A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin: The segmented plots of Westeros and beyond weave back together in book 5 of the Song of Ice and Fire series. The gang’s together again, so to speak, or at least all the members who’ve made it out alive. Writer faster, George! Write like the wind!
Bossy Pants, Tina Fey: Fey’s self-deprecation does not mask her confidence. Her funny, interesting memoir feels like a sneak peek into the life of the woman we all want to be when we grow up.
Blood, Bones, and Butter, Gabrielle Hamilton: Beautiful. Gritty. Raw. If you live in NYC, I hope you eat at Prune. Wherever you live, I hope you’ll read Gabrielle Hamilton’s exquisite memoir.
The End of Men, Hannah Rosen: I hesitate to call this book one of the year’s “best” but it’s undoubtedly one of the most fascinating.
True Blood: All good things must come to an end, but summers are going to be dry indeed once True Blood goes off the air. This last season had imperfections, including the painfully boring werewolf plot and the heinous Iraq storyline. On the other hand, we did learn a lot about the Authority (at last!), Eric became one of the most interesting and developed characters on the show, Sookie’s charm returned since Eric/Bill’s imprisonment and actress Anna Paquin’s pregnancy forced the character to interact again with her friends and not just mope around in cute dresses/naked. Last, the season took a flailing character—Tara—paired her with one of the series’ best supporters—Pam—and fireworks ensued. True to form, we are left with more questions than answers, especially since Bill has transformed into an evil vampire blood god or whatever. In terms of the unending love triangle, I would say that Eric’s chances are looking up. Oh, and if you are not yet convinced, I have two words: Russell. Edgington.
Boardwalk Empire: There are many ways to revitalize a struggling show, one riddled with complaints about style over substance. However, Boardwalk Empire took an unorthodox approach by ending season 2 with the killing of a major character. Season 3 opened a year and a half later and the audience had to play catch up as we watched Nucky, haunted by his actions, becoming more and more of a monster. Nucky’s development ricocheted out to the rest of the characters—from his wife, Margaret; his brother, Eli; and his “colleagues” Arnold Rothstein, Owen Slater, and Chalky White. Last, we were treated to one bad-ass baddie in Bobby Canavale’s Gyp Rosetti and the lovely development of Richard Harrow. Boardwalk’s always been an actor’s show and this season allowed its cast to shine, showing that—wonder of wonders—Steve Buscemi can anchor a series, Canavale deserves way more work, and that if you give actors meaty roles they will tear into them with gusto.
Sons of Anarchy: Last season I feared that my beloved Sons had jumped their motorcycles right over that eponymous shark. Instead, they brought on Jimmy Smits, complicated Tara and Jax and their relationship, killed off a major character (*sniffle* Opie), surrounded us with baddies yet never let them detract from the real conflict within the club, and revitalized Gemma. In a conversation to be continued, we officially need to come up with a term for shows that seem like they’re about the jump the shark but that—like SOA—do not.
Mad Men: This show should not still have its head above water yet it’s hanging in there. Don kept it within the confines of his marital pants. Megan dragged Don into the ‘60s. Roger dropped acid. They paid for an actual Beatles song. Peggy grew up. In interesting, shocking way, so did Joan. And Sally began the process, providing an interesting reflection of the adults that surround her. Last, let’s all raise a glass to the remarkable Jared Harris; Lane Pryce, you will be missed.
This clip has nothing to do with the ladies but it’s among the greatest single scenes in the season:
The Mindy Project: Mindy Kaling’s show is smart, cheeky, and features an array of likable characters. Mostly, though, it’s just really funny. Beyoncé Pad Thai 4ever!
Honorable Mentions—Shows: 30 Rock, Girls, The Vampire Diaries
Honorable Mentions—Female Characters: Pam (True Blood); Gemma (SOA), Caroline (Vampire Diaries), Mindy Lahiri (The Mindy Project), and—yesterday, today, and forever—Liz Lemon (30 Rock).
“Lover of the Light,” Mumford and Sons: I felt initially iffy about the new Mumford and Sons album. Thanks to this song, however, and its exquisite video starring Idris Elba, I unequivocally love it. Haunting and powerful.
“Love Interrupted,” Jack White: Like any Jack White project, his solo album sounds a lot like Jack White. The big standout is this gritty, sexy ode to destructive love.
“Skyfall,” Adele: If Daniel Craig and Co. have elevated the Bond franchise then Adele’s “Skyfall” gives the requisite Bond theme song the same treatment.
“Little Talks” and “Sloom,” Of Monsters and Men: Of Monsters and Men may be the year’s most exciting new band. Their radio hit “Little Talks” incites all comers to dance and I just like “Sloom,” with lovely lines such as: “The books that I keep by my bag are full of your stories / That I drew up from a little dream of mine, a little nightmare of yours.”
“All the Rowboats,” Regina Spektor: Regina Spektor is delightfully, melodically weird and her “All the Rowboats” gives a thoughtful, quirky interpretation of life for museum artworks.