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

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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