'Breaking Bad,' 'Murdoch,' 'Mad Men' among year's best shows: TV critic | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Breaking Bad,' 'Murdoch,' 'Mad Men' among year's best shows: TV critic

This image released by AMC shows Bryan Cranston, as Walter White, in the final scene from "Breaking Bad." The popular series about a chemistry teacher-turned drug dealer ended in September. The remarkably satisfying finale creator Vince Gilligan gift wrapped for fans of "Breaking Bad" tended to make up for the fact that scripted television, on a roll for the past decade, seemed to hit a bit of a creative wall over the past 12 months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/AMC, Ursula Coyote
December 24, 2013 - 6:05 AM

What Golden Age of television? The year 2013 was a sub-par year for even the best TV has to offer, including "Mad Men," "Homeland" and especially "Girls."

The remarkably satisfying finale creator Vince Gilligan gift wrapped for fans of "Breaking Bad" tended to make up for the fact that scripted television, on a roll for the past decade, seemed to hit a bit of a creative wall over the past 12 months.

This came just as television was heralded as today's dominant creative medium. Now that the spotlight was on, it seemed, showrunners stopped to take a breath.

Three of the funniest shows on television didn't even air new episodes in 2013: "Louie," "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Episodes." The good news is that "Episodes," starring Matt LeBlanc as the ugly American at the centre of a brutally made-over Brit-com, returns for a third season January 12 on The Movie Network/Movie Central (along with Don Cheadle's "House of Lies"). We'll have to wait longer for Louis CK's brilliant comedy "Louie," which will eventually return to FX. As for "Curb," only Larry David knows.

Among the best and worst we did see in 2013:


1. "Breaking Bad." Walter White died for our sins. Amen.

2. "Murdoch Mysteries." Why such a high ranking for this seven-year-old period piece? First, it is damn well made, always knows its audience and delivers every week. It's also the only series I can think of that was cancelled on one network and went on to become the highest-rated scripted series on the one that picked it up. Smart move, CBC.

3. "Mad Men." Sure it was a sub-par year-knocking it down to third overall for me. The season finale — where Don Draper and his kids go back to the house-of-ill-repute he grew up in and Sally gets why her dad turned into a compartmentalizing monster — sets up an intriguing final year.

4. "Orphan Black." This little shot-in-Toronto Space series stands on its own for its original storytelling, but leaps to another level thanks to a scary good lead performance from Saskatchewan-native Tatiana Maslany.

5. "Jimmy Kimmel Live." And not just for that all-star "Matt Damon's Revenge" episode. The slimmed down host is deconstructing late night television while at the same time energizing it past the whole "Tonight Show" implosion. Hell of a feat. Points added, or deducted, for Kimmel's complete embrace of Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

6. "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." Who wouldn't want to go for a ride with Jerry Seinfeld and one of his famous comedy pals, especially in a vintage Ferrari? One sweet ride, especially for an Internet web series (seen on Crackle.com).

7. "House of Cards." The political satire makes it sordid fun but just hearing star Kevin Spacey narrate anything is half way to a great series. Kudos Netflix.

8. "The Mindy Project." Worth watching each week just to see how far writer/producer/star Mindy Kaling is willing to risk failing in order to redefine female leads on television.

9. "The Americans" (returning in February to FX Canada). Cold war tension, da. Cool cars and duds from the '80s, da. Felicity (Keri Russell) all grown up as a kick-ass Russian spy? Double da!

10. "Modern Family." The fake documentary formula is getting old, but this cast stayed committed and funny despite those big raises. And Lily — comedy gold!


You'd have to be higher than Toronto Mayor Rob Ford after a drunken stupor to suggest there were ten top rookies in what has been a dud of a fall. Here are six:

1. "Sleepy Hollow" — Kudos to the producers for managing to wake up the fantasy genre with this well-crafted delight. There's nothing really original about this series — it's basically the old fish-out-of-water, buddy cop series — yet all the elements magically come together. Helping immensely are the two compelling leads, Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie, who bring us along on what could easily have been dismissed as ridiculous or campy.

2. "Masters of Sex" — (Showtime/TMN/Movie Central). Penetrating, although sorry to hear Beau Bridges (now on "The Millers") won't be back.

3. "The Blacklist" — James Spader is a great TV villain, period.

4. "Hello, Ladies" — (HBO) Stephen Merchant's comedy about a clueless wannabe stud is bloody hilarious.

5. "Brooklyn Nine Nine" — The ensemble is a delight, especially Terry Crews and Andre Braugher.

6. "Getting On" — Having lost a parent at the start of this year, I didn't think I could watch this black comedy which takes an unblinking look at geriatric care. This remake of a UK series, however, is true and surreal. A great cast, led by Laurie Metcalf at her acidic best.


"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." This is a dull kids show. Ask yourselves one question: if they had made a Batman spinoff and it only starred Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara, would you have watched?


"The Michael J. Fox Show." It has to be a challenge to shoot a full network order on Fox's limited schedule and hats off to NBC and the writers (including Canadian Paul Mather) for trying. The family sitcom format, however, seems stale after seeing Fox shine in recent years as a guest on "Curb" and "Rescue Me."


Limited run series. Who wouldn't rather have ten or 12 terrific episodes than 22 that are hit and miss? And might this not be a better way to approach Fox's show?


To "Kevin Newman Live." This smart little CTV News Network start-up neatly bridges Old School network news journalism with all the latest social network apps you can cram onto a tablet. Dazzling TV News on a dime.


Rogers spends $5.2 billion locking up all national NHL games for the next dozen years then allows CBC four more seasons of "Hockey Night in Canada" on Saturday nights. Somewhere, Ted Rogers just got his wings.


Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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