TV Club

Best TV performances 2013: Uzo Aduba, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Nicole Beharie.

Entry 11: In praise of Crazy Eyes.

Uzo Aduba in Orange Is the New Black.

Uzo Aduba in Orange Is the New Black.

Courtesy Netflix


Mo, your mash note to Call the Midwife brings me back to where we started—with the subjectivity of favorite shows. In theory, Call the Midwife should be right up my alley: an NHS-championing, gynocentric period drama. Yes, please! But once my adrenal system figured out that every single episode revolves around babies and pregnant women in peril, I had to stop watching. Instead of being a pleasurable experience, it just stressed me out. As to choosing between Miranda Hart and Sarah Lancashire: That’s like asking you to choose between Laura Roslin and Bill Adama—extremely difficult! But if forced to pick, you know I’d go with Lancashire, my sister Northerner.

Willa, you captured perfectly the shiv-to-the ribs feeling that comes when a favorite show makes you feel like a chump for having liked it in the first place. So let’s take a moment to celebrate those long-running series that still make us smile years into their runs. My favorite TV comfort foods are an odd bunch: Coronation Street, which I watched for decades and reintroduced into my TV diet this year when Hulu started to carry it; ESPN’s The Sports Reporters, which I “watch” every Sunday morning with my eyes firmly fixed on my iPhone; and pretty much any procedural that isn’t too gory. What I demand from these shows is absolute consistency—I don’t need bons mots or fiendishly brilliant plots; I just want the stories to make sense and the characters to get along.

This summer, it seemed that USA—the most successful cable network for eight straight years—was self-consciously shaking up its “blue skies” programming. Tight partnerships—be they friends, brothers, exes, or colleagues—have always been the keystone of the network’s formula, but suddenly all those buddies were bickering. I hated it—and after years of watching pretty much everything USA put on the air, I jettisoned all but Suits (because it’s awesome and supersexy), Royal Pains (because of Evan R. Lawson’s amazing summer wardrobe), and Graceland (because even though the story line was nonsensical, the actors were unbelievably pretty).

I know, I’m contradicting myself. In our first exchange I was championing freshness and originality, and now I’m rhapsodizing the boring and reliable. We need both! Those of us who joyfully watch a lot of television know that you have to mix a bit of HGTV and USA with the HBO and FX.

Willa, I can’t argue with any of the fantastic performances you highlighted (though your patience with New Girl’s very public attempts to figure out if Winston is a nice guy or a serial killer obviously exceeds mine), but I’ll add a few more of my favorites. Trophy Wife’s Bert Harrison is adorable, but let’s not overlook his brother, Warren—who was such a convincing Ellen DeGeneres when he was goofy from having dental surgery on Halloween. Sleepy Hollow’s Nicole Beharie manages the difficult trick of seeming quite sane even as she fights the undead, and I love the subtle way that her voice changes when she speaks with other black people. The interplay between Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson on Elementary is really touching, as is the more romantic connection between Teri Polo and Sherri Saum on The Fosters. How to single anyone out of the amazing ensemble cast of Orange Is the New Black? But if I must, Uzo Aduba broke my heart when Suzanne asked why people call her Crazy Eyes. And I know the number of words that some of us have written about Borgen is greater than the number of Americans who’ve seen the show, but Åh Gud, Sidse Babett Knudsen! I just melt when she switches from Danish into her dead-common English accent.

Remember when we all watched The Sound of Music together?