by Billie Doux
It's been an interesting and busy year. Last week while I was enjoying some Christmas cheer, it hit me that I was so relaxed because it was my first significant writing break in 2013. An entire year without a writing break! I usually get a couple of weeks off in June and September, but not this year. And that's because I reviewed three shows this summer that stretched right into the fall season.
Unfortunately, True Blood has pretty much lost me. The producers get my rotten apple award this year for worst use of an intriguing character played by a hot, talented actor. Yes, I'm talking about Alexander Skarsgard's Eric Northman. Was it the Anna Paquin/Stephen Moyer marriage that caused True Blood to go permanently in a Bill-like direction? I still plan to review the final season this coming summer, but only because I'm hung up on that completion thing.
Coincidentally, the thirteen-volume Sookie Stackhouse series of books (all of which I've reviewed) came to an end last spring and promptly lost me, too. I said in my review of the final book that I would probably re-read the series someday, but upon further consideration -- well, no. I've been cleaning out closets and weeding my books, and my Charlaine Harris novels just took a trip to Goodwill.
What is it about an unsatisfying ending that sours an otherwise delicious series for me? It's like enjoying a spectacular meal and being served a dry granola bar for dessert. Even though I'm not sorry that I reviewed eight seasons of Dexter, and much of it, especially the first season, was exceptional and it was always great fun to write about, I am bummed that it ended the way it did. Maybe it was on the stove too long.
Breaking Bad got it right, though. It is rare that a show manages to remain exceptional throughout its entire run, but Breaking Bad actually deserves its hyped reputation. The twists and turns of the story, the caliber of the acting, the amazing black humor -- it's freaking brilliant. The finale was like Alton Brown's chocolate mousse, or possibly a perfect crème brulee. If you've never tried Breaking Bad, or if you tried it once and gave up, I urge you to give it another shot. It's worth it.
Now that Breaking Bad is over, the best show on the air may very well be Justified. By "best", I mean top of the line writing and acting, along with that je ne sais quoi that makes you go, wow, this show is really something special.
The best thing about Justified is its memorable characters, and that begins with their leading man. Timothy Olyphant is a talented character actor in a leading man's body, and he and the equally talented Walton Goggins play the very best of frenemies. The producers of Justified bring in, and keep bringing back, remarkably talented character actors for every episode and give them fascinating shades of gray to work with. And as good as they all are, none of them outshine Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins, and that's saying a lot. I hope that the upcoming season five (starting January 7) lives up to everything I just said.
And then there's Tom Mison, the most enjoyable surprise of 2013. The convoluted details of the apocalypse intertwined with flashbacks to the Revolutionary War are certainly interesting, although the details occasionally float right past me. But I watch and review Sleepy Hollow mostly because of Tom Mison, who is giving Timothy Olyphant competition as the hottest and most charming leading man on television. He and the wonderful Nicole Beharie have made Ichabod Crane and Lieutenant Abbie Mills my favorite new television duo. (It's always about the characters for me, isn't it?)
As has been previously reported by my compatriots here on the site, Person of Interest just keeps getting better. I might not have admitted it to anyone here, but I was once at the point of dropping it. Now I'm glad I didn't. Sarah Shahi! Amy Acker!
The Walking Dead never sits unwatched on my DVR. I'm not sure why, when it is undeniably depressing and one of my favorite characters just bit the dust. Maybe it's that I still want to know who will live to the end of the series, and if the human race will ultimately make it in this 'verse. And maybe it's the wonderfully geeky post-episode rundown on Talking Dead, hosted by the adorkable Chris Hardwick. Talking Dead always helps me put even the most depressing episode of The Walking Dead into perspective.
I still love The Vampire Diaries. Josie is correct that the twisty turny goodness isn't as delectible as it used to be, but it's still fun. I especially liked how they finally made sense of the doppelgangers, and how they managed to make Stefan interesting again.
I expected The Originals to be a second, not-as-good hour of The Vampire Diaries, but then they went ahead and surprised me. I've been trying to figure out exactly why, and I think I've got it. The writers/producers put a lot of thought into how a trio of ancient, unkillable vampires would act, and what sort of dysfunctional family dynamic they would have developed over the centuries. Klaus, Elijah and Rebekah have a bizarre and rather sick co-dependency that makes for interesting drama. And Hayley, the young werewolf who is pregnant with Klaus's spawn, has connected with Elijah and the two have turned into one of my new favorite ships. Who knew?
Witches of East End grabbed me right at the beginning. Like The Originals, it's not what I would call brilliant -- not yet, anyway -- but it is just great fun to watch. And as I've mentioned before, I love that all four of the main characters are women.
You probably have noticed that I tend to be a positive sort of critic. I don't usually talk about how bad a show has gotten or how it has lost me; I just stop watching. But this is my year-end, so here are the shows that I'm sending back to the kitchen.
Grimm. I'm not sure why, but I just couldn't hang in there for the final two episodes last season, and didn't even attempt to get back into it this fall.
Once Upon a Time. I thought maybe it was just the confusing ensemble of characters with multiple names and the multiple worlds that were making me reluctant to tune in, but then they did Once Upon a Time in Wonderland with one lead and a more focused story based on one of my favorite books on earth, and it just didn't grab me, either. Maybe it's the 'verse. I'm much more into science fiction than fantasy.
Revenge. The first season was a delightful soap opera smorgasbord. The second just got boring and I stopped caring about the characters, and eventually stopped watching. This is a show that would have made a great miniseries.
Revolution. The show started out with a terrific sci-fi premise, big network money to make its world look great, and Elizabeth Mitchell and Giancarlo Esposito. Where did it go wrong? I realized at some point that I just didn't feel like watching it any more. I think they made some bad decisions about the ongoing mythology that just couldn't be repaired. They added one of Supernatural's best writers (Ben Edlund) to the show this fall, and I kept watching, hoping for a rebound, but it just wasn't enough. Bye bye.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Not only is the title a pain to type, but it's a Joss Whedon show that I'm not sure I'm ever going to love. Unlike the other five shows I mentioned in this section, I'm still watching it, mostly because I can't imagine dropping a Joss Whedon show and I want so desperately for it to succeed. Wow. I just re-read this paragraph and it sounds so sad. Please start rocking, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Please.
The tasting platter
Shows I'm still enjoying: Arrow and Lost Girl. Undeniably lighter fare, but they both seem to know what works for their show and how to entertain their audience in style. And Felicity. And Kenzi.
New shows I'm glad I didn't drop: Orange is the New Black and Orphan Black. Wow, are they good. Yummy delicious. Strangely similar titles.
Show I wish I hadn't dropped: Continuum. Everyone keeps mentioning how good it's gotten, and now I can't remember the last episode I watched so that I can pick it up again.
Show I'm ready to drop: Almost Human. And I so wanted this one to succeed, if only for the sake of having the delectible Karl Urban in my home every week. Maybe it'll find its way.
Five episodes of awesome: The first season of The Fall. Gillian Anderson, you've still got it.
Favorite new-to-me cooking show: In keeping with the general food theme of this year-end post, I am happy to report that I've just discovered Nadia G.'s Bitchin' Kitchen. She makes incredible Italian food while dripping with jewelry and wearing impossibly high heels, and her backdrop kitchen features chains on her upholstered cabinets and a chrome skull on her stove. In the last episode I watched, Nadia tasted her dish and said, "My mouth is just bursting with flavor and adjectives." She makes me laugh. I adore her, and wish I'd discovered her sooner.
So in closing, a happy 2014 to all the readers of this site, and to all of the wonderful writers who contribute their time, energy and talent to… make it so. Peace on earth, good will to people. And animals. Especially cats. Happy New Year!