Last week, we brought you our favorite movies of last year (finally saw Inside Llewyn Davis, by the way, and yes, it would have made the cut). This week, we change channels to focus on TV. We’re doing things a little differently this time out, with separate top 10 lists for new shows and returning favorites. Though there were a lot of new shows I enjoyed over the past year, I’ll admit I couldn’t stretch them to 10; instead, I’ve got 8, while Paul’s just crazy enough to have a full 10.
As always, there are shows we couldn’t get around to: I haven’t seen Rectify, Top of the Lake, Broadchurch, or The Wrong Mans, all of which I’d hoped to see in time for this list. Oh, and to absolve him of all guilt, I should mention that Paul has never seen Breaking Bad. Wait, I don’t think that absolves him.
PAUL: 10. HANNIBAL (NBC)
I wasn’t particularly interested in a television adaptation of the Thomas Harris characters. But names like Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, and Bryan Fuller pulled me in. It’s one of the most visually stunning and hauntingly…haunting shows ever to make it to network television. It’s also one of the most shockingly violent and grotesque. All positives in my book. But I can’t put it any higher on my list because it’s crushingly depressing.
On this, the eve of 2013, Paul and I begin to look back at some of our favorite things of 2012. First up, our ten favorite TV series.
Also, let’s give a slow clap to Paul, who struggled through severe illness just to get these words to you, dear reader. A speedy recovery to you, sir!
PAUL: 10. PARKS AND RECREATION (NBC)
Season 5 gets out of the office a little bit, with Ben and April in Washington D.C. (with an evil robot congressman). Ron gets a new love interest (the always lovely Lucy Lawless). Tom starts a new business. And Andy finds a new career.
AJ: 10. GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
What Game of Thrones did in its first season was nothing short of exceptional, a 10-episode narrative that goes down as one of the finest accomplishments the medium has seen thus far. And while the second season struggled at times to recapture that majesty, it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. The scope and breadth of George R.R. Martin’s world remains impressive; the cast, especially Peter Dinklage as the kind of noble imp Tyrion Lannister, continues to knock out high fantasy material that would crush lesser actors; and thrilling hours like “Blackwater” remind us that this is the closest thing we have to a Lord of the Rings on TV. And it’s a whole lot nastier and sexier, too.
On the new episode of Gobbledygeek, Paul and AJ told you about all the things you should buy this Christmas season, and now here’s a comprehensive guide! (Including a few items that weren’t even mentioned on the show.)
Note: Most links and prices are from Amazon.
READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline
Hands down one of the best science fiction books I’ve read in recent memory. It’s like my admittedly overdeveloped nostalgia gland were milked and distilled onto the page. This book is my geeky, pop-culture DNA printed in ink. ~ Paul
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (DVD/Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Combo)
Taken from a short story by Philip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau has a great premise: there is a bureaucratic agency governing every decision you make, and if you stray from The Plan, they will step in and adjust your life. What could have been a Truman Show or an Eternal Sunshine instead becomes a mediocre time-waster, as the adjusters’ arbitrary rules and the silly chase scenes get in the way of real chemistry between forbidden lovers Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. It’s a shame to see Anthony Mackie, who was good in The Hurt Locker, turn in a stupefyingly dull performance, but it’s worse to see Richard Slattery, who unloads at least two dozen savagely memorable remarks on each episode of Mad Men, reduced to shouting things like, “Can’t I get a break in this case?!” Under the anonymous, visionless direction of George Nolfi, the film is a cosmic farce as a bunch of old white dudes attempt to cock-block Damon on an epic scale. The spark between Damon and Blunt makes things mildly entertaining. Extras include audio commentary from Nolfi, deleted and extended scenes, and three featurettes.
(Originally reviewed by me, and much more favorably by Paul, in “Secret Origins.”)
Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott in 'Party Down'
You’ve probably never seen an episode of Party Down. It had dire ratings; this past Friday’s season finale, for example, only garnered 74,000 viewers. My rationale was that it was on premium cable channel Starz (which, we can agree, does not have the luster of HBO or Showtime) but with that channel’s relative hit Spartacus: Blood and Sand, I was proven incorrect. Each episode was also available on Netflix Instant Viewing, but I doubt that expanded viewership much. Perhaps it was just too bleak; good things rarely happened to its team of fame-seeking caterers, and it reveled in the art of schadenfreude almost as much as the British Office. Or maybe it just wasn’t on the right channel at the time, or something.
What I do know is that for two seasons, it was the funniest show on television, or at least tied with Parks and Recreation. It was hindered by the fact that its stars were only signed for season-by-season contracts, which meant it lost Jane Lynch after season 1, and would have lost Ryan Hansen or, far more troubling, main caterer Adam Scott after this season. (The irony here is, of course, that they lost Scott to Parks and Rec.) But I presume that Rob Thomas, John Enbom, and the rest would’ve carried on and would’ve continued to make one damn funny show. Alas, Starz officially announced that the series was canceled today.
Now that Party Down is over, there are only a handful of worthy sitcoms left on the air: Parks and Recreation, Community, Modern Family, and maybe 30 Rock (this season was good, not great, but maybe it can come back; I have no such hopes for The Office).
I still haven’t watched the finale. I think I will right now.