TV In 2013: Five Things to Watch
The Return of Arrested Development
Nobody was really paying attention to Netflix’s talk about ‘original programming’ until they snatched up the rights to Mitch Hurwitz’s classic family sitcom, bringing it back for a fourth season after more than half a decade off the air. The details of the season are being kept under wraps for now, but the season (which will be somewhere in the realm of a dozen episodes) will reunite all of the main cast, many of its infamous guest stars (fingers crossed for the return of Franklin), and even squeeze in a couple new characters. All we know is that it will return in the spring: an announcement so exciting, I included it in my personal best of TV list for 2012.
The final (half) season of Breaking Bad
There are a number of notable comedies ending their runs in 2013 (The Office, 30 Rock… hopefully How I Met Your Mother); the biggest dramatic departure from the airwaves next year is AMC’s meth drama Breaking Bad. Hands down the most cinematic show on television, the degradation of Walter White’s soul has captivated viewers over its four and half season run – in part due to Bryan Cranston’s electric performance as Walter, some of the best character work we’ve ever watched on TV. It all ends next summer in the final 8-episode stretch, one which will kick off in high gear thanks to the events of ‘Gliding Over All’, the half-season finale that aired in August.
NBC Decides Its Fate
With the end of 30 Rock looming, and uncertain futures for Parks and Recreation, Parenthood, and Community, 2013 is an important year for NBC. Will they make it out of their continuous slide in the rankings? The easy answer would be no – and if the pilot for 1600 Penn, as well as extended episode orders for shows like Whitney and Guys with Kids are any signs, it’s the right answer. There’s still some hope for them, but shows like Smash and Revolution certainly aren’t it. Sure, The Voice brings in ratings now, but when the popularity wears off, there’s little to no syndication/DVD sales money waiting for them. Right now, it looks like NBC’s shortsighted, peddling-to-the-middle attitude will continue to bury them. A new comedy from Michael J. Fox (which recently added Treme/The Wire vet Wendell Pierce to its cast) could prove to be a turn in the right direction, but its one show against a large crop of sub-mediocre comedies, undercooked dramas, and mindless, pandering reality/game shows.
Donald Glover on Girls
Girls was a bit of a polarizing show in its first season, but there’s one complaint that appeared universal: how could a story about four girls in NYC be so damn white all the time? Lena Dunham and company heard the criticism, adding Community star Donald Glover to their ensemble for season two. Glover’s been having a low-speed breakout over the last two years with his performance on NBC – as well as gaining notoriety in a new venture as a hip-hop artist as Childish Gambino – and I’m really looking forward to seeing him in a bit more a serious dynamic on HBO’s coming-of-age dramedy. He certainly has the comedic chops, and it will be interesting to see how he fits into the show’s narrative – providing he’s more than a one-episode guest star, something I’ve got my fingers crossed for.
The end of HBO’s David Simon era
Treme‘s abbreviated fourth season will end in 2013, and beyond some talk about a miniseries about John Wilkes Booth after the Lincoln Assassination (Manhunt, a collaboration with Tom Fontana), many of Simon’s comments have suggested he may step away from “the crack pipe of television” (his words) and write another novel. The Wire was the show that made me want to write about television – and in my book, the single greatest TV show of all-time. Treme, while it doesn’t have the tight-knit plot construction and dramatic moments of its predecessor, it’s still a touching, poignant character study of a recovering city and its inhabitants – not only a spiritual successor to The Wire, but replacing it as the most scathing, realistic social commentary found on television. The end of Treme signals the end of a radical, revolutionary era for David Simon and HBO, leaving behind an impressive legacy of The Corner, The Wire, Generation Kill, and Treme – all of which are in the highest echelon of television’s all-time great shows and miniseries.