FTW vs. WTF: The TV Week in Review (January 6)

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Hey, we haven't seen each other since last year! HA we never get tired of that joke because it is the best joke ever created by man. But seriously, folks, it's 2013 now and that means 52-ish more weeks to praise and ridicule the best and worst things about television. So let's get started with what we thought worked and irked in the last seven days (give or take a couple weeks since we were all on vacation).


FTW



Doctor Who's purposeful holiday fun


Recent Who Christmas episodes have been relatively solid, but still self-contained. What worked so well about "The Snowmen" is that it managed to combine the show's typical Christmas procedural shenanigans with nice character moments and lots of intriguing set-up for the second half of the seventh season. Oswin's second appearance had just as much pep as the first and it feels like the show is going to be able to move away from all the weight of the Pond era with real zeal. But really, the show would be so much better if Strax were a full-time companion.



Portlandia's spoiler talk


Making fun of spoiler paranoia is becoming old hat, but the rapid cutting and increasingly ridiculous concern over spoilers for things long since past ("Boy Meets World?" "Nothing past Season 8.") makes it fresh and funny. The scene's tag is also a spoilery homage, but we won't tell you to which show. Just in case. (But seriously, you really need to watch Newhart so we can talk about it.)



A potential TV show about Joe Biden


When Joe Biden isn't busy carrying out his vice presidential duties, he seems to spend his time having as much fun as possible. A White House petition is calling for the creation of a CSPAN show featuring the daily life of the vice president. CSPAN? That's aiming a bit low. Biden is a man of the people, so let's show him mixing it up with everyday Americans. Who do we talk to about getting the veep onto the next season of Survivor?



Al Jazeera buys CurrentTV


Wait wait! This is important, we swear! The news channel, based in Qatar, is stepping into the U.S. news market by purchasing Al Gore's network and rebranding it Al Jazeera America. Unbiased honest news in America? Does this mean CNN will have to cut back on water-skiing squirrel videos? This can only be a good thing for a country whose news media has spun out of control. Will McAvoy would be proud.



Happy Endings celebrates Jane-mas


The late-December episode of the ABC comedy was one of its best as Jane revealed she had lied about her birthday because it fell on the same day as Jesus's and was saddled with combo presents and a shared spotlight. The rest of the gang did their best to ignore Christmas and give Jane her b-day due, with mixed results. Max's eggnog addiction was particularly amusing.



"The Name Game" on American Horror Story: Asylum


When you watch a show called American Horror Story you know you're signing up for a certain degree of unrelenting grimness. But despite the "Asylum" season's frequent flashes of brilliance, boy has this been a grim one! Like, occasionally hard-to-watch grim. Fortunately this week Ryan Murphy & Co. brought us a sequence so joyful and madcap and heartwarming that it became an instant-classic: Judy's (Jessica Lange) hallucination of the mental ward's rec room turning into a sort of Beach Blanket Bingo scenario, complete with Kit and Lana as backup dancers. We know it's only the first week of 2013, but the gauntlet has been thrown down: Showrunners, just try and top this TV moment.



Showrunners" a Kickstarter-funded documentary


As the Golden Age of Television has transformed showrunners into household names (among true TV geeks, anyway) and Twitter has led to an unprecedented amount of conversation between fans and the people responsible for their favorite shows, we've become hungrier and hungrier for intel on how these folks work. Which is why we're so excited for this upcoming documentary, a "how the sausage gets made" look at the job featuring some of the biggest names in the business.



So You Think You Can Dance gets another season


This was announced a few weeks back, but we missed mentioning it in the pre-holiday craziness and it's worth celebrating all over again: Fox's perpetually on-the-bubble summer dance competition will indeed be back for another season! Cat Deely fans rejoice: The years hottest months just got hotter!



The Hour's superlative second series


The underappreciated British drama—a richer and steadier show than some other imported period pieces, which shall remain nameless—capped a terrific second year in gut-wrenching fashion: with Freddie thrashing within an inch of his life, Bel’s unaired confession of love hanging in the air, Hector suffering yet another gut punch even as reconciliation with his wife seemed at hand. The second series built on all the strengths of the first—lead performances by Romola Garai, Ben Whishaw, and Dominic West; some of the lushest aesthetics anywhere on TV—while repairing many of the weaknesses. It was more tightly plotted than the first series, more effectively incorporating the themes of geopolitics and an empire in transition as catalysts for smaller, personal stories. And giving intriguing new layers to Oona Chaplin’s Marnie and adding Peter Capaldi’s unfailingly crisp performance to the mix didn’t hurt, either.



Winter hiatuses


Not that we don't miss our favorite stories, but dang was it nice to have a chance to get caught up on those five episodes of The Mindy Project and four episodes of Nashville sitting on our DVRs! We should have schedule-wide TV hiatuses more often!



MTV's Buckwild


Sure, it's not the classiest entertainment MTV could've produced, but perhaps the new West Virginian reality series Buckwild isn't entirely the regressive trash-heap many assumed/hoped it would be. Like Jersey Shore before it, the show was seemingly inspired by certain one-off episodes of MTV's (very good) documentary series True Life, but unlike Jersey Shore, Buckwild is much more celebratory of the innocence, ingenuity, and restlessness of youth. Yes there's the occasional fistfight and drunken meltdown, but these kids are immediately more sympathetic than the orange party monsters of Seaside Heights. It's too early to tell whether time (and fame) will ruin the appeals of the Buckwild cast as quickly as happened to their Jersey Shore peers, but for now we think it's fine to be entertained by the Buckwild kids having the amounts of fun WE wish we'd've had as teenagers with nothing else to do. (BTW does anybody have a dump truck we can borrow?)



WTF



COUNTER ARGUMENT: MTV poops out a show, calls it Buckwild


With Jersey Shore dried up, MTV pounced on another exploitable stereotype (hillbillies) with its new fake-reality show about hard-partying idiots in West Virginia. They drive around in the mud, make swimming pools out of dump trucks, and f*ck like handicapped bunnies in what might be the worst show ever created. We'll give props to the crazy pink-haired neighbor and the doofus charm of superhick Shain, but everyone else should secede from the rest of television.



AMC's showrunner shenanigans, The Walking Dead edition


Though Season 3 hasn't yet concluded, AMC dropped the bomb right before Christmas that showrunner Glen Mazzara—the man who took a great show and made it GREAT—will not be returning for Season 4. Speculation's run rampant, with most concluding that baby network AMC is actively trying to de-emphasize the power of the showrunner, but it's sad news for fans of The Walking Dead. Season 3 has been truly incredible so far; Mr. Mazzara will be missed.



What's on *your* list of TV loves and hates this week? (And if you watched Buckwild, what did YOU think?)

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