My 2013 in Television

I’m prone to saying a lot of junk about Doctor Who, but one of the most untrue statements I’ve made is that I care about it so much and get so infuriated with it because it’s the only TV I watch and the only show I give a damn about. That’s not true, and it’s become especially untrue in the past couple years, when I’ve gotten hooked on several other shows.

In 2013, in fact, I found myself looking forward to these other shows more, excited far more about thinking and talking about them. Here are the ones I paid attention to in 2013.

Justified starts season five tonight, and I’m all in. After seeing season one I liked it, but could get by without it. Season two, however, was incredible, and established this show as essential. It’s about Raylan Givens, who works as a U.S. Marshall. He’s sent to cover territory in Kentucky, including the backwoods where he grew up. Raylan has deep roots in Harlan County, and he can’t keep himself out of the desperate crime going on there. The interesting thing is that Raylan’s not a great guy, but he’s also not the stock anti-hero. He falls, takes lumps, and gets drilled down. He’s not a bad boy who plays by his own rules, he’s a genuinely confused and struggling guy. And the folks he’s up against, especially Boyd Crowder, are just as fascinating. Boyd is a rare example of a minor character elevated to major status who actually earns the spot and rounds out the show. Seasons three and four didn’t quite hit the high of two, but they’re still up there, and I’m totally on board for five.

The mysteries on Elementary are often not great. There are often bizarre red herrings that don’t do anything but pad the story, and I guess these days murder is the only crime worth investigating. However, the mysteries aren’t really the main attraction here. Instead it’s the interplay between Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes and Lucy Liu’s Watson. Both are stellar in their roles, and they’re helped by a great supporting cast. Holmes as a recovering drug addict works well, and it’s nice to see a partnership and friendship presented for a change, instead of the usual tedious will-they-or-won’t-they (despite some viewers wanting that, I guess.) Even the apparently necessary Moriarty plot ultimately helped shape Sherlock’s character instead of the usual paring away it does. Elementary is a fun, solid show.

As you may be aware, I’m a fan of absurd comedy. I’m not sure where I first saw a trailer for Danger 5, but when I did, I knew I had to see it. It delivered everything promised (Nazis! Dinosaurs! Zeppelins! Fistfights! Solid gold machine guns! People with animal heads!) and so much more. Only a handful of episodes but each one is a gem. I don’t know how one can legally watch it in America (it really needs a DVD release and yes, I’d buy it) but it’s worth tracking down. (EDIT: I’m told it’s available on Hulu! Thanks Jason!)

Look, I loved the original series of Arrested Development. Brilliantly written and superbly acted, it’s one of the funniest, most inventive comedies I’ve seen. But it had its time, it did its thing, and it was done. I didn’t think we needed to yank it back and make it caper and prance again for our entertainment. After seeing the newest season, I still feel that way. It certainly had its moments, and it was great seeing a lot of the characters again, but some of the storylines were clearly better than others, the amount of repetition got irritating, and the payoff just wasn’t there; on the contrary, it seemed to threaten to do it all again, eventually. It’s okay to let things end gracefully.

Far and away, the most fun I had on TV in 2013 was Sleepy Hollow. When it was first announced, I just rolled my eyes at what sounded like a dumb idea. But then I heard people talking about how utterly insane it was and I got curious. And almost immediately, I got hooked. Everything they were saying was true, the show is absolutely nuts, but not in a stupid, shallow way. (In fact, I had some reservations early on that it wasn’t bonkers enough, but those have well been put to rest.) Sleepy Hollow has packed more into its first few episodes than most genre shows do in the first few seasons because it’s not afraid to just buckle down and tell the goddamn story. All the usual nonsense has been dispensed with in order to get us as quickly as possible to a resurrected Ichabod Crane staring down an AK-47 wielding Headless Horseman. The two leads are charming as hell, and again, display a mature partnership and friendship. Some other shows I could name should sit down and watch this one and learn something from it.

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