Monday, December 23, 2013

The Most Awesome Television of 2013

You know, I have never been the biggest TV show junkie.  I've never watched Breaking Bad, Modern Family, Mad Men, or any of the other shows that people always rave about.  Movies and the film industry have always been my thing, and when it comes to TV, typically I just want to watch shows that intrigue me or are entertaining, so majority of the shows I watch are action procedurals like Person of Interest or Arrow.  I feel no shame in admitting that, nor should I.

The point is, every year I do a series of lists honoring the best in film, but I have never been well versed enough in the wider array of popular television to make such a list, so I've decided, rather than doing a best in television list for 2013, I'm just going to do an informal list of the TV shows I found to be the most awesome.  Hopefully, if you haven't seen one of the shows I'm talking about, you'll be interested enough after reading about them to look them up and give them a shot, but enough talk, on with the list.


Sleepy Hollow
This was a show that I was very skeptical of when it first came on the air.  The concept of the show was very different from the traditional take on, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," having Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman reawaken in modern day Sleepy Hollow, and oh yeah, the Horseman just so happens to be the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Now, Ichabod and police officer, Abbie Mills, must prevent the impending apocalypse, as the two witnesses from the book of Revelation.  It's a show that has drawn heavily from myth, history, and the bible, to create something new, and it works.  It's like a new X-Files, with Ichabod actor, Tom Mison, stealing each scene he is in by relishing in the humor of a Revolutionary man aghast by our modern day.  However, the real joy of this show is the brilliant music by Robert Lydecker and Brian Tyler.  For me, it is so hard to find a weekly TV show that has a musical score rivaling anything you might hear on the big screen, and Sleepy Hollow does just that with that brilliant theme written by Tyler.

Very rarely do shows get better as they go along, and with the case of the CW's Arrow (their take on DC Comics' superhero archer, Green Arrow), they have done just that.  The show started off as a simple Dark Knight rip-off, drawing heavily from the last three Batman films in tone and style, but as time wore on the show found its own niche that is starting to balance the supernatural and scientific, with the grounded reality of the show.  Now, in its second season, we've already seen super soldiers and the origin of the Flash, one of DC's other major superheroes, portrayed in this show by Grant Gustin.  I loved Gustin as Barry Allen, the Flash's alter ego, and while he was only in two episodes so far this season, the last scene we saw with him was him getting struck by the lightning that will give him his super powers.  The fact that Arrow is now fully embracing the fantastical, and yet still making it feel plausible is the show's greatest feat, and for a comic book fan it has me on cloud nine, now I can't wait to see what the rest of season two has to offer, as well as The Flash spin-off that's supposed to hit airwaves next Fall.

This is probably my favorite show of the past decade, partly because it's so easy to pick up and watch at anytime.  This is one of those shows that has no real complex seasons long mythologies (unless you count Beckett's mom's murder), with all you really need to know is that it's about a charming mystery writer named Richard Castle who helps the NYPD solve crimes.  However, the fifth season was a low point for the show, with Castle and Det. Beckett finally becoming an item, and the show did not seem to know where to go with them, with the characters constantly questioning their relationship.  After a point it got old, but that's where the Season 5 finale shook things up this past May with Castle proposing to Beckett and her saying yes at the start of Season 6 in September.  Now, with them engaged, they are no longer questioning their relationship and if they argue, it is over normal, domestic problems, evidenced by the funny episode just about a month ago where they had to take care of a baby.  This was the best way for Castle to go in order to keep the characters fun and fresh, and I think so far, Season 6 has been a genuine knockout.

Person of Interest
Okay, if Castle is my favorite show of the past decade, then Person of Interest is a close second.  The story follows a reclusive billionaire named Mr. Finch, who created a machine that can predict violent crimes before they happen, and he enlists the help of ex-special forces' agent, Mr. Reese, to stop these crimes before anything can go wrong.  I have loved this show from the moment I first saw the pilot, and it's one of those shows that just continues to get better and better.  What's more, is that in this day and age, I don't see many shows that genuinely surprise me anymore, and Person of Interest has done that time and time again with clever plot twists.

This past year, Person of Interest has had some of its biggest shake-ups in terms of plot, with the machine developing a full-on personality, in essence becoming a sentient Artificial Intelligence.  As well, we finally learned why Mr. Finch has a limp and is so reclusive, but none of that can top the death of Det. Carter.  Person of Interest finally wrapped up a two-and-a-half year storyline involving the corrupt NYPD organization known as HR by capping it off with the murder of one of the main characters who has been on the show since the pilot.  I know shows kill people off all the time, but it still hits hard each time it happens, especially when it's characters on a show you care about.

I know a lot of people who haven't watched Elementary just because they are so beholden to BBC's Sherlock, but the two shows are vastly different in their interpretations of the Sherlock Holmes character.  While yes, both are modern day interpretations of Sherlock Holmes, that's the only real similarity.  In Elementary, Johnny Lee Miller's Sherlock Holmes is still abrasive and egotistical, like Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock, but there is an underlying humanity to the character that I don't know if I've ever seen before, and that's what I love so much about actor Johnny Lee Miller's portrayal.  However, what really sets Elementary apart is that Watson is a girl, played by Lucy Liu.

What I've loved over the first season and a half of this show, is that they seem to have no intention of ever having Holmes and Watson become an item, and to me that is a breath of fresh air for this type of detective show.  Of course, the other main reason Elementary has won so many points with me is in how it remains true to the spirit of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, while making clever deviations from the source material at times to create surprise.  Nothing was more surprising than when we found out that Sherlock Holmes's dead love, Irene Adler, was in fact still alive and that she was actually his greatest nemesis, Moriarty, faking her own death to rattle Sherlock.  Just a brilliant twist on what we already know.

How I Met Your Mother
Say what you want about this past year of How I Met Your Mother, but if there's one thing it has done right, that is the Mother.  While season 8 was a definite low point for the series, and season 9 only being marginally better, the introduction of the Mother in the season 8 finale was what made the entire How I Met Your Mother experience of 2013, worthwhile.  Cristin Milioti is everything a How I Met Your Mother fan could have dreamed of for the Mother, and each time she has come onscreen, there is an obvious chemistry with the cast, and it feels like she should have been there the whole time.  Her character has been exceptionally well written, if a bit under utilized at this point.  Seeing as to how everything seems to brighten up and feel more fresh and original while she's around, here's hoping we'll get a few Mother-centric episodes when the show comes back in January to finish its final season.

This was the best television experience of the year for me, if not the best I think I've ever had.  Broadchurch was an import from the UK that aired on BBC America this past Fall, and it was a show that lived up to the hype surrounding it and then some.  In all honesty, I can't quite put words on why I loved this show so much.  It's a simple whodunit set in a seaside village called Broadchurch in rural England.  Broadchurch is a vacation spot where murder never happens, but when the strangled body of a little boy is found on the beach, the whole town becomes a suspect to the town's new Detective Inspector, Alec Hardy, played brilliantly by David Tennant.

This show is just everything I love about a great mystery yarn, it's taut and suspenseful, filled with twists at every turn.  Who did or didn't murder Danny Latimer may not actually even be the most pressing question, but rather why?  Almost every character has a secret that they are hiding, and it's the exploration of the thematic ideas of secrecy and its affects, as well as redemption, that make Broadchurch the riveting experience it is.

If you didn't see it when it first ran, BBC America will probably rerun it in its entirety before its second season starts sometime next year, but if the idea of British accents does you in, then just wait for the American adaptation being made for FOX, called Gracepoint.  I for one am intrigued by Gracepoint, with David Tennant reprising his role in the remake, but he wont be playing a British version of the character, but an American version.  I don't know if that's ever been done before, so it will be interesting to compare and contrast.  The same writer is also writing the pilot of Gracepoint, and he promises that the killer may not even be the same, so expect some small, subtle differences to the story.  Irregardless, I think this was the best television produced this past year, and if it were released in theaters as an 8-hour movie, it would probably wind up in my top 5 films of 2013.


And there you have it, what I believe to have been the most awesome television shows in 2013.  Check back in the coming weeks as I'll be starting my best in film posts celebrating 2013.

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