The Best of the Small Screen, 2013

As 2013 draws to a close, I thought it would be fun to recap all the recaps. That’s so meta, isn’t it? That means I’ll be giving my picks for the best of the television season.  Some spoilers lie ahead…

 

New Series: Hannibal – NBC

Hannibal Logo

Bryan Fuller loves taking the idea of death, a normally bleak and dark subject matter, and making it beautiful. From out of nowhere, a reboot of a story that’s been told too many times already reeled me in and didn’t let go for its thirteen episode first season. Although the ratings weren’t the best, and NBC was on the fence about a second season renewal, they finally gave in and ordered a second thirteen episode season to air next year. And thank God because I would be even more upset than when Pushing Daisies was cancelled. Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy play so well off each other under the beautiful darkness that I will honestly be surprised if at least one of them isn’t nominated for an Emmy at some point during the show’s run. Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter is so subtly flawless that it rivals, if not surpasses, Anthony Hopkins iconic portrayal of the character. Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham, the FBI profiler who doesn’t know he’s looking for Hannibal, is so broken that I felt sincere emotion for him as I saw him slide further and further downward. Even Laurence Fishburne, who isn’t normally at the top of my list of favorite actors, is great as Jack Crawford, the head of Behavioral Sciences for the FBI.

If you’ve read any of my articles before, you probably know that cinematography and music are massively important to me. If I don’t like watching and listening to a show then I’m probably not going to like it much at all. These two factors set the mood and the pace for what is to come and to be expected. Without them, it all falls apart. Hannibal gives its viewers both of those things in brilliantly haunting ways. The shots are so well crafted that even a hand from a corpse sticking out of the ground of a totem of bodies are beautiful, not to mention the wendigo, the frightening creature that appears to Graham as hallucinations.

Hannibal Wendigo

 

Game Changer: Wilfred – FX

Wilfred Logo

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve always loved how quirky Wilfred has been, but season three blew me out of the water with how its rich mythology so seamlessly flowed through the humor. I’ve compared Wilfred to Lost before, and I stand my ground now. I have no idea how this is going to work out in the end, but I can’t wait to see it happen. If you like to laugh and say, “what the hell was that?!” at the same time then please give Wilfred a chance. Its first two seasons are on Netflix, and its fourth and final season will be airing on FXX next year. Go watch it now! Good dog.

Seriously, though. What the hell??

Seriously, though. What the hell??

 

Surprise: Orphan Black – BBC America

Orphan Black Logo

This one was tough for me, as there were actually quite a few surprises this season. My first instinct was to hand it to FX’s The Americans or The Bridge, which I didn’t have very high hopes for but really impressed me by season’s end. Then I considered A&E’s Bates Motel, whose pilot blew me away but eventually led to a mediocre first season that didn’t quite know where it wanted to go. I also considered the very violent and sexual Game of Thrones (cue South Park‘s hilarious parody of the theme song). Much like its luck at the Emmys, I like the show a lot, but its too genre-specific to feel like a real contender, although the Red Wedding this year was quite exhilarating by itself, especially not having read the novels.

That leaves me with what was the biggest surprise and most fun I’ve had watching a series in a long time: Orphan Black. I had seen promos for the show during its run, but I never actually tuned in until it started getting a ridiculous amount of buzz online. “Who is this Tatiana Maslany girl everyone is raving about?” I asked to no one in particular. I watched the pilot and was immediately hooked. Then I watched the next episode, and then the next, and then I finished the entire season in one day. It really is that good. Maslany plays several different characters, all clones of each other, all with their own distinct personalities and character traits. Orphan Black = [(Mike Myers + Eddie Murphy) – stupidity + talent] x 9000, if one were to describe it as a math equation. It’s definitely worth the time to take a vacation day and watch it all at once. You might say you want to spread it out, but you won’t be able to.

Four different kinds of fun.

Four different kinds of fun.

 

New Television Distribution Method: Netflix

Netflix Logo

Amazon has nothing on Netflix.  House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Lilyhammer, Hemlock Grove, and season four of Arrested Development were brought to us via Netflix, a streaming and DVD service that decided to change the industry forever. Netflix now seems to be the home for second chances, (Arrested Development) and, um, third chances (the upcoming season four of The Killing, which was already cancelled and brought back once by AMC… I guess they have more than one show about the undead). If Netflix can keep bringing back things that people actually want and have critically acclaimed original programs like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black (both of which are phenomenal, by the way) and continue to offer old series and movies for only eight bucks per month then they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. (This is not a paid endorsement of Netflix.)

"It ain't easy bein' streamed."

“It ain’t easy bein’ streamed.”

 

Series: Breaking Bad – AMC

Breaking Bad Logo

I was first exposed to AMC’s Breaking Bad just a few weeks before the fourth season premiered when I was shown the pilot episode by my former professor. “Look at these beautiful shots,” he said, and I did. Then I caught up on the rest of the series before I missed anymore. The series’ cinematographer is Michael Slovis, who might possibly have the best eye in the business. The southwestern landscapes are the most appealing shots of this planet that I have ever seen, and even shots of the super lab contain the most beautiful looking metal vats you’ve ever seen. Again, visuals are extremely important to me when it comes to starting a new series. If I don’t like to look at it then I won’t want to continue doing it every week. Not once in its five season/six year run did Breaking Bad come close to making me not come back.

Let’s also not forget about the music. Dave Porter’s score is hauntingly beautiful for a show about methamphetamine, and the song selection is just as masterful. “Crystal Blue Persuasion” and “Baby Blue” might seem like obvious choices to reflect Walter White’s signature pure blue meth, but they fit so perfectly with the themes of the series that their obviousness doesn’t detract from their power. The lyrics “Guess I got what I deserve” ring out at the end of “Felina,” (my choice for what is arguably the greatest series finale of all time) as Walt dies amongst the ruins of his empire. But he’s alright with it because everything worked out the way he wanted it to, much like series creator Vince Gilligan wanted it to. He turned Walter White from a timid high school science teacher into an international drug lord who was finally able to provide for his family with the help of a reluctant Gretchen and Elliot. I could watch Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul work together forever and never get bored. “Felina” was everything I wanted from a series finale. I can’t argue with that. Yeah, bitch.

"Hello, Emmys? Yes, I'll take them all."

“Hello, Emmys? Yes, I’ll take them all.”

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