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Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 2013 Edition: 12-9

5 Feb

Three comedies and a drama. Two of the comedies are a lot alike, one is very different, and like Top of the Lake in a previous entry, the drama is humorless enough to suck the funny out of all three comedies combined. 12-9 await below.

12. The Venture Bros.

Ventures and friends

Enjoy this spot, because Venture won’t be back next year. The Terrence Malick of television series, Venture Bros has aired five seasons and 63 episodes over an 11 year period. Season five consisted of a mere eight episodes airing over two and a half years after the previous season ended. Hardcore fans, which is pretty much everyone who watches Venture Bros. was salivating for anything, hoping to dig deeper into the complex mythology built for nerds and obsessives. It wasn’t a perfect season, and there’s always frustratingly little to dig through in a mere eight episodes, especially when a few are very peripheral, but there was plenty to like, and lots that hit upon what Venture Bros. does best, deliver on the humorous mismatch between the superhero/supervillain fantasy world and the ordinary. Bot Seeks Bot this season may have executed on this best, featuring a robot date at a villain’s nightclub, and hitting up many more hilarious villain names, a recurring gag which succeeds almost every time. This show is admittedly not for everyone, but if you’ve got any love for comics and superheros and complicated fictional universes, I highly recommend Venture Bros. a shot.

11. Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation Dept.

I sometimes feel like people out there are always looking to nail the exact point when a show peaks and then hits a downward slope, however gentle, while a show is on the air, as if there’s a prize for not missing it as it happens. Yes, Parks & Recreation may not be in its absolutely best days. Seasons three and four will have good shots at the TV comedy hall of fame when all is said and done, and admittedly, season 6 may not hit those magical heights, or at least not as much of the time. Still, if Parks and Recreation is on a downward slope (and I hate the absolute inevitability that gets attributed to the first up and the down of TV series, particularly comedies, which 30 Rock, for example showed up, with a killer final season), it’s one of the gentlest I’ve ever seen. While let’s certainly note the show’s misses, let’s also stop dwelling too much are how Parks and Recreation season 6 may not be season 3 and let’s instead celebrate what will probably be the final couple of seasons of one of the best comedies of the past decade. We can get nostalgic about the best and worst seasons when it’s done.

10. 30 Rock

Jack and Liz

Admittedly, this spot is kind of a cheat. 30 Rock only aired the final five episodes of its seven season run in 2013, so evaluating its yearly performance is difficult compared to shows that aired full seasons. What I wanted to celebrate here however is how good that final season was and how good the finale was. 30 Rock ,a show that I’ve knocked as overrated during its first peak in early seasons, made a sneaky comeback in its final season, putting out some of the best stretches of episodes in its run. Additionally, it came as a bit of a surprise, and gave me a chance to credit 30 Rock for what I love about it rather than unfairly knocking it based on what I had thought was too much hype compared to some other comedies years ago. The Jack and Liz relationship is the best platonic male female relationship in our era, and I loved how 30 Rock’s consistent refusal to ever even pretend to the possibility of pairing the two led to a great series of love interests for both, a totally earned feeling of happiness and fit when Liz finally marries Criss. In the last few episodes, the writers really used dug deep and used up every joke left in their, well, whatever type of container carries jokes, and because of the ending, I have mentally carried nothing but extremely positive feeling for the show in the last year.

9. Hannibal

Will and Hannibal

Hannibal competes with True Detective for darkest television show currently airing, and somehow it’s on a broadcast network (NBC) which just makes absolutely no sense for a show that seems much better positioned on a cable network (I’m thinking Showtime ideally). The premise to Hannibal didn’t sound that attractive to me, both because I didn’t think there was much new to wring out of the Hannibal Lecter storyline, and because I’m not exactly excited for another cop drama with a super brilliant cop at its center (FBI agents admittedly may not technically be cops, but close enough). I was quickly proven wrong though. Creator Bryan Fuller showed that there’s plenty of juice left in this old chestnut and that a crime drama can be much more than that, a story of mind vs. mind, about reading people, about obsession, about sanity (there really is some serious overlap with True Detective). The acting is sharp, and the cinematography may be the best on television, turning ritualized murder into act that’s disturbingly beautiful and horrific at the same time. If there’s any downside to Hannibal, it’s that I’ll now associate all sorts of food with murder, but based on how delicious both look in Hannibal, that may not be such a bad thing.