We’re wrapping up 2013 here at Deadshirt, which means it’s time for LISTS LISTS LISTS. Here, 3 of our writers pick their 5 favorite hours/half-hours of TV in this calendar year, and for once, we end up with 3 unique lists and no overlap! We are truly growing as a website.
1. Orange is the New Black – “Lesbian Request Denied”
If 2013 will be remembered as anything in the books of television history, it will be as the Year of Netflix. The streaming service rocketed itself into the big leagues with House of Cards, and captured the public’s adoration with the revival of Arrested Development. But its mostly truly impressive feat was the launch of Orange is the New Black, a game-changing comedy-drama about life in a women’s prison. The third episode of the season, “Lesbian Request Denied”, deftly directed by the great Jodie Foster, is one of the best hours of television I’ve ever seen. “LRD” shifts its focus to the transgendered Sophia (played beautifully by Laverne Cox, who also happens to be the first African-American transgendered actress to be featured on a mainstream TV show) who is struggling against the prison system to receive the estrogen pills she needs. Meanwhile, the uber-white Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) must contend with her accidental new prison wife, the fabulously creepy Crazy Eyes, in an unforgettable performance by Uzo Aduba. The two storylines crackle with laugh-out-loud humor and startling pathos, and the episode provides a slew of moments—Sophia defiantly eating a bobblehead doll, Crazy Eyes urinating on Piper’s floor—that will stand out as Orange is the New Black’s, and this year’s, most memorable.
2. The New Girl – “Cooler”
Say what you will about early New Girl, but by “Cooler”, this show settled itself firmly into place as the best half-hour of comedy on the networks. This episode might be remembered as the one where Nick and Jess finally mash mouths, but with the return of the best drinking game of all time, True American (Pick your intern! It’s Abu Nazir!), it’s also among the funniest of the year.
3. Brooklyn 99 – “Halloween”
A B99 episode deserves a spot on this list if only because this show had the most confident, nuanced, and funny freshman season since Modern Family. “Halloween” is a prime example of what B99 does best, allowing its cast to gel into a working ensemble while keeping the comedy punchy with one-liners (“That’s the name of your sex tape” is the new “That’s what she said”) and the best sight gags on TV (Can any other show top the visual of a man dressed as a nun identifying a perp from a lineup of Royal Babies?)
4. The Mindy Project – “Christmas Party Sex Trap”
Mindy Project is yet another ensemble comedy that’s cemented its place as one of this years best. “Sex Trap” showcases Mindy Kaling’s genuine comedic timing and her brand of almost-heartbreakingly relatable I-was-just-talking-to-my-best-friend-about-this-exact-thing! type of humor.
5. Go On – “Urn-ed Run”
The final episode of Go On cemented this one-season wonder as one of my favorites in a long time. By “Urn-ed Run”, our group of unlikely bedfellows (culled from a grief support group) has coalesced into an odd but working unit, and the episode sells the emotion just as strongly as the humor. If you blinked and missed this show, do yourself a favor and get it on iTunes—it’s one worth remembering.
1. Game of Thrones – “The Rains of Castamere”
Yes, yes, it’s the “Red Wedding” episode but did you know, a ton of other tense shit happened in this episode too. There was the whole thing where Jon Snow, having just crossed the wall, gets into a skirmish with the wildlings for not killing an innocent old man, betraying Ygritte in the process. A few yards away from this, Bran discovers he can go into human minds before using his power and his dire wolf to save Jon. And across the Narrow Sea, Daario, Jorah and Grey Worm try and infiltrate the city of Yunkai under the cover of darkness. And all of this happens before we get to the really bad stuff. “Castamere” is great because gives us a bunch of action upfront, slows down for a little, and then ends by delivering the television version of a sucker punch. It was definitely the most exciting, devastating, and memorable hour of TV in the past year. (Read our full article of about this episode.)
2. Steven Universe – “Laser Light Cannon”
This is when I fell in love with Steven Universe, and it’s only the second episode. In the episode we get a bit of backstory about Steven and his family, we get a look at his relationship with his dad, we get a fun power pop song called “Let Me Drive My Van (Into Your Heart)” and we get “fry bits!” “Laser Light Cannon” is very sweet and it makes me excited to see where this show is headed.
3. Regular Show – “Terror Tales of the Park III”
If I could, 4 out of the 5 of this list would be Regular Show episodes, it’s definitely my favorite show on television right now. As with the past two Halloween episodes, this one has 3 great short stories over 24 minutes, as opposed to it’s usual 11 minute running time. This time it seemed they were paying homage to slasher films, and, mixed with the humor and wackiness, it had its fair share of creepy moments. They were able to get the whole gang involved, which, as always makes for a great episode.
4. Venture Brothers – “What Color is Your Cleansuit?”
This episode picks up right after the finale of the previous season which aired two and a half years earlier, so my brain needed to orient itself, once that happened it was almost constant laughs from then on. In typical Venture fashion the episode is filled with pop culture references, and one of the plots is one giant John Carter reference. Added special guests Aziz Ansari and Wyatt Cenac, make this episode a win for me. (Read our full review of this episode.)
5. Doctor Who – “Day of the Doctor”
As with most stories regarding time travel this episode was a bit convoluted, but it comes together in the end, Mostly I like this episode because it was great to see my favorite version of the Doctor (David Tennant) again, plus it was fun to see John Hurt’s Doctor reacting to the two modern Doctors in a way, I’m sure, the earliest Doctors would have. (Read our full review of this episode.)
WARNING: This list is from someone who does not have HBO.
1. Breaking Bad – “Ozymandias”
Anyone who claims they could breath while watching this episode is a liar. One of Breaking Bad‘s greatest strengths was the fact that it was impossible to predict what would happen – and given the fact that this was the third-to-last episode of the series and the only thing we knew was that Walt escaped, the word “impossible” was redefined. Everything terrible that could possibly happened happened, and then some. The episode showed both Walt’s lingering humanity and his still-dominant monstrous persona – including telling Jesse the truth about Jane, in one of Walt’s most sadistic moments.
There were also the small moments: the zoom away from Skyler and Junior when Walt loudly proclaimed that they were a family, Holly saying “mama” (which was apparently unexpected but worked because apparently Bryan Cranston is the best actor in the world), Walt’s reaction to seeing Hank shot. The title alone – a reference to Shelley’s famed poem about how empires crumble – was a perfect description of everything that happened to Walt.
Suffice to say, the 10/10 on IMDb is well deserved.
2. 30 Rock – “Hogcock!”/”Last Lunch”
30 Rock got the send off it deserved – every story arc was wrapped up in a tidy bow and all of the characters got what they wanted, and more importantly, needed. Jack and Liz finally said “I love you” in their own awkward way, Conan made an improbable yet delightful appearance, and the immortal Kenneth gets the last line in a tribute to St. Elsewhere. A solid end to one of the sharpest comedies in recent TV history.
3. How I Met Your Mother – “PS I Love You”
One of the few bright spots in HIMYM‘s first truly mediocre season, but boy was it bright. Robin Sparkles episodes were always the best, but Sparkles doing a face-heel turn to become the solid Alanis Morissette parody that is Robin Daggers was vintage HIMYM. Bonus points for showing the super Canadian “Underneath the Tunes” and playing it straight.
4. Saturday Night Live – “Justin Timberlake”
I’m not a fan of Timberlake’s music, but holy hell is he hilarious. Particular highlights: return of “The Five Timers Club” and “It’s A Date” – featuring Timerblake and Samberg’s Lonely Island characters and the Fenstrunk Brothers (the revelation of whom made me audibly gasp with joy).
5. Archer – “Fugues and Riffs”
Archer goes into a fugue state and believes that he is Bob from Bob’s Burgers. Nuff said.
The year is inching toward finality, but we’re not done gushing about it, so stay tuned for a few more lists.