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Two Tivos To Paradise 01.10.13: The 2013 TTTP TV Entertainers of the Year
Posted by Al Norton on 01.10.2014

Hello friends. What's good? We've had just about every kind of weather you can imagine here in Boston, from a foot of snow to 50 degrees (in January!!!) to pouring rain to bitter cold (less than zero with the wind chill), so 2014 has been anything but boring.

Thanks for all the feedback – positive and otherwise – about last week's Best of 2013 column, and I hope you use the comments section below to list who you think were the 2013 TV Entertainers of the Year as well. Also want to make my weekly pitch for you to check out the Al Norton's Two Tivos To Paradise Facebook page, where you can get all the news as it happens plus take part in fun and interesting – and respectful – discussions with fellow TV lovers. If you are here, you really should be there, too!

Here's a look at Sundance's new original series Red Road…

And a full length look at the upcoming second season of House of Cards…

She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean, she was the best news woman that I ever seen.

Here is our 7thth annual list of those who gave us the most TV joy over the course of the year. While I do my best to not ignore any obvious choices, I also go out of my way to try and find people who constantly deliver the goods but might not get the full spotlight they deserve and then use this list to shine a light. As always, I'll mix in my favorite musical clips of the year (or at least the ones I can find clips for on-line)…

Honorable Mention: Walton Goggins, Maggie Lawson, Jimmy Smits, James Spader,

As you read on you'll see how much of this list is about versatility and James Wolk is a great way to start that trend off as he demonstrated an impressively large array of skills in 2013, starting with the mysterious and compelling Bob Benson on Mad Men; we still don't know Bob's true background, only bits and pieces, and I can't imagine there's a single viewer of the show who doesn't pray he's back for this year's final season. Wolk's ability to portray Benson's Zelig-like ability to morph at the drop of a dime was one of the year's sublime viewing pleasures. Equally as boast worthy was Wolk holding his own in comedic situations with the legendary Robin Williams; The Crazy Ones was one of the year's funniest new shows and Wolk's ad-libbing skills as well as his ability to play both insecure and confident at the same time generating plenty of laughs.

Easily my favorite real life TV couple of 2013, tWitch and Alison made it legal this fall when they got married, a great way to cap off a year where they both returned as all-stars on So You Think You Can Dance, where Holker could be seen on VH-1's Hit the Floor, where tWitch could be found guest DJ'ing on Ellen, and where Holker was nominated for an Emmy for her choreography work on SYTYCD. They also teamed up to choreograph Ellen's Oscar commercial.

No TV show has ever been put in a position where one of its lead actors passes away unexpectedly, from circumstances so polar opposite of the character they played, and with a level of publicity around the situation so high that it would be impossible to separate the two, so the task that Glee faced when Corey Monteith died from a drug overdose this summer was unique and monumental. The hour that the show produced – The Quarterback – was an amazing triumph of artistic and emotional achievement, one that celebrated and mourned at appropriate levels. One cannot write about the episode without specifically mentioning the work of Romy Rosemont, who in one scene captured the heart break of a mother who lost her son in ways that stayed with me for a long time. As this was Glee, the music was also front and center, with a particularly poignant version of Seasons of Loveto open the episode. The show isn't anywhere near as good as it once was but for this hour it was as well done as anything on TV in 2013.

18) ESPN
ESPN may be the Peyton Manning/LeBron James/Johnny Heisman network when it comes to SportsCenter and its various talking head shows, it's also a network that produces some of the best long form storytelling pieces on all of television. As an example, Outside the Lines, 30 for 30, and Nine for IX all made last week's best of 2013 column, all of which take an in-depth look at the world of sports, sometimes headlines, sometimes historic moments from sports history, and sometimes shining a light on people and moments otherwise forgotten/unknown.

Robert Irvine may take a firm, sometimes almost brutally honest stance when dealing with the participants on his various series – Restaurant Impossible, Restaurant Express – but it's always completely clear to the audience that it's not about his ego; he knows he's right but that's not what's important, what's important is helping these people, whether it's to get their restaurants back on their feet or to help them win a restaurant of their own. Irvine's work on RI is really something in that he serves as much as family counselor and life coach as he does business consultant, and does so without yelling much at all (and when he does it's to make a specific point, not as an entire style of communication). One of my favorite things to watch is when Irvine eats food he likes on the show as he has a look of pure joy, something that is all too missing from the genre.

I've been pretty open about how in awe I am of the way Nashville has handled the character of Avery; we met him right as he was becoming "the next big thing" and his ego soared, followed by a big time crash and then a slow rebuild as the writers and Jonathan Jackson showed us the full scope of the character, now with a thick layer of world weariness on top of his talent and emotion. Avery's arc, his emotional maturation and development, is one of my favorite things on TV right and when Jackson is on screen, Nashville can do no wrong. Oh, and he can sing, too!

These two were long time TTTP faves coming into 2013, and the truth is when I read that they were cast as the leads in a show about the history of the world famous Masters and Johnson sex study, I wasn't sure how that would turn out (I knew I wanted to watch, I just had no idea what it would look like). I apologize for any doubts that I had; Master of Sex is very well written, with a strong supporting cast, but the two leads carry the heavy load and do so brilliantly; we see Masters' and Johnson's strengths and at the same time their weaknesses, too, with neither actor attempting to shade their performances to gain audience empathy. These were easily two of the best new characters TV had in 2013, thanks in large part to two of the year's best performances.

I am grouping these three together because they have in common great stints on Justified, all eye opening in terms of displaying a range not associated with them before, and also because they had multiple shows in which they impressed; for Beaver it was his career defining work as Shelby on Justified mixed with a great turn on Longmire and a (brief) return to his beloved role on Supernatural. Oh, and he still had time to show up on Revolution, The Middle, and Mike & Molly. O'Malley was amazing on Justified, showing a nasty streak he hadn't demonstrated before and also continuing to be one of TV's best Dads on Glee. Oswalt was a different kind of funny on Justified, making Constable Bob's desperation to belong with the big boys sympathetic and compelling, and being laugh out loud funny in his guest spot on Parks and Recreation, not to mention appearances on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Portlandia and his gig narrating The Goldbergs.

Since I group a trio of male character actors together above I thought I'd do the same with two standout women from 2013, both of whom had fantastic showcases for their vast skill sets. Abigail Spencer's work on Rectify was a revelation of natural acting, with her Amantha one of the more real characters we saw for the year. She also impressed by holding her own with Gabriel Macht in her role as Scottie on Suits, and she made me laugh out loud as Annie on Burning Love. Versatility, thy name is Abigail Spencer. Meanwhile Janney, whose talent was already well established from her work on The West Wing, got to sink her teeth into two super juice roles, a recovering addict Mom/Grandma on Mom and a neglected housewives recognizing she has needs of her own on Masters of Sex; the only thing the two roles had in common was the flawless and true way the characters were presented, both of whom being folks you easily recognize as TV rarities – real people.

History of Rap 4 (Jimmy Fallon & Justin... by PayeTaChatte

There's two ways to make fun of pop culture, to simply savage something and those who enjoy it or to get laughs while communicating to the audience that you love the subject matter the same way they do, and in his role as host of @ Midnight, Chris Hardwick is brilliant at the latter. You get the impression that his knowledge of the pop culture and the internet comes from his passion for such things and not because it's a job, and the gives him instant and consistent credibility. It's the same for his AMC hosting gigs, where you know he'd be having these conversations with his friends, it just happens that he's on the air. He's also very, very funny, something that sometimes gets lost when surrounded by comedians.

Mark Cuban is easily my favorite Shark on Shark Tank because he just gets it; he knows what questions to ask, he knows when he likes a product/company/service and/or when he might not be sold on the concept but he's sold on the person, and he doesn't waste time with royalties in perpetuity or deals contingent on getting a big retailer on board. Also making him worthy on this spot are the reports that he told ABC he was done with the show if they continued to put a clause in the agreements the folks doing the pitching had to sign that gave producers a percentage ownership in their company; he understood that, aside from just being plain greedy, it would keep some higher quality companies away from the show. There doesn't appear to be a "Show Mark", just one Mark at all times, and that's not common on reality television.

These are the two shows that I get the most flack about not being a fan of, and the truth is I am not a fan of either, but in both cases I fully acknowledge the shows are well acted, well directed, and pretty well written as well. My reason for not being a cheerleader is that neither show has found a way to get me to emotionally invest in the characters, so therefore my status as a view remains firmly casual. That being said, there is no denying that both of these shows have many, many diehard fans and my putting them on this list is my salute to their ability to inspire such devotion. So you can all get off my back now, right?!?!?

To take over the front man position on what is television's best and most consistently funny show for roughly 3-5 years running and not have that show skip a beat is an incredible achievement, one of the most impressive of this or any year, and John Oliver did it without breaking (a visible) sweat. Sure, he was aided by some great news items to work with – Carlos Danger, anyone? – but he still hit it out of the park, so much so that by the fall another network (HBO) had swooped in to give him his own show. The Daily Show's loss is all of our gains, though, as it means we'll have TWO options for whip-smart skewering of current events.

At this point I am not sure what Stephen Amell cannot do; in his role as Oliver Queen on Arrow he handles action, drama, romantic tension, angst, and comedy all quiet well, and following his FB page makes me think he's a helluva guy, too. Then he even posted this video last year on the day the city of San Francisco was helping that young boy's wish come true…

If Arrow does a musical episode, I won't be surprised if Amell kicks ass in that, too.

I loved Amy Poehler on Saturday Night Live but was not ready for how great a comedic actress she has proven herself to be on Parks and Recreation; she handles slapstick and farce quiet well but the real shock is how she has taken to romantic comedy, with Leslie's feelings for Ben something as tangible and real as any couple on a TV comedy. She's also a fantastic host, as she will prove again this weekend on The Golden Globes, and a top notch talk show guest.

I couldn't single any one of the regulars out because they all are so good so they all are grouped together and honored as one; Gabriel Macht, Patrick J Adams, Rick Hoffman, Gina Torres, Meghan Markle, and Sarah Rafferty. I am not saying this is THE best cast on TV but I don't know of a better one when it comes to an ability to portray intelligence, humor, sexiness, vulnerability, and intensity, usually all within the same hour.

Some shows you can imagine someone else playing the lead, other shows you know with a different actor it would just would not work, and Kerry Washington's work on Scandal is clearly in the latter; her Olivia Pope is a force of nature but one who is also recognizable to the audience (as in they can relate to her on some levels). She may be TV's top (figurative) ass-kicker right now and certainly the person you'd call if you were in trouble. Washington showed her versatility in hosting what was the second funniest SNL of the fall, trailing only the Jimmy/Justin episode in December. She's the total package and will be front and center in the world of entertainment for years to come.

Neil Patrick Harris is always great as Barney on HIMYM – even when the writer's let him down, he still finds ways to make me laugh and stay true to the character – and I knew he was a good host, but his work on The Tony's this spring was as good as anyone has done on an awards show in the TTTP era, and he did a solid job fronting The Emmys, too. If I made a list of the most talented people on TV, which I am working on for a future column btw, I'd be hard pressed not to have someone who can be funny, emotionally compelling, sing and dance, and also be himself quite well (he's a GREAT talk show guest, esp. on The Late Late Show) near-or-at-the-top.

Let's be very clear about this; the single best TV performance of the year was Jon Voight's work as Mickey on Showtime's Ray Donovan. It's rare that an actor who has been around as long as Voight to be able to so inhabit a character that you never project any of the previous roles you have seen him in on to the part but that's exactly what he was able to do here. Obviously some of the credit goes to the writing but what could have just been a tough guy character was so much more, one where you were really never sure what he was going to do or say next, and when you've watched as much TV as I have, that's HIGH praise.

Vince Gilligan ranks this high on the list both as a representative of the cast and crew of Breaking Bad and also because without him we would not have had what I feel is the best drama of the TTTP era and may be looked back on as the greatest drama series in TV history. What started as a moral play where the viewer put themselves in Walter White's shoes and wondered what they would do to make sure their family was taken care of eventually became a cautionary tale about the power of one's ability to rationalize their actions, and in both cases and everything in between was never anything less than riveting. Gilligan told a brilliant, original story and did so in a fashion that created more constant tension for my viewing experience than anything I'd ever felt before.

I was ready to give this top spot to Justin Timberlake after he joined the 5-timers club on SNL this spring (I've watched his performance of Mirrors on the show no less than two dozen times since it aired), and then he went and did a great week on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, followed up by numerous highly entertaining other talk show appearances, and finally put a pretty bow on the box on the last SNL of the year. He's funny, he's smart, he can sing and dance, and he does all of this in package that is more than a bit easy on the eyes. There were others who were on TV more in 2013 but none who were more entertaining with their time, and it wasn't even close.

And there you have it, the 2013 TTTP TV Entertainers of the Year! Use the comments section below to give me (and the 411mania world) your picks!

TV Pick Of The Week
I watched the Enlisted premiere back in June and immediately took to its strong cast and fantastic banter, most of which is not evident in the trailer (which I will post below anyway). Just take my word for it that this is a smart, well-acted comedy with genuine heart, and who doesn't have room for another one of those in their viewing habits?!??!

Don't miss the series premiere of Enlisted, tonight at 9:30pm on Fox.

Hope You Need My Love, Babe, Just Like I Need You
Other noteworthy programming from the coming week…

*Syfy's new Helix – executive produced by Ron Moore – begins tonight at 10pm…

*Season two of Cinemax's wonderfully guilty pleasure Banshee premieres tonight at 10pm…

*It's another big NFL post-season weekend; Saints – Seahawks (4:35pm, Fox) and Colts – Patriots (8:15, CBS) are the Saturday games, with 49'ers – Panthers (1:05, Fox) and Chargers – Broncos (4:40pm, CBS) on Sunday.

*Tina Fey and Amy Poehler return as host of The Golden Globe Awards this Sunday at 8pm on NBC, preceded by red carpet pre-shows on both E! and NBC.

*To call True Detective (Sunday, 9pm) the best new show of the year is obviously a bit of a joke because we're less than two weeks in but I wouldn't be in any way surprised if I felt the same way come December; it's THAT Good…

*I know Girls is a polarizing show for many people but I've always thought it was funny and well-acted, never doubting for a minute that every frame we see is exactly what Lena Dunham wants us to see. Season three kicks off Sunday at 10pm with two new episodes…

*Monday is a HUGE night for Syfy, with the season premieres of Lost Girl (8pm) and Being Human (9pm) and the series premiere of Bitten…

*ABC Family's Switched at Birth (8pm) and The Fosters (9pm) – the latter one of the most pleasant surprises of 2013 – are back with new episodes on Monday.

*Pivot (a network that, sadly, my RCN package does not have) begins airing Buffy the Vampire Slayer (10pm) and Veronica Mars (11pm) reruns from the beginning, starting with the pilots for each show Monday (the shows will air weeknights in those timeslots).

*Syfy's highly entertaining Face Off is back for season six this Tuesday at 9pm.

*Inside Job (Tuesday, 9pm, TNT) is a new reality competition show where folks try to land a dream job, and of course there is a twist…

*Monday is a big night for FX, with the season premiere of Archer (10pm) followed by the series premiere of the new animated comedy Chozen (10:30pm).

*Comedy Central's criminally under watched sketch comedy show Kroll Show (Tuesday, 10:30pm) is back for season two; Bobby Bottleservice!!!

*Family comedies back for new seasons on Wednesday night include Melissa & Joey (8pm, ABC Family), Baby Daddy (8:30pm, ABC Family), and Suburgatory (8:30pm, ABC).

*A new – and very important to show's future health and longevity – season of American Idol kicks off with two hours on Wednesday and two more hours on Thursday.

*Thursday's episode of Community is not only the best of the season so far, it ranks with the best episodes the show has EVER done. Oh yes, two more words – Walton. Goggins.

Two Tivos To Paradise
@Midnight, After the Catch, American Idol, Antiques Roadshow, Archer, Arrow, Around the World in 80 Plates, Auction Hunters, Baby Daddy, Back in the Game, Bakery Boss, Boardwalk Empire, Being Human, Bones, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Burger Land, Cake Boss, Cake Boss: Next Great Baker, Chicago Fire, Chopped, Comic Book Men, Community, Cougar Town, Counting Cars, The Crazy Ones, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Dancing with the Stars, The Deadliest Catch, Destination Truth, Falling Skies, Family Guy, Feed the Beast, Flipping Out, Food Network Challenge, Food Network Star, The Fosters, Ghost Hunters, Ghost Lab, Ghost Mine, Glee, Graceland, Great Food Truck Race, Grey's Anatomy, Haunted Collector. Haunted Highway, Haunted Treasure, Hawaii 5-0, Hostages, House of Lies, How I Met Your Mother, Inside Comedy with David Steinberg, Inside Amy Schumer, Iron Chef America, Justified, Key & Peele, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Law And Order: Special Victims Unit, The League, Longmire, Lost Girl, Louie, Mad Men, Major Crimes, Masters of Sex, Men at Work, The Michael J Fox Show, The Middle, Mike and Molly, The Mindy Project, Modern Family, Monster Man, Nashville, New Girl, Next Iron Chef, The Originals, Outside the Lines, Parks & Recreation, Project Runway, Project Runway All-Stars, Psych, Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook Off, Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook Off, Raising Hope, Ray Donovan, Real Time With Bill Maher, Rectify, Restaurant Impossible, Restaurant Impossible, Revenge, Revolution, Royal Pains, Saturday Night Live, Shark Wranglers, So You Think You Can Dance?, Sons of Anarchy, The Soup, Suits, Suburgatory, Supernatural, Top Chef, Top Chef: Masters, Tosh.0, Trophy Wife, The Vampire Diaries, The Voice, The Walking Dead, Warehouse 13, Worst Cooks In America,

People Love You When They Know You're Leaving Soon
Here ends another Two Tivos To Paradise.

We'll be back next week with the first full news column of 2014, so lots of headlines and plenty of hot takes!

Sources for this week's column include Daily Variety, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, and Hollywood Reporter (plus the web sites for those publications) as well as Aintit.cool.com, TVline.com & Deadline.com.


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