Jan 3, 2014

Best of 2013 Part 1: Television and Music

Oh, 2013! What an interesting grouping of days. It's a strange thing, looking back on a year, because it's hard to remember anything that happened more than a month ago. Was there music before Beyoncé's December album? Was there television before the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special? It's difficult to say; the mind grows cloudy. Still, in an effort to fully look back at the last year, I've compiled a list of what I feel to be the top pop culture events of the last year, conveniently ranked and separated by genre. Travel with me as we, in Part 1, look back at the television and music events that made 2013 so 2013:

2013 was a great year for television and television events. This is the year that saw the dominance of Scandal (I'll be writing about that behemoth in February), the return of The Good Wife's goodness, and the increasing irrelevance of Revenge. We saw the beginning of the Poehler-Fey awards show hosting era and The Sound of Music: Live starring a piece of cardboard named Carrie Underwood. There were so many amazing moments, but let's look at the top 5:

5. The Office Series Finale
Filed under 'long-time coming', the series finale of this once beloved show nonetheless gave fans everything they were hoping for. After a somewhat bungled season arc involving Pam and Jim's fraught marriage, the finale just let everyone be amazing. Even with a scene-stealing cameo from Steve Carrell, the final episodes really belong to Jenna Fischer, who remained the stalwart heart of this ultimately sweet show.

4. Doctor Who 50th Anniversary
Each ardent viewer of Doctor Who has his or her own personal Doctor, and mine is definitely the 10th, played brilliantly by David Tennant. When he returned to the role for the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who special, I was prepared the fangirl scream in Tennant's direction for a solid 2 hours. Instead I was excited by how well Matt Smith's 11th Doctor kept pace, holding court as the senior Doctor with panache and his trademark, haunted flair. It was a fantastic special that paved the way for a somewhat disappointing (yet nonetheless emotionally satisfying) conclusion to Smith's Doctor in the 2013 Christmas Special. I'd say more, but, you know, spoilers.

3. Breaking Bad Series Finale
It maybe didn't always make sense, and it was a little too clean, but the Breaking Bad finale was really satisfying. It was a great end to possibly the greatest series of all time. At the time, I wrote that "death has never seemed more predestined as it does for the characters on Breaking Bad. For the most part, they're all ghosts, tripping through life towards its inevitable conclusion." I was feeling really deep that day, apparently.

2. The Untimely End of Enlightened
Enlightened had me hooked from the first seconds in the pilot. From the moment that Amy Jellicoe, mascara running down her face, screams "Health and Beauty was MINE!" while maniacally prying open an elevator door, I was in love. It is the greatest and most frustrating show of the last few years, and you don't have to take my word for it - the AV Club named it thus! Laura Dern, Mike White, Luke Wilson, Diane Ladd, and rest of the cast made the sophomore season incredible and incredibly sad. Still, all the great character work in world couldn't save the show. While viewers and networks might give copious time developing Don Drapers and Walter Whites, the cancellation of this show proves that we aren't willing to give time to flawed anti-heroes who also happen to have vaginas. A show this brilliant and a character as rich as Dern's Jellicoe really deserved that time. In the end, the show finished well and on its own terms. It may hold together as a perfect, two-season series, but that won't stop me from wishing that there had been more.

Three years ago, 30 Rock's series finale would have been a blessed relief, but then the show did something crazy  it actually got better. By rewriting the rules and making Liz Lemon actually happy (in her relationship, at least), the show found new ways to be hilarious. The 6th season was bonkers, including a tribute to the heretofore under-celebrated holiday of Leap Day, and the 7th season found  new, wonderful ways to bring Liz, Jack, and the rest of the TGS family's stories to their sweet, blessedly funny conclusions. There are a few comedies that I hold up as the best of all time, and 30 Rock proved, with it's final bow, that it deserves to be up with the greats.

It's Beyoncé's World - Miley's Just Living in It
2013 was the year that Robin Thicke made us contemplate the sexiness of date rape and that Daft Punk made us all contemplate helmet stank. It gave us the reunions of Destiny's Children and those 'N Sync rascals. To top it all off, Britney Spears commanded all the bitches to work and then began a two-year stint headlining her own show in Vegas, which would have seemed impossible for her in 2007. It was truly a year of magic. But what were the moments that really mattered?

5. Lady Gaga Fatigue
Man, she became unbearable...well, more unbearable...unbearabler?

Basically, she was the worst. Don't wait for my applause, Pumpkin. It's not forthcoming.

4. Justin Timberlake Releases 2-ish Albums
Even with the disappointing second half of his 20/20 album dropping in November, JT still brought it in 2013. For years, we've all been hoping for him to give up acting and return to dancing singing, and this year he did it (I guess he also sort of acted, but the whole world did the right thing collectively forgot that Runner Runner was a thing). Sure, some of the songs on his double album straight-up suck, and his pretentiousness is palpable in every moody scarf and pork-pie hat he dons. But he's back! On a stage! And he's singing/growling! We're glad he is, and, even if we aren't ready for multiple, eight-minute-long songs about how awesome Jessica Biel is, we really only have ourselves to blame.

3. The Joe’s Pub 15th Anniversary Benefit
This one is a little more personal, but it should be universal. Joe's Pub is, hands down, my favorite music venue in New York, and this year there was a gala in honor of its 15 years of being the best. The night would have been wonderful all on its own (the booze, the Bridget Everett, the beet salad), but it was made even more awesome by the very nature of who I was seated next to: Patti LuPone, Kathy Najimy, and Meg Ryan! I can't even. Honestly, if I was more self-centered, I would have made this the Number 1 music event of 2013.

2. Miley Cyrus Twerks It Out
Is she a joke? Is she in on the joke? Is she a big honking racist? Is she so post-racial that we can't even fathom it? Is she a little too skanky? Can she sing? Can she dance? Is she really taking credit for twerking? Smiley Miley gave us a lot to talk about in 2013, from her botched engagement, her insistence on showing off her tongue, and her uncanny ability to be the center of attention all the time. Of course, that wouldn't really matter if her songs weren't also infuriatingly catchy. She's like the 21st Century Madonna, but a little bit dumber.

1. Beyon
This really was her year, just like 2010-2012 were also her years. 2013 might have been THE YEAR OF BEY even if she had just rocked it at the Super Bowl and lip-synched her way into America's hearts at Obama's inauguration. But, yeah, then she went she turned it out and dropped a secret, self-titled album on iTunes without letting anyone know beforehand. Oh, and that 'visual album' happens to include 14 songs and 17 music videos. And, in the music video directed by total sleazeball Terry Richardson, she manages to keep all of her clothes on and still bring it (your move, Miley). Beyonisn't a perfect album. The songs may lack the memorable hooks of her more beloved Cassingles, but the album is still hypnotic and sexy as all get out. Like, this album is X-tina levels of dirrty. Also, after years of being #QueenBey, she went and flipped the script. She's Yoncé now. She sneezes on beats and makes the beats sicker.

Did I miss any big television and music events? Let me know! And check back in soon for Tableau Your Mind's 2013 coverage of Film and Special Events - Baby George! Frances Ha! AND MORE!
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