As 2013 winds down, a lot of people are taking time to reflect on the year that was and look forward to the year to come. As I reflected on my year (Honesty Time: I most definitely did NOT reflect on my year, but that doesn’t make for a good opening paragraph, so let’s all collectively pretend I did.) I realized I spent a good portion of my time watching TV. The exact amount probably falls somewhere between “Not Healthy” and “You May Have A Problem.” I knew I had to do something to put all of my TV knowledge to use, otherwise all that time would be wasted. Thus, this blog post was born. I worked tirelessly (Honesty Time 2: The Honesty Never Dies: I procrastinated a lot) in coming up with my 10 favorite episodes of Television from the 2013 calendar year, and now it is ready to be shared with all of you.
One Episode limit for each show, multi part episodes (Example: Finale pt. 1/ Finale pt. 2) will be counted as one. Episodes are listen in no particular order. Let’s get started!
THE OFFICE: Finale
We lost a number of shows this year, but none as iconic and influential as The Office. The show had begun to lose momentum both creatively and commercially, so it didn’t come as much of a surprise when NBC announced that season 9 would be the show’s last. Overall, The final season was a mixed bag, but The Office finished it’s run with probably the best and most satisfying ending possible.
The show gave all of it’s characters a good ending: Andy (Ed Helms) went back to work at Cornell, Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer) moved to Philly, Dwight (Rainn Wilson) married Angela (Angela Kinsey) and finally became regional manager, heck, even Ryan (B.J Novak) and Kelly (Mindy Kailing) came back to finish up their romance. On top of that, The Office one-upped itself with the return of Michael Scott (Steve Carell) who stole the show despite only appearing in two or three scenes. “Finale” topped it all off with a wonderful montage of talking head interviews from each character reflecting on the show, ending on an emotional and very heartfelt note. (Watch the final minutes Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OE6TUxLJggM)
“Finale” was an excellent send off for characters that felt like family to those who watched, and a perfect way to end the series.
NEW GIRL: Cooler
No one thought they would pull the trigger this early. Sure, New Girl had been running for a season and a half before “Cooler”, but the central couple never gets together this early in a show’s run. New Girl didn’t seem to know that, crafting a brilliant episode out of nowhere and bringing together it’s two stars for one game-changing kiss.
The episode brings back the internet sensation True American, a drinking game with rules only the players seem to understand. Jess (Zooey Deschanel), trying to prove to Nick (Jake Johnston) that she can be a good wingman, rigs the game to try and set Nick up with Holly (Guest Star Brooklyn Decker). Through the events of the game, Nick and Jess are forced to kiss, but Nick refuses. When pressed for a reason the only reasonable thing he says is, “not like this.” After escaping the game without locking lips, the pair walk down the hallway and just before going into their respective rooms to sleep, they kiss.
“Cooler” showcases everything that’s great about New Girl: Hilarious drinking games, dynamic, memorable characters, an insanely funny cast, and the natural chemistry between Nick and Jess. The only problem is the show doesn’t know how to handle Nick and Jess’s relationship and thus has gone downhill since the episode aired, but thats another story. This episode alone was excellent, it shocked fans, delivered constant laughs, and changed the dynamic of the show going forward.
THE WALKING DEAD: Clear
The Walking Dead has had it’s ups and downs this year, and although the second half of Season 3 ended on a disappointing note, it also produced the show’s best episode since the first season: “Clear”. For those who don’t remember, “Clear” features the return of fan-favorite Morgan (Guest Star Lennie James) who runs into Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Carl (Chandler Riggs), and Michonne (Dania Gurira) as they search for supplies.
When Morgan reveals the tragedy he’s faced since we last saw him in season one, audiences are treated to the show we all knew The Walking Dead was capable of becoming. The episode uses Morgan as a character foil for Rick. Morgan represents what will become of Rick, if he doesn’t snap out of the depression he’s felt since Lori’s untimely death. Fortunately, Rick finally sees the road he’s headed down, and chooses to change his path. This is all clearly illustrated through the performances of Andrew Lincoln and Lennie James.
The episode’s other storyline humanizes Michonne, in a way the show hadn’t attempted to do previously, by pairing her with Carl. The two characters let their guard down and get to know one and other. Eventually, this trust leads to Michonne’s inclusion in the group and the beginnings of a semi-maternal relationship between her and Carl. To summarize, “Clear” marked Michonne’s transition from badass with zombies behind her to real character the audience cares about.
The Walking Dead will always give you the thrills, but it’s becoming rare for the show to deliver quality acting and writing to go along with the suspense. “Clear” is a shining example of how great a show The Walking Dead could be, and sometimes is. The problem is the show hasn’t found a way to sustain this type of excellence for more than one or two episodes at a time.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: A New Attitude
The return of Arrested Development was one of the biggest TV stories of the year, everyone seemed to be anxiously awaiting the release of new episodes of one of the best TV shows ever created. Such an insane amount of hype was a hard thing to deal with, there was no way the new season was ever going to reach viewers lofty expectations. The response varied, some loved the season, relishing time spent with beloved characters they thought would never return, while others claimed it paled in comparison to the Arrested Development of old. I was one of those who liked the new season.
I’ll admit the episodes are hit and miss, mostly based on which character the episode is following. The George Sr.(Jeffrey Tambor) episodes are particularly weak because as funny as he is, George Sr. was never meant to be a central character. But, the new season shined when it focused on excellent characters like Tobias (David Cross), or Buster (Tony Hale), or GOB (Will Arnett).
“A New Attitude” centers around GOB’s quest to avenge Tony Wonder’s (Guest Star Ben Stiller) sabotage of the magic trick (“ILLUSION! Michael, my Illusions! A trick is something a whore does for money.”) he was planning to pull at his wedding to Ann (Who?). But, as they seek revenge, they begin to like each other and forge on with a platonic gay relationship, though both still have revenge on the mind. This episode is the funniest of the season, and also features the best storyline idea. The whole Tony Wonder revenge/friendship story is something that could easily be stupid, but Arrested Development makes it clever, funny, and different. While some lament that Arrested Development isn’t the same as it used to be, I say that it’s still miles better then what’s on TV.
PERSON OF INTEREST: Zero Day
I love Person of Interest, I love it to death (If you don’t believe me, read this I wrote a whole post about it). “Zero Day”, the penultimate episode of Person Of Interest‘s second season, is the shows finest and most ambitious effort to date.
In the episode, the team races to track down the latest number, a mysterious billionaire, as the machine continues to be threatened by a computer virus. The twists and turns that follow are too awesome (And The Best Adjective in a blog post award goes to…) and shocking for me to spoil for you here, but there is a lot more than meets the eye with this show. The performances across the board are fantastic, especially those given by Michael Emerson and Amy Acker, and the writing is some of the best TV writing I’ve ever seen.
I watched this episode on an airplane and I’m not exaggerating when I say that by the end I literally was at the edge of my seat freaking out my fellow passengers because I was so into the episode. This show is operating on a whole other level, no other show on now can excite, intrigue, and shock me like Person Of Interest.
PSYCH: Psych The Musical
There are many different kinds of TV viewers, more traditional critics can talk for hours about the details and intricacies of shows like The Good Wife or Boardwalk Empire, but me I’d much rather spend hours quoting Psych and telling people to “Suck It!” For me TV is entertainment, and Psych may just be the most entertaining show on the air right now. Sure it may not have the emotional nuance of a Homeland or House Of Cards, but have those shows ever done a two hour musical complete with dance numbers and a well-developed, shocking mystery? No?
Well that’s what Psych pulled off only a couple of weeks ago when they aired Psych: The Musical and I loved every minute of it. This episode is probably the most ambitious episode of the year, it’s a full on musical, complete with a soundtrack and choreographed dance numbers. All the key actors can sing, especially Lassiter who turned out to be an impressive baritone. The storyline is compelling, though not groundbreaking. The real greatness here comes from the leading men, James Roday and Dule Hill, whose on-screen chemistry and willingness to do whatever is necessary for a laugh, carry the show.
Psych: The Musical isn’t for everyone, you’ll know within the first fifteen minutes or so whether it’s worth your time. For my money though, Psych: The Musical the most fun, entertaining, and original two hours of TV released this year.
30 ROCK: Hogcock/Last Lunch
Above I wrote about The Office‘s emotional, heartfelt finale and said that it was the perfect way to end the series. Well 30 Rock, not to be outdone, went a completely different route, ending it’s run with a crazy, hysterical, beyond clever, and satisfying finale.
Featuring some of the funniest lines, (“That’s our show, not many of you watched, but the jokes on you cause we got paid anyways”) , and concepts (Why wouldn’t there be a broadway version of The Rural Juror?) the series finale finished out the show in a way only 30 Rock could. They were weird and heartfelt at the same time, no show could it better. For example what other show would finish its last episode with a song like this: (Watch Song Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BH0PEOfdAWs)
There’s not much else to say, one of the best shows of the modern TV era, ended it’s run like no other show could, and we as viewers will never forget her, rural juror. (If you’re confused that was a reference to the video you clearly didn’t watch)
PARKS AND RECREATION: Animal Control
Honesty Time 3: The Return Of The Truth: I had no idea what episode of Parks and Recreation to pick for this list. There were so many classic moments: Ben and Leslie’s wedding, to Leslie inadvertently investing in a Porn DVD store, to the gangs visit to London, Andy figuring out which one of the gang is pregnant, and many, many more. The reason I picked Animal Control is simple though. It’s not the best episode they did this year, but it has this, and it makes me laugh…a lot.
“Four! There are Four ways to skin a cat.” The pair return later in the episode as well:
I think that’s all that needs to be said about “Animal Control.”
THE NEWSROOM: Red Team III
The Newsroom is a show that will always be overshadowed by it’s own potential. However good it is, there will always be people who say it should be better. That being said, season 2 marked a vast improvement over season 1, and briefly, if only for one episode, lived up to it’s potential.
The Second season of The Newsroom focused on the reporting of a false story codenamed Operation Genoa. The first seven episodes of the season, though they focus on other things, have a through line of the team investigating, interviewing and questioning the report. In Episode 7, Red Team III, everything goes wrong. The story, which the audience is aware is fake, falls apart in spectacular fashion days after they aired their findings.
The climax of the episode is footage of Will (Jeff Daniels) telling the lawyers through a series of anecdotes all it takes is one event to change everything, intercut with footage of the team on the floor tracking down a new story, even while their last one falls apart in their face. It’s beautifully written and expertly filmed. This episode is on par with some of the great West Wing episodes in my book, thats how much I love it. At the end of the episode, Sorkin brings back ACN’s CEO Leona Lancing (Jane Fonda) who delivers this terrific monologue finishing off the best episode the show has ever produced:
I will grant that The Newsroom is nowhere near the show it could be, episodes like “Red Team III” show that there is hope for the Aaron Sorkin penned series to be one TV best.
HOUSE OF CARDS: Chapter 5
House Of Cards is so good. For my money it’s the best show available right now. The acting is incredible, the writing a top notch, the visual look and feel of the series is so unique and well done, there’s simply nothing like it out there. This was Netflix’s first original show, and it opened with the main character killing a dog. This show was a statement for Netflix: This isn’t youtube, we’re not just cat videos on the internet, we’re the real deal and you networks should start paying attention.
Choosing a particular episode from House Of Cards was very difficult, they are all really top notch, but I love Chapter 5. Chapter Five revolves around Francis (Kevin Spacey) and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) putting on a charity gala outside a hotel because the union workers in the hotel are on strike. The episode also features the beginnings of Peter Russo’s (Corey Stoll) quest for sobriety after having to vote against his heart.
Two moments from episode 5 stand out to me. One is when Frank undercuts the teachers strike outside the charity gala by bringing the protestors food to eat from the party. The cleverness and political savvy necessary for that kind of move shows just how good Frank is. The other is Frank’s speech to Russo when he shows up outside his house. He puts Russo into the bathtub and tells him to either sober up or commit suicide, placing a small blade at the edge of the tub. This shows the other side of Frank, his evil, his immoral quest for power, and the terrible things he does for it.
House Of Cards changed the game this year, by one proving that Netflix is a serious Television producer now, and two exemplifying that a successful, compelling TV show does not need any likable characters.
OTHER GREAT EPISODES FROM 2013
The Mindy Project: Christmas Party Sex Trap
How I Met Your Mother: The Time Travelers
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Thanksgiving
Archer: Drift Problem
Go On: Go Deep
I am only human, theres no way I could watch every show thats on the air. This isn’t a definitive “Best Of” list, because I know that I haven’t seen everything out there. In no way are these the 10 best episodes produced this year, these are just the ten best episodes I watched this year. Notable shows that are left off this list because I don’t watch them include: Breaking Bad, Scandal, Masters of Sex, and The Big Bang Theory. No, I don’t watch Bad, leave your hate comments below.
- Marie Gilbert’s Five Best Television Episodes of 2013 (biffbampop.com)
- The Good, The Bad, The Middling: TV Shows We Watched in 2013 [PART ONE] (popinsomniacs.com)