Tuesday 1 January 2013

Serien des Jahres

Best new show: 

The Bletchley Circle

It's probably barely even a "new show" per se, since there was no announcement that the initial three-episode run would be renewed, but The Bletchley Circle is one of the rare cases where a show manages to create a compelling cast and tell a captivating story in such a limited amount of time. A group of women who worked as cryptographers during WW2 return to puzzle solving to catch a local killer, but more importantly, they ponder if they really want to return to the mundane life that society expects them to leave. In may ways, The Bletchley Circle is a version of Bomb Girls after the war - and makes women's struggle for participation and being taken seriously personal rather than abstract. 

I did not fall in love with Bomb Girls instantly (with Betty McRae, maybe), but as awkward as this show started out, it got so much better within only a couple of episodes, and by the time Bringing Up Bombshell came around, it had turned into one of my favourite shows of the year (and one that I immediately had to recommend). It's about women, trying to carve out a place for themselves during a time that both allows them to be freer than ever before and still tries to cage them. The show is about these contradictions, but it thrives on its incredible characters, the acting, the mood, the music.

Call the Midwife

Between all the fantastic period dramas this year, Call the Midwife, with its fantastic cast, is the most explicit drawing the connection between feminism and sex education. Jessica Raine plays upper-middle class nurse Jenny who starts working as a midwife in 1950s London, only to discover that the living conditions of lower class women and working conditions of her trade are very different from what she expected. Call the Midwife is dramatic, funny (Miranda Hart as Chubby is brilliant, but so is everybody else), and makes it point incredibly well.

The Hour

This didn't premiere this year but I didn't get around to watching the first season of BBC's The Hour until early this year. There were many previous comparisons to Mad Men for obvious reasons, but the more important thing the two shows have in common is the pace with which the plot develops. The Hour has a much more profound interest in the politics of the era it is set in, and asks questions about journalism that seem even more relevant today, but it wouldn't be as good a show if it weren't for the brilliant cast, from Romola Garai's Bel Rowley and her childhood friend Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw), who wrote manifestos teogether when they were younger and are now struggling to see their ideals clash with the realities of business, to the entire cast populating the studio (Anna Chancellor's incredible Lix Storm was joined by Peter Capaldi, recently of The Thick of It, in season two, and it's quite magnificent). Mad Men sometimes seems to have a hard time to admit Don Draper's failings, while The Hour was on to Dominic West's Hector right from the beginning (and is currently allowing his wife a glorious journey towards self-actualization, the thing that always alludes tragic Betty Draper). The second season also delivered one of the best final episodes this year. 


I hope every male character you love is played by Lucy Liu. I would love for Elementary to be less case-of-the-week than it is right now, but the chemistry between the two leads and their interpretation of the relationship between Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and Watson (Lucy Liu) is more interesting than any previous one. I have Parks and Recreation levels of giddiness about these characters and I hope we'll get years and years of this (I also love the music and the fact that the title sequence is an hommage to a previous unconventional adaptation). 

Chicago Fire

About a week before Chicago Fire premiered, I found myself craving ER, a show I had never really finished watching. It was the kind of drama series where you could drop in every week, not necessarily interested in the medical cases, but with enough sympathy for the characters (or at least some of them, in the ever-changing cast) to make them feel like family. The premise of the show is just a vehicle, a backdrop, for the characters - they could be detectives, or doctors, or lawyers, but they happen to be firefighters, risking their lives daily, struggling with the horrible things they see and the sheer physical toll of their work. It's a good ensemble cast that plays well together - and has the potential to become one of the few procedurals that I feel fond enough of to tune in every week. 

Best shows: 

Game of Thrones

King's Landing was hands down the best episode of television this year and the lack of recognition Lena Headey got for her portrayal of Cersei Lannister in that episode was a bloody shame. The second season of the show, covering A Clash of Kings, introduced many new characters and was altogether a success, although I prefer thinking of books and show as separate entities (the specific POV-structure of the books allows them to delve deeper into some characters but naturally leaves others hollow - Natalie Dormer's Margaery Tyrell and her modern marriage is endlessly more fascinating in the show, while the choice to neglect Catelyn's perspective to focus on Robb Stark is a pity).

Parks and Recreation

This show is sunshine and rainbows. This year, Leslie Knope won a political race, but more importantly, won  in the face of the kind of cynicism constantly attached to politics (especially in an election year, as TIME magazine pointed out when explaining why this was the best show of the year). More quietly, April Ludgate's character development alone warrants Parks an eternal seat in the pantheon of greatness. 

Pretty Little Liars

I remember once labelling this show as guilty pleasure, which was incredibly stupid (the very idea of guilty pleasure shows or guilty pleasure anything is pretty stupid). Pretty Little Liars is one of the best current shows about what it means to be a teenager, and all the stalkers and murderers and witches and werewolves also featuring in the lives of Emily, Hanna, Aria and Spencer just add a tad bit more complications. Also, there's Paige McCullers, human disaster. And the truest fact about Rosewood, that in spite of killers and werewolves, the worst person will always be Byron Montgomery, because it's always the hypocritical creeps that are most interested in controlling girls and shaping them to their own liking. 


Boxed and constantly available happiness and the only show with a laugh track that I can bear (Black Books is also an example but as far as comedy goes, Black Books is pretty much the exact opposite of Miranda, in terms of where the humour comes from). Miranda is giddy and lovely and wears its heart on its sleeve. 


If Homeland is the serialized version of a very long heart-attack, Parenthood is a very long, exhausting but cathartic hysterical crying fit, interrupted by the occasional warm and comfy feeling of happiness. I lured someone into watching the show because we also enjoyed Friday Night Lights together, and that comparison isn't just obvious because of Jason Katims and shared cast members (personally, I like to watch Amber and Ryan's arc as the slow progress towards a happy ending for poor Luke Cafferty). Parenthood has one of the loveliest casts of anything ever, and if Mae Whitman crying doesn't make you cry, you've sold your soul to Patty Hewes. 


This is a political drama about the struggles of the head-of-state of a small country in the European Union with a multi-party system. Sidse Babett Knudsen plays Birgitte Nyborg, Denmark's first Statsminister and had of a constantly and hilariously precarious government coalition. And even if the fact that it's basically poli-sci porn of the highest order (and it's like a West Wing without the constant unrealistic GOODNESS, basically, and it feels so good that the failings of the system are so often rooted in good intentions - not that selfishness and power hunger don't play a role as well) doesn't make you want to watch this instantly, the cast and the peculiar humour absolutely should. As someone also living in a small country in the European Union, the quality of Danish television makes me endlessly jealous. 

It's still good. It'll be even better now that Nick Savarese is gone.

Fresh Meat

Fresh Meat caught me by surprise this year. I'd watched the first season and it was pretty solid, it was funny, but I didn't have any particular feelings about the characters beyond admiring Zawe Ashton's awesome Vod. And then I re-watched all of it before the second season started and it somehow infiltrated and infected me with SOMETHING, because Fresh Meat doesn't even try very hard to make viewers root for its characters, as is pointed out this season, they aren't good people, but they are awkwardly and incidently turning into unlikely good friends. The show also spends about half its time on calling out assholes for being assholes and much of it is very applicable in real life. I was really glad about the renewal. 

Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is the origin story of a super villain and if you find yourself rooting for the villain of the show and are of the opinion that the correct response to Skyler White is critisizing her for standing in his way, you are incredibly wrong and creepy. At that one thing, Breaking Bad excels, and it's almost become a sport to see how much worse Walter White can possibly get (You thought poisoning a child would be rock bottom? Think again). I can't wait to see where his attempts to build an empire will lead - and how it'll all look once it comes tumbling down. I hope Jesse Pinkman makes it out alive.

Being Human

Being Human lost almost all its original cast this year, and I never thought I'd forgive them for doing THAT to Nina Pickering, but then, some of the old sense of loveliness and humour returned with Tom (Michael Socha), Hal (Damien Molony) and Allison (Ellie Kendrick). At its core, Being Human was always about unlikely families, chosen families, and as haunting as it was to see the last one fall apart so violently, I think I could do with a couple more with those three (even though it looks unlikely that Ellie Kendrick will return, now that she's Meera Reed). Lenora Crichlow gave a fantastic swan song for Annie Sawyer. 

( also: Justified, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Portlandia, The Thick Of It)

Saddest Goodbye: 

I didn't even realize how fond I'd grown of Sofie Gråbøl's Lund until she sat on that plane and removed the SIM card from her mobile phone. It's not even the resolution of the cases as much as it's seeing a character so incredibly good at this one thing and so incredibly terrible at everything else struggle. It's rare that a crime show gives a really good farewell to its leading character, but this was pretty much the best thing Forbrydelsen could have done, with the woman somehow always doing the one thing that will move her further away from her family taking the ultimate step. I guess all we have now is Broen/Bron.

Watched for the first time: 

The Borgias
Teen Wolf
10 Things I Hate About You
The X-Files

A special category for you know what: 

No. No no no no no. No. No.
Also I wish those in the cast who want to pursue an actual career in acting get fantastic roles because none of this was their fault. 

Doctor Who

I named my cat Amy. I felt less horrible about season seven than about season six, but nevertheless, I wish things had gone differently for Amy Pond, I wish we had never found out who River was, I wish Rory had just STOPPED. Season five will forever be one of my favourite season of television, but apparently, fantastic season fives are doomed. Farewell, Amelia Pond.

And I think I'm done with Homeland.

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