Obstructed View 2013 TV Non-Awards, Part 1: An Unexpected Journey

A few of us from OV got together at the main offices and talked tv. This part is light on spoilers (not many at all), but the second part, which we'll publish after New Year's, has a lot more as we discuss our favorite shows of the year.

Best Episodes 

dmick89: Ozymandias (Breaking Bad), Decoy (Justified), Hitting the Fan (The Good Wife)

berselius: Ozymandias (Breaking Bad), Felina (Breaking Bad), Decoy (Justified)

Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair. I still don't get all of the critics who used 'neat' as a perjorative when describing the BB finale. I thought it was just about perfect. Decoy stands out as just one great episode among many in Justified's fourth season, which wisely kept the focus on the relationship between Raylan, Boyd, and Arlo.

sitrick: Ozymandias (Breaking Bad), The Day of the Doctor (Doctor Who), Leslie and Ben (Parks and Recreation)

A ton of ink has been spilled regarding how superb an hour of television Ozymandias was, much of it by more talented writers than I, so I'll let that stand. Suffice it to say that it was exactly the dramatic, tension-fueled end to the reign of Heisenberg that the show promised.

The 50th Anniversary Episode of Doctor Who stands as pure, delightful fan service, bringing back David Tennant's Tenth Doctor to galavant across the twisted time streams of Matt Smith's Eleven and John Hurt's mysterious War Doctor. It was a perfect summation of everything Doctor Who does well when it's at its best, full of humor, pathos, mythology, and tons of tiny references to Doctors past (I now find myself desperately wanting a Tom Baker scarf, because I am a nerd cliche). This will absolutely be the 2013 television episode I rewatch most going forward.

Comedies often get overlooked for "Best of" and "Best Episode" lists, which is a shame, because the Parks and Recreation wedding episode from early in the year is an example of television's best sitcom at the height of its power. "Leslie and Ben" was written as a potential series finale due to the uncertainty surrounding P&R's place in the NBC schedule. As a result, it is an episode that lingers on small moments and potential farewells, particularly in the final wedding scene, where each cast member is allowed what amounts to a just-in-case final bow. And despite all this, it's still packed with more funny jokes than the best five Big Bang Theory episodes combined. 

Best Performance

dmick89: Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black. She played a billion characters and by the second or third episode, you didn't even realize it. 

berselius: It would be tough to choose between anyone on Breaking Bad this year, since everyone on the show knocked it out of the park this year, from Walt and Jesse (expected) to Marie and Walter Jr. (not so expected). Luckily that decision doesn't have to be made since Tatiana Maslany outperformed all of them. The strangest part is how easy it is to forget that she's playing half the the leads on the show, and each of her five* main characters all seem different enough, even when one character is impersonating another. 

*well, four characters and one impersonated character

dmick89: I'm counting Olivier's tail as the billionth character played by Maslany because I like neat numbers. 

sitrick: I've yet to actually see Orphan Black, so my vote goes to Bryan Cranston for being the centerpiece of maybe the greatest final eight episode run of any series I can think of. 

Best New Series

dmick89: Rectify. 

berselius: Orphan Black.

sitrick: Broadchurch. 

Shows that we lost interest in

dmick89: Sons of Anarchy, Dexter. Then again, I've said that for each of the last four years and have still watched the following seasons. Too far along to give up I guess. It's unfortunate that the showrunner of Dexter couldn't have switched places with an actual lumberjack. 

berselius:

How I Met Your Mother – I still enjoy the show when I watch it but after missing an episode or two due to travel I never got around to adding it back to my rotation. At least it's wrapping things up this year.

Mad Men – I set the new season to record then never watched it. I have a hard time remembering why I liked this show, in retrospect, considering I basically like no one on it except maybe Roger (for pithy quips), Joan (too little screen time), and the rare Trudy Campbell appearance. It's a show that does great character work but not that appealing if you don't really care about the characters.

sitrick:

Mad Men – I like the show much more than berselius does, I think, but I still found this season uncompelling in pretty much every way. They've aged the characters too quickly, in my opinion, and I generally find the late sixties to be much less interesting than the earlier part of the decade. Combine that with the weird auteurist streak that Matt Weiner has put on display the past couple of seasons (with weird thematic episodes like last season's LSD episode or this year's speed episode) and the show lost me.

Community – This show just doesn't work without Dan Harmon, it's that simple. Sometimes it barely worked WITH Dan Harmon. I'm incredbily excited to see the upcoming Harmon-led Season 5 episodes and get the show I loved back.

(berselius: I'm cautiously excited for this year, if only for the sheer number of awesome guest stars they landed. That said, aside from the alternate timeline episode I was not a huge fan of season 3, and didn't think it was necessarily a bad idea at the time for NBC to fire Harmon. The guy put together a great show but holy shit does he have issues.)

(sitrick: I'm not saying I disagree with you, but you don't make the show without Dan Harmon. It probably should have just been cancelled after Season 3. That said, I suspect the hiatus has lit a fire under Harmon, and I'm expecting quality work this year.)

(berselius: To be fair, I forgot the excellent Law and Order and Glee-spoof episodes, and thought the video game one was in season 2. Still definitely a big step down from the excellent first two seasons. I am glad that Harmon's back.)

Series that I didn't watch but wish I had this year

dmick89: Boardwalk Empire. Looking forward to binging this show at some point. 

berselius: Orange is the New Black. Though I still like Penny Arcade's title for it better.

sitrick: Orphan Black. I have the biggest nerd crush on Tatiana Maslany after her brief turn as Tom's girlfriend on Parks and Recreation, so I'm pretty annoyed with myself for not watching. As soon as this hits Netflix I'm binging it.

Best Old Series Discovered or Rewatched this Year

dmick89: Veronica Mars, Chuck. Missed both of these shows when they aired, but thoroughly enjoyed binging them earlier this year. 

berselius: Being Human (UK). Its last season aired in the UK last spring, but I'm not sure if it ever did on BBC America. We were able to find most of it on Youtube, and it came out on DVD recently. I'll have more comments on the final season in part 2, but the rest of the series was pretty great too. Over the course of five seasons it turned over its entire cast without skipping a beat, and I have a hard time picking my favorite of the seven main characters over the run of the series. Well, second favorite. Nina is pretty awesome. I can't think if many shows where the pendulum can swing so quickly between utterly hilarious and terribly sad.

sitrick: Justified, Treme. Not having cable for a good long while (along with it not being on Netflix) kept me away from Justified for too long. I discovered it was streamable on Amazon Prime and proceeded to immediately plow through the first three seasons in a matter of weeks, much to the detriment of my finals. Looking forward to Season 4 once I can watch it for free or the bluray goes on sale for  cheap.

As far as Treme goes, it's a show that never lived up to the post-Wire expectations it was tagged with from the beginning. I caught the first season as it aired and enjoyed it, but wasn't really enamored with the series until a friend lent me an HBO GO login and I started working my way through Season 2. I've never been to New Orleans, but Simon is so dedicated to recreating the atmosphere of the city and the people that inhabit it that it's quickly climbing the list of places I need to visit. Never heavy on plot, the series embraces its deliberate pacing, lingering on moments of musicians joyfully practicing their craft — both actors like Wendell Pierce, real-life New Orleans musicians recruited for authenticity, and those like Lucia Micarelli that lie somewhere in between. It's a joy just spending time with these characters, despite the way their lives are constantly imbued with tragedy. Check it out now before it becomes another after-the-fact classic like The Wire.

berselius

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