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Rectify

Cast: Aden Young, Abigail Spencer, J. Smith-Cameron, Adelaide Clemens, Clayne Crawford, Luke Kirby

(Sundance Channel)

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Rectify
Sundance Channel


Who knew that one of the best television shows in years would premiere on the Sundance Channel? Rectify is a powerful drama about guilt, memory, faith, and redemption. It revolves around Daniel Holden (Adam Young), a man who struggles to rebuild his life after living on Georgia’s Death Row for 19 years. What’s brilliant about the show’s first season is that we are never explicitly shown whether or not Daniel is innocent. As a result, the show becomes more of a character study about what it means to confront old demons and begin anew and less of a whodunit murder mystery. In a market saturated with Law and Order and CSI spin-offs, Rectify is a program for which we can all be thankful. Jon Lisi


 

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Southland

Cast: Kevin Alejandro, Arija Bareikis, Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Regina King, Michael McGrady, Benjamin McKenzie, Tom Everett Scott, C. Thomas Howell

(TNT)

Review [12.Jan.2010]

27


Southland
TNT


What turned out to be the final season of one of the best cop shows ever spent a lot of profound time focusing on the nature and meaning of various partnerships, the enormity of loss and how the road to hell can be dressed up to look like it’s made of yellow bricks and leading to a shining emerald city. Michael Cudlitz continued his exceptional portrayal of John Cooper, the anguished, distraught LAPD officer with everything to prove and nothing to lose. Cudlitz, of course, was once again surrounded by an incredible ensemble including Ben McKenzie, Regina King, Shawn Hatosy, C. Thomas Howell and the terrifyingly brilliant Anthony Ruivivar as Officer Hank Lucero, whose eventual fate was one of the great jaw-droppers in television history, and a banner moment of what made Southland not only so unique and so brave, but such a phenomenal series. Kevin Brettauer


 

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The Good Wife

Cast: Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, Archie Panjabi, Chris Noth, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Alan Cumming, Graham Phillips, Mackenzie Vega

(CBS)

26


The Good Wife
CBS


By this time it’s safe to say that The Good Wife has developed a formula. During each of its four seasons we have seen Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) at the center of a big scandal or dramatic news story that stretches for the duration of the season and sets up what will come next. First, it was her husband Peter’s (Chris Noth) infidelity which sent her looking for a job and ending up practicing law again, then it was her affair with her boss Will Gardner (Josh Charles) which threatened her newfound respect at the workplace and during the fourth season she played the role of loving, supporting wife to Peter as he ran for governor of Illinois. In between these prominent arcs, we see Alicia tend to her cases which usually involve strange motives and stranger clients. By remaining so safe to follow and watch, the CBS show has become perhaps the best drama on network television, the only one without sensationalist twists that week after week relies on fine acting and impeccable writing. Jose Solis


 

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Fringe

Cast: Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Lance Reddick, Kirk Acevedo, Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole, Seth Gabel, Mark Valley

(FOX)

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Fringe
Fox


Although only the final three hours of FOX’s little sci-fi drama that could aired in 2013, denying it a place on this list would be a crime tantamount to those of Captain Windmark, the final season’s chief antagonist. The Wagnerian family drama from Bad Robot concluded with vigor, affection and passion the likes of which are usually lost by even the second season of most genre shows. John Noble’s engaging, charismatic and heartbreaking performance as Doctor Walter Bishop carried the show to the very end, and the lessons of love, compassion, understanding and freedom that the series brought to its viewers will be forever remembered, just as Peter will always remember the day he received a white tulip that shouldn’t exist in the mail from a man who blinked out of existence. Heartbreaking and altogether life-affirming, the final season of Fringe was, inarguably, a master-class in television. Kevin Brettauer


 

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Bates Motel

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Nicola Peltz, Olivia Cooke

(A&E)

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Bates Motel
A&E


Bates Motel shouldn’t work. In theory it’s a bloody awful idea. Hitchcock’s revered slasher rebooted into the time of Twitter and twerking? Norman Bates’ fumbling and blushing his way awkwardly through his teenage angst, “Oops Ma, I did it again”? Sure there are Scooby Doo moments with bungling cops, delinquents ‘n’ hoodlums, pervy teachers and disgruntled grinches all but waving their fist and hollering “I’ll get you Bates!”. Yet the chemistry between the central players just works. Freddie Highmore—once the doe-eyed weeper from Finding Neverland—plays Bates with all the out-of-time, melancholic dorkiness of Harold & Maude whilst Vera Farmiga as ‘Smother me, Mother me’ Norma swings brilliantly on a wrecking ball from sweethearted single-parent to local loon about town. You’ll care about these cracked crazies. It’s a growing pains tale of girls, bullies, drugs, curfews, fashion and taxidermy. Norman’s juvenile follies are universal… well y’know except for the murders. Check-in and check it out. Matt James


 

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@midnight

Cast: Chris Hardwick

(Comedy Central)

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@midnight
Comedy Central


When it returns this January, Comedy Central’s Nerdist experiment will once again show that modern pop culture and social media can be the subject of brilliant media satire. Chris Hardwick, who’s been looking for a way to work his way back into basic cable ever since his Talk Soup offshoot, Web Soup, went the way of the entire G4 Network, is a fantastic host—self deprecating, witty, and always ready with a clever comeback. He is matched by panels of such proficient comedy voices as Doug Benson, Patton Oswalt, and Judd Apatow. After its brief run, fans were clamoring for more. Thanks to the terrific comedy being measured out across various Internet platforms, our prayers have been answered. Let the hashtag wars commence! Bill Gibron


 

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Boardwalk Empire

Cast: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Michael Stuhlbarg, Stephen Graham, Vincent Piazza, Michael Kenneth Williams, Anthony Laciura, Paul Sparks, Jack Huston, Bobby Cannavale, Gretchen Mol

(HBO)

22


Boardwalk Empire
HBO

Each season of Boardwalk Empire has a distinct, overarching theme that unites its characters. For season four, that theme is one articulated in Oscar Wilde’s The Duchess of Padua: “We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.” The acute irony of the season is that the characters find themselves in self-made hells just as freedom and/or upward mobility seem most within reach. Viewers who find the season too restrained are likely reacting to this very intention, which is to bind each character in stalled or dreadful circumstances. Protagonist Enoch Thompson wants out of the empire he helped to build, but the ripple effects of his lifestyle threaten to destroy the lives of those closest to him. Nearly every good development, from Eddie Kessler’s promotion, to Chalky White’s club ownership, to Richard Harrow’s resolution of non-violence, turns tragic by season’s end. Boardwalk Empire belongs to a tradition of gangster stories that is often glamorous and romantic to a fault. Season four minimizes those qualities by making the characters accountable for their transgressions. Thomas Britt


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