the returned
what i watched last week

teevee 2013

Here is my annual television wrap-up. I don’t make a Top Ten list, I just look back and some of the things I wrote since the last time I did one of these (December 18 of last year).

First, for what it’s worth, I’ll note that my choices for the five best shows in 2013 are Justified, 30 Rock, Game of Thrones, Broadchurch, and Treme. There are plenty of honorable mentions, but for now, I’ll just say once again that Tatiana Maslany and Emmy Rossum do amazing jobs on their shows (Orphan Black and Shameless). And I’ll tip my hat to Breaking Bad, by all accounts the best series of its day, but one I have yet to get into. Finally, a shout out to Rectify, which I liked even though I never got around to writing about it.

Downton Abbey: “The show ultimately takes the side of the rich. The heroes aren’t Anna and Bates, they’re Lord Grantham and Lady Mary.”

30 Rock: “30 Rock dares you to keep up with its humor, as if being more obvious would make the show too popular with ‘the masses’.”

Girls: “No one thinks David Simon ‘was’ McNulty, or that David Milch ‘was’ Al Swearengen. But people do assume Hannah is Lena, and since Hannah is extremely self-absorbed and not particularly likable, it appears people who don’t know her think the same about Dunham.”

Game of Thrones: “Game of Thrones addresses power and fantasy, features characters of real depth who can change over time, and includes a large list of actors doing great work. The Walking Dead has zombies.”

Justified: “The message of Justified isn’t that Raylan’s way is right because he’s a lawman. The message is that Raylan is being destroyed from the inside. He no longer believes that his actions are justified. But he can’t escape those actions.”

Shameless: “If I gave a shit about awards, I’d say it was outrageous that [Emmy Rossum] has never won an Emmy for her work (no pun intended).”

Top of the Lake: “While all of this goes on, there are undercurrents about power and gender and violence. Top of the Lake doesn’t rub this in our faces, the way a killer-porn show like Criminal Minds does. It takes its time, it gets its points across, all the while keeping the mysteries intriguing.”

Orphan Black: “Suffice to say that Tatiana Maslany is giving one of the great performances ever on television.”

Mad Men: “It’s a show full of misery, not that that’s a bad thing.”

Orange Is the New Black: “In the beginning of the series, we’re told that people stick to their own, but over the course of the season, we see plenty of examples of people crossing those lines.”

True Blood: “It was same old, same old.”

The Newsroom: “The Newsroom doesn’t make me want to go back and watch old Sports Night episodes … rather, it makes me wonder if I’ve been overrating Sports Night all these years.”

Broadchurch: “Each episode, we know those people a little bit better. Thus, the impact of this horrible event on the town is driven home to the viewer, through the way it impacts the characters.”

The Bridge: “The buddy picture, the procedural, the autistic heroine, the border between Mexico and the USA. None of these were particularly groundbreaking on their own, but the combination was intriguing.”

Longmire: “Take out the occasional use of the word “shit”, and tone down the violence a hair, and Longmire could have aired on broadcast television during just about any era.”

The Fall: “What raises The Fall is the care taken to establish characters, and the manner in which life in Belfast is integrated into the narrative with restraint.”

The Returned: “The Returned is good for the simplest of reasons: the setting is intriguing, the writing and acting are excellent, and the show manages to avoid stagnancy, advancing our understanding of events at just the right speed.”

Almost Human: “Lili Taylor is wasted … it must have taken a lot of work to make Taylor boring.”

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: “The good will has gradually seeped away.”

Boardwalk Empire: “There are worse things on television than a series that consistently delivers an A-. But if I ever figure out why Boardwalk Empire, for all it does well, somehow ends up just short of the pantheon, I’ll be surprised.”

Treme: “Great ensemble acting, wonderful music, characters you care about, just enough plot to keep things moving, and did I mention the music? All of this will be sorely missed when Treme finally closes shop.”

The Walking Dead: “It seems like a lot is happening, because of all the violence and gore, because important characters are killed, because Rick is always on the edge of change. But by the end, Rick always falls back into the leadership role, other characters fill the void created by others’ deaths, and the violence and gore continue. A lot happens, but nothing happens.”

Sons of Anarchy: “I realized I still looked forward to it, and it still had its powerful moments. And the ability to keep this up for six seasons is something.”

Dancing on the Edge: “Ejiofor makes this very intense; he is the best thing about Dancing on the Edge.”

Homeland: “The touching final moments of the finale, which should have been a powerful culmination of the Carrie-Brody story, merely elicited a ‘thank god it’s over’ from me.”

Masters of Sex: “The presence of Caplan/Johnson gives us a path into the series, and allows Sheen/Masters to be a different kind of anti-hero.”


Steven Rubio

Looking back, I see I never wrote anything about The Americans. Kinda late, now, but it was one of the better series in its debut season.

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