2014 in Review: Television is a Beautiful Mess

Transparent

When Breaking Bad departed from television in a trail of crystal blue persuasion last September, television lost its center of gravity. At the time, this development seemed troubling. Without a consensus show around which to rally on social media, television fans and critics alike had to search elsewhere to find a show worthy of their devoted attention and undying affection. But a year removed from Walter White’s final blaze of glory, the loss of Breaking Bad seems more like a gift.

The consensus about this year’s television is that there is no consensus. Continue reading

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2014 in Review: The Year in Episodes

True Detective

This list is exactly what it looks like: a list of one great episode in each of twenty shows that I watched this year. I could have filled the entire list with episodes of The Americans and Hannibal, but I decided to impose a limit of one episode per show. This list is different from a list of my favorite TV shows of the year, though there’s plenty of overlap between the two. And if it’s not on this list, I either didn’t like it, liked it but preferred other things, or didn’t watch it.

And now, in chronological order, twenty of my favorite TV episodes of 2014.

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2013 in Review: Justin Timberlake’s Fractured Reign

Timberlake

During the first track on The 20/20 Experience, the first of two 2013 albums from Justin Timberlake, the multi-hyphenate superstar describes the love of his life as “my drug,” “my dealer” (yes, both), “my heroin” (rhymes with “wine”), “my cocaine,” “my nicotine,” “my blue dream” and “my hydroponic jelly bean.” (OK, that last one’s just plain weird.) He could have just as easily been describing his relationship with the American public, who gobbled up every morsel on his multi-course musical comeback menu with the vigor of, well, an addict. America simply couldn’t get enough of the suit and tie this year.

Or could they? Years from now, will we remember this year as the latest triumph in Timberlake’s impressive multi-decade streak, or the slow fade of an artist with plenty of energy but little substance beneath the style? The evidence from the first half of the year suggests the former, but the second half of the year brought its fair share of disappointments, casting a shadow over the Year of JT.

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2013 in Review: The Rest of Television’s Best

Arrested

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.

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2013 in Review: My Ten Favorite TV Shows

Parks

Yesterday I offered an overview of the year in television. Today, check out my list of my ten favorite TV shows of 2013. A few caveats:

1. I haven’t seen everything. Here’s a partial list of shows I can’t include on this list because I haven’t watched them: The Good Wife. Game of Thrones. Enlightened. Bob’s Burgers. Girls.Veep. Eastbound and Down. Treme. Broadchurch. The Fall. Masters of Sex. Justified. Sons of Anarchy. Boardwalk Empire. I’m not paid to watch television. I’m doing the best I can.

2. I didn’t rank these ten shows because I didn’t have the energy. Why bother? They’re all great. I’d recommend any of them to people who love watching TV.

3. Making lists is fun but inevitably arbitrary. Tomorrow, I’ll post another list of shows that missed this list but still deserved recognition. Boiling things down to a list of ten is important for the purposes of making difficult judgment but meaningless for the pursuit of quality viewing.

And now, the list.

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2013 in Review: Kingpins, Inmates and Serial Killers in a Rich Year for Television

Orphan Black

In 2013, couch potatoes reframed the phrase “too much TV” to signify the veritable bounties of powerful dramas, gut-busting comedies and intriguing hybrids splashed across an unprecedented array of channels and platforms. No longer can concerned parents or frustrated roommates complain that you need to get out more – they’re too busy binging on House of Cards and catching up on Scandal.

Regardless of what this visual buffet means for the state of physical fitness, there’s no denying that 2013 brought riches aplenty for people who find value in the artistic medium of “television.” Whether you were letting Netflix give you the royal treatment, carrying you from one episode to the next without so much as a click of the mouse, or you were continuing to exert power over your remote control, greatness was bursting from every frame. A brilliant thriller about an alliterative meth king ended its run in a blaze of frightfully intense glory. Serial killers and murder mysteries reigned supreme in a wide range of settings, tones and character shadings. We dove headfirst into the emotional lives of inmates in a women’s prison, found surprising emotional depth in the tale of two Russian spies whose marriage oscillates between fa├žade and fulfillment, and marveled at the dexterity of a young woman tasked with simultaneously portraying nearly a dozen versions of herself.

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