Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Year End 2013: My favourite episodes of the year

Year end caveat: I watch TV. Some shows I like. Some shows I don't. You might disagree. That's okay. Some good shows I don't watch or haven't caught up on. They won't be on my top 20 list. Some shows are too bad for me to even bother with. They won't be on my worst of list. Some shows I love ("30 Rock") didn't air long enough in the calendar year for me seriously consider giving them a spot in a very, very good year for television. I hope I'm not offending you. We cool? Cool.

Well I was all ready to enjoy a nice, relaxing February when I looked at my calendar and saw it was December. Good lord, I feel like I just did year end lists, and now it's time for them again.

Last year, I broke down my year end stuff into four categories over four weeks: favourite episodes on December 10, my second ten shows that didn't make the cut for my top 10 list on December 17, my list of worst shows of the year on Christmas Eve, and finally my top 10 on the final day of 2012. This year, I'm going to be doing the same but likely without sticking to those dates. My second ten list is already finished and I will probably post that tomorrow rather than dragging it out a week for no reason.

So first up, here are my favourite TV episodes of 2013!

“Fowl Play/Date” – January 6, 2013
Happy Endings – ABC

Alex has a racist parrot who dies while she's at "Rom-Com-Con". Can you believe this show didn't catch on?!?!

“Cabin” – January 8, 2013
New Girl – FOX

Schmidt pronouncing "crack cocaine" is hilarious - luckily, Nick and Jess' hunting trip is just as funny.

“The Key” – January 13, 2013
Enlightened – HBO

Amy Jellicoe's quest to bring down Abaddonn begins with a visit to...Dermot Mulroney? "Go with it," said Mike White. I listened, and I was rewarded as always.

“One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” – January 15, 2013
Parenthood – NBC

Kristina sticks up for Max's vending machine obsession, another good highlight for Monica Potter and the rehabilitation of her character in a season full of them.

“Chinese Chicken” – January 23, 2013
Suburgatory – ABC

The dads of Chatswin start a band with a passion for Barenaked Ladies covers. It's horrifying and hilarious all the same.

“A Goon’s Deed in a Weary World” – January 24, 2013
30 Rock – NBC

In a classic moment of goofy "30 Rock" heart warmth, Liz Lemon's staff pulls together for a mass resignation to allow her to meet her adopted children at the airport - who are basically just mini Jenna and Tracy.

 “Jimmy Kimmel Sucks!” – January 24, 2013
Jimmy Kimmel Live! – ABC

Matt Damon finally gets his revenge on Jimmy Kimmel ten years in the making with a cavalcade of stars on hand to finally confess how they really feel about the late night host.

“Chapter Eight” – February 1, 2013
House of Cards – Netflix

Frank Underwood returns to his alma mater, and the myth and legend we've come to know finally becomes the man we've been waiting to meet.

“Follow Me” – February 2, 2013
Enlightened – HBO

Amy learns how to twit, discovering the new social experience is electronic in a classically wrongheaded Amy Jellicoe voiceover.

“The Clock” – February 6, 2013
The Americans – FX

In their second mission (to us), Phillip and Elizabeth use the life of a teenager as a bargaining chip, as viewers realize the line is not where they expected it to be.

“Nobody Likes Babies” – February 7, 2013
Scandal – ABC

Oh, you know, THE U.S. PRESIDENT SUFFOCATES SOMEONE WITH A PILLOW. And I like that "Scandal" has ridiculous episode titles like this.

“One Man’s Trash” – February 10, 2013
Girls – HBO

I'm still trying to figure this one out - but damn, it's a mesmerizing short film the likes of which I've very rarely seen before.

“The Ghost is Seen” – February 10, 2013
Enlightened – HBO

Hands down 2013's best episode of television, in which Mike White's Tyler stops existing and starts living with the help of Emmy nominee Molly Shannon.

“Valentine’s Day IV” – February 13, 2013
The Middle – ABC

Axl and his buddies' "Boss Co." business endeavour becomes a proxy breakup service in the days leading up to Valentine's Day, leading to one of the show's more strangely touching moments in the beginning of Sue and Darrin's relationship.

“Christoph Waltz/Alabama Shakes” – February 16, 2013
Saturday Night Live – NBC

Probably the most consistent show of the season - and really, can any of us tell which JaMarcus brother is the adopted white virgin?

“Flirting with Time” – February 19, 2013
Cougar Town – TBS

Flashbacks to how the Cul de Sac Crew all met make for the best episode of the season.

“Ben and Leslie” – February 21, 2013
Parks and Recreation – NBC

Considering this is my least favourite "Parks and Rec" wedding, it's safe to say "Parks and Rec" throws a damn good wedding.

“Video Games” – February 24, 2013
Girls – HBO

Hannah and Jessa spend the weekend upstate in another of "Girls'" mesmerizing short films, breaking down exactly how different the two friends are.

“Cascading Failures” – February 24, 2013
Shameless – Showtime

It's just gut punches all around as Fiona discovers Frank's ultimate betrayal, while Ian and Mickey get straightened out. All the feels, as the kids say.

“Clear” – March 3, 2013
The Walking Dead – AMC

A slow, almost meandering episode that well documents the mundanity of post-apocaltypic life, and portrays the heartbreak and inhumanity of the world with a subtlety not seen in any other episode of this mostly awful show.

“A Long Way From Home” – March 3, 2013
Shameless – Showtime

Fiona goes to court to challenge Frank for custody of her siblings, a beautiful hour for a show whose rough exterior often sands itself away to reveal a deep warmth for family.

“Agent of Change” – March 3, 2013
Enlightened – HBO

Amy becomes the change she wants to see in the world by changing herself, costing the livelihoods of many of her friends in the process, in a perfect ending for what will someday be regarded a "gone too soon" classic.

“Double Down” – March 5, 2013
Go On – NBC

I don't remember this episode very much anymore, but I do know it involves Julie White's character getting a sexy new girlfriend who works in an independent bookstore. And the main reason it's on this list? Suzy Nakamura seeing them kiss and saying "What I'm feeling is becoming more".

“Trust Me” – March 6, 2013
The Americans – FX

Phillip and Elizabeth's double lives put Henry and Paige in harm's way in one of the season's best episodes.

“Justin Timberlake” – March 9, 2013
Saturday Night Live – NBC

"Hey Stefon, I haven't seen you in a while!" "I know. This job writing for 'Smash' is killing me."

“Duty and Honor” – March 13, 2013
The Americans – FX

Much as "The Americans" never quite seemed to settle on whether Phillip or Elizabeth was more committed to the Motherland, flashbacks to a young Phillip's blossoming relationship with a fellow agent give us good reason to understand his conflicting allegiances.

“Quick Hardening Caulk” – March 19, 2013
New Girl – FOX

Nick becomes something of a self-sufficient adult man, which turns Jess on in hilarious fashion.

“Episode Four” – April 1, 2013
Top of the Lake – Sundance Channel

How this episode didn't win Elisabeth Moss an Emmy is baffling, her best work on the screen in 2013 and probably since "The Suitcase".

“Promos” – April 4, 2013
The Office – NBC

With the documentary about to finally be released, the employees of Dunder Mifflin contemplate life in the limelight in an episode that reminds us, "Oh yeah, these characters used to be real people on a good show."

“Aperitif” – April 4, 2013
Hannibal – NBC

A dark, haunting series opens with an uncomfortable (in the best way possible) episode that establishes realistic stakes for gruesome violence (unlike that Fox show with the serial killers).

“Have Love Will Travel” – April 9, 2013
Cougar Town – TBS

A finale in which Chick finally meets Tippi Hedren puts a pretty fantastic bow on a season that dealt with mortality in a much funnier way than most comedies typically do.

“Intro to Felt Surrogacy” – April 11, 2013
Community – NBC

Poor, misguided season four of "Community". This was the only episode in 2013 I liked all that much (no, the body swap episode was not that good).

“She’s Got Game Night” – April 12, 2013
Happy Endings – ABC

Of the many hats Jane Kerkovich-Williams wore in the three seasons of "Happy Endings," needlessly competitive Jane Kerkovich-Williams might be the best Jane Kerkovich-Williams. And that's a high bar to clear. God I hope Eliza Coupe's new USA comedy is funny. Mostly though, I just miss "Happy Endings".

“Apocalypse Meow/Stray Dogs” – April 17, 2013
Suburgatory – ABC

The second season sure had its flaws, but there was nothing the finale could have screwed up enough to erase my love for Lisa Shay's meowing cat version of "Eye of the Tiger".

“And Now His Watch Is Ended” – April 21, 2013
Game of Thrones – HBO

“Signals” – April 21, 2013
Veep – HBO

"Ma'am, you need to make like a snake and get on that airplane."

“Always There” – April 22, 2013
Rectify – Sundance

What does a man do when he's given the chance to start trying to get back the last 10 years of his life? The disquieting, sensational premiere of "Rectify".

“For Immediate Release” – May 5, 2013
Mad Men – AMC

“A.A.R.M.” – May 9, 2013
The Office – NBC

Glimpses of the potential a very different post-Steve Carell "Office" could have had are highlighted in a classic Jim/Dwight pairing. Just ignore all the stuff about Andy trying out for "American Idol".

“Man with a Plan” – May 12, 2013
Mad Men – AMC

“The Ditch” – May 15, 2013
The Middle – ABC

The Hecks are not always good people. But no one needs to know that. Perhaps the most laugh-out-loud funny episode of the season.

“Finale” – May 16, 2013
The Office – NBC

It was time for the show to end - but it was nice knowing they were always capable of properly sending it off into the sunset, even years too late.

“Fromage” – May 16, 2013
Hannibal – NBC

NBC Exec 1: "A musical episode? Sounds...weird, but fun!"
NBC Exec 2: "Hey guys, talking about another delightful 'Smash' episode?"
NBC Exec 3: "Nope, 'Hannibal' is doing a big music-based episode."
NBC Exec 2: "Ha ha, good one guys!"
NBC Exec 4: "We're serious."
NBC Exec 2: *Spit take*

“Ben Affleck/Kanye West” – May 18, 2013
Saturday Night Live – NBC

Crafty NBC YouTube account prevents embedding, so here's the direct link to an amazing farewell for a classic "SNL" character.

“The Graduation” – May 22, 2013
The Middle – ABC

Axl finally graduates, terrifyingly realizing he's now an actual adult, in an amazing season finale that sums up all the comedy and emotion this show employs at its very best.

“A New Start,” "A New Attitude," "Señoritis," "It Gets Better" – May 26, 2013
Arrested Development – Netflix

The four standout episodes of "Arrested Development" season four, focusing on Tobias, Gob, Maeby, and George Michael respectively, provide the biggest comedic and structural payoffs in a season whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

“The Better Half” – May 26, 2013
Mad Men – AMC

Why the hell not.

“The Rains of Castamere” – June 2, 2013
Game of Thrones – HBO

Duh. But I won't torture you with any visual reminders. No one needs that.

“Favors” – June 9, 2013
Mad Men – AMC

I probably shouldn't .GIF this one. Mostly because similar to "The Rains of Castamere," I don't want to go looking for the .GIF of Sally Draper seeing what Sally Draper sees in this episode.

“The Quality of Mercy” – June 16, 2013
Mad Men – AMC

The mystery of Bob Benson finally unravels in a fantastic showcase for Vincent Kartheiser.

“Savoureux” – June 20, 2013
Hannibal – NBC

God, that's a beautiful-for-all-the-wrong-reasons final shot of Will Graham in jail and Hannibal Lecter looking at him through the bars. Seriously, can you believe this show wasn't horrible?

“In Care Of” – June 23, 2013
Mad Men – AMC

Don confessing his whorehouse upbringing at the Hershey meeting is maybe the best work of Jon Hamm's career. Wow.

“Zach Stone Is Gonna Be An Actor” – June 27, 2013
Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous – MTV

"And how would you like your eggs?"

“Bora Bora Bora,” "Tall Men With Feelings" – July 11, 2013
Orange Is The New Black – Netflix

The inmates dream of life outside the prison. Be careful what you wish for. The sequence of everyone listening to Larry's radio interview, devastating or uplifting depending on who's listening, is one of the best things I watched all year.

“Blood Money” – August 11, 2013
Breaking Bad – AMC

It gave us 2013's most memorable TV quote: "If you don't know who I am, then maybe your best course would be to tread lightly."

“Newsnight with Will McAvoy” – August 11, 2013
The Newsroom – HBO

Do not adjust your monitor. This is real life. Because this near real-time, show-within-a-show-focused episode is everything "The Newsroom" should be (and, God forbid, should strive to be in a hypothetical third season) instead of stupid Sorkinian girls yelling at each other about "Sex and the City" fan fiction in a laundromat.

“Confessions” – August 25, 2013
Breaking Bad – AMC

“The Gang Broke Dee” – September 4, 2013
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – FXX

Kaitlin Olson is just awesome. And oh my God, Dennis' absolutely horrifying realization at the end of the episode that he wasn't in on ANY of it is played amazingly by Glenn Howerton. Great way to start what was a very solid season.

“Ozymandias” – September 15, 2013
Breaking Bad – AMC

I said it before, I'll say it again - if I ever see anything on TV more exhilarating than "Ozymandias," it's gonna be an interesting rest of my life. It's a testament to what a strong year this was that this is my second favourite TV episode of 2013.

“Rafi and Dirty Randy” – September 25, 2013
The League – FXX

I think HitFix's Dan Fienberg put it best by saying this episode "really scratched an itch I didn't realize I had".

“Mac Day” – October 2, 2013
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – FXX

Setting aside the fact that "Sunny" can occasionally produce an episode with this much emotion behind it: predictable as it was, I don't think I laughed harder at anything else on TV than the climax of "Mac Day". RIP, Country Mac.

“Informative Murder Porn” – October 2, 2013
South Park – Comedy Central

"South Park" has an odd tendency to base episodes around weird pop culture tics that are either wildly outdated ("Insecurity") or niche-y, here poking fun at Investigation Discovery's library of shows focusing on domestic murders. But those episodes often end up being their funniest.

“The Scavenger Vortex” – October 3, 2013
The Big Bang Theory – CBS

Boy, the last time I enjoyed an episode of "The Big Bang Theory" before this one was...I couldn't even tell you. New character combinations with people who actually like each other was a much welcomed break from the show's typical output these days.

“It’s Handled” – October 3, 2013
Scandal – ABC

With maybe one exception, no other show on TV right now can give you a moment like "twice as hard, half as far". I was 80% of the way there on "Scandal" at the end of season two - this was the final 20%.

“Fort Night” – October 6, 2013
Bob’s Burgers – FOX

Much like "South Park," the best episodes of "Bob's Burgers" just let the kids be kids. And with Andy and Ollie on board along with Aziz Ansari and Molly Shannon, this Halloween adventure makes me very nostalgic for a kind of childhood that I didn't even really have.

“M.E. Time” – October 8, 2013
Brooklyn Nine Nine – FOX

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (or is it Ellis? I never remember which is which, you know what fuck it) The Waitress from "It's Always Sunny" plays a medical examiner whose sex fetish is death. And Jake Peralta really, really enjoys that. Also, Chelsea Peretti leads a chant of "Black people CAN sell drugs!" and that's just great comedy, people.

“League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis” – October 8, 2013
Frontline – PBS

A look into pro football brain injuries so gripping and heartbreaking that it a) scared NFL-imprisoned ESPN away from the project before it aired, and b) actually placebo effect'ed me a headache.

“The Social Network” – October 8, 2013
Trophy Wife – ABC

What on the surface looks to be another run-of-the-mill sitcom story about kids sneaking out actually becomes a very interesting identity crisis for a woman who's too young for the kids but too old for the adults in her life.

“Keaton” – October 22, 2013
New Girl – FOX

This is the weirdest idea for an episode ever - Schmidt's mother sent a letter to him posing as Michael Keaton and his friends periodically revisit the ruse to help out of slumps - and it totally works because "New Girl" is the only show that could make it work.

“The 100th” – October 23, 2013
The Middle – ABC

Orson celebrates its centennial in a fitting, representative 100th episode celebration of the little show that could.

“Let’s Be Mad Together” – October 24, 2013
Parenthood – NBC

The "Kristina for mayor" arc is put on hold, with Kristina and Max learning to accept that sometimes, when life deals you a bad hand, all you can do is find someone to feel with. Great stuff.

“Catherine” – October 27, 2013
Masters of Sex – Showtime

Bill and Virginia both have...parental issues. One far more tragic than the other. Outstanding performances from Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan.

“Camille” – October 31, 2013
The Returned – Sundance Channel

A teenage girl comes back from the dead and the results are scarier and more haunting than any work of art centred on "zombies" could ever dream of being.

“The Kremps” – November 12, 2013
The Goldbergs – ABC

The Goldbergs get new neighbours, and "The Goldbergs" finally quiets down into a show about heart instead of sore throats.

“Everything’s Coming Up Mellie” – November 14, 2013
Scandal – ABC

Again, "Scandal" knowing the way to my heart with a "Simpsons" parody title. Poor, poor Mellie Grant, says I. The exact opposite, many others would say.

“Julie” – November 14, 2013
The Returned – Sundance Channel

I'll talk about this more later...but I feel like effective horror is so rare that it's such a thrill for me to actually witness. That scene in the dark at Julie's apartment building...good lord.

“A Song of Ass and Fire” – November 20, 2013
South Park – Comedy Central

Trilogies on this show can be pretty hit and miss - but in full "Game of Thrones" parody mode, a big Black Friday arc makes for the best episodes of a fairly uneven season.

“Turkey in a Can” – November 24, 2013
Bob’s Burgers – FOX

The Belchers celebrate Thanksgiving by solving a good old fashioned MYSTERY as to who keeps ruining Bob's turkeys. Also, Gene and Linda write and perform the world's first Thanksgiving song, which is as great as I wanted it to be.

“Rustle Feathers” – December 4, 2013
Survivor: Blood vs. Water – CBS

Every time I think I'm out - THEY PULL ME BACK IN! Okay, I didn't watch the season up to this point, but when CBS just decided they didn't care who they spoiled and advertised the return of "Survivor's" dreaded "purple rock tiebreaker" during their Thanksgiving football coverage, I had to jump in to see a moment not seen on the show in almost twelve years. And it delivered. Hayden Moss, king of kings.

"Phallic Victories" - December 8, 2013
Masters of Sex - Showtime

Hitting the road with Dr. DePaul, Virginia proves she knows how the game is played in what I hope will make for a very good Emmy submission episode for Lizzy Caplan.

"Twas the Night Before Christmas...Or Twas It?" - December 10, 2013
Trophy Wife - ABC

Well ABC knew what I wanted for Christmas. Sorry, Stephanie Tanner, but my new favourite cover of the Ace of Base classic "I Saw The Sign" is now performed drunkenly by Malin Akerman, Marcia Gay Harden, Michaela Watkins, and Bradley Whitford.

Tomorrow: What just missed the cut in an absurdly tough year?