Oh Zeus. Another year has gone by. Note to my friends and family – I am no longer celebrating birthdays. However, should anyone wish to spontaneously give me presents for no reason on or around 4th February, they should feel free to do so.
MoviesWhen I sat down to write out my Top 10 movies of the year, I was surprised how difficult it was to come up with the list. I went to the cinema 41 times this year (though not all for movies and some were repeat business – I have a Cineworld card which makes this financially viable!) but only three movies really blew me away (my top three below - plus Les Miserables, which technically I saw in 2013 though it feels like it belongs to 2012). Gravity I think suffered from hype backlash – I liked it a lot but I didn’t find it as utterly amazing as many reviews did. Y’all know how much I love Star Trek and I enjoyed The Adventure of the Missing Colon in the Title, but when it turned into a re-tread of an older, better movie about two thirds of the way through it lost me. I liked Much Ado About Nothing a lot but couldn’t get Kenneth Branagh’s version, which I adore, out of my head. I enjoyed Iron Man Three but just not… loads.
It’s not all bad though. I absolutely adored Warm Bodies (thanks to JD's review for the recommendation!), which I have shown to everyone I can persuade to watch it and which is just lovely. I had a good time in the cinema with several films that weren’t amazing but were a good night out – Olympus Has Fallen, The Wolverine, World War Z, Now You See Me. The biggest surprise of the year for me was probably that I enjoyed This Is The End much more than The World’s End – I like Pegg/Wright/Frost a lot and Seth Rogen et al’s brand of comedy isn’t usually my thing, but I really enjoyed This Is The End, daft though it is, while The World’s End didn’t work so well for me.
Here’s my Top 10:
9. Saving Mr Banks
8. This Is The End
7. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
6. Thor 2: The Dark World
5. Wreck-It Ralph
3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
2. Warm Bodies
Old FavouritesHaving made the very wise decision to spread the third of George RR Martin’s insanely long novels over two seasons, Game of Thrones is at its peak right now. Without spoiling anything (though if you’re very, very spoiler-phobic you might want to turn away now), if they stick to the books, I suspect 2013’s season three will be my overall favourite. Depending how much the show-runners are willing to change, the upcoming season four may also be in with a chance, and of course if they change a lot, who knows. But we’re probably in something of a golden era, Game of Thrones-wise, is what I’m saying.
I’m still enjoying Downton Abbey a lot, which may be largely down to my all-consuming love of Branson. This is a tricky one to talk about because in the US, 2013 was the year for season 3, but in the UK, we’ve recently seen season 4 (seriously TV people, come and join the 21st century. If you want people to enjoy your shows and not spend four months yelling ‘No! Protect me from spoilers!’ at the entire internet, for Pete’s sake show them in countries that share a language with the original all at the same time). Let’s just say it’s probably been a better Downton Abbey year in US-time as for me, season 3 was dramatically stronger, but season 4 was still very enjoyable television (for the most part, but we’ll talk about that when you’ve all seen it).
I got back into Top Gear in a big way this year as well. I’m especially fond of the Specials, which combine my fondness for travel documentaries with my fondness for watching people mess about with cars.
Bowing Out GracefullyAnd another show that’s been on over here but not in the States – Agatha Christie’s Poirot came to the end of its 25-year run in November with Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case. So, er, I can’t really talk about that either (I believe it will be on PBS’ Masterpiece Theater in 2014). I’ll just say that I’ve read the book and this is a more faithful adaptation than some recent episodes, and it was very good, and the Guv from Life on Mars was in it, and I got surprisingly emotional about the whole thing.
Waaaaaay, way back in January Fringe came to an end that was satisfactory, even if it didn’t pull things together in quite such a spectacular way as the season two finale had. This year also saw Spartacus: Changeable Subtitle come to its inevitable conclusion. Again, this was a satisfying (and given the circumstances, impressively unpredictable to as much of an extent as it could be) conclusion, though I enjoyed the increased focus on actual Roman historical figures and the creative takes on their characters so much in the final season that I’ve been desperately campaigning for a Julius Caesar-based spin-off ever since.
I am aware that Breaking Bad also finished this year. Apparently people thought it was quite good. I have still only ever seen two episodes of it. But one of them was ‘The Fly’, and it was very impressive.
NewThe prize for my favourite new show of the year is too close to call between Orange is the New Black and Les Revenants. Orange is the New Black was probably the better constructed of the two, leading up to a dramatic crisis point built on the slow development of its characters over the course of its thirteen compulsive episodes, which I watched back-to-back over three days. Les Revenants also featured some very strong character work, but left viewers with a creeping suspicion that the writers aren’t entirely sure where they’re going, as numerous questions remained unanswered – but it was so wonderfully atmospheric and compellingly just the right level of weird that it was fantastic viewing anyway.
I’ve watched a few episodes of and enjoyed both Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Orphan Black, but haven’t really managed to keep up with either of them. I need some new shows that a) aren’t on Friday nights when I’m either out or tired enough that I just want reality rubbish and b) have monsters of the week so it doesn’t matter if you miss some. Obviously, there are catch-up services, but perhaps this is where the Netflix model really comes into its own. After watching two or three episodes of Orange is the New Black I was hooked, whereas watching the odd individual episode of these two shows meant that however much I enjoyed it, the show didn’t have the same opportunity really to sink its claws into me.
I’m also watching the BBC’s replacement for Merlin, Atlantis, for scholarly purposes. It’s good fun, Jack Donnelly is very pretty to look at and the production design is gorgeous (plus production designer Paul Cripps has really done his homework, archaeology-wise) but I think it’s still finding its feet a bit. Perhaps the second season will have a stronger idea of what it is it wants to be.
SitcomsThe beginning of 2013 belonged to New Girl, which produced quite possibly the hottest smooch I’ve ever seen on a sitcom. Since coming back for season three it’s had to deal with the ramifications of losing its central bit of UST, but it’s still going reasonably strong. I also enjoy The Mindy Project a lot, though apparently no one else does, as it’s going on hiatus to be re-tooled for the second time. The show has its problems (the ‘Jeremy is fat’ storyline was a real low point) but as long as I can watch Chris Messina snark everyone and be generally adorable I’m happy. I marathoned all of Parks and Recreation earlier this year, which was good fun, and The Big Bang Theory is also still going strong and showing a remarkable amount of self-awareness lately, even if it is still occasionally sexist. I also watched Plebs for work, and laughed way more than I probably should have.
Most surprisingly of all, How I Met Your Mother’s final season, which is telling three days’ worth of story spread across twenty-odd episodes, does not suck. I genuinely thought it was going to be awful but kept watching because by this point I just have to know exactly how Ted finally meets The Mother, but it’s actually working out OK. Between flashbacks, wisely included flash-forwards (so that we can see something of Ted and The Mother’s relationship while still keeping their actual meeting for the finale) and plenty of the show’s trademark narrative games, while it may not be all it once was, so far this final season is enjoyable and amusing. Which is what you want from a sitcom.
New to MeSome of my friends get a group together once a week to watch Doctor Who or Star Trek, and at the moment we’re working our way through William Hartnell-era Doctor Who, most of which is new to me. I’m enjoying the shorter serials as I think Ian, Barbara and Susan are among the best companions the show has ever had. On the other hand, I find the pace really too slow at times. Yes, I know this is the way TV was made back in the 1960s, and if I watched one 25-minute episode per week it would probably be fine – but it would take the better part of 40 years. I can’t help it, I’ve grown up on Star Trek, and no matter how slow-paced 1960s Star Trek is, the story is concluded within 45 minutes. The same cannot be said for an 8-part Doctor Who serial. Anyway, griping aside, I’m enjoying it a lot, though I’ll be very sad when we eventually lose Ian and Barbara.
Like Doc and Chris, I’ve been prompted to re-watch The X-Files by our reviews of it. I own the entire series on DVD and watched it all a couple of years ago, but when I came back to it, I somehow managed to find a couple of episodes from season 2 that I’d missed all together. That was very exciting! I have one more chance to watch a new X-Files episode – but of course I’ve now put so much emphasis on this idea that I’m reluctant to watch it as then it’ll be over…
I Wish I Knew How To Quit YouUnlike many fans, I was already feeling that Community had gone too far into its own craziness during season three, so the serious downturn it took in season four didn’t hit me quite as hard. Somehow, despite some truly dire episodes, I kept watching and I’m glad I did because season four’s penultimate episode, ‘Heroic Origins’, was really very good (the only word for the finale, unfortunately, is "execrable"). I’m still watching True Blood as well, even though it also left sanity behind a long time ago, and will probably see it through to the end.
I’ve Drifted Away From…On the other hand, I haven’t come back to the The Vampire Diaries since season five started. I don’t really know why, as I didn’t hate the end of season four, though Stefan’s cliff-hanger was perhaps overly reminiscent of the point at which Angel lost me – so maybe it was bad vibes. I still want to catch up, I think. After several attempts, I’m not sure I have the energy to keep trying The Walking Dead – I fear Game of Thrones may have sapped all my enthusiasm for anything unremittingly miserable!
Things to WatchI still haven’t finished Battlestar Galactica. I will, I promise.
Since joining Tumblr, I feel like I know everything that’s ever happened on Supernatural (if it involves Dean and Castiel, anyway) but still have only watched three episodes. I do keep meaning to give it a proper go, as I know it comes highly recommended! I have vague intentions in the direction of Once Upon a Time (also popular on Tumblr) and Arrow as well.
Show of the YearIt didn’t quite produce my favourite episode of the year, though it came close. It didn’t have one of its strongest years. It didn’t even get through a whole season this year. And yet, 2013 in UK telly belonged to Doctor Who – and it isn’t over yet.
Early in the year we saw the second half of season seven, though why we can’t just call this season eight is a mystery to me, since it doesn’t appear to be connected to the first half in any meaningful way. Anyhoo, I quite liked this second half-season, which produced some decent stories (‘Hide’ especially) and I like new companion Clara, even if the way she comes and goes from the TARDIS as if it were a weekly hobby drives me mad for reasons I can’t entirely explain.
Doctor Who’s triumph, though, came much later. 23rd November 2013 was the show’s fiftieth anniversary, and the series celebrated with an extra-long multi-Doctor special episode that was screened in cinemas in 3D alongside the live broadcast. My brother and I went to see it on the big screen, and it was brilliant. The audience was full of costumed fans eager to have a good time and the episode itself did not disappoint. It was full of humour, warmth, tragedy and triumph in all the right amounts, leaving me with an impossible decision when it came to picking my favourite TV episode of the year. I was delighted by where it took the story, as I’ve been waiting for something along these lines since the show returned in 2005, and the plot also showed off the best aspects of Moffat’s writing and Matt Smith’s Doctor – I’ve had my problems with both over the years but this was both at their most effective.
And it doesn’t stop there. Peter Davison’s incredibly sweet tribute, The Five-(ish) Doctors, was lovely and then there was the only webisode I’ve ever truly cared about – 'The Night of the Doctor'. MY Doctor – Paul McGann, who was the Doctor onscreen for less than an hour and half but who has remained my solid favourite ever since. In these circumstances, you take what you can get and I’m pathetically grateful for these extra six minutes of him – though I do wish it could have been at least a twenty-five minute episode shown on the actual TV, rather than an internet extra. All this, and on Christmas Day we get to see the Doc regenerate into the fabulous Peter Capaldi, probably the only actor whose presence may assuage my disappointment at the Doctor being a white man yet again. Doctor Who’s fiftieth year has been much more than empty hype – it really has been a celebration.
Top 10And finally, my Top 10 TV episodes of 2013:
10. Downton Abbey: Series 4, Episode 2 (or Series 3, Episode 5, if going by US air-dates)
9. Community: Heroic Origins
8. The Big Bang Theory: The Love Spell Potential
7. Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case
6. Orange is the New Black: Bora Bora Bora
5. Les Revenants: Camille
4. Doctor Who webisode: The Night of the Doctor (would be higher if longer than 6 minutes)
3. New Girl: Cooler
2. Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor
1. Game of Thrones: The Rains of Castamere
The top four are all spectacular – I go back and forth on their exact order depending what mood I’m in…
See you all in 2014!