luckily the BBC re-aired the first episode. And the rest is history. But...back to JFK. Of all the many JFK specials the best was brought to us from "American Experience." So much about JFK's life and Presidency that I didn't know. Presented without a political slant nor tinged with conspiracy theories it was a great two parter.
But enough about the shows that almost made it. I am so happy with this top 10. In this year almost more than any previous one I could have simply listed them as the 10 best alphabetically. They are that good. But I love top 10s. And the challenge of ranking them once I have a clear picture of what I loved. I only cheat a little at the very end.
1. Breaking Bad
For years I have said in making my top 10 television list that “Breaking Bad” was not included because I had never seen it. Last year I had a least begun the series but finally caught up just in time to watch the final eight episodes as they aired. I enjoyed the first 4 seasons a lot but he beginning of the 5th season took things up a notch with its tone, bordering that top line with an intensity quavering to possibly go over the top. But it never did. Where certain scenes were used for a bit of cheeky humor (the Meth making/teaching scenes in particular) in previous seasons, similar versions were layered ever so slightly with the inevitable sense of doom and finality. And the final episodes of season 5 were legacy making. "Ozymandias" might have been the best hour of television I have ever witnessed. It is almost impossible to single out specific scenes and performances, but expect to see more of "Breaking Bad" in my upcoming Awards Wiz Awards.
2. House of Cards
Netflix gave us not only a new way to watch television, but a completely original drama with "House of Cards." Shakespearean to the core, this political drama got better and better each episode, making the Netflix format the perfect way to watch.
NBC's "Hannibal" is the best thing to come out of the peacock network since the fall of "Must See TV." Why they didn't capitalize on its brilliance...well...who knows? Luckily they gave it a second season. I had incredibly high hopes the moment the series was announced. With Brian Fuller at the helm and starring Hugh Dancy (one of the most underrated actors we have) and Mads Mikkelson as Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter I didn't think NBC could go wrong. When they added Gillian Anderson to the mix, I couldn't have been happier. That is until I watched the show. Stunning visuals, remarkable scenes layered with subtext and some of the most complicated and interesting characters on television, "Hannibal" leads the pack when it comes to Network television drama. Congrats NBC.
4. The Good Wife
I didn't start watching "The Good Wife" until NPR's Linda Holmes told us that it was safe to start watching season 2 immediately and catch up on season 1 later. 2 episodes in and I watched all of the unaired episodes in a matter of days. Although I found the original concept to be a little off putting: the wife who stands by her cheating husband, once I got into it I realized it was so much more than that. Each and every case is exciting. And the relationships are all wonderful and complex...with each actor meticulously layering their character with every new encounter. By the end of last season, the show was already great, but with Alicia and Cary's decision to leave Lockhart Gardner everything became intensified. At year's end the conflict is far from over. And I can't wait to see what happens.
5. The Fall
How happy am I that Gillian Anderson was on two television shows this year (with another starting in 2014!)? Well the fact that they are both on this list should make that answer pretty clear. "The Fall" tells the story of Stella Gibson, a senior police officer in Northern Ireland on search for a serial killer, played by (the future whip and chain wielding Christian Grey) Jamie Dornan. Anderson's Stella is a valid successor to Hellen Mirren's flawed Jane Tennison on "Prime Suspect." Cannot wait to see the 6 episode 2nd season.
"Scandal" is deliciously over the top. But it deserves credit for being one of the best shows on television. And not just by nominating its anchor Kerry Washington. Everyone in the cast is absolutely superb. It is quite amazing that the show is able to keep up with its rapidly paced storytelling. Something that other shows, like "Revenge" sadly did not. Here's hoping for a satisfying run...and one that Shonda Rhimes allows to end properly. If that happens, "Scandal" could be one of those very few perfectly constructed shows from start to finish.
7. Orange is the New Black
It has been a long time since a show took audiences, almost immediately by storm. Probably since "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" gave ABC a much needed jolt back in 2004. Suddenly "Orange is the New Black" was unavoidable and absolutely must watch. When I first moved to LA I remember walking home to watch the last few episodes after binge watching more than half and hearing the wonderful theme song coming out of my neighbor's house. Then suddenly I noticed it on buses, Facebook statuses...people's conversations. Even with the Netflix format, the show has sustained interest. Looking forward to a second season...although I'm a bit worried that with Laura Prepon's diminished role might come unwanted changes in the original concept/storyline. Good thing every single character is spectacular.
8. Game of Thrones
After the "Red Wedding" episode took over the universe, I finally re started watching HBO's "Game of Thrones." I really enjoyed season one, but I lost interest early in season 2. Once I gave it another chance I was quite happy to discover that it picked itself up again rather quickly. And the 3rd season was its best to date. Yes, the "Red Wedding" ep was fantastic, but rather simply, they all were. It is George RR Martin's unapologetic take that everyone is expendable that makes the show what it is. That being said...if he kills off Daenerys, he might lose me.
"Elementary" very well might be the must underrated show on television. And sadly because people just can't separate it from its inspiration, "Sherlock." That being said, I haven't watched that show because I love "Elementary" so much. With the addition of both Moriarty and Mycroft "Elementary" was given an emotion through line that takes it from being a fun procedural to much more. It goes to show that this is a wonderful year for television since I think this season of "Elementary" is better than its first and last year it was my 2nd favorite show.
10. Teen Wolf and The Carrie Diaries
And here is where I cheat...a little. You may be wondering how I could possibly put these two shows ahead of the likes of "Mad Men," but the reality is, both "Teen Wolf" and "The Carrie Diaries" are shows I look forward to more than any others. I have always felt a connection with coming of age stories...have even written essays about it. And both "Teen Wolf" and "TCD" bring a wanted baggage that truly strikes my television loving core. The supernatural as a conduit for teen growing pains (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer) with "Teen Wolf. And my past love for both New York City and "Sex and the City" with "The Carrie Diaries." I struggled with which one to give my final slot, but alas for the first time in the history of Awards Wiz I couldn't settle with 10. So they tie.