I love the end of one year and the beginning of the next and the myriad best-of lists that assault the internet and print publications alike. I’d love to add my name to the list, but I also like to be completist, and in a year where I was unable to join the cult of Orphan Black, or bemoan the crazy of Homeland, or witness a return to form for The Good Wife, among many Scandal-ous snubs from my watch list, I decided it best to just comment on the best and worst of TV that I witnessed. Here goes:
BEST WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY COUPLE
Jess and Nick, New Girl (Season 2): The second season of FOX’s New Girl was one of the best comedies of the year, and probably my favorite. The tension and chemistry between Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson was off the charts, and the laughs were as hot and heavy. But then something horrible happened: they got together. Now they’re…
THE WORST COUPLE
Jess and Nick, New Girl (Season 3): Aside from Winston and his cat Ferguson, New Girl became one of the more annoying shows of 2013 once Jess and Nick got together. The pair of them devolved into bickering and childish monsters. Nick was always a stunted grown up kid… but episodes in which he rebelled against banks, Thanksgiving, common sense and decency, made me want to slam my head against the living room table. Since they’ve become a couple, both Jess and Nick’s characters have become the worst version of themselves, and that’s not even the only problem New Girl faces…
THE WORST WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY COUPLE
Schmidt and Cece, New Girl (Season 2-3): Schmidt was the breakout comedy character of the 2011-2012 TV season, when New Girl first stormed onto the sitcom scene. While he was still one of the best and funniest characters in season 2…the writers have worked diligently to ruin this sitcom-perfect character. Schmidt bungled relationships with two great women, and doesn’t take responsibility for doing so, blaming Nick and Jess, and stupidly moving away for no reason other than to add Coach back to the mix, like that was a thing people cared about. Now that Schmidt has screwed up with Cece twice, both in inane ways, it’s time to give it up. I don’t want to see them together; if Cece ever goes back… it’s an indictment of her character.
BEST SUPERHERO SHOW
Arrow: DC might have the edge on Marvel in TV land, as Stephen Amell, his abs, and the other beautiful people on Arrow consistently make it one of the best hours of TV there is. How? By actually using the universe of characters that they play in, with a rotating roster of guest stars and villains, including Solomon Grundy, Vertigo, Huntress, Deathstroke/Slade Wilson, Roy Harper, Barry Allen, (Black) Canary, Sebastian Blood, Sin, Deadshot, Dr. Ivo and countless other Easter eggs, including the possibility of Ra’s al Ghul. Not every one of these characters turned out brilliantly, but kudos to the CW and DC for trying. Marvel, on the other hand, is responsible for the…
WORST SUPERHERO SHOW
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: It had a wondrous, bombastic and fun pilot, helmed by Joss Whedon, and has been a ball of blegh ever since. Skye is one of the most unfortunate characters on television, while Chloe Bennet is also one of the more appealing. The various mysteries only bog down the narrative or frustrate it, the stakes seem lower than most sitcoms, and worst of all, we’re forced to get excited when the Blizzard might be showing up, because there’s hardly any Marvel characters or Easter Eggs whatsoever. The Marvel cinematic universe is one of the most fun and exciting places in all pop culture: please, play and have fun in it.
BEST LAST SEASON EVER
[No $#!* Alert ] Breaking Bad: AMC’s most talked about and buzzed about show, and perhaps the most beloved show of all-time, has gotten enough publicity and chatter over the years, so I’ll be quick. Bryan Cranston, Josh Paul, Anna Gunn and Vince Gilligan combined for one of the pinnacles of television. The show was impeccably acted, shot and filled with more drama, meaning and theatrics than Shakespeare, and the snowball effect of the stakes and saga of Walter White mirrored that of the cultural buzz surrounding its final season, which was a wondrous experience in itself. When people are all talking about GREAT TV, the couch potato nerd inside of me does the Elaine dance.
WORST LAST SEASON EVER
Dexter: Yuck. It should’ve just ended after season 4. Or maybe after season 6.
THE SHOW MOST LIKELY TO TAKE EITHER ONE OF THESE MANTLES NEXT YEAR
Mad Men: This past season of Mad Men was one of the more bumpy and uneven rides since Matthew Weiner’s brilliant concoction first started. It still had some of the finest episodes and best moments of the entire year (Don finally being naked about his past, Don’s daughter walking in on Don doing happy naked things, Kenneth getting shot, etc.)… but something about it seemed off, and the tragic finale ahead for Don Draper could be one of the bigger letdowns in TV history… or could be one of its best, considering the talent involved. I’m psyched for season 7, even if we have to suffer through the split season evolution (which clearly did gangbusters for Breaking Bad and AMC).
THE SHOW THAT IS MORE LIKELY TO WIN THE FABLED WORST LAST SEASON EVER PRIZE
True Blood: though I don’t think it’ll even be relevant at this point.
BEST HBO SHOW
The Newsroom: The Newsroom gets lost in the shuffle of HBO’s massive haul of greatness, that includes Game of Thrones, Girls, Veep, Treme, Boardwalk Empire and others (apparently Enlightened is amazing), but for my money, the Genoa scandal brought all the promising ingredients together into an incendiary crescendo. Aaron Sorkin fixed most every nagging concern from the uneven and frustrating first season (although Maggie is still an issue), and Jeff Daniels shoulders a bigger load on Newsroom than almost any other actor on TV not named Jon Hamm or Bryan Cranston.
REAL BEST HBO SHOW
Game of Thrones: Obvi.
Parks and Recreation: At some point, earlier in the year, I may have said New Girl. But that would’ve been silly. NBC’s brilliant and wonderful sitcom is as hilarious and heartfelt as ever (I almost cried during Ron Swanson’s Scotland adventure), with the best cast and guest stars of any comedy on TV. That’s with Chris Pratt mostly a no-show thanks to his bout with tights in Guardians of the Galaxy and the impending departure of Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe. Amy Poehler can do no wrong right now… and here’s hoping this isn’t the final season of one of the best comedies ever. If it is… at least there’s a new show that will help soothe the sting…
BEST NEW COMEDY
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Brooklyn Nine-Nine. After a rocky start, the show quickly downshifted Andy Samberg’s crazy (much like Robin Williams’ in The Crazy Ones) and relied more on the awesomely talented and diverse supporting cast of motley characters in the fresh cops and laughs sitcom from the same team who made The Office and Parks and Recreation (the great Michael Schur). It’s no surprise that it quickly jumped from the best new comedy conversation into competing to become the best comedy overall.
Dads: Duh. But We Are Men, Sean Saves the World, Super Fun Night, The Millers, Welcome to the Family, Back in the Game, The Michael J. Fox Show and The Goldbergs all had their moments. What an awful year for new sitcoms save for BNN and…
THE NEW “COUGAR TOWN”
Trophy Wife: Another show that could be doomed (or saved by TBS) by its offensive and off-putting title. But it’s actually pretty darn good.
MOST SURPRISING COMEDY…for almost making a huge mistake
Arrested Development: For many of us, Mitch Hurwitz and company’s return to TV (or Netflix) with another season of AD was the most anticipated event of the year, even more exciting and tantalizing than the end of Walter White’s tumultuous journey. In the end, the Netflix format left a sour taste in my mouth. Champions of the newest season have lauded its Easter Egg stuffed format and character-focused episodes…but I couldn’t disagree more. By only focusing on one or two characters, the show robbed itself of the wit and genius and rapport that the entire cast has together, and any of the “fun” Easter Eggs were obvious and not really benefited by the episodic format. Thankfully, the show improved as the batch of episodes wore on, and I’m impressed with the risks Hurwitz and company took…but making Michael so wholly unlikable and creating DeBrie are two of the more egregious mistakes any show made this year.
BEST BAD ROBOT PRODUCTION
Person of Interest
WORST BAD ROBOT PRODUCTION
MOST HO-HUM BAD ROBOT PRODUCTION
BAD ROBOT PRODUCTION I MISS THE MOST
BEST & WORST HORROR SHOW
American Horror Story: This brilliant show is oftentimes its own worst enemy, but it’s never boring, and always delivering shocks, scares or a ton of ridiculous deaths, sex acts or chilling monsters. It can be the best and worst thing you watched, all in one hour long episode, and somehow, that makes it even more necessary.
MOST UNDERRATED SHOW
The Americans: Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys were two of the best actors of the year, in FX’s understated, tension-packed spy show. The show’s pacing was at times deliberate, but it was never boring, or less than fascinating to see this couple maneuver the Cold War and each other. I was going to say any show with Margo Martindale is guaranteed greatness… but then there’s The Millers.
BEST NEW SHOW
Hannibal: It’s the most criminally under-watched show, with Bryan Fuller crafting a delectable, seductive, beautiful and deeply disturbing take on Thomas Harris’ classic characters. You may roll your eyes or bemoan remakes or reimaginings, or origin stories, or prequels, or whatever the hell you want to call this new presentation of Hannibal, but when it’s as superbly directed and populated with some of the best actors and performances on television, who cares? Just watch it.
MOST SURPRISING NEW SHOW
Sleepy Hollow, for not sucking.
BEST GUILTY PLEASURE: Nashville. It’s no longer really about the country music scene in Nashville, but it’s the perfect backdrop for the unapologetic soap that it’s become. I don’t care what anyone says: it’s so damn entertaining, jam-packed with useless characters who are the worst (Teddy Conrad, Lamar Wyatt, Rayna’s sister, Peggy Kenter, every agent/assistant) along with wonderful ones (Deacon). How they made Avery at all likable is one of the biggest feats in TV history.
BEST GUILTY PLEASURE THAT I’M NO LONGER GUILTY ABOUT
Teen Wolf: The show rules. There, I said it.
WORST GUILTY PLEASURE
Every reality show.
BEST SHOW I HAVEN’T MENTIONED YET
The Walking Dead: People to love to hate on this show, but aside from the two episode Governor misstep, I believe season 4 of TWD is as good as this show has ever been. Scott Gimple, the new showrunner, has amped up the frights and characterization to a ferocious intensity.
Now that 2014 has begun, I’m excited to see a fresh batch of new midseason shows, and to discover what it is that we’ll all be talking about in the months ahead. My guess is True Detective. It probably won’t be Killer Women.