WHAT TO WATCH: JANUARY 2014

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After taking a couple of months off from this particular post, we are back, and with a vengeance. January is probably the highest quality month of premiering TV since the Mrs. and I started this little blog. It may not be as busy a month, by sheer number of shows premiering, as September, but boy, does it run deep with high, high quality programming. January includes 4 shows that have been discussed (or will be) in the 2013 Terriers Memorial List (look for Part III this weekend), and at least 2 other shows that have appeared on previous years lists (including a former number 1). Also included in January is a show that many people such as myself are prognosticating will be on our 2014 lists, as well as a network sitcom that critics who have seen the pilot, are actually quite enthusiastic about. This is all a very long winded way of saying I hope you enjoyed your holidays, because January does not mess around when it comes to TV watching.  It’s back to business people.

On to the list (which I couldn’t even get down to 10, I tried, I really did, but it’s just not possible this month):

11. Banshee (Cinemax–Jan. 10, 9 PM): Much like Strike Back, Banshee is a show that has no business being as good as it is. Hopefully there will come a time when people like me stop using that statement about Cinemax shows, and that time is probably now. I wouldn’t say Banshee is quite as good as Strike Back (mostly because it lacks the “fun” of Strike Back), but it’s pretty close. Cinemax did a couple new shows in 2013, Banshee and Hunted (also good, but because of a dispute with the UK co-producer, it will not be back in 2014), in an aim to keep the momentum of Strike Back going. Banshee is the story of a master thief who gets out of jail and goes looking for his former girlfriend and partner in a sleepy Pennsylvania, Amish-country town, where he actually takes the identity of the new sheriff (who conveniently, no one had met). Strong acting, sufficient story-telling, intriguing characters, solid acting and all the violence and gratuitous nudity you would expect from Cinemax.

10. Downton Abbey (PBS–Jan. 5, 8 PM): If there was one show I considered leaving off of this list, it would likely be Downton, but I found just enough room for it, and it is still a show I watch and occasionally enjoy, so here we are. Let me actually explain my reservations on Downton though. While it’s a beautifully crafted and expertly acted show, Julian Fellows too often relies on true soap opera tactics to create drama. Too much conflict on Downton is the end result of miscommunications, or eavesdropping, simply put, the right people not having the right information. Fellows hides behind the period for much of this. Think about the episode from season 3 when Lady Sybill died, and the disagreement between the doctors on the proper course of treatment. That was a miscommunication issue that led to the death of a major character. Too much of that goes on in Downton. That said, I’ll be watching come Sunday night.

9. Enlisted (FOX–Jan. 10, 830 PM): Enlisted is the only new network show on this list. As it is a brand new network show, I’ve not seen any of it and I know very little about it. What I do know is that many professional TV critics whose opinions I value have been at least fairly enthusiastic about this show since they first saw the pilot last summer. Enlisted was supposed to premiere in the fall, but FOX pushed it, and then threw it on Friday nights after Raising Hope. I may not be in the TV business, but even I know that’s not good. That doesn’t tell me the show isn’t good (or even great) though, it just tells me FOX doesn’t know how to sell it (much like Raising Hope or Ben and Kate). The general premise of the show is three very different brothers, all in the Army, are stationed at the same base, and presumably hijinks ensue! It most notably stars Piz from Veronica Mars (Chris Lowell), and I’m looking forward to seeing what FOX has here.

8. Psych (USA–Jan. 8, 8 PM): I don’t think Psych will ever be confused as an all time classic TV show, but not every show has to be. Some shows just need to be fun and funny, and Psych has that down cold. With an incredible cast with maybe the best chemistry on all of TV (including the greats), Psych just continues to make me laugh and provide so much joy.  In fact, Psych: The Musical, which aired in December, was simply one of the most fun experiences I had watching TV all year. That’s what Psych is here for. To give us fun, quirky comedy with hilarious nicknames and pop culture references, and I welcome it back to my TV. I suppose my only hope is, with her ABC sitcom failing, Maggie Lawson will come back on board if there are any more episodes.

7. Cougar Town (TBS–Jan. 7, 9 PM): The good people at Turner broadcasting know good network TV when they see it. After saving Southland many years ago, last year the 4th season of Cougar Town premiered on TBS after 3 seasons on ABC. The most telling thing about the first season on TBS was that nothing seemed to change. Cougar Town still felt like Cougar Town. That’s doubly impressive, because not only was there a network change, but creator/show runner Bill Lawernce also left prior to that 4th season. Smartly, TBS is bring the cul-de-sac crew for a season 5, and letting us spend more time with our favorite winos who refuse to work!

6. Girls (HBO–Jan. 12, 9 PM): The second season of Girls had some very impressive highs (One Man’s Trash), but also was a small let down in other areas. It felt sometimes that Lena Dunham was trying to do her very best Louis CK impression, having episodes ands story lines that didn’t fit with the over all narrative. But the reason that works for Louis CK is that he goes all in on it. There is no over all narrative. Ms. Dunham sometimes tried to have it both ways in season 2, which sometimes resulted in great success, but other times not. But whatever the show was, it was always interesting, thoughtful, beautifully written and well acted (and funny when it was trying to be, which was not all the time), so I’ll always be looking forward to more episodes of Girls. After all, Hannah Horvath is the voice of my generation.

5. Sherlock (PBS–Jan. 19, 9 PM): Welcome back to the Batch and Martin Freeman. After taking 2013 off, Sherlock is back on PBS with 3 new episodes. Without a doubt my favorite incarnation of the Sherlock Holmes story, and for my money, the best Sherlock and Watson ever. Everything is right about it. Cumberbatch nails the prickly demeanor of Sherlock Holmes, making him just the right amount of jerk, while giving us enough to understand the connection that Watson feels towards him. And, along those lines, this incarnation of Sherlock perfectly captures the homoeroticism of the friendship between Holmes and Watson. The chemistry between the actors is top notch. Any episodes we get of Sherlock (much like Luther) are a gift we should be thankful for!

4. Shameless (Showtime–Jan. 12, 8 PM): Sunday nights in January are going to be really tricky to manage! I spent a lot of words in the Terriers Memorial List explaining why you should be watching Shameless, so I won’t go on for too long here. What I will say is that I’m so happy to have Emmy Rossum back on my TV, and can’t wait to see what sort of hilarious and heartbreaking disasters the Gallagher family gets into this season. Please watch this show!

3. True Detective (HBO–Jan. 12, 8 PM): See what I mean about Sunday nights? I guess I should tell you what True Detective is first…Starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey (along with Michelle Monoghan), True Detective is a cop story set in New Orleans, and follows a 17 year murder investigation. From what I have heard from those who have seen episodes, it is about as good as it gets, and with that cast, is anyone surprised? I think this show also presents an interesting glimpse into what the future of TV may be. If this show goes on after this season, it will be with a whole new cast, and a whole new story, providing an opportunity for actors as impressive as the ones here to come in and do a season of TV. That’s something worth being excited about.

2. Justified (FX–Jan. 7, 9 PM): Simply one of the best things on TV, period. Olyphant, Goggins and crew have captured an environment and a world that is second to none. There are many that would argue the show has never hit the heights it did in the Margo Martindale centric season 2, but I am not including among those. While Mags Bennett was definitely the best “big bad” of a season Justified has done, the show has continued to impress with the work of Olyphant and Goggins. And, I can’t think of a single reason why that wouldn’t continue going into season 5. For a show that is as serious as Justified, it’s amazing just how much fun it so often is, and that is a tribute to Mr. Elmore Leonard, who created the character of Raylan Givens, and Graham Yost, creator and show runner. Performances that astound, dialogue that crackles and tension you can often cut with a knife, Justified is the most underrated show in the Golden Age of TV.

1. Community (NBC–Jan. 2, 8 PM): Welcome back Dan Harmon. After an interesting and strange 4th season, the show gets to return to its roots, with its creator and central voice, Mr Harmon, back in as show runner. Community has often been so great not because it was funny (which it often is), but because of everything else it does. Community is thoughtful, it’s often sad, and always contemplative. Harmon has something to say, and he uses these characters (specifically Danny Pudi’s, Abed) to show us his weird, little world. I cut season 4 and it’s substitute show runners more slack than most, because I recognized how difficult of a job they had. But that said, it’s so good to have Harmon back. I’m hearing that the early episodes return us to Harmon’s weird, little world in amazing fashion.

So there you have it. Happy New Year! I hope you got a shiny, new TV for Christmas, because you’re gonna need it!

-CJ

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RIP BREAKING BAD: LJ’S 2013 TV FAVORITES

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CJ has been bugging me to do my own “best of” television list for 2013.  I had been resisting in order to stop inundating y’all with list after list.  But, since CJ has clearly gotten his list so incorrectly organized, I feel that it is my duty to comment.  This isn’t an attempt to tell you what the best shows of 2013 were (although arguably all of these should be included on this list); this is simply my favorite shows of 2013.

*Side Note – While CJ and I do watch a lot of the same TV shows, he undoubtedly watches more.  So, for instance, Luther or Justified aren’t on my list because I simply don’t watch them.  At the bottom I will include a list of shows I considered, but ultimately did not include.

11.  House of Cards (Netflix) – Ok, so this started out as a top 10 list.  But, at the end of the day, I could only get down to my favorite 11 shows.  Sue me.  House of Cards was my first experience at alternative-TV shows (i.e., ones not found on the networks, cable, or HBO, etc.) and it did not disappoint.  I am generally not a huge Kevin Spacey fan, but he was incredible as the power-hungry, crafty, and often times, super creepy Congressman.  The supporting cast was also exceptional, especially Corey Stoll as Russo (and who doesn’t love Kata Mara).  This show was entertaining, suspenseful and simply well-written.  I cannot wait until February 14, 2014 for season 2.

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10.  The Americans (FX) – Keri Russell as a spy.  I really shouldn’t have to say more.  You have Cold War spy tactics intermixed with family and personal drama.  It’s a great recipe for a show.  Keri Russell is as awesome as she ever has been, as are her castmates (Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich, Annet Mahendru, etc.), and as much as I hate to say it, she makes me want to support the Russians.

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9.  Rectify (Sundance) – I like prison.  I know what you are thinking, and yes it sounds weird.  But, here is what I mean, I like almost everything that has to do with prison or prisoners, whether it is a book, a movie, or a TV show.  What do I like more than prison? (well a lot of things, but what I mean is…)  Stories about someone that may be wrongly accused of a crime.  And, that is what you have here with Rectify.  You have a story of a man, Daniel, who has been on death row for 19 years when some DNA evidence allows him to be released.  The first season of Rectify showed us what it is like for Daniel to try and reintegrate into a “normal” life as well as how his release from prison is affecting his family, his friends, and everyone in the small town of Georgia.  On top of all that, we get some clues as to who actually committed the murder/rape of the girl, which sent Daniel to prison in the first place (heck, it might even have been him).

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8.  Broadchurch (BBC America) – Not a show about prison, but a show about the murder of a young boy in a small town in Britain and the following investigation that ensues.  The show doesn’t entirely focus on the investigation of Danny’s murder, but also shows the impact that such an event can have on a family, on friends, and on the community as a whole.  I can honestly say that I had no clue who the killer was until the very end–that is how well written the show was.  Apparently there is going to be an American version of this show, but I still believe that the original is a must-see.

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7.  Arrow (CW) – You assumed this would be on my list, didn’t you?  Last winter/spring we got season 1 of Arrow and this fall we have been watching the first half of season 2.  This show is only getting better and better.  Oliver’s crime fighting escapades aren’t what keep me loving this show though.  In between those adventures, the viewer is given glimpses into Oliver’s past on the island, which is what really intrigues me.  Seriously, I have to know what happened there!  Additionally, you can’t help but realize that Oliver’s compadres both on the island and in present day Starling City add depth to this superhero show.

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6.  Veep (HBO) – 2013 was apparently the year of the drama (at least for me), but Veep stood out as the best comedy (I don’t count Orange as the New Black as a comedy) and one of the best shows of the year.  The cast and the story I felt got stronger in season 2 of Veep and I could seriously watch the Veep crew berate Jonah all day.

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5.  Masters of Sex (Showtime) – Masters of Sex was without argument the best new show of the fall and was definitely a saving grace on Sunday nights (after suffering through Homeland).  Lizzie Caplan is captivating, plain and simple.  But, what is also captivating, is the complicated relationships that develop between the characters as the season progresses.  Virginia and Bill are the two main characters, and obviously their relationship takes center stage, but Masters of Sex has proved that it is also capable of showing the struggles and relationships of the supporting characters with just as much depth and intricacy.

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4.  Shameless (Showtime) – Shameless starts each January and is such a perfect way to start of each new year.  Unfortunately though, since it is so early in the year, I feel like it gets overlooked so much of the time.  I am here to tell you that Shameless is one of the best and most underrated shows on TV currently.  Emmy Rossum is simply amazing as Fiona, a girl who is willing to do whatever it takes to provide for and care for her brothers and sister (since their dead-beat-dad is clearly incapable and one of the worst human beings to walk the Earth).  This show is funny, it’s dramatic, and features a fair amount of nudity.  What’s not to love?

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3.  Game of Thrones (HBO) – Big changes happened in season 3 of GoT.  Most obvious is, of course, the massacre of the Stark family.  And, while the Red Wedding was certainly the highlight of the season in a light of people’s minds, I was most happy that season 3 saw a lot more of Dany kicking-ass and pretty much being the coolest chick ever.  I haven’t read the books so I have no clue what is going to happen next, but I hope that season 4 is just as epic.

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2.  Orange is the New Black (Netflix) – As good as I thought House of Cards was, Orange is the New Black turned out to be even better.  Yes, it focused predominately on the life of Piper, but we also got a look at many of her prison roommates as well.  We saw flashbacks to these women’s prior lives, which gave insight into how all these women ended up being locked up.  And, we got to watch everyone trying to do their best and cope with their life in prison.  It will be interesting to see what happens in season 2 since Piper’s girlfriend won’t be appearing in many episodes and also since Piper probably killed someone at the end of season 1.

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1.  Breaking Bad (AMC) – Now, I know you saw this coming.  But, let’s be real, was there anything as good as the final 8 episodes of Breaking Bad on TV this year?  No, there wasn’t.  Period.

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Other shows that could have been considered – Top of the Lake, The Walking Dead, Family Tree, Mad Men, Scandal, The Returned (only 2 episodes in), Bob’s Burgers, Raising Hope, Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Ground Floor, New Girl, The Goldbergs, Trophy Wife, The Blacklist, Girls, Nashville, The Carrie Diaries, Downton Abbey, Rookie Blue, The Fosters. (I, of course, left off shows that I watch that could never be considered for such a list…like X Factor).

-LJ

2013 TERRIERS MEMORIAL LIST: PART II

As promised, here is Part II of the 2013 Terriers Memorial list, where we will look at my top 10-6 shows of 2013. This year has been oddly defined by new shows. Sure, the likes of Breaking Bad and Mad Men remain here to set the bar high, but unlike most years, there was a surprising number of new, great shows. My guess is that this has to do with the sheer number of outlets for storytellers. Even as recently as 10 years ago, the options were so limited. You either had to come up with 22 hours of story for a network, or you had to convince HBO that you belonged. That’s simply no longer the case. The outlets available are basically infinite. Not only that, but we are also no longer limited by geographical borders. We are getting shows from the UK, from France, New Zealand, all over, only making the TV experience that much greater!

Moving on to the list, and coincidentally enough, we start with an import from the UK.

10. Luther (Episode #3.4)

Picking a favorite episode of the 4 episodes series 3 of Luther was very challenging. As I watched the third entry of this 3rd series, I was astonished with how good the episode was. It was probably my favorite episode of the show to date. But, one thing kept creeping in the back of my mind. As much as I loved that episode, and has heartbroken as I was watching it, I still knew that Alice Morgan was coming back, and there was only one episode left. The genius of Luther has never been the crimes Luther has been working to solve. It’s always been completely and totally dominated by Idris Elba and Ruth Wilson (BTW – I just saw Ruth Wilson in “Saving Mr. Banks,” where she was also exceptional). The complicated relationship between John Luther and Alice Morgan was what made this show pop back in the beginning, and the absence of Ruth Wilson was always so obvious. Luther and Alice are two sides of the same coin. Both broken, both willing to do whatever it takes, but one as an officer of the law, and the other as a murderer. However, their connection was always undeniable, and the resolution of their story in this 3rd series did not disappoint. I really hope we get more Luther in the future.

9. Orange is the New Black (Episode 105: The Chickening)

The second Netflix original show to make the 2013 Terriers Memorial list, Orange is the New Black was one of the best new shows this year. What makes it so wonderful is a truly diverse and well used cast of characters, with no one being wasted. OitNB was a show that started out and appeared as if it would just the Piper Chapman story. A story about a 30 something, hipster, white woman from Brooklyn who was being taken out of her comfortable, happy life, to serve prison time for a crime she committed a decade ago. Had that remained the show, it likely would have been good, but certainly not this great. The show took that step up to greatness just a few episodes in where the show became a true ensemble, telling individual stories in a LOST-like flashback way about the group Piper was encountering in prison. But while doing so, telling an overall story arc about life in this medium security prison. At times the show was hysterically funny, at others, it could have you in tears, OitNB is without a doubt the strongest of the Netflix lineup and will get plenty of recognition come awards time!

8. Shameless (Episode 307: A Long Way From Home)

Emmy Rossum is simply the most overlooked actor on TV today. There is nothing she can’t do, and every time she is on screen (which, on Shameless, is almost always), she lights it on fire. Fiona fights tooth and nail, every day, to support her siblings in every way she can. There is really no more telling example than the video above. Fiona does what she has to do to make sure her younger brothers and sister not have to deal with the terrifying upbringing from their father that she did. She gets them off to school every day, knowing that they, unlike her, must graduate high school and move on to better things, and get themselves out of the terrible south side of Chicago existence they live in. To do so, she works whatever jobs she can get to pay the bills, always, always putting her siblings first, and never once thinking of herself. It’s a tour de force performance, that will hopefully one day be recognized, because she is as deserving as anyone, and certainly more than most.

7. Rectify (Episode 105: Drip, Drip)

Rectify is the only Sundance show on to make my list this year, but it is far from the only one worth recognition. Sundance jumped into the original programming scene this year in grand fashion, with Top of the Lake, Rectify and The Returned. Rectify is the story of a man who has spent the last 18 years on death row for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. After some new evidence comes to light, he is released into a world he doesn’t know or understand. He comes home to a family who is not quite sure what to think of him and has no real place in it. He finds that, after 18 years, life has to go on for his family and friends. There would have been so many ways for this show to go wrong, none more so than in the lead performance. Had someone other than Aden Young been chosen for this role, there is such a large chance that it would have been a “big” performance. Instead, Young (as well as his sister, played by Abigail Spencer, and particularly his step-sister-in-law played by Adelaide Clemens) gives an amazingly quiet, nuanced, subtle performance that provides far more questions than answers. Daniel Holden likely does not even know the answers to many of those questions. Can he survive in this world? Can he be redeemed for his acts? Does he even deserve redemption? Those are some of the questions we began to look into in this first season, and hopefully we will continue to explore them going forward.

6. Southland (Episode 510: Reckoning)

TNT’s Southland finished up its final season in grand fashion. A show that was never supposed to make it passed season 1, somehow found new life on TNT, and wound up lasting for 5 incredible seasons. As a matter of fact, it was likely the move to TNT that made it a great show. It forced the show to tighten its view point, and shrink its cast to focus on its very best characters. The relationship between Ben and Cooper, and then later Ben and Sammy are what made Southland great. This final season focused a great deal on Officer John Cooper (Michael Cudlitz), his personal life and his future. The wear and tear being a beat cop has put on Cooper is starting to catch up with him, and seeing what this life has done to his mentor (played by Gerald McRaney) makes him fear what is to come. The final 5 minutes of Southland (included in the link above) are among the most haunting and depressing that you will find on TV. But, that is always what made Southland great. It was a show that was never afraid to do the realistic thing, no matter how dark it might be. Southland, you will be missed.

So there you have it, my shows 10-6. Stay tuned for the epic conclusion of the 2013 Terriers Memorial List, where we will count down shows 5-1 for 2013!

-CJ

2013 TERRIERS MEMORIAL LIST: PART I

First, an explanation for the title of this post. Back in 2010, FX premiered a little show called Terriers, starring Donal Logue, Michael Raymond James, and Rockmond Dunbar, amongst other amazing character actors. For a show run by Shawn Ryan (The Shield and The Chicago Code) and created by Ted Griffin (Ocean’s trilogy), it was embarrassingly under watched and cancelled after only a single, nearly perfect season. Terriers was my top show of 2010, and I made a promise to myself that from that point on my year-end list for TV would be called the “Terriers Memorial List.” Just my little way of keeping Terriers in the mind of the 6 people who read this blog.

For 2013, the Terriers Memorial List will run in three parts. Today, Part I, will be honorable mentions and my shows 20-11. Part II, running in the coming days, will be my shows 10-6, and Part III, running days after that, will be my shows 5-1. So let’s get started with the 2013 Terriers Memorial List, shall we?

Starting with shows that would likely have been considered for this list that I have not been able to get to yet (but I will, I promise):

  • The Fall
  • The Returned
  • Orphan Black
  • Top of the Lake (I’m through the first few hours, and it’s amazing)
  • Black Mirror

Next, a few shows that demonstrate just how hard it is to come up with a list like this. My honorable mentions for 2013 are shows that I greatly enjoy, and in some cases love. But, because of the time we are in, with so much amazing TV, it’s simply not possible to fit everything in, even with a list of 20 shows.

  • Girls – A slight let down from season 1 perhaps, but still a solid season with great moments of humor, sadness, and lots and lots of awkwardness.
  • Sons of Anarchy – Season 6 was the best season of Sons since the high of season 2.  The show is finally being honest with itself about the characters that have outlived their useful life, which is setting up a fascinating seventh and final season.
  • Cougar Town – PENNY CAN!
  • The Americans – As seems to be a trend on FX shows, The Americans had a first season that did nothing but get stronger as it went along. This is a show that I fully expect will make my main list as the seasons progress.
  • The Walking Dead – I’m a little bit surprised TWD didn’t make the full list, but as I sat down and thought through my list, part one of season 4 was destroyed by the return of The Governor. The year (season 3 part two and season 4 part one) included many great episodes, but as an overarching story, was at times disappointing.

I’m sure there are a dozen other shows I’m leaving off, but I have to draw a line somewhere, right? It’s now time to move on to the full list, and as I mentioned above, Part I will discuss shows 20-11. Along with each show listed below, I’ll include what I believe is the strongest episode of the show that appeared in 2013.

20. The Bridge (Episode 111: Take the Ride, Pay the Toll)

Just as I was surprised that The Walking Dead didn’t make the full list, I was surprised The Bridge did actually make the full Top 20 list. But the thing is, The Bridge was a show that just got stronger as the season went along, and by the end of the season, it became a show I couldn’t wait to watch each Wednesday night. The performances by Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir are among the best on TV, with a partnership/friendship that is unlike most of the cop relationships seen on TV. With a change in show runners (Meredith Stiehm heading back to Homeland), I expect the show to take a creative leap forward, focusing more on the gritty, real world drama taking place on the US/Mexico border, and I can’t wait for season 2 next summer.

19. House of Cards (Episode 112: Chapter 12)

There is a great line from David O. Russell’s American Hustle in which Christian Bale says that you should always take a favor over money. That’s a great way to summarize the theme of House of Cards. Favors are the ultimate power. Money is short-sighted and ego driven. Having someone owe you is the ability to control them. That’s all Frank Underwood wants. Control. Amazing performances by Corey Stoll, Kristen Connolly, Robin Wright, and Kevin Spacey are what make this show well worth the $7.99 Netflix subscription.

18. Raising Hope (Episode 407: Murder, She Hoped)

As charming and beautiful as Shannon Woodward is, and as good as Lucas Neff often is on Raising Hope, this is a show that is dominated by Martha Plimpton and Garrett Dillahunt. Up until last weekend, I had a different episode (Burt Mitzvah) as my favorite of the year, but the hilarious Rear Window episode was too good to pass up. The wacky hijinks of this group always make for great laughs, but the show, like most Greg Garcia shows (My Name is Earl), give you so much heart and family warmth. This is a show that always makes you feel good about watching.  So, while this is a show likely on its last legs, let’s enjoy it while we’ve got it.

17. Game of Thrones (Episode 309: The Rains of Castemere)

Season 3 of Game of Thrones was such a strong step up from season 2 and probably even an improvement on the great, great season 1. The fact that this show is this low on the list is so surprising to me, and again, shows just how great a year of TV 2013 was. This is one of the shows I look forward to most each year, and the Sunday night combination of Mad Men and Game of Thrones is my favorite night of TV. Though I’m disappointed that we aren’t going to get the spin-off on the travels of Jamie Lannister and Brienne of Tarth, I couldn’t have been happier with how that, and all of the other stories (save for stupid Theon of course) played out over season 3.  I can’t wait for its return in the spring.

16. Veep (Episode 204: The Vic Allen Dinner)

There are not many comedies on my list this year (the lack of Community is a great sadness for me), but amongst the few that are on the list, Veep is without a doubt the funniest. Veep doesn’t go for the heart of Raising Hope, Cougar Town or Parks and Rec. It is just a 100% profanity laced, mean-spirited laugh riot. Julia Louis-Dreyfus had a great year on both TV and film, and is there a better/more annoying character on TV than Jonah (aka “Jolly Green Jizz-Face”)?

15. Broadchurch (Episode 107)

I wrote earlier this summer about all the police shows involving the death of young children, but despite the high volume of shows, some clearly stood above the others. Broadchurch was one such show. Broadchurch focused so much less on the crime itself, than on the effects of such a terrible tragedy (here, the death of an 8-year-old boy in a small British beach town). How would such a death impact a mother, a father, a sister, friends, family friends, and the town as a whole when it appears that there are no answers to this awfulness? And making it worse, there is a realization that no matter who killed young Danny, it’s someone close, it’s someone we all know…How does that change the landscape of a town forever, knowing a murderer is right next door?

14. Hannibal (Episode 113: Savoureux)

Even more so than Breaking Bad, Mad Men or Game of Thrones, Hannibal is without a doubt the best looking show on TV. It’s also masterfully written by Bryan Fuller and expertly acted by Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen. Hannibal is a dark and disturbing look into the world of the human mind and the evil that lurks inside. It looks at the beauty and art that an expert serial killer (and in this case, cannibal) brings to his crimes. For a show that is on network TV (NBC), it is disturbingly violent and beautifully graphic. But, unlike so many violent shows on TV today, there is a purpose and a vision behind every scene of violence portrayed. I couldn’t be happier to spend more time in this world, with NBC renewing it for a second season, despite it’s very NBC-like ratings.

13. Bob’s Burgers (Episode 315: OT: The Outside Toilet)

I feel like I don’t really need to say anything about Bob’s Burgers other than the fact that the show did an ET episode that had Jon Hamm as a talking toilet…I mean, what could I really say that would be more of an incentive to watch than that?

12. Masters of Sex (Episode 105: Catherine)

Without a doubt the highlight of the fall season, Masters of Sex is a new show that feels like it’s been around forever. It started with so much confidence and with so much assuredness of what it was and what it wanted to be. Michael Sheen and Lizzy Kaplan are the obvious stand outs here, but it is the smaller turns by Allison Janney and Caitlin Fitzgerald that are my personal favorite here. Maybe that’s unfair because Allison Janney is one of the very best at what she does, but I don’t care. It is always such a treat to see her appear on-screen, and she never, ever disappoints. The comparisons to Mad Men are not only unfair, but also unnecessary. Masters of Sex may be set in a period near Mad Men (50s as opposed to Mad Men’s 60s setting), but the fact that it handles the “look” of its time is where the comparisons need to stop. Masters of Sex stands just fine on its own two feet and was definitely the best new show this fall.

11. Parks and Recreation (Episode 514: Leslie and Ben)

The clip above is the perfect personification of why Parks and Rec, even six seasons in, remains one of the very best things on TV. In a 22 minute episode, Parks and Rec can give you so much. It is a common occurrence for this show to be able, in a single episode, to have you laughing, crying, and laughing so hard that you cry. The fact that Nick Offerman has never won ANY award, let alone even been nominated, is one of the bigger crimes of the Golden Age of Television. We need to cherish our Parks while we have it, because I suspect we are approaching the end of what will go down as an all time great TV sitcom.

So there we have it. That’s it for Part I of the 2013 Terriers Memorial List. Please be sure to check back in soon for Part II, where we will count down shows 10-6 of 2013.

-CJ

WHAT TO WATCH: THE SING-OFF

The Sing-Off

I get it.  There are a lot of reality TV shows on the air.  And, I certainly understand that there are a fair number of singing-related reality TV shows (The Voice, The X Factor, American Idol, etc.).  None of them compare to The Sing Off though.  So, let me explain to you why you need to be watching.

6.  Nick Lachey needs some employment – Look, I am not saying Nick Lachey is the best host of a reality show ever.  But, he certainly isn’t the worst (I am looking at you, Mario Lopez).  And, I am happy that he has something to do.  Plus, maybe this will help us forget that he once married Jessica Simpson.

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5.  Aca-scuse me? – Here is the thing…acapella is just freakin cool.  No other show on the air is giving props to this kind of music.  Hello, these people are doing all of this with just their mouths.  It’s amazing.

4.  No results show – You know what the worst part of any reality competition show, the stupid results show.  That’s right, in addition to watching the actual performances, you usually have to watch an hour of useless television only to find out in the last 30 seconds who has been eliminated.  Results shows are the worst things ever (right up there with orange sour patch kids, broccoli, taxes, and terrorists).  On The Sing Off, however, there is no results show.  You find out at the end of each episode who gets eliminated…after an ultimate battle-round.  Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

3.  Something for everyone – Are you a fan of highschool musical?  Do you like country?  Would you prefer a barbershop quartet sound?  Have you always wanted to see a Filipino boy bad?  Then this is the show for you.  The variety of groups on The Sing Off is amazing.  You have highschool group of kids (who are one of the best in the competition, I might add), frat-tastic college boys, a group of country guys, and five “more-mature” men who are proving that you can be great at any age.  Also, for the guys out there, you have an all-female group who likes to wear short dresses.  See, something for everyone.

2.  The judges – Judges can make or break a show.  Here, you have Ben Folds, Shawn Stockman (Boyz II Men) and newcomer Jewel.  What is so great about them, you ask?  First, you can tell that they actually like being on the show.  They sing-along, they dance, and generally are excited about music and what these groups can do.  Second, they actually know what they are talking about.  Now, I don’t pretend like I understand what they are saying all of the time, but you can tell that they are musical veterans who can comment on something other than how great the performers’ outfits are.  Third, they have great personalities.  Ben likes to make ridiculous puns, Jewel makes fun of her own snaggle-tooth, and Shawn is just baller.  A show is only as good as it’s judges and these three are fantastic.

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1.  Heart-throbs – Every show needs a heart-throb and here I can give you at least three.

  • Down-to-Earth Beauty – Jewel (They aren’t putting her in those dresses for no reason fellas)

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  • The Foreign Boy-Bander – VJ Rosales (The Filharmonic)

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  • And, finally, the Country Hottie – Austin Brown (Home Free)

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I rest my case.

-LJ

THE WALKING DEAD 408: TOO FAR GONE

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You know what seems like a good idea… shooting a tank at the building you hope to call “home.”  Oh wait.  That is just stupid.

It’s been a week since the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead aired and after much soul-searching, I think I am finally willing to admit to my husband and the rest of the world that I am disappointed.  Wow, that was hard to say.  After such a promising two thirds of a season, I feel like we are back in the same place we were in Season 3…once again dealing with the stupid storyline of The Governor.  The only saving grace of this last episode is that at least we can say The Governor is now gone.  Let’s get to talking…

1.  Let’s face it, this episode was sloppy – I have no problem with The Walking Dead taking huge logical leaps, heck, we are dealing with a show about the zombie apocalypse.  But, this last hour felt like the show didn’t really care that it was forcing its viewers to watch a preposterous storyline.  For instance, Meghan dies at the hands (or rather the mouth) of a buried zombie.*  And, then her mother has the time to walk all the way to the prison so that she can show The Governor what has happened.  Umm, excuse me?  I was lead to believe that the distance between The Governor’s camp and the prison was a little farther away than the 2 minute walk it took for Lily to get there.  Apparently the writers wanted Lily there so that she could shoot The Governor at the end, but was that really necessary?**  I would argue no.  Further, when did Michonne get the ability to teleport because that is clearly the only explanation for her ability to disappear and reappear at a moments notice.  I am glad Michonne got her revenge, but, really, we are supposed to believe that no one else came close to The Governor and Rick as they engaged in a fist fight, however, Michonne just was able to walk right up and stab him?  This was just stupid.

*I will never be able to understand why parents continue to let their kids roam around unsupervised.  Didn’t Meghan just get attacked like an episode ago from a zombie while playing tag?  Maybe we shouldn’t let her dig alone by herself.  Zombies are everywhere people!  Get that through your head.

**Also, why didn’t Meghan turn into a zombie on the way over to the prison?  This would have to mean that the prison was very, very close.  And, why had Rick and company never come across this group of people before?

2.  The Governor – This is what I really don’t understand…What was the point of making me watch 2 full episodes of The Governor because in the end he turned out to be the same crazy-ass character that he has always been.  If the show wanted The Governor to be some insane-villain fine.  I will accept that.  But, everything that happened in the mid-season finale made the foundation the writers incorporated about The Governor meaningless.  Clearly, The Governor wasn’t trying to attack the prison so that his group could have a safe place to live, otherwise why the heck would he have brought a tank to destroy the buildings he hoped to inhabit?  The Governor sole purpose was to kill Rick.  If the show wanted that to be his purpose, fine, but don’t make we watch him play daddy to a girl that he really didn’t care about and hook up with his new love interest.  We could have gotten to the same place of The Governor attacking the prison in the end with a few short scenes of him of him finding a new group and making plans.  There was no need for 2 straight Governor episodes.  NO NEED.

3.  Once again, Lizzie is the worst – Seriously, Lizzie, you abandon baby Judith so that you can “be brave.”  That is just stupid.  You don’t leave a baby in the open by herself!  Now whether Judith is dead or not, I guess we will have to wait and see.  I am holding out hope that she isn’t (also, I think the show might be too chicken to actually kill off a baby).  Going back to the sloppiness point above, was there really a need for Lizzie’s speech about doing what Carol taught her and being brave?  No, there wasn’t.  All you needed was to show Lizzie shooting the zombie and saving Tyreese and the audience would have gotten the message.  A little too heavy-handed for me.

4.  Goodbye Hershel – So, CJ and I made guesses at who we thought would die in this episode and both guessed Hershel.  I mean, it was kind of obvious, right?  If for no other reason than the big character arc that Hershel has gotten over this first half of season 4.  That isn’t to say that I am not going to miss Hershel completely.  He was the wise, understanding character in the bunch.  One who always seemed to be able to keep a level-head.  I have a feeling that there will be a big hole in the show, that might not be easy to replace.

5.  Splits-ville – The group has split dramatically and that no one seems to be going in the same direction.  Here is a recap of where everyone is (or appears to be):  Glen on the bus (with none of the other main characters, right?); Tyreese with Lizzie and Minka; Maggie with Bob (who is shot) and Sasha; Daryl with Beth; and Rick with Carl.  I can only assume that Michonne will be teleporting between the groups.

What did y’all think?

-LJ

BOARDWALK EMPIRE: SEASON 4 RETROSPECTIVE

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Richard: I will see you in 3 days.
Julia: Or I will hunt you down and drag you to Wisconsin.
Richard: I promise.

Richard Harrow was a quiet, sad, internal, in many ways broken man when he returned home from the Great War. Broken not only emotionally, but physically as well. Missing half his face, unable to speak with any great conviction, and always concerned of frightening those around him. When he met Jimmy Darmody, he began to find his place in the world again, but it was never without difficulty. Then, when his only friend in the world was killed, we had to wonder, what is next for Richard?

Season 3 of Boardwalk Empire saw Richard Harrow in some very dark and lonely places, including an entire, beautiful episode showing us Richard’s isolation and his thoughts of suicide. But his life found a purpose as the season played out, first, as caretaker and father figure to Jimmy’s son, Tommy, then as a love interest to the daughter of a fellow war vet, Julia. But the finale of season 3 gives us Richard at perhaps his very darkest. In order to protect and rescue Tommy, Richard goes on an amazing, nearly unbelievable killing spree, which shatters him to his very core. He delivers Tommy to Julia, getting him away from his monster of a grandmother, but being more broken than ever before, he leaves. He leaves Atlantic City, he leaves Julia, and he leaves Tommy.

From his introduction in season 1, Jack Huston’s performance as Richard Harrow quickly showed itself to be one of the best of Boardwalk Empires truly special ensemble, and even one of the very best on all of TV. In fact, Richard Harrow likely was the character that I looked forward to spending time with most each year (yes, including Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Jesse Pinkman, Kenny Powers, Raylan Givens, Boyd Crowder and the enter Gallagher family). Huston’s performance was always so small, but ever powerful. He was never given a ton of screen time, but his screen presence more than made up for it. His quiet determination and devotion to his best friend’s son was truly touching, and Richard died at the close of season 4 of Boardwalk Empire to again protect Tommy.

That being said, I suppose if I want to call this post a season 4 “retrospective,” I should do something other than talk about 1 character. Here’s the thing about Boardwalk Empire though: it remains one of the most beautiful, complicated, well written, marvelously acted, and criminally under watched shows on TV. My guess is that people attempt to ignore this show because they can’t “buy” Steve Buscemi in a leading role, but that’s ridiculous. Yes, Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson is the “center” of this show, but it is an ensemble in the same vein as many of the great ensembles of this Golden Age of TV, such as LOST, The West Wing or Mad Men.

As each season that came before it did, season 4 started slowly, with many seemingly disconnected stories, ranging from Wisconsin to NYC to Chicago to Atlantic City to Florida. But as always, by the time the season came to a close, each story beautifully intersected with the other. The fact that people still try to doubt the brilliance of Boardwalk astounds me, but moreso than that, the fact that it is so overlooked, even by people who watch good TV, is the true disappointment for me.

In a season defined by some intense and heart wrenching deaths (Agent Knox, Chalk’s daughter and obviously Richard), the most important deaths going forward are likely the one’s that didn’t happen. That neither Dr. Narcisse or Chalky White died in this finale was not only surprising, but also very exciting for the story going forward. The addition of Dr. Narcisse (played magnificently by the great Jeffrey Wright) was a welcome sight for many reasons. It’s not only good for the show because it added one more incredible performer to this ensemble. It was also fascinating for what it added in terms of the race discussion of Boardwalk Empire. Terrence Winter showed us over the previous 3 seasons how Chalky dealt with the white community, specifically Nucky, but this year, we got a chance to see him deal with internal race relations with Dr. Narcisse. And whatever anyone may think of Chalky (that he’s a criminal, a bootlegger, a murderer), he has always had the interests of his family, and his community at the forefront. The same cannot be said of Dr. Narcisse. Though we are presented with a man who claims to be a spokesman for his community, by the end of the season, we see that he is nothing more than a pimp and a peddler, and he’s not half the man that Chalky White is.

Going forward without Richard is a sad proposition for me, as I said, he was probably my favorite character on all of TV, but his death came at the right time for the show. And this is a show, unlike many (I’m looking at you Sons of Anarchy), that is always honest about it’s characters, and honest to its story. If the story calls for a character to die, no matter how painful it might be, the show makes that move. I believe Boardwalk is in as strong a position as ever, and I can’t wait for next September and season 5.

Season grade: 9.5/10

–CJ