Friday, December 20, 2013

Top TV Episodes of 2013

No matter what we watch, my friends always want to discuss TV shows more in depth than movies. That doesn’t mean that they like these shows more than the movies we watch, but there’s something subject to debate when you break up a story into installments. There’s the theorizing about what happened next and arguing what episode was better. To view a show in segments tricks you to analyze parts of the whole and to watch the show over a course of weeks makes you more invested.

So I love talking with my friends about their thoughts on these excellent shows. Every year I like to ask them to write for my blog and show everyone their perspective. Here are 23 of my friends and myself writing about some of their favorite episodes of the year equipped with their Top 10 list. Due to when I’m posting this, there are few episodes in 2013 that sadly won’t be up for consideration like the Treme series finale, Matt Smith’s final episode of Doctor Who and the Downton Abbey Christmas Special.

At the very end you can read about what episodes were the collected Top 10 with other bits of trivia. But first let’s head over to the CW…

Arrow – “Three Ghosts” 
(Season Two, Episode 9)

By Aaron Wittwer

It’s hard to turn the TV on anymore without becoming mired in the tendrils of some cinema-quality masterwork of a show like Breaking Bad or Homeland or Game of Thrones or Justified or Sons of Anarchy etc… Tightly plotted, intelligent dramas perfectly crafted to challenge our idea of what television can be. Arrow isn’t one of these. Arrow is a show about a second tier, comic book superhero who shoots things with arrows. It’s got a cast of really, really good-looking people. It’s on the CW. All the ingredients are there for it to be yet another piece of under-wrought YA garbage. But it’s not. Instead, it’s one of the most gleefully fun and entertaining shows on television, treating us with a refreshing degree of unapologetic melodrama, consistently well-choreographed action, and a compelling cast of core characters.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 20 TV Seasons of 2013

TV may be getting too good. I tried to write a Top 10 and found it to be almost impossible. Luckily I’m in control of my own blog so now I have a Top 20. (Spoiler: I still cheat.) It’s not just that my favorite shows keep getting better, it’s that more channels are making quality entertainment. The Sundance Channel proved to have some of the year’s best programs, Netflix made huge waves with launching entire seasons at once and more and more foreign imports are making its way stateside.

People are trying to say that the Golden Age of Television is fading, but it only seems to be growing stronger. Almost half of my shows on this list are first seasons of new shows. Every week of the year seems to have at least a half dozen great shows on the air. So even with watching so many shows, there are some that I have missed usually because I don’t have the time to catch up with them.

Thus, I apologize (not really) for not being caught up on Call the Midwife, Enlightened, The Good Wife, The Legend of Korra, Parenthood, Scandal, Shameless (both versions), Skins and A Young Doctor’s Notebook. Also I haven’t even started Arrow, Bad Education, Borgen, Dancing on the Edge, Last Tango in Halifax, The Venture Brothers or The White Queen. So many shows and now here are the seasons that were the best of 2013…

20. Treme Season Four (HBO)

“So what is it exactly that you want to do, hmm?”
“I want to get Caldonia’s reopen. Take over Raul’s lease, revitalize Rampart Street, fight the good fight for live music and New Orleans.”
“That’s it?”
“To start.”

In so many ways, Treme became a metaphor for the thing it loved the most. People are loving HBO more and more and yet nobody is watching this charming and emotional show about life in post-Katrina New Orleans. It wasn’t able to have a full season for its finale, but haven seen three of the five episodes, it still seems too soon to go. Unlike other final seasons, this isn’t leading towards a climatic ending. For at the end of these five hours, their lives won’t end. You want them to succeed in their dreams and thus you want New Orleans to prosper and thus you want America to prosper. When certain characters succeed financially, they always want to return to this city because that is where the soul is. And boy did this show have soul. You’ll be missed, Treme.

19. Orphan Black Season One (BBC America)

“Bloody hell. How many of us are there?”

The trailer for this show didn’t impress me. It kept using plenty of vague buzzwords to try and intrigue you about its conspiracy and clones. Then I watched the pilot where Sarah Manning sees a girl who looks identical to her, kill herself in public. Sarah’s reaction? Steal the girl’s ID so she can empty her bank account. The show continued to expand in wonderfully crazy ways that kept playing to its strengths, which included the insanely good performance of Tatiana Maslany who not only could play several characters perfectly but can also play those characters playing other characters. The goofiness and innovation made this show a whole lot of fun.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Barest Essentials a Poet Could Need -- Austin's Top 20 Sondheim Songs

I'm very excited for tonight's HBO documentary about the great Stephen Sondheim. He's responsible for some of my favorite shows thanks to his wondrous speed and witty lyrics. I haven't seen all of his shows--Gypsy and Follies are two big omissions--but the ones I have seen are filled with such incredible ambition. So as I continue to have all of these tunes stuck in my head, here are my Top 20 favorite songs written by Mr. Stephen Sondheim.

20. "Everybody's Got the Right" -- Assassins

Creepy, unsettling and it prepares you for the uncomfortable darkness to come.

19. "Invocation and Instructions to the Audience" -- The Frogs

Hilarious commentary on how audiences ought to behave during a live show. Comedy podcast fans should recognize the opening notes...