We received a year of Netflix and an Apple TV for our participation in the Netflix Stream Team. All opinions are strictly our own.
I am a HUGE Netflix watcher.
As a member of the Netflix Stream Team (yes, I get my Netflix free for a year…whoopee), I figured that we’d combine our favorite guest bro’ Jonathan’s TV favorites and let you know exactly WHICH ones are available now on Netflix, so you can catch up on the shows that he’s been chatting about and catch his FAVORITE episodes.
Once again I find myself on the fence about my favorite movies of the year. In fact I’m outright, stubbornly pushing back up any sort of finalized list making until I see the Coen Brothers new melancholy folk feature INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS but I thought it unfair to any reader that may have missed my bizarre musings in the last half of the year to just kind of leave them waiting, desperate to know what movies came out on top so I’m doing something a little different. I have a few lists of categories I plan to role out over the next few days in order to shorten the gap. You’ll see my favorite albums, favorite TV shows and since I went to a few festivals this year as well, I have a few selections to keep your eyes on for the upcoming year.
Onto our second television list with the Best RETURNING TV SHOWS of 2013.
#1 BREAKING BAD
The Final Season
Walter White has finally left his legacy behind and plenty of lives were ruined in the process. No other show gave me such a thrill to be involved as a viewer week in and week out. All of the lies, all of the consequences, every decision coming back to bite. I recently rewatched the whole series with my parents and Mama Kill, having never seen it, threatened violence when I told her she would have to wait a day before the last disc could be played. Breaking Bad was a show about chemistry and change and every hour was a terrific showcase of the good, the bad and the ugly. It evolved into a Shakespearean tragedy and we had at last reached the denouement, crafting a beautiful swan song of a season for this team to take its final bow. As everything built up suddenly burnt to the ground and pulling no punches, Vince Gilligan blazed a trail to wrap everything up in a tidy bow for viewers. This was the last hurrah for BREAKING BAD of that there is no doubt and it sealed a spot as one of my all-time favorite television series. Gripping, riveting work that will leave you devastated and craving for more.
Best Episode(s): Besides all of them? Ozymandias is cinematic greatness.
#2 EASTBOUND & DOWN
Watching this show will make you so physically uncomfortable. Any skepticism coming back from Season 3 for one last ride with Kenny Powers was washed away as not only did the man in black return but delivered an incredibly satisfying conclusion. The re-re-re-rise of Kenny powers to fame and his almost immediate implosion of epic man-child proportions was nothing short of magic. TV sports talk shows was the perfect venue to unleash the wild bluster of Powers, all while exploring his marriage to April, rivalry with other sports celebs and friendship with still incredibly bizarre freak/friend Stevie. Hill and McBride have created a character that is so noxious and yet so loveable, it’s like they’ve tapped into a raw nerve that you just can’t look away from it. The season goes to some horrifyingly dark and uncomfortable places that will have you howling with laughter and by the time I reached the finale I just didn’t want to believe it was over. If they can find a good enough story/excuse to bring back KP for a Chapter 30 I’m all for it but for now I’m happy with where the journey has ended and I dare to love this show forever.
Best Episode(s): “Chapter 23,” “Chapter 28,” “Chapter 29”
The rest aren’t in ranked in any order and oddly enough all still have more seasons to go, just how I wrote them up. Imagine a big tie because I can’t wait to see more.
I feel like this is a show that nobody’s watching yet but it’s going to explode soon, maybe because it’s not on Netflix. Following a season that felt a tad overstuffed with villains and plot twists the show gets restructured to act like one big, overarching mystery and hunt for Drew Thompson shoots new life into the pacing. The show turned big city, Dixie mafia into a real outside threat while also managing to reignite the Boyd/Raylan antagonism that drives the core of the show. Side characters that felt short-changed in previous seasons are finally given a chance to shine and participate in storylines of their own. Harlan County felt lived in and had some more world building as we traveled from the mountain folk to the richer side of town, plus Patton Oswalt was an excellent addition to the cast. This is a show that manages to keep getting better and the colorful Elmore Leonard styled dialogue performed by these actors just sounds damn good. Justified returns for a 5th season January 7th, 2014 on FX at 10pm.
Best Episode(s): “Decoy,” “Peace of Mind,” “Ghosts”
At first the sixth season started feeling rather repetitive, as though we had seen much of this material before but slowly revealed to be a deliberate attempt to darkly mirror previous seasons in order to crack away and eventually destroy the identity of Don Draper. The show remains a fascinating viewing experience with the cast showcasing incredible talent, balancing so many dense storylines from Don cheating on his wife again, the ad agency merging with a rival, the crazy angel dust episode where Ken Cosgrove tap dances, “Not Great Bob!,” etc. was all riveting television. Much of the show has always been about identity and branding but never so explicitly trying to explore the man at the center of the show. He’s always been a cipher, a mystery waiting to be solved but if the finale is any indication; with most of the character’s lives upended and Dick Whitman fully revealed (in the middle of a pitch meeting with Hershey no less!) showing his children the house he grew up in, the next season is going to have some serious changes in store. The seventh season will be split into two 7-episode parts, airing in early 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Best Episode(s): “The Crash,” “The Quality of Mercy,” “In Care Of”
KEY & PEELE
Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele have created an instantly accessible sketch comedy show for Comedy Central that recalls the success of Dave Chappelle but it feels unfair to even compare them. The duo, along with director Peter Atencio, manages to stick to their own impressively creative identity. The show has an amazing production style that pushes the boundaries of what I’ve ever seen a sketch show do as it jumps from countless different visual formats, types of jokes, acting and plain weirdness. Bringing back recurring, already beloved characters was a bold move but still kept the jokes fresh and nothing overstayed its welcome. Everything from the writing to execution feels on point. Just give in and don’t forget to Put the Pussy on the Chainwax! Key and Peele’s fourth season will premiere in 2014.
Best Episode(s): A little harder considering it’s a sketch comedy show so I’ll say the Liam Neesons and Bruce Willies Valet guys always get a laugh out of me especially in Shakespeare times. The Mr. T PSA, Miami Vice Parody, Metta World News, 2nd Ammendment, the Obama Shutdown and so many more are also standouts.
The year of Nick Miller! New Girl course corrected itself from overly Zooey Deschanel, manic-pixie-dream-girl territory into one of the funniest comedies on TV. Grounding and building strong characters and identities on the show to the point that even playing the tired will they/won’t they trope with Nick and Jess actually generated stronger dramatic moments and allowed the writers to mine and explore some interesting comedy out of the situation. Schmidt and his douchebag jar were the big breakthrough of Season 1 but it is Jake Johnson as the curmudgeonly Nick Miller who takes the MVP for season 2. His facial expressions, his manly idiocy, and his utter confusion at most situations have manifested into one of the funniest characters on television. The writers too seemed invigorated as the show’s jokes among the ensemble become much more rapid-fire, landing more punch lines then missing. If you wrote it off after a couple episodes give it another chance, New Girl continues Season 3 on FOX, January 5th at 9pm
Best Episode(s): “Fluffer,” “Table 34,” “Quick Hardening Caulk,” “Winston’s Birthday”
Delivering perhaps its best grouping of episodes to date, Boardwalk Empire’s greatest asset is placing character and consequence of decisions above all else. Finally delivering a powerful showcase for Michael K. Williams as Chalky White defends his kingdom against the eloquent, villain Dr. Narcisse, it comes down to some painful moments and leaves the characters in interesting places for next season. Michael Shannon’s intense work as Nelson Van Alden always impresses and though Steve Buscemi felt relegated to a supporting player this season he still put in great work. Every member of the cast really digs into their characters at this point, feels lived in, with baggage but it’s the broken face of Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) who gets the final tragic spotlight this season. I don’t understand people who complain about Boardwalk Empire being “too slow,” those people clearly must not have any patience. Deliberately paced to string out season long arcs that will inevitably pay off down the road when their conclusion will be most powerful, and at times devastating, to the viewer. Boardwalk crafts seasons to be like books, if you just skipped ahead to the good parts they would be empty and devoid of any power and meaning. Season 5 should premiere sometime in the fall of 2014.
Best Episode(s): “Erlkönig,” “The Old Ship of Zion,” “Farewell Daddy Blues”
Season 3/Season 4
Bob’s Burgers is one of the most enjoyable shows on television and manages to break the mold of FOX’s animation block dominated by Seth MacFarlane shows and The Simpsons still pumping out seasons. The show manages to not only get weirder but also consistently better as it goes along. Great family dynamic that’s grounded by H. Jon Benjamin’s voice work as Bob and the chaos that is his family and the world he lives in. It’s a silly show filled with bizarre situations and catchy songs from time to time but the family is the glue to the success of the show. It also chooses to tell simple, near-real stories that escalate the jokes and isn’t afraid to reach into surreal territory from time to time. Every character is uniquely strange in their own way but Tina is slowly becoming the breakout character on the show. It’s so good and I’m glad it’s finding an audience. Bob’s Burgers continues on FOX Sundays, January 5th 2014
Best Episode(s): “Mother Daughter Laser Razor,” “Broadcast Wagstaff School News,” “O.T. The Outside Toilet,” “Two For Tina”
GAME OF THRONES
The epic fantasy show on HBO crushed it this season. Things are escalating quickly with the White Walkers, Dany gathering an army, a war raging in Westeros, an ever expanding cast of characters and plotlines it’s amazing how the show handles it all. The entire cast is really putting in exceptional work that I’m not even sure who to focus specifically on as far as acting goes. This a dark show that’s only going to get darker as it goes along it seems with only the faintest glimmers of hope, since most have been snuffed out. The iron throne and power corrupts many and this season delivered an episode that topped the shock of Season 1’s “Main Character” being beheaded with the notorious “Red Wedding,” a moment for the show that, at times literally, twisted a knife and shook viewers to their core with the cruelty of such a betrayal. If you have any nobility or honor on this show there is a strong chance you won’t live to the series finale. Returning for a Season 4 on HBO in Spring 2014.
Best Episode(s): “And Now His Watch Has Ended,” The Rains of Castamere”
Archer’s drunken spy buffoonery still makes me laugh and this season the creators returned to their roots in a big shout out to SEALAB 2021 featuring John Hamm. There is no bad episode of Archer; I just don’t think it’s possible with the way the jokes and the characters just fly off the handle. H. Jon Benjamin gets another point on this list but his voice work here, besides sounding the same as Bob’s Burgers (and giving a shoutout to the FOX show as well in the premiere), is such a tonally different exercise in acting that it’s really impressive. The whole cast plays ball and they’re certainly an eclectic (insane) group of people. It’s a show that goes fast and loose and crams so many gags into an episode that you might get whiplash. Return to the DANGER ZONE! January 13th, 2014 on FX
Best Episode(s): “Legs,” “Live and Let Dine,” “The Honeymooners,” “Sea Tunt Part 1 & 2”
Cartoon Network has a small block of programming of 11 minute shows that cram in so many jokes but also so much maturity and the different ideas of growing up that it’s incredibly entertaining, with great characters and beautifully animated. The fantasy world, post-apocalyptic future of Adventure Time has a dense, epic mythology at this point that continues to expand and the inter-relationships and ever maturing Finn the Human are handled well. Regular Show manages to start on a mundane, basic premise and escalate so quickly into chaos, universe bending hijinks in a matter of seconds and handles it like a pro. Delivers absurdity with a stark look into how you can’t be a slacker forever and eventually have to sort out your life and your problems. But you know, for kids!
[AT] “Simon and Marcy,” “Frost & Fire, “We Fixed a Truck,” “Root Beer Guy.”
[RS] “A Bunch of Full Grown Geese,” “The Last Laserdisc Player,” “Steak Me Amadeus”
There was a lot of TV to watch and I loved some other stuff as well, worth checking out: Beautifully shot with some of the best looking cinematography on TV is Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on CNN. A real pleasure to watch, yes, the format is the exact same as his old Travel Channel show but he appears to have more freedom on where he travels and what he’s allowed to discuss as he brings us deep into different worlds and cultures – for example an episode comes to mind where he becomes so frustrated with a faked fishing expedition that he chose, as the narration tells us, to get blistering, stupidly drunk and doesn’t really remember the rest of the trip until he watched the footage is one of the most amusing things I’ve ever seen. Parks and Recreation Season 5 is still a strong comedy ensemble team that manages to get laughs out of me and I admire their ability to balance the jokes along with the hope and more tender moments. I laughed a ton while marathoning the Netflix experiment Arrested Development Season 4, especially the GOB episode, not as strong as the first 3 network seasons but I do hope this isn’t the last we hear from the Bluth family. The Venture Bros returned for another successful season that continues to build on the shows world. Futurama had its final season, again, and went out with a successful farewell. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia still manages to have the most likeable bunch of assholes on television with The League not too far behind on a show where Fantasy Football has fallen to the background, especially when Raffi & Dirty Randy episodes take precedent. American Dad has for a while now been much funnier and more consistently entertaining than its MacFarlane predecessor, Family Guy. Lastly, I’m thankful Treme was allowed to finish out its story with a shortened 5 episode order. The show itself was a beautifully told, low stakes slice of life piece with amazing performances and if you haven’t already I highly recommend checking it out.
Anything I forgot or you disagree with? Feel free to let me know.
Thanks again and check out : The BEST OF THE FEST where I try to avoid shameless self-promotion and might even talk about Slap Shots or Fried Chicken Bao!
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We received a year of Netflix and an Apple TV for our participation in the Netflix Stream Team. All opinions are strictly our own.