That’s it, kids. I’m calling it. We’re officially (if not technically) at the end of summer. It’s been a pretty bleak season, televisually, but not without its high points. Here are 12 performances that helped us get through the hot, sticky months. Bless them.
Best Small Screen Performance From A Big Screen Actor
Peter Sarsgaard — “The Killing”
Before the Summer TV Season started, I think most of us thought Liev Schrieber had this category on lockdown. But “Ray Donovan” is an absolute sh*tshow. And while many of us have some less than kind feelings towards “The Killing” in general, this season was the best yet, thanks in large part to an absolutely mesmerizing performance from Sarsgaard. Watching him Lecter his way through the first half was enjoyable enough, but he absolutely soared in the back half of the season making S3Ep10, “Six Minutes,” one of the best episodes of television this year. And that’s not something I ever thought I’d say about “The Killing.”
Best Attempt To Make A Silk Purse Out Of A Sow’s Ear… Especially when Jon Voight Keeps Trying To Back Door Bang The Sow
Eddie Marsan — “Ray Donovan”
As I mentioned, “Ray Donovan” is a complete sh*tshow, but Marsan (who was also incredibly great in The World’s End) did the very best he could with what little he was given. He’s a prodigiously talented performer and deserves much better.
Most Adept At Jerking Our Tears
Olivia Coleman — “Broadchurch”
I think many of us tuned into “Broadchurch” because of our fondness for (stalkery obsession with) D. Ten. But not even his protracted pronunciations of “murrrrrrrr-durrr” and patchy stubble could steal Coleman’s thunder. I’m basing this assessment on just the few episodes that have aired so far in the U.S., so you UK watchers might have to take this with a lick of salt. (Also, UK watchers, no spoilers in the comments, please.) We’ve seen so many gritty murder-based dramas this year that you would think we’d become immune, but I think Coleman is the reason the “Broadchurch” premiere was so effective. Ellie Miller is our proxy, our way into the case, and with all due respect to Luther or Linden or Holder, etc., DCI Miller has the emotional upper hand. Her connection to the victim and his family coupled with her disarming everyman demeanor make it easy for us relate to and be crushed by her pain. We’ll see how the rest of the series plays out.
The Understudy That Could
John Oliver — “The Daily Show”
I had no idea, when summer started, that I would end up not missing Jon Stewart one little bit. But John Oliver killed it this summer. Bless his nerdy, angry heart. Carlos Danger dance? I think I’ll miss you most of all.
Most Effective Prop Work
Alexander Skarsgaard’s Book — “True Blood”
I want this photo used in every literacy campaign from now on. If this truly was the end for Eric Northman (no, please no), then at least he went out in a naked blaze of glory.
Best Head Of Hair
Sarah Rafferty — “Suits”
I just want Dustin to give me credit for watching “Suits.” I watched “Suits.” It has its highs and its lows, but Donna’s hair is always the best. So, well done, follicles. I salute you.
Best Face Of Hair
This Guy — “Breaking Bad”
We still do not know what is going on with this guy, but I do know that Sam Elliott is likely weeping with envy somewhere. (Pornstache too.) My dearest wish for the 2014 TV season is that ol’ Mustache Face here shows up in the background of “Justified.” No explanation needed or desired.
Best New Character
Bex Taylor-Klaus — “The Killing”
I already poured a whole lotta love on Sarsgaard, but it wasn’t his performance that kept me watching from episode one. It was this dazzling girl. This bullet to the heart. Kids are so often the weakest link in a dramatic cast (YES I AM TALKING ABOUT YOU, DANA BRODY, HOW NICE OF YOU TO NOTICE). Anyway, a large percentage of the plot this season was centered around Seattle street kids, and while the pack of them did a fine job, this young lady ran away with the show. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Best Returning Character
Anna Camp — “True Blood”
I am a big Anna Camp fan. Huge. And I had no idea the Sarah Newlin character was coming back to Louisiana this season. What a ray of f*cking sunshine, this one. And though the show had a fairly solid season overall, Camp in all her chipper majesty was a bright spot. She’s going to be such a welcome blast of fresh air on “How I Met Your Mother” this year. Aca-awesome.
Best Fake Newswoman
Olivia Munn — “The Newsroom”
What on earth would we do without Munn? WHAT WORLD ARE WE LIVING IN THAT I ACTUALLY TYPED THAT? Sloan Sabbith? You are the best. Just consistently a rockstar. In fact, I think the Sloan and Don ‘ship is the only one that sailed successfully for me this summer. So good on you, Munn. Keep Munning.
Best Slightly Less Fake But Still Fake Newswoman
Jessica Williams — “The Daily Show”
John Oliver may have held down the desk, but this woman stole the damn show. Her segment on the New York City “stop and frisk” policy is, perhaps, my favorite piece in “TDS” history. And that’s saying a lot. Williams and Samantha Bee also delivered a killer joint piece on “stop and frisk,” racism and the media’s discomfort on the topic. Just brilliant.
Best Performance By An Ensemble
These B*tches — “Orange Is The New Black”
I’m sort of sick and tired of people saying Piper isn’t the most interesting character on Netflix’s amazing prison dramedy. AS IF THAT ISN’T THE WHOLE DAMN POINT. Anyway, with much love to Taylor Schilling (who did an amazing job), this cast was packed to the brim with scene stealers. Not since “The Wire” have I truly cared about so many members of an ensemble. And though Piper got the thrilling, action-y close to the finale, it was this quiet, background character who got to shine the brightest. And that’s why this show is just that goddamn best.
Best Performance Bar-None
This B*tch — “Breaking Bad”
Bryan Cranston? He’s amazing. He’s a juggernaut. And we still have five more episodes of “Breaking Bad” to witness that great man in the role of a lifetime. But Paul? Well Paul just walked away with it all this last week, didn’t he? Compare the affable, comic relief of Season 1 Pinkman to what you saw from Aaron Paul in “Confessions” and tell me that kid doesn’t have all the chops. Brutally sad and intense, that Paul performance is one we’ll never forget.