TV Club

Best TV 2013: Great performances from Tony Hale, Margo Martindale, and Maggie Smith.

Entry 15: The perfection of Tony Hale and Julia Louis-Dreyfus at the Emmys.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale in Veep.

Photo courtesy Lacey Terrell/HBO


So this is how Vince Gilligan felt this time last year. I just know that I’m going to remember something important right after our season finale airs.

By all means let’s throw some love at actors doing great work in terrible shows. But Jim, I can’t agree with you about Thomas Lennon in Sean Saves the World. I’ve loved his work in the past, but that awful, soulless show leaches the charisma from everyone who walks on set. And what about The Millers over on CBS? It, too, has neutered a whole bunch of actors who’ve been great on other shows. If this were the only place you’d ever seen Will Arnett, Beau Bridges, and Jayma Mays, you’d write them off as a bunch of pathetic no-talents. But nothing can dim Margo Martindale’s star power. A few weeks ago, she performed a variation on Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth” speech that made me want to stand up and applaud. (Instead, I emailed a friend to say, “I know the show’s awful, but fast-forward to Margo Martindale’s scenes.”) I’m still mad that The Millers will keep her from spending the whole season on The Americans, though.


And how about a hand for some of television’s great character actors: Ian Patrick (Dick Butkus) on The Neighbors, Zoe Jarman and Beth Grant in The Mindy Project, Tony Hale on Veep (how perfect was the bit he and Julia Louis-Dreyfus did at the Emmys?), and those zinger-slinging sisters under the skin, Maggie Smith as Downton’s dowager countess and Frances Conroy as American Horror Story: Coven’s Myrtle Snow. I’m also enjoying Breaking Bad’s Betsy Brandt working in a completely different register on The Michael J. Fox Show. The show is charming but very slight (like Fox himself) and will soon be forgotten, but it’s a relief to see an actress who played 50 shades of hurt showing off her comedic chops. (Though, honestly, my favorite bit is her dance in the opening sequence.)


I don’t want to leave without mentioning that I think this was the year when we broke through some kind of foreign-language barrier on U.S. television. Three of us have non-English-language shows in our top 10, but I was also glad that FX didn’t freak out about all the Spanish on The Bridge or the Russian on The Americans, not to mention that great ASL episode of Switched at Birth over on ABC Family.

This has been so much fun. I just wish we could end with a dance, like on Bunheads.

Back to my crazy board,