Happy Friday! It’s the end of the week, which means that once again it’s time to take a look at the Best TV Shows on TV. Usually, we watch a whole lot of TV, and then tell you about the best television shows of the week. But this week was a little light on new programming. In fact, other than some notable season finales, we actually had time to read and interact with loved ones. But you deserve better than that! And so, after catching you up on a couple of our favorites, we’ve got a look at our most anticipated shows of summer. It turned into a long list, so let’s get to it!
Saturday Night Live – The season finale was Bill Hader’s final episode. (And apparently Fred Armisen’s. And probably Seth Meyers’. Maybe Jason Sudeikis, too. But that’s what we thought last season.) And while we would have been thrilled with an entire episode of Hader bringing back all his characters on last time (Seriously – one last “What Up with That?” where Lindsey Buckingham doesn’t agree to come back?), we really just got a farewell for Stefon. But it was lovely.
Stefon’s Weekend Update (co-hosted by Amy Poehler, by the way), was cut short when Stefon announced he was getting married and left Seth behind. A heartbroken Seth chased after him, bursting into the church where Stefon was marrying Anderson Cooper. The wedding party was packed with people from Stefon’s previous appearances – human traffic cones, Furkels, Hobocops, Jewpids, Chef Wario Batali, Menorah the Explorer, DJ Baby Bok Choy, and more (including host Ben Affleck, who was Stefon’s brother in his very first appearance). Seth punched out Cooper and they ran back to Studio 8H together, where the whole cast was waiting (as their Update characters) to celebrate. That’s right, Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy, Drunk Uncle, Ann Romney, the Devil – they were all there. It was funny and touching and drove home just how much we’re going to miss Bill Hader.
Doctor Who – Look, when an episode starts out Gallifrey, you know it’s going to be awesome. In fact, it opened with Clara talking to the First Doctor (William Hartnell), and then ping-ponging through the lives of various incarnations of the Doctor, while her narration explained that she’s the impossible girl, and she’s the one who saved the Doctor.
Vastra, Jenny, Strax, River Song, and Clara united across time to help the Doctor from a mysterious threat. And while they tried to help, it really just gave the Great Intelligence a way to round them up (except for Clara) and use them as bait to bring the Doctor to Trenzalore. Which, as the Doctor knows, is where his greatest secret will be revealed and the Eleventh will fall. But with his friends being held there, he had no choice. In fact, Trenzalore is where the Doctor is buried, entombed within his own TARDIS (which is now immense, because the “bigger on the inside” leaked out). With the help of a River Song that only Clara could see (she was only the echo of River, the copy that the Doctor created when she died in “Forest of the Dead”), they managed to get into the giant TARDIS, where the Great Intelligence set his Whisper Men on the Doctor’s friends, threatening to kill them if the Doctor didn’t say his name to open the tomb.
Before the Doctor could break, River said his name (which we couldn’t hear) to open the doors. The remains of the Doctor weren’t so much a body, but rather a rip in time – his whole history existed as the universe’s scar tissue. The Great Intelligence chose to enter the rip and live the Doctor’s life beside him, killing him at every point in time. As he explained, it would kill him, but it would destroy the Doctor. As the Doctor’s life unraveled, all the good he’d ever done was reversed. Jenny died, Strax returned to his original viciousness, and the stars started to go out. Every planet the Doctor had ever saved disappeared from existence. And that’s when Clara herself jumped into the rip and saved the Doctor over and over again. She helped the First Doctor find the right TARDIS. She was the Oswin Oswald on the Dalek Asylum, and the Clara from Victorian London. (And presumably, the woman who gave herself the TARDIS’ phone number in “The Bells of Saint John”.) She saved the Doctor throughout his history at the cost of her own life.
Once history was fixed, the Doctor was willing to risk his own life to save Clara. But before he entered the rip, he revealed that he could see River – in fact, he’d always been able to see her ever since she died in the Library. He just never acknowledged her because it would hurt too much. A final good-bye inspires him and he works out a way to save Clara – he entered his own timestream to give Clara the leaf that helped her parents meet. That was enough to pull her consciousness back together and pull her free. But before they could re-enter the world, they came face-to-face with someone who wasn’t the Doctor. Not really. Everything around them was an aspect of the Doctor, but one man didn’t fit. Clara never saw him in while she traveled through his entire life.
“I said he was me. I didn’t say he was the Doctor.” He described this other man as “the one who broke the promise. He is my secret.” The man finally spoke to say he did what he had to do, in the name of peace and sanity. “But not in the name of the Doctor.” And as the Doctor and Clara left, we say the man’s face as the credits informed us “Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor”. Holy crap.
Before we get to that part, I’ll just say that I loved this episode. It might have been better as a two-parter, because the Whisper Men (terrifying suited beings with no facial features except their mouths) kind of got short shrift. Still, the whole bit with the Doctor’s timeline and the payoff to the Trenzalore build-up was great. So many things from the season came together here, offhand comments and themes (I didn’t notice that echoes and whispers where so important this season until right now.), and the explanation of the Clara Oswald mystery.
I was a little afraid when they put her on Gallifrey that she was going to be another Time Lord, which would be a mess, but it was a much more satisfying resolution. And they did a nice job of adding Clara to long-ago scenes, even washing out the color or blurring her to match the film. I loved that it wasn’t about the Doctor cracking the case, but rather about Clara saving the Doctor.
Also, I thought the end of the River Song arc was handled nicely. The idea that the Doctor’s always been able to see her is appropriately heartbreaking, and it seems that their timelines are done crossing now. (Remember, since they’re both time travelers, River died the first time they met. But now they’ve experience their first and last meetings from both of their perspectives.) If this is really the end of River Song, it was a satisfying end to her story.
But let’s get into this John Hurt thing. He’s a version of the Doctor, but not the Doctor. We were reminded in this episode of the times the Doctor was cruel and violent, and even told that he’s known by other names “The Valeyard, the Storm, the Beast”. I’m pretty sure that John Hurt is the version of the Doctor who fought in the Time War. (Remember – we never saw the Eighth Doctor regenerate into the Ninth. And way back in “Rose”, Christopher Eccleston seemed surprised by his face, indicating it was new for him. Also, John Hurt was wearing Eccleston’s outfit.) John Hurt is the one who ended the War, wiped out the Daleks, and sealed away the other Time Lords. The Doctor could never have done that, but this guy could. And maybe this is the first step for the Doctor to come to grips with the War, and maybe even forgive himself. (And as my cousin Jim pointed out, the Doctor can actually forgive himself in a literal way.) It’s going to be a long wait for the 50th anniversary episode in November.
Nashville–As SNL’s Stefon would say, this episode had everything: a funeral and a memorial concert at the Bluebird for Juliette’s mom, Maddie telling Deacon she thinks he’s her father, Deacon confronting Rayna about that very thing, Deacon falling off the wagon (hard) when he finds himself utterly betrayed by the woman he loves. It also had Juliette winning Female Vocalist of the year, though she wasn’t there to accept. She got closure when a letter arrived from her mother, explaining she handled Dante to save her daughter from shame and scandal, though a murder suicide actually seems worse than a sex tape would be. Ah well; at least she did it out of love. Jules and Rayna had a nice moment at the funeral, and she and Avery actually seem to be inching towards something more than a working relationship. There was some stuff with Lamar and Tandy (he promoted some other guy over her, she quit) and Teddy found out Peggy didn’t turns state’s evidence on him because she’s pregnant. Will has set up residence inside the closet and clearly doesn’t intend to come out until he’s good and ready, and Gunnar came clean to his producer (who didn’t care that he stole Jason’s songs) and Scarlett, who was still not sure what to do with him, especially since Avery was done being a complete toolbag. She had to witness Deacon as a mean, nasty, violent drunk. Chip Esten’s portrayal was so good and so scary, we could see why Rayna would be afraid to jeopardize his sobriety by telling him the truth. In the end, she stopped him from driving drunk away from The Bluebird, but while she was behind the wheel, they argued as she drove. Distracted, she had to swerve to miss a car as she blew a stop sign, and their SUV flipped. We can’t imagine they’d kill off either of these characters, but we’re almost afraid to think of what kind of nasty injuries they might sustain and how all of this will impact the show in its second season.
Jimmy Kimmel Live– Last week, Jimmy introduced us to his three year old nephew Wesley, who is single and looking for love. The Baby Bachelor was absurd and hilarious, and not entirely ludicrous, if you really think about the state of reality television. This week, we saw episode two, which featured group dates, a cocktail party (with juice boxes) and the Dinosaur Ceremony. It’s pretty much the cutest thing ever.
And now, our picks for summer!
Showville–(AMC, May 23) This immediately reminded us of small town reality version of Waiting for Guffman, and there’s just no way that’s not worth a little look-see.
Arrested Development (Netflix, May 26) – You guys. Seriously. Arrested Development is my actual favorite show. (EJ’s, that is. Myndi has a different favorite.) I can’t even tell you how much I love the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together. It was the perfect mix of smart, goofy, mean, sentimental, and continuity-obsessed. I’ve bought so many copies of the DVDs as gifts – it’s my favorite. And I never believe anybody when they claim a cancelled show is coming back, because those Deadwood movies never happened and my heart can only take so much pain. But here we are – Netflix is bringing back the Bluths for 15 new episodes and they’re all hitting on the same day. When the original series ended in 2006, the family was in shambles, with Lucille facing prosecution for cutting deals with Saddam Hussein, George Sr. on the run from the law, Lindsay discovering that she was adopted and promptly hitting on her brother, and Michael and George Michael deciding that maybe they could let the family try to keep themselves together for a bit. This is the thing I’m looking forward to most all summer, and it’s only two days away. (And look for recaps and annotations starting next week.) Get ready to change your ringtone back to “The Final Countdown”!
Venture Bros. (Adult Swim, June 2) – We’ve only had about 45 minutes of new Venture material in the last two and a half years, but Season Five is almost upon us. The trailers making the rounds have been pretty awesome, and creator Jackson Publick has posted that we can expect to hear guest voices like John Hodgman, Aziz Ansari, and Gillian Jacobs, in addition to Bill Hader and national treasure J.K. Simmons (both of whom have previously appeared). Dean knows he’s a clone, Henchman 21 gave up evil to join SPHINX, Dr. Venture knows he’s got another son out there, Shallow Gravy is on tour, the Monarch is still way into hate, and Brock Samson seems to be back with OSI. It looks amazing, and you can expect obsessive recaps starting in two weeks.
The Killing (AMC, June 2) – This one is a bit of a surprise, given that AMC cancelled it last year. The third season should be a new beginning for the show, with the Rosie Larsen case finally out of the way. The fakeout in the Season One finale rubbed people the wrong way, and Season Two kind of collapsed under its own weight. Two full seasons is maybe too long to spend on a single murder investigation, you know? But this is a clean break. Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman are the only returning cast members, and we’re willing to believe they learned their lesson about not giving us a complete story. So many things about this show worked, and with all of the convoluted politics and Larsen family drama over and done with, this show might finally live up to its potential.
Mistresses (ABC, June 3)–Alyssa Milano and Yunjin Kim headline this series, which was at one point going to air in midseason, but got a summer berth instead. While that seems perfect for this sexy soap, it certainly doesn’t bode well for it getting another season, even before it airs. Either way, it looks like steamy summer fun.
Graceland (USA, June 6)–This one stars Rescue Me’s Daniel Sunjata and Aaron Tveit. It is being touted as the show of the summer, and a lot darker than most ofUSA’s lineup. The action centers on a safe house for undercover federal agents, and the trailer is kind of awesome.
Burn Notice (USA, June 6) – The final season ofUSA’s spies-in-Miami drama begins this summer. Over the last few seasons it’s gone from light summer entertainment to something much darker, and now we’re sort of worried about formerly-disavowed CIA agent Michael Weston and his friends. Plus, we’re sad about Bruce Campbell’s regular TV gig coming to an end. Somebody put together a project for him!
Falling Skies (TNT, June 9)–Season 3 finds The Second Mass in an uneasy truce with the aliens, but producers promise some new aliens this time around. We’ll also get to see how Tom and Ann deal with having a baby in this brave new world. Man, hopefully it works out better for them than it did from Laurie on The Walking Dead.
The Daily Show (Comedy Central) – On June 10, Jon Stewart leaves his anchor duties to direct a feature film and the great John Oliver fills in (for up to three months!). Oliver is a delight, and his approach is likely to be quite a bit different from Stewart’s. (At the very least, there won’t be any impressions of the Queen of England until fall.) We’ll miss Jon, but we’re also excited to see what Oliver does in the anchor chair.
True Blood (HBO, June 16) Now that Russel has suffered The True Death and Bill is the new Lillith (Billith?), we have no idea what’s going to happen in the new season. We just hope it will be more focused that last year. And, as ever, that the guys take their shirts off as much as possible.
Franklin & Bash (TNT, June 19) This is a harmless comic take on the legal procedural, and Mark Paul Gosselar and Breckin Meyer are solid. But we kind of watch it for Kumail Nanjiani as their shut-in legal assistant.
Futurama (Comedy Central, June 19) – The final season begins! Again! Look, we Futurama fans have been through some finales. The series finale on FOX, the final DVD movie, the “Overclocked” episode that was clearly written as a potential series finale. We know the drill by now. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to clutch this last batch of episodes firmly to our bosom, just in case this really is the last we’ll see of the Planet Express crew.
666 Park Avenue (ABC, June 22) – After unceremoniously cancelling this insane “John Locke is the Devil” show months ago, ABC is burning off the remaining episodes in the coveted “Saturday in June” slot. While it’s not necessarily a good show, it’s fun and ridiculous, and it’ll be great to get a last visit with a cast of characters completely lacking in survival instincts.
Whodunnit? (ABC, June 23) – OK. It’s a reality competition from the creator of CSI. Contestants try to solve staged murders, which means it’s a murder mystery dinner only you don’t get to play along and nobody’s going to feed you. With any luck, this will be one of those compellingly weird summer shows.
Copper (BBC America, June 23) – Tom Fontana’s 19th century cop drama returns, and this year some of his former Oz stars (Lee Tergesen and Eamonn Walker) are joining the cast. Beecher and Said forever! The first season was great with its blend of class warfare and early forensic techniques. If there’s a guy who knows how to make an awesome show about homicide detectives, it’s Fontana.
Under the Dome (CBS, June 24)–A small Maine town suddenly becomes trapped under a clear but impenetrable dome. As you might expect, chaos ensues and people begin to examine their lives, as well as how they’re going to survive. Based on the Stephen King novel that had the same plot as The Simpsons Movie.
Big Brother (CBS, June 26) – CBS’ summer reality mainstay is back, and we’re ready to recap a whole new litter of hamsters who will probably take about two hours to start swearing on their children’s lives and talk at length about the possibility of being “backdoored”. We’re ready to get emotionally attached to new favorites and build up extreme animosity toward our new archenemies. There was some talk that this could be an All-Stars season, but this hasn’t been confirmed. Also, most of that talk happened in the Big Brother house last season, and those people were so starved for entertainment that they found Mike Boogie funny.
The Bridge (FX, July 10) – Like The Killing, this is based on a Danish crime drama. The American version focuses on two detectives trying to solve a murder in which the victim was found on the US/Mexico border. It’s a good premise, the original show is amazing, and it’s on FX – a network that’s proven to be really good at making TV shows that we love.
Summer Camp (USA, July 11)–Adults competing in summer camp activities on a reality show? Sign us up! “It just doesn’t matter!”
Comedy Bang! Bang! (IFC, July 12) – Our favorite podcast returns to TV for a second season. Scott Aukerman hosts a surreal talk show, and virtually everybody we love is set to appear this season. (Aziz Ansari! Paul F. Tompkins! Nick Kroll! Gillian Jacobs! Jason Mantzoukas! Sarah Silverman! MORE!) We loved the first season, which featured a tiny talk show, combative interviews, a chilling post-apocalyptic hellscape, a man killed by the closing credits, El Chupacabra, and Amy Poehler professing her love of Battletoads. It’s great, and you should watch it! (Here’s hoping podcast favorite Marissa Wompler makes it to the TV version this year. Womp it up!)
Suits (USA, July 16) – Season Two ended with the firm taking on a new British partner. Which is how Season Two of Mad Men ended, come to think of it. Let’s see, Mike revealing his secret to Rachel (to an extent – he said that he didn’t go to Harvard, but didn’t follow up with “or any law school, actually”), Katrina Bennett seems like she’s trying to destroy Mike, and Daniel Hardiman is still out there and up to something because David Constabile has the ability to be on every TV series. Mostly, we’re just excited to see Harvey Spector, Donna, and Louis Litt again – hopefully they’re past the “every single episode is about Hardiman” rut that bogged down Season Two
Whose Line Is it Anyway? (CW, July 16)–This improv sketch show is always welcome on our screens. Just try not to laugh; we dare you. With Wayne Brady, Aisha Tyler, Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles in the mix, we don’t think you’ll make it.
2013 ESPYs (ESPN, July 17) – We don’t watch a lot of sports programming, unless you count shows where famous people play poker. However, this year ESPN’s award show is hosted by the one and only Mr. Jon Hamm. They’ve discovered the way to trick us into watching things!
Animation Domination (FOX, July 27) – FOX is doing its best Adult Swim impression with this rotating block of animated comedies. Some of the segments look to have promise (including High School USA, created by StarBurns), but we’re most excited about Axe Cop. Based on the webcomic written by a small child, it’s the story of a man who fights crime with nothing but an axe, a glorious mustache, and a friend who’s a Tyrannosaurus Rex with guns for arms. It’s wonderfully weird, and Axe Cop himself is voiced by Nick Offerman. He is the go-to guy for mustachioed characters with hatchets, and this should help tide us over until Parks and Recreation comes back.
Writers Room (Sundance, July 29)–A reality show that focuses on the writer’s room of a sitcom warms the cockels of our TV nerd hearts. And it’s hosted by Jim “Dean Pelton” Rash!
Breaking Bad (AMC, August 11) – There are only eight episodes left. We’re not quite ready to deal with the fact that the story of Walter and Jesse is coming to an end. And not a happy one, either. We’ve already seen the future, with Walter buying a ridiculously big gun in a Denny’s parking lot, and now it’s just the matter of who’s going to be staring down the barrel. We’re not sure how to live in a world without Breaking Bad, so we’ll be obsessing over the remaining episodes and hoping that Hank brings Walter down, and that Saul Goodman turns out to be OK for that spinoff they’ve been talking about. And speaking of spinoffs, AMC will be copying their own Walking Dead / Talking Dead formula with a post-show discussion, Talking Bad. No host has been named yet, so if anybody’s listening, we’re available…
Low Winter Sun (AMC, August 11) – What’s that, AMC? You’re using Breaking Bad as the lead-in to a new crime drama? Starring Sinestro and David Constabile? Fine, we’ll wait an extra hour before going to bed on Sundays. (Tip: If every episode of Breaking Bad ends with Walter White sitting down to watch his favorite show and then you segue into Low, you can probably confuse enough people to make it an instant hit.)
Childrens Hospital / NTSF:SD:SUV:: (Adult Swim, premieres not yet scheduled) – We may have mentioned how much we love these shows a time or two. This year, the fake hospital drama relocates to a US military base in Japan. And no, it doesn’t sound like they’re joking. And there’s the whole thing where Blake Downs (Rob Corddry) died last season, and the “behind the scenes” Newsreaders episode revealed that this plot twist came about because Cutter Spindell, the actor who played Blake, died. But somehow, Blake is in the trailer for the new season, meaning they’ll find a way to bring him back on the show and on the show within the show. NTSF is also set for a change of scenery, heading to the British District of San Diego (shot in London), guest-starring Karen “Amy Pond” Gillan. Come on, Adult Swim! Get them on the schedule!
That’s it for this week. Next time we’ll be back to our usual format, and it’ll probably be less than a million words long. Let us know in the comments if there are any summer shows you’re geeked about, and how quickly you think you’ll burn through the new season of Arrested Development.