Yesterday, I unveiled a list of my ten favorite shows of 2013. As I argued in my piece on Wednesday, though, this year’s television can’t be summed up in terms of just ten shows. Here, then, is a snapshot of other things I enjoyed on TV in 2013.
Great Shows That Just Missed the Top 10 Cut
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
It’s no surprise that series creators Michael Schur and Dan Goor, veterans of Parks and Recreation, know their way around an ensemble. Andre Braugher and Terry Crews are thus far the MVPs of the energetic first season of this comedy set in a Brooklyn precinct. Andy Samberg’s character occasionally grates more than he should, but the pieces are in place for an exciting addition to the network comedy landscape.
Happy Endings (ABC)
ABC cancelled this delightful comedy after haphazardly shuffling it across the primetime schedule for much of its run. Nonetheless, few shows could match the sheer velocity of this show’s dialogue, and the healthy marriage of Damon Wayans Jr. and Eliza Coupe reached near Coach & Tami Taylor levels of satisfaction.
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (NBC)
In his last full year as host of NBC’s 12:35 late-night standard, Fallon continued to produce the most unironically enjoyable and snark-resistant late-night show on the landscape. Whether he was jamming with Justin Timberlake for a full week, hamming it up with Bill Cosby or re-energizing Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” Fallon couldn’t be beat. The Tonight Show is in good hands.
New Girl (Fox)
An unimpressive run of fall episodes helped me cut this comedy from my list of 10 favorites, but the season 2 episodes that aired in 2013 were among my favorites on any show. As Nick and Jess’ will-they-won’t-they ultimately fell to the will-they side, Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson made every facet of their spiky chemistry true. Oh, and really funny.
The fifth season has been hampered by the baffling election storyline, in which Christina implausibly makes a bid for the mayor of Berkeley. Nonetheless, this show’s unflinching sentiment was regularly tearjerking.
Raising Hope (Fox)
I didn’t catch every 2013 episode of this resilient comedy series from creator Greg Garcia, but when I did watch, I was rewarded with a pleasing array of silly sight gags, warm character moments and an everyman antidote to the tales of the privileged that make up much of television’s elite.
The Returned (Sundance)
Imported from France, this horror series served as a corrective to the overt gore and nuance-free dread of The Walking Dead. The twists: the undead aren’t hungry for flesh, their physical appearance hasn’t changed since they died, and they just want to reconnect with their loved ones. One of the creepiest shows in a long while, with a stunning performance from 18-year-old Yara Pilartz as young Camille.
Sleepy Hollow (Fox)
The most surprising success of the fall season, this zany supernatural comedy-thriller gains immense credibility from the strength of its central relationship, lovingly realized by breakout actors Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie.
Top of the Lake (Sundance)
The Sundance Channel’s banner year kicked off with this idiosyncratic miniseries helmed by acclaimed film director Jane Campion. Elisabeth Moss’ layered performance as the emotionally unstable detective Detective Robin Griffin was just the beginning of a fantastic ensemble and an occasionally mystifying, consistently compelling world.
Trophy Wife (ABC)
Thus far, this warm ABC family comedy has generated more approving smiles than uncontrollable giggles, but the tight ensemble has gelled nicely, the kids are more impressive than they have any right to be, and the writers appear dead-set on avoiding the sorts of petty conflicts that drove Modern Family into its current narrative rut.
The Wrong Mans (Hulu)
A tightly constructed, tonally adventurous blast of Hitchcockian suspense and slapstick silliness. With a brief six-episode run, this BBC/Hulu co-production demonstrates the importance of elasticity in the television form.
Notable Episodes of Problematic Shows:
Arrested Development, “Colony Collapse” and “Senoritis”
I’ll write more about the fourth season of Arrested Development in the near future, but for now, I’ll say that the season had plenty of issues but also several standout episodes. When Gob and Maeby took center stage and the show took a break from diverting our attention hither and thither, these characters went on emotional journeys with legitimate stakes. In their respective episodes, Arnett and Shawkat relied on the same tics and gestures that made their characters so appealing in the first place, but they also reflected the growth that occurred since we left them at the end of the show’s televised third season.
Community, “Basic Human Anatomy”
If reports of improvements in the upcoming episodes are to be believed, the Dan Harmon-less fourth season of this show will be swiftly erased from memory. Despite its failures, though, the show managed to turn out the occasional satisfying episode. This one, written by co-star Jim Rash, found Abed and Troy pretending to switch bodies and at least brought the funny, which many of the other manic episodes failed to do.
Downton Abbey , “Episode Five” and “Episode Six”
The wildly popular British soap started to feel stale this season, but the episode that ends with Lady Sybil’s tragic death and the episode that deals with the aftermath offered the cast an opportunity to demonstrate their continuing vitality, even when faced with Julian Fellowes’ oft-inane storylines.
Falling Skies, “Strange Brew”
This sci-fi series rarely lives up to its potential of its premise, delivering sluggish character development and deeply implausible twists, but this episode at least demonstrated a willingness to break form and deliver an episode that didn’t immediately make sense. The flashback structure in the first half ultimately gave way to a story that didn’t justify the formal subversion, but for once, I was genuinely curious about the show’s direction.
Noteworthy, Unheralded Performances
- Noah Emmerich and Annet Mahendru, The Americans
- Albert Tsai and Ryan Lee, Trophy Wife
- Demian Bichir, Matthew Lillard and Emily Rios, The Bridge
- Hayden Panetierre, Nashville
- Garrett Dillahunt and Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope
- Joe LoTruglio, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
- Laverne Cox, Uzo Aduba and Kate Mulgrew, Orange is the New Black
- Kaitlyn Jenkins, Bunheads
- Jesse Plemons, Breaking Bad
- James Wolk and Harry Hamlin, Mad Men
- Peter Mullan and Holly Hunter, Top of the Lake
- Ray Romano and Max Burkholder, Parenthood
- Will Arnett, Jessica Walter, Alia Shawkat and Tony Hale, Arrested Development