We have arrived at the top! After five grueling days of deconstructing the best and worst that the 2013 television season had to offer, TVAngie and cinephilactic are ready to announce our winners (and losers). Will your choices make the cut?
If you’ve never heard or seen of NBC’s faux-reality show, Siberia, the television monstrosity that aired this summer, then consider yourself lucky. After only watching three episodes (three agonizing episodes) I knew I had a winner for worst show of the year.
The premise – a scripted show that’s meant to emulate a reality show. The ‘contestants’ are dropped off in a camp somewhere in Russia and who ever can survive the longest (which could be months) wins a cash prize. But the camp is actually haunted by evil spirits or aliens or something (I didn’t stick around to find out what). Sure enough, paranormal activity ensues and the contestants start mysteriously dying off. Meanwhile, the cameras continue to roll.
Reality shows are bad enough, but picture a bunch of E-list ‘actors’ who are told to behave like reality show contestants and you’re starting to understand why this show sucks. The results are extremely uncomfortable to watch. The performances are so stunted it doesn’t translate to ‘real’ at all – it is simply terrible, terrible acting. High school students look like Oscar winners in comparison. Perhaps the writers provided a ‘loose’ script in order to maintain an air of authenticity, but – newsflash! – in order for that to work you actually need capable actors. Instead, we appear to have a bunch of models-turned-actors, bumbling through tired and clichéd plot points – all the while accompanied by a shaky camera intended to give off a “reality show feel”. Honestly, it’s truly painful to watch.
NBC classified Siberia as a ‘horror show’ and indeed, it is horrifying, but not for the reasons they intended. There’s little doubt in my mind that this show is a disaster and it easily qualifies as the worst show of the year.
- # of episodes watched: 3 (and that was more than enough)
- Returns: Hopefully never, but there are rumours that S2 might be shopped around (dear god no!)
Smash S2: Even with all of the changes (no more Ellis, Dev, Leo or mumsy scarves) the show was still painful to watch primarily due to McPhee’s continued deer-in-headlights/ I’m-a-cardboard-cutout school of acting
Creator Kevin Williamson apparently lives in another world: a world in which Edgar Allen Poe is a superstar and hundreds of people are willing to pick up the nearest sharp object and kill for a supremely uncharismatic serial killer. That’s the world of The Following, which “follows” Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) as he tries to capture Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) who has amassed an army of “followers” willing to kill for him. These people are everywhere, capable of holding any job (particularly law enforcement) and are conveniently located wherever they’re needed, whenever they’re needed. In this world, the police are as stupid as can be and constantly find themselves in scenarios where they are tricked, maimed or killed.
Only Hardy is smart enough to match wits with Carroll, but he’s constantly distracted because his loved ones are kidnapped (first his soon-to-be-revealed son Joey, and then later his true love Claire, played with alarming stupidity by Natalie Zea). Throw in a bunch of quasi love triangles, a series of B-plots about Joey’s kidnappers (whom we’re seemingly meant to sympathize with?!), a bunch of stupid Poe riddles and the most pathetic attempt at a cliffhanger ending and you have one insulting, depressing and poorly executed show. The Following is insipid, graphic without merit and terribly acted. It’s one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen and easily my pick for worst show of the year.
- # of episodes watched: 15
- Returns: Sunday, Jan 19 at 10pm EST on FOX
- Caveat: I look forward to hate-watching the new season when it returns in a few weeks
Bates Motel S1: Vera Farmiga is off in her own world as the demented Norma Bates and Olivia Cooke is lovely, but the rest of this A&E prequel is a forgettable mess.
Sean Saves The World S1: A formulaic sitcom that feels instantly dated, with tired jokes and a relentless laugh track. Why can’t I stop watching?
Teen Wolf S3: The decision to expand the third season was a poor one (the additional time has provided loads of opportunities for overly dramatic slow-motion action scenes). Hopefully the showrunners will have worked out the kinks when it returns for S3B on Monday, Jan 6
For the third year in a row, the AMC series about a chemistry teacher turned meth drug lord earns a place on my best list, this time easily claiming the top spot. Breaking Bad is simply a master-class in television. So magnificently plotted, the superior writing allows for every integral element of the show to fall in place perfectly – there’s cinematic quality direction and a plethora of emotionally engaging performances from Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn (just to name a few). It’s not necessarily about liking the characters, or even caring about them, it’s about becoming so invested in their stories that you’re salivating and wringing your hands until the next episode airs. I don’t think there’s been another series where I’ve been so consistently engaged and enthralled.
This year Breaking Bad undertook the herculean task of producing a series finale that would honour the prestige of all the episodes that came before it. It’s likely the show will go down in the history books for being the first drama series to date to end its run satisfactorily. Granted, there’s been criticism that things ended “too perfectly”, but really, if that’s the biggest gripe, I believe Breaking Bad was more than successful in accomplishing it’s mission.
In truth, Breaking Bad shoots to the top of my list primarily due to one fantastic episode: ‘Ozymandias’. This may well be one of the best hours of television in the history of the medium. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it (because it really does need to seen), but the episode features such an amazingly crafted sequences of events that I was literally left breathless.
It’s bittersweet that Breaking Bad has ended, but what the show delivered to viewers in its final batch of episodes is a delightful gift. Never has the statement “all good things must come to an end” rung truer. Easily the best show in 2013 – if not of all time.
- Watch: Start right from the beginning and watch the whole thing through – STAT!
Fringe S5: Things ended rather predictably, but on the whole the show delivered a good final batch of episodes to its devoted fan based, tugging on just the right amount of heartstrings in its wrap-up.
Orange is the New Black S1: Not a perfect show, but when the focus is on the supporting characters (i.e. the non-white characters), Orange… really shines.
I’ll admit it right off the top: I’m incredibly biased when it comes to all things Bryan Fuller. There’s something that’s so appealing to me about groundbreaking series like Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me and – my personal favourite – Wonderfalls. To me, Fuller is a true visionary and he’s really making an individual mark in a cluttered television landscape that often suffers from a lack of individuality.
All of this to say that for me, Hannibal was the television event of the year. Other series got a great deal more acclaim (see TVAngie’s pick above) – perhaps rightfully so – but there is something incredibly unique about Hannibal: it is a landmark series for its rich visual tapestry. From the pilot episode (which draws heavily on Stanley Kubrick’s aesthetic in The Shining) to the beautifully macabre murder scenes, this NBC gem is as gorgeous as the disturbingly appetizing meals that Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) cooks up. On top of this rich metaphorical surface, the show is anchored by two heavyweight performances courtesy of Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy as Will Graham. Mikkelsen (who appears in both my film and TV list this year) almost instantly makes Lecter his own – a bourgeois European intellectual who craves friendship but can’t help destroying it. It’s Dancy, however, who amazes; I never knew that he was capable of delivering such a nakedly raw and emotionally devastating performance. His omission from acting awards this year has been a serious crime.
The series isn’t perfect (a few episodes are duds and the female roles are problematic), but charting the tense and fragile friendship that develops between Lecter and Graham is entrancing, the cases of the week are far more interesting than any other police procedural and the visual aesthetic makes this one of the most distinctive series currently airing on TV. Hannibal is one of those shows that will always be in danger of cancellation, and when/if it is canceled, it will become a cult series that viewers will argue was cut down in its prime. If you value top quality drama (and can stomach the gore), this is a compulsory show. For my money, it’s the very best of TV that 2013 had to offer and its February return can’t come soon enough.
- Returns: Friday, Feb 28 at 10pm EST on NBC
- Watch: Watch it before February (Feel free to skip the retracted fourth episode with Molly Shannon)
Look for my honourable mentions list tomorrow.
So that’s our top five Best and Worst shows of 2013. Did our lists match up with yours or do you have other shows you think we missed? Where do you think TV will take us in 2014? And if you could name a single episode as the best of the year, what would it be? Hit the comments below and let us know!
And look for cinephilactic’s ‘Best Of The Rest’ list (populated by shows that weren’t quite top 5, but deserve a shout-out nonetheless). It debuts tomorrow morning at 9am EST.