Saturday, December 28, 2013

How will we survive without Breaking Bad? (my 2013 TV year in review)

Peggy Power

At the end of 2011, I ranked my favorite 11 TV shows of the year. The following year, finding difficulty making the cut between 12 and 13, I decided to go crazy and rank every show I watched in completion. (2011's post / 2012's post)

Now, for 2013, I'm embracing the obsession and will include a few shows I didn't watch for a single second. You've been warned, but thank you for reading. Please share your list with me if you ranked your own favorites.

Blissfully Quit: The Newsroom (HBO),
Sons of Anarchy (FX),
Under The Dome (CBS), Michael J. Fox Show (NBC)
I Hate-Watched The Newsroom throughout its first season and after seeing its second season premiere I told myself: "nope, i'm done." Haven't looked back and have zero regrets.

Quitting Sons of Anarchy wasn't my intention, it has always been a "you get what you deserve" guilty pleasure. I had moved in October, and all my recorded episodes were lost when the cable company upgraded by DVR. I checked back in to watch its season finale - just to be able to talk to some relatives and friends about it. I may check back in sporadically to see how the series ends.

As a vow to my love of Breaking Bad, I will give any show with Dean Norris or Betsy Brandt a chance. I quit UtD after two episodes / couldn't make it that long with MJF.

Recorded but Never Watched: Low Winter Sun (AMC), Ray Donovan (Showtime)
These shows were both not watched as a consequence of their lead in programming. Breaking Bad was such an amazing achievement that I had zero desire to watch anything after it. Dexter became a shitshow that I was only watching at the end to make sure it actually stopped. Also, like previously mentioned, my move / new DVR lost anything I had recorded and I won't bother myself to catch up for there are better shows to watch.

Tough Cuts: Modern Family (ABC), Conan (TBS), The Soup (E!), Workaholics (Comedy Central), The Eric Andre Show / NTSF:SD:SUV / Children's Hospital / Check it Out with Steve Brule (Adult Swim)
Each of these decisions to stop actively watching is 100% the result of time management. With Conan, I will be able to cherry pick bits that the Internet deems special. The other shows, especially anything aired in easy to consume 15 minute bites on Adult Swim, will be watched in bulk sometime in the future.

I'll Get To It... Eventually... Promise: New Girl / The Mindy Project (Fox), Scandal (ABC), Downton Abbey (PBS), Rectify (Sundance), Maron (IFC), Sherlock / Doctor Who / Luther / [everything else on-] (BBC America)
Someday... I will.

My Favorite TV Shows of 2013

41. Dexter (Showtime)
Get off my lawn, Dexter Morgan.

40. That log on the fireplace video on an endless loop to play when having a Holiday Party (it's some very high numbered channel)
I just didn't want to have Dexter in my Top 40. Seriously, what a joke that show became (as I literally began watching it for comic effect - for example the world's worst extra).

39. Big Brother (CBS)
I know I've said it before, but I'm done with this show. I'm quitting it. To see the above quality list of entertainment I still want to watch... I don't have time for provides no excuses to watch this pile of garbage.

38. Bar Rescue (Spike)
I'm not one to watch this type of Reality Programming, but I enjoy watching this show. I got hooked into one of those lazy Saturday marathons and never looked back.

37. Fox Sports Live (FS1)
This show deserves a special mention. Sportscenter has devolved into a mess of talking heads. If you like sports, check out a show that is more concerned with highlights of games than personality of its staff.

36. The Following (Fox)
It started out amazing, but just got too ridiculous. Haven't figured out if I'll even bother with its second season.

35. Family Tree (HBO)
I wanted this show to be sooooo much better. The small bits of brilliance will keep me on the hook for more episodes.

34. Veep (HBO)
The second season was stronger than it's first (I had quit this show, but based on the recommendation from a friend I got caught up and am ready for an even better 3rd Season).

33. Comedy Bang Bang (IFC)
My favorite podcast is my 33rd favorite show. Please don't look too poorly at that statement, for it's very difficult to translate from the "theater of the mind" experience of the podcast.

32. The Office (NBC)
Give credit where credit is due: the show concluded in a very great fashion. The last few episodes created a perfect close.

31. The Walking Dead (AMC)
2013 was an incredibly strong year in television. I watch WD the day it airs, which is the highest compliment I can give a TV show. It's crazy for me to have it this low, but I feel this season was a tad overrated.

30. The Killing (AMC)
I'm as surprised as anybody that I enjoyed this season. Joel Kinnaman needs his own show, and very soon.

29. Arrested Development (Net Flix)
My views at length, posted shortly after I finished the new episodes.

28. Masters of Sex (Showtime)
This is a great show, its ranking will most likely improve in the upcoming years.

27. Shameless (Showtime)
I wish Showtime would pair together Shameless with Masters of Sex [instead of Homeland]. Maybe they don't think we can handle Lizzy Kaplan and Emmy Rossum in the same night.

26. @Midnight (Comedy Central)
Most likely the ranking that will make the least sense to people reading. It's a fun show and highly interactive with its viewers.

25. Brooklyn 99 (Fox)
Andy Samberg is the last reason to watch this show, don't let that factor into whether or not you give it a shot. It's filled with great people in front of and behind the camera. I hope this show finds an audience, but I suspect it will suffer like the other Michael Schur show (Parks and Recreation) and struggle for renewal every year.

24. Enjoy It (Comedy Central)
Aptly described as "the first drama of Comedy Central." Steven Brody Stevens is a magnetic personality.

23. The League (FXX)
I wrote it last year, but it bears repeating: MORE RAFI!

22. Damages (Net Flix)
No idea why this show isn't incredibly popular. Glen Close and Rose Byrne in the only show that allows women to play the antihero role that's made television in the 21st century amazing? It's at a level Sons of Anarchy wishes it could reach.

21. Homeland (Showtime)
Do better. Way to follow in 24's footsteps in both good and awful ways.

20. Happy Endings (ABC)
Pour one out for a show that ended too soon. I fully expect a Party Down level of postmortem love from others.

19. The Bridge (FX)
Great, thrilling, chilling debut season. A hidden gem for those that watched.

18. Top of the Lake (Sundance)
It's a mini-series. It won't take you long to watch it all. It's worth it... I'll wait here.

17. Girls (HBO)
Girls is the Arcade Fire of television: those that don't like it will never like it and those that like it are appreciative of the talent that others have shared.

16. Hello Ladies (HBO)
It takes the hilariously awkward moment levels of early season (and BBC's) The Office and takes it to awesome new heights. That's not a literal pun joke on Stephen Merchant's height.

15. Parenthood (NBC)
The best show that I refuse to watch the night it airs. I prefer to watch Parenthood on early Saturday mornings while the sun comes up on the day. Wrap yourself in the warmth of a Braverman blanket and take an hour to not worry.

14. Orphan Black (BBC America)
Ya kinda have to watch this show to believe it. Keep an eye out for when BBC America marathons it (I'm sure they will before it's second season starts).

13. Hannibal (NBC)
This show is good enough to be on HBO, which makes me can't believe it's on NBC. Deeply dark done the right way: where bad men acting bad is not cool.

12. House of Cards (Net Flix)
If not for a tragic misstep near the end of the season, I would've placed HoC in the top 5.

11. Orange is the New Black (Net Flix)
Oddly the inspiration for the most popular Halloween costume I saw this year. It took me a while to get into it (at least, not as quick as others), but once I was caught I was sentenced (pun!). Winner of the best, most vulgar, line of the year.

10. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Its doppelganger episode featuring Sam Elliot as the opposite Ron Swanson should win them both Emmys (and of course it will not).

9. Enlightened (HBO)
We messed up everybody. Or at least me. I didn't appreciate and support this show when it was on and now it's gone. FX should pick up this show and air it paired with Louie.

8. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FXX)
The gang stays true while the world around continues to evolve. Its 100th episode featuring an Up style Charlie fantasy proves the have more than enough creative fuel left in their tank.

Felicity the Spy

7. The Americans (FX)
My favorite new show of 2013. As many of my friends know, I've loved Keri Russell since my freshman year (mine at Marquette / her's as Felicity), but I'm not playing favorites here. I have been critical in the past: my disapproval of Running Wilde, which I wrote three years ago mentioning my wish for her to star in an hour long drama.

6. Eastbound and Down (HBO)
My favorite comedy of 2013. It's also my favorite season of the show. Bonus points for the ability to end well. Television finales are increasingly important. In my opinion the greatest season finale was Six Feet Under - it might also be Danny McBride's favorite, for the show's ending was a hilarious homage to it.

5. Justified (FX)
When others ask me to recommend a show - I direct them towards Harlan County. Every season has a new flavor that always keeps the show fresh. The show has always included a good dark sense of humor, but this most recent season was its most fun in that area thanks to the reoccurring role played by Patton Oswalt.

4. Game of Thrones (HBO)
Last year I ranked GoT #14 as I was disappointed with the drop off from it's debut season. Friends who have read the books assured me they were setting up for something amazing. They were not wrong. The season was filled with gigantic moments that each could have served as a season finale boom.

3. Mad Men (AMC)
In the past, I've been quick to let superfans know the faults of Mad Men. I can't deny the show's brilliance anymore - its past season was in my opinion its best. With the end very near, the entire arc of the show is apparent. I've thought the show's most important character was Peggy, not Don. I'm finally on board with this show being about Women in the 60s: the rise of Peggy juxtaposed with the fall of Don.

2: Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
I never know where this show is going, but I'm always glad where ever it takes me. Now with Breaking Bad gone, I trust no other show more.

ASAC Schrader enjoyed my IG Vid.
1: Breaking Bad (AMC)
* slow clap *

The finale was actually it's third to last episode, which left us all in a blood stupor that we needed two extra episodes as an epilogue. Vince Gilligan gave us all such a gift. The only question left to answer: how long is the spoiler embargo for this show? How much time do we need to patiently wait in spoiler-free purgatory?

AMC marathon aired all its episodes leading up to New Year's Day. I sincerely hope they make it an annual tradition. I literally asked a bartender last night to put BrBa on instead of a useless Bowl Game.  A guy can dream.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What Are My Favorite 13 IG Photos of '13?

This morning I went to Statigram to download my Instagram stats (h/t to Internet Stranger Sara) to see which of my photos gathered the most Likes. Since I didn't agree with the results, here are my personal 13 favorite IG photos* from 2013.

*All concert-related photos were excluded from rankings

13) #OfficePig

This year my company moved me from Seafood to Pork. We'll see where they move me next year.

12)  Wedding Work
My sister was a Maid of Honor this past summer. She believes this is the most illustrative picture I took that day.

11) #SadBanana
Taken outside my suburban condo. Much was left behind in suburbia this year.

10)  Creative Wrappers
I look forward to showing Jillian (who turned 5) this in the future to see if she will laugh. Odds are: not as much as I did.

9) #HipsterMom
My friend's mom, at one of his Improv shows, completely owning this look. Note: I supplied the PBR.

8)  Inflatable Intrigue
I spend a lot of time at the birthday parties of children nowadays. Moments to capture are always available.

7)  Riding Birdy
My Godson Matthew took me to my first Cardinals game. Luckily he's too young to remember a postseason heartbreak.

6) Chase with Caution
I often use IG to make jokes. The quality is usually suspect.

5) Eight is Not Enough
My Bowling Pin found its way to it's eighth state this year. And many photo collage apps found their way into my phone.

4) Bridge Reflections
A surprising amount of people liked this photo on IG. If I had known, I would've taken more time to frame it better.

3) My New Private Residence
A gigantic moment for me personally.

2) Empty Glass
Can you believe I've had no formal training? Brew Fest should pay me.

1) #MarriageEquality
If I was famous, this image would've been on coffee mugs everywhere. Very proud it got my most likes from strangers.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

And the winners of my 2013 music awards are?

The last "concert pic" of my show going career (The National at Riverside Theater in Milwaukee)

Welcome to my annual year end music review post. If you have the patience to read all of it, you will see:
- My ten awards with winners and runners up
- Embedded Spotify Playlist of my Favorite Tracks
- More explanation of how I chose my award winners
- Photos of note I posted to Instagram from the shows I attended
[Previous Year End Reviews: 2012, 2011]

1. The “Perpetual Repeat” Song of the Year: "A New Life" by Jim James
Runner up: "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams

Jim James - A New Life - Jimmy Fallon from Robert McMahan on Vimeo.

2. The “Share with All Friends” Album of the Year: Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
Runner up: Hummingbird by Local Natives

3. The “If Every One Could Be Like This” Concert of the Year: Jim James at Pabst Theatre
Runner up: Björk at Pitchfork Music Festival

4. The “Phoenix” Becoming Too Big To Not Easily See Again: Junip
Runner up: Phoenix *note- award established a few years ago, they are still growing*

5. The “Franz Ferdinand” Must Now See Every Time They’re In Town: Savages
Runner up: Pet Lions

6. The “Bon Iver” Regret of the Year: Not seeing The Postal Service's final performance
Runner up: Staying for STRFKR after Blackbird Blackbird

7. The “Medulla” Most Disappointing Album: Bankrupt! by Phoenix
Runner up: Reflector by Arcade Fire

8. The “Should I Quit You” Most Disappointing Concert: PITCHFORK MUSIC FESTIVAL RAIN!
Runner up: Janelle Monáe

9. The “Shadenfradue” Guilty Pleasure Track of the Year: "Harlem Shake" by Baauer
Runner up: "Clarity" by Zedd featuring Foxes!

10. The "Buy an iPod stereo for the car" Best Decision I made in 2013: Quitting all in-concert photography.
Runner up: The last minute decision to drive to Milwaukee to see The National.

1. 2013 is the year I escaped Suburbia and moved into the city limits of Chicago. "A New Life" by Jim James was intentionally the first song I played in my new apartment. Little did I know when I first heard the song in February it would have the meaning I eventually assigned. The above clip from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon instantly floored me and seeing the song performed live early in the year cemented it atop my personal standings.

In any other year, "Get Lucky" would have ran away with this award. I will be playing and loving it forever. Other songs that would've been tops in other years include "Husbands" by Savages and "Hidden Xs" by Fuck Buttons.

2. Many of my favorites came back with new recordings this year, but none was more anticipated than the promise of new Daft Punk. And where some others fell short of expectation - I felt no such disappointment with Random Access Memories. I enjoyed the new-retro sound and think it was the response the Electronic Dance Music world needed after 2012's rise of Dubstep.

My opinion on Local Natives used to be, "ah, they're okay, I like'em." But their Hummingbird album is just too good to be ignored, as I would end up listening it front to back over the majority of the year.

3. I would've paid $100 for a recording of Jim James at Pabst Theatre at the end of that concert. The first six songs were especially jaw dropping. The only thing that could have stopped this show from being #1 was a natural disaster, which is actually what happened: Björk was building to a crescendo I had been waiting patiently for 20 years to see before an incoming storm prompted the Pitchfork Music Festival to end early

4. If you see an act at Lincoln Hall that sells out quickly, you just know you won't get that opportunity again. Junip, please take your place along LH greats such as The xx, Foster the People, and M83.

5. Every band that has a breakout hit like Savages should take advice from Savages. The version of "Husbands" I heard wasn't the version from their album, but a super sized version worthy of it's place high atop my Songs of the Year playlist. Especially awesome about Savages: they had the confidence to close their set with a new song not heard by most in attendance. No band I saw in 2013 had more balls than the all female Savages.

*Pet Lions is a tough label to assign "every time they are in town" because they are a local Chicago band. This runner-up place usually goes to the supporting act that ended up having a better set than the headliner. My 2014 goal is to check out / support more local talent.

6. If I'm going to complain about anything music related in 2013, it's that I wasn't able to see The Postal Service's farewell performance at Metro. Maybe I should not have tuned into XRT to hear the live feed, because it was the sonic equivalent of eating sour grapes... My STRFKR regret is entirely based on not making the decision to leave earlier - which would've prevented my friend from becoming the unfortunate victim of a crowdsurfer.

7. Please don't misunderstand: I like both new albums by Phoenix and Arcade Fire... But in the year of Daft Punk and Jim James (and Foals) homeruns, I expected more from my favorites.

8. Will Björk ever come back to play? Indoors please? Overall, it was still an amazing experience as 59 minutes of her is better than zero. If only her legion of Icelandic backup singers/dancers could've consoled me in my time of post-pop-princess need? In other sadness, I bought tickets to Janelle Monáe before hearing her second album, which is quite inferior to previous efforts. Even her amazing showmanship couldn't make up the difference.

9. I enjoyed the "Harlem Shake" meme of 2013. It was done best by Matt and Kim:

10. I was over thrilled to have Danger!Sound post the 500 word essay I wrote explaining my decision to quit all in concert photography. Please click over to D!S to read it.

Special Music Mention of 2013:
The significant moment of my music life of 2013 was my escape from suburbia. The event has much larger meaning to my life (and I will be writing a separate year in review post to address it in more depth), but it had immediate impact on my music fandom. I am now much more inclined to only purchase single tickets and have already found a small group of local friends who are as musically inclined as I.

This year had multiple songs that could have been Song of the Year had they not been competing with each other. One such song is "Hidden Xs" by Fuck Buttons because they performed the hell out of that track when I saw them live at Subterranean... But the story/environment surrounding me at that time and place will keep that song in my heart forever:
  1. I bought a single ticket because I knew I was never going to convince anybody to go see an act named Fuck Buttons.
  2. When the show date came around, I didn't know I would be living 3 blocks away from the venue.
  3. I was able to meet up with someone who I initially "met over Twitter" and he was nice enough to introduce me to other friends his there.
  4. It was a late show on a weekday, made incredibly easier from only needing to walk 3 blocks to my apartment.

Top three crazy band names I've seen live this year:
  • STRFKR (pronounced "Starfucker")
  • Fuck Buttons
  • Diarrhea Planet

It's been an amazing year.

Finally, here are my Instragrammed concert moments of 2013. You will easily see when I made the switch in strategy to abide the promise posted in Danger!Sound. My final picture is the one I chose to also post at the top as my favorite photo (because it is my last):

Blackbird Blackbird (Metro in March)
STRFKR (Metro in March)

Pet Lions (Empty Bottle in April)
Ducktails (Empty Bottle in April)
Jim James (Pabst in April)
FUTUREBIRDS (Schubas in May)
Foals (The Vic in May)
Night Beds (S.P.A.C.E. in May)
Junip (Lincoln Hall in June)
Mac DeMarco (Union Park in July)
Wire (Union Park in July)
Björk (Union Park in July)
Foals (Park West in August)
The National (Riverside in August)
Washed Out (Metro in Septembre)
Savages (Metro in September)
Phoenix (Aragon in September)
Franz Ferdinand (The Vic in October)
Fuck Buttons (Subterranean in October)
Janelle Monáe (The Vic in October)
Holy Ghost! (Metro in November)
Cut Copy (The Riv in November)
Brendan Canning (Beat Kitchen in November)
Jon Hopkins (Lincoln Hall in November)