We looked at my favourite comic book things of the year on Tuesday, and now it’s time to turn to the entire rest of the entertainment world. It was a decent year, especially for books; I read a lot of cool, interesting books this year (thanks, library!), though I mixed it up with a few different mediums on this list.
So here are the non-comic book things that I enjoyed the most in 2013:
10) Don Draper
I know everybody loves Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, but for me Man Men has been and still remains the best show on AMC, and the best TV drama since it debuted. A big part of what makes it so good is Jon Hamm as Don Draper, who had just a terrible year with his job, his wife and other lady friends, his kids… it was rough, and mostly his own fault. But so well done, and fascinating as always. I think Don Draper is one of the most interesting characters in TV history, and if Mad Men ends without Jon Hamm ever winning an Emmy I will be very displeased.
“Royals” was super good and everybody loved it. I think “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” is even better. Plus in a year of an especially ridiculous amount of asinine pop music and moronic singers with hit songs (I say this as someone who LOVES pop music… Katy Perry’s “Roar” would have been on this list if I went to 11 spots), Lorde is a smart, thoughtful artist who at 17 years old has more to say than most of the adults in the music business.
8) Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
Scientology is pretty messed up, you guys. This is probably not new information to you, but this book blew my mind with just how screwed up, abusive, and insidious Scientology is. There’s a side to it that’s amusing, what with a crappy sci-fi writer and obvious liar and fraud ending up leading one of the world’s most powerful religions, but the control and abuses of the Scientology organization are dark and sinister to a degree I never knew before I read this book.
7) Sleepy Hollow
I thought that this show was going to suck. I wrote it off the second I heard about it. “The Headless Horsemen in the 21st century” sounds like a god awful premise for a show. But it’s this weird, apocalyptic adventure that absolutely embraces how ridiculous it is and just goes for it and keeps getting more and more crazy, and I love it. Plus, Ichabod and Abbie are delightful together and bring a real heart to the show. It’s a very pleasant surprise.
6) Pete Holmes
I recently spent three days on the road (driving to Ontario and back home), and I listened to You Made It Weird podcasts for most of that trip, laughing the entire time. Pete Holmes is goofy and hilarious, but also earnest and hilarious, and the dude just grows on you. His special Nice Try, The Devil was a hoot, and I love The Pete Holmes Show and watch it every day. Things like a tone deaf Jesus or New Material Seinfeld will never not make me laugh.
5) The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
If a female golem teaming up with a male jinni in New York City in the early 1900s is not a premise that makes you go “Well I definitely need to read that book”, than you and I will probably never be friends. It’s a fantastic book, entertaining and heartbreaking and a wonderful fusion of mythologies. That this is Helene Wecker’s first novel astounds me; it’s ridiculously good. I didn’t want the book to end because I wanted to keep reading about the characters.
4) New Girl
I had never seen an episode of New Girl before this year, dismissing it as a manic pixie dream girl sort of a thing, but I kept hearing it was decent. So this summer I checked it out on a whim and watched two full seasons in a week or so. It is HILARIOUS. Whether Schmidt is trying to buy crack cocaine from street youths or Nick is involuntarily fist pumping to “Cotton Eye Joe”, there’s not a single episode that didn’t make me laugh out loud, and many that made me laugh so hard that I had trouble breathing. It’s one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen.
3) The Day of the Doctor
After what was just an okay Doctor Who season, I was a little bit concerned about the 50th anniversary special. I loved the first Moffat season, but it had been diminishing returns since then. However, The Day of the Doctor was just perfect. I think it’s the best thing Moffat’s done yet, and it was exactly what I wanted out of the special. Seeing it in 3D in a theater packed with hardcore Whovians made it ever better. The angst, redemption, and joy of the special captured everything that is fantastic about Doctor Who.
2) The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (ie. J.K. Rowling)
I only read this book after the news broke that J.K. Rowling actually wrote it. I had never even heard of it before then, but I love Rowling so I thought it might be a fun read. Turns out, it was my favourite book of the year. It’s just a mystery novel, with a grizzled detective and his plucky assistant; no wizards, no twists on the genre, nothing crazy. But it was so enjoyable! I loved the characters, I loved the story, and I couldn’t put it down.
1) Orange is the New Black
This show was SO good. It started out as a “white girl in prison” sort of thing, which was somewhat entertaining, but then you meet everyone else at the prison and they’re all fascinating and wonderfully cast, with great characterization and backstories. There’s comedy, there’s romance, there’s drama, there’s action. The finale is INSANE (SPOILER!! My theory: Chapman beat the hell out of Pennsatucky so that she could get new teeth, thus ending the feud). I can’t wait for the second season. Orange is the New Black was the best show of the year.
So those are my favourite things that aren’t comics from 2013. It was a fun year for entertainment, both in comics and outside. It looks like 2014 is going to have some big shoes to fill.
Tags: Day of the Doctor, Don Draper, Going Clear, Helene Wecker, J.K. Rowling, Jon Hamm, Lawrence Wright, Lorde, Mad Men, New Girl, Orange is the New Black, Pete Holmes, Sleepy Hollow, The Cuckoo's Calling, The Golem and the Jinni