Well it’s been one long year, with plenty to do and see, plenty of good and not-so-good to read and watch, and we’re certain we read more and reviewed more content this year than ever before. And that in no less way was true for TV watching. At the same time we waded through all that Hollywood had to offer and honed in on the genre films we thought were worth examining. We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our 25 picks for our annual Best of the Best list. Today we reveal the best content focusing on the moving image, and tomorrow we’ll run through our picks for the best in print and other media. We hope you agree with many of these great creations of the entertainment industries, and wish everyone a great 2014!
Year’s Best Fantasy Fix — The Wizard of Oz in Theaters. It’s a film that has been viewed on TV so many times you might take it for granted. It’s historically been on many movie reviewers’ Top 20 movies of all time. But when you watch The Wizard of Oz on the big screen in the middle of a year of modern blockbusters you realize how it can stand up against anything Hollywood has to offer today, even after 70 years. Remastering the print for a new generation to see it in theaters was a highlight for movie watchers this year.
Year’s Best Sci-Fi Fix — Almost Human, Fox. Like Continuum last year, the new series Almost Human created a future world that is believable and full of extraordinary technologies based in today’s science and touching on social issues of any day. And even putting aside its buddy cop and police procedural brilliance, every episode plunged us into future police grappling with incredible technologies–DNA bombs criminals use to contaminate a crime scene, identity masking technology to avoid facial recognition video monitors–it was the best dose of sci-fi in 2013.
Best TV Series — Orphan Black, BBC America. What rose above everything on TV or film this year was BBC America’s new series, the almost indescribable Orphan Black. From its initial trailers that piqued our interest, to the surprise series consisting of one actress playing multiple roles that dazzled from out of nowhere, magical special effects, and a unique story of clones and X-Files-inspired intrigue propelled Orphan Black to be our clear winner for Best TV Series of 2013.
Best New TV Series — Sleepy Hollow, Fox. Although Orphan Black triumphed over all series new and old, plenty of new series impressed us this year, from Bates Motel to Vikings, and from Dracula to Almost Human. But we’ll give Fox’s Sleepy Hollow a nod for a completely different and successfully implemented idea–taking a classic story and bringing it forward to the present day while also including plenty of time-bridging to make this a complete fantasy treat with some creepy haunts as well.
Best TV Comedy Series — The Michael J. Fox Show, NBC. Despite initial cringe-worthy promotions that we only later learned were intentional in-jokes that went to the heart of the series, Michael J. Fox’s return as a headliner in The Michael J. Fox Show quickly became the first series to watch each week from the DVR queue. Both Fox and his cast of family members and co-workers provided plenty of spurt-the-drink-out-of-your-mouth laughs. And the funniest acting performances of the year belonged to Juliette Goglia as the daughter struggling to find herself. With a half-hour sitcom that felt like a full hour of comedy, The Michael J. Fox Show gave us exactly what we want, more Michael J. Fox on TV and a hilarious half hour to look forward to.
Best British TV Series — The Hour, BBC America. From great series like the The Bletchley Circle to Doctor Who, from the spooky Lightfields to the uncommonly popular Downton Abbey, to the brilliant new series Mr. Selfridge, we think the most distinguished performances and intriguing story could be found in season two of BBC America’s The Hour. Carrying on after the gritty 1960s look at the early years of the BBC in its first season, the complex story and relationships of journalists producing a 60 Minutes-like news hour, played by Romola Garai, Dominic West, and Ben Whishaw (James Bond’s newest Q) could hardly have been better. And we got a dramatic preview of the broad range of Peter Capaldi’s gut-wrenching performance as the show’s boss just before Capaldi got tapped for his role as the 12th Doctor on Doctor Who. Too bad the BBC cancelled The Hour, on a stunning cliffhanger no less.
Best Reality Show — Naked Vegas, Syfy Channel. We never thought we’d include a reality series on a “best of” list, but this year’s Syfy reality series Naked Vegas provided an uncommon look at co-workers who work in a unique and artistic industry as they tried to win over their clients with their skill. Don’t look for any bickering or contrived drama here, these guys all showed us that in the real world you need to cooperate with each other if you want to run a successful enterprise. And the incredible sci-fi and fantasy creations by some of the make-up industry’s top artists were some of the coolest things we saw on TV all year.
Best Series Finale — Burn Notice, USA Network. So many series either let their stories wander off into syndication, never to answer all the questions raised, or just plain end badly. USA Network’s Burn Notice actually provided us with a finale equal to the best episodes of the series, even surprisingly killing off the least likely candidate we could have guessed. With some lackluster episodes in its final two seasons we thought it was time for the series to go, but the finale actually made us change our minds, and leave us hoping series co-star Bruce Campbell will make a spin-off as Major Crimes was able to do after The Closer.
Best Performance by an Actress — Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black. The success of the TV series Orphan Black relied almost exclusively on the mesmerizing performances by Maslany as several different clone characters, many times appearing on-screen and interacting with each other, despite each being played by Maslany. How could any actress keep all these characters straight? From the soccer mom turned killer, Alison, to the cop pretender Sarah, and the tech geek Cosima, Maslany delivered one of the best performances in TV or movies this year. We just hope she doesn’t get plucked away for major movie roles before we get to see more seasons of Orphan Black.
Best Performance by an Actor (tie) — Jeremy Piven, Mr. Selfridge. In what could have been a forgettable recounting of the American creator of a famous British department store early in the last century, PBS found a gem in its series Mr. Selfridge. A perfect supporting cast filled out this historical drama, but at the helm was the surprise casting of Jeremy Piven as the flawed but brilliant entrepreneur of all entrepreneurs. His portrayal of Selfridge was nothing short of motivational and inspiring as his character tried to build on his past business acumen to stay ahead of trends and become the man to watch in old London town. He revealed a fellow full of both humor and pride and left us wishing for more.
Best Performance by an Actor (tie) — G.W. Bailey, Major Crimes. Bailey is hands down the best character actor on television. His Lieutenant Louie Provenza goes from humorous comrade to grave detective to flippant employee to paternal mentor so easily he conveys the feeling that we’ve known him forever. We trust him no matter what he’s doing and fully understand why Captain Raydor trusts him and why the rest of the squad follows him. And despite approaching a tenth season in the role he just keeps re-inventing Provenza and he just keeps getting better.
Best Guest Appearance — Lee Majors, Dallas. Not every actor from classic TV (or anyone else for that matter) can do at 73-years-old what they did in their prime. So we couldn’t have been happier to see the expressive, classy, and confident Lee Majors in three episodes of the second season of TNT’s Dallas reboot. An old acquaintance trying to rekindle a relationship with Linda Gray’s Sue Ellen Ewing, Majors’ character got the bad end of her scheming, but we still hope the series finds a way to bring him back to the show.
Best Genre Film — Star Trek Into Darkness. Also the most controversial genre film of the year, of all the fun movies we saw, including the runner-up The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, as well as enjoyable flicks like Red 2, Ender’s Game, Skyfall, Oblivion, Riddick, and crazy fare like Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer, and Hansel & Gretel, Vampire Hunters, and less enjoyable fodder like Man of Steel and A Good Day to Die Hard, nothing kept us on the edge of our seats and excited us like the thrill ride that was Star Trek Into Darkness. As long-time Trek fans we didn’t mind the way Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman manipulated a beloved classic story arc and gave our new cast of young actors some great situations to get themselves out of. It’s also the only film this year we watched over and over.
Best Animated Work — Beware the Batman TV series, Warner Bros. Animation. Another of several works that updated a classic icon, Beware the Batman updated its superhero story as CW Network’s Arrow was able to do–providing a stylish and sleek look at a DC superhero and a litany of villains that have previously taken a back seat in the DC Universe. We’ll never look at Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred the same way again.
Best Genre-Related Advertisement — The Rock “Got Milk” ad. It’s Dwayne Johnson. It’s a sci-fi alien invasion. It’s a superhero mini-movie. And it’s a “Got Milk” ad. What more could we ask for? If you missed it, check it out here.
Most Satisfying Delivery — 56 Up. The original reality series that provides an update every seven years finally returned this year, and the results were as exciting and gripping as ever. Check out our rave for Michael Apted’s landmark real-life “time-travel” film series at borg.com from this summer here.
Best Nerd Moment — Comedian/Actor Patton Oswalt filibuster on Parks and Recreation. borg.com writer Jason McClain has been singing the praises of NBC’s Parks and Recreation since the beginning, but the whole country became believers when the show’s producers released an unedited extemporaneous bit of improv magic and nerd love as Patton Oswalt appeared at a city council meeting in an attempt filibuster pending legislation. The result propelled Oswalt to become one of the high kings of nerddom. If you missed out, check out the video here.
Best Second Wind — Arrow. As great as the first season of CW’s Arrow was, we were worried that the end of season one was telling us this would be one of those series that fizzled in its sophomore season. Our concerns were misplaced. Season Two of Arrow, expanding Felicity Smoak’s character, dealing with the Merlins’ deaths, the eagerly awaited appearance of a new Black Canary, the reveal of the new Barry Allen/Flash, and the growth of Stephen Amell’s character Oliver Queen, all provided plenty for fans to stay excited about.
Best Single TV Episode — “The Twelve Days of Krampus,” Grimm. Although we could easily have selected the “Alison goes crazy and tortures her husband” episode of Orphan Black or the introduction of Barry Allen on Arrow, we think one of the best episodes ever of NBC’s Grimm was this season’s Christmas episode, “The Twelve Days of Krampus.” What child would ever be bad again after watching this story of the mythological anti-Santa, Krampus, as he takes bad kids into the woods to save for snacktime, leaving a lump of coal as his calling card?
Best Genre Movie Score — Pacific Rim, Ramin Djawadi. We’re convinced one of the reasons the big-budget monster movie Pacific Rim was such a hit was because it was backed by a standout soundtrack. The heart-pounding, grandiose, and dramatic score made Pacific Rim a better movie. The Iranian-German composer of Iron Man, Deception, Game of Thrones, and the 2014 release Edge of Tomorrow, Djawadi is carving himself as the new choice for mega-hit movies.
Best Worldwide Genre Participation Event — BBC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration of Doctor Who. With things like worldwide premieres of big films like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, or the celebration of the 50th year of James Bond with the release of Skyfall, the biggest event was the BBC’s celebration of 50 years of Doctor Who, consisting of weeks of documentaries looking back at all the prior Doctors, a new mini-film featuring the Eighth Doctor Paul McGann, a mega-marathon of the past three Doctors’ episodes, and a 50th anniversary episode that was even released for one night in theaters. No doubt more fans joined the Doctor Who bandwagon this year than ever before as a result.
Biggest Doctor Who Event — Selecting Peter Capaldi as 12th Doctor. It’s not every year that the BBC selects a new Doctor for its series Doctor Who, and fandom reacted positively to well-known British actor Peter Capaldi as the newest pick for the role of time lord. And with the regeneration of Matt Smith’s Doctor to Capaldi’s on Christmas Day this year, we got a brief glimpse at how much fun the future holds for fans of the good Doctor.
Biggest Star Wars Event — Casting Episode VII. With 2012’s big news that Disney’s Lucasfilm acquisition would begin producing the seventh Star Wars movie, it became real this year when the production began a U.S. and U.K. casting call. Although we haven’t heard much since then, we know some lucky actors out there are getting the biggest break of their lives, and they’ll all be household names in the next few years.
Biggest Star Trek Event — The Best of Both Worlds Theatrical Release. Although we hear that the new revitalized Blu-ray editions of Star Trek: The Next Generation will likely not result in any more theatrical releases, those who were able to view the classic two-parter “The Best of Both Worlds” as part of the Fathom Events series got a once in a lifetime treat this year to the best of Trek from the small screen to the big screen.
Best Single Thing for Genre Works — Veronica Mars Movie Greenlit by Fans. A year ago who’d have thought we’d be eagerly waiting for a new movie based on the cancelled TV series Veronica Mars? Thanks to the crazy new beast that is Kickstarter, fans–not Hollywood moguls–determined what they wanted to see next. Will it change the way Hollywood works? Probably not. But it provides a new niche to let fandom speak up and be heard.
Best Science News of the Year — Archaeologists Unearth King Richard III. What are the odds that archaeologist on a dig find a shard from a medieval clay pot? How about finding a burial site and then learning through radiocarbon dating, contemporary portraiture comparisons, and DNA analysis of descendants of a British monarch that they have uncovered the legendary King from a Shakespearean play? As compelling as the discovery of King Tut by Lord Carnarvon in the 1920s, locating King Richard III is a once in a lifetime discovery we all got to witness as it unfolded.
So what do you think? Come back tomorrow as we reveal the best of the comic book world for 2013, as well as our choices for the Best of the Best of other genre-related media.