"It was a miraculous year," film critic David Edelstein tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. At a time when Hollywood is churning out Blockbusters and superhero movies that are guaranteed to make money at home and overseas, "it's really great when so many interesting movies, somehow or other, manage to bleed through," he says. " ... You really feel as if directors are taking chances in their storytelling. They are creating a new syntax for every story."
Kevin Spacey (left) and Robin Wright star in <em>House of Cards, </em>directed by David Fincher. The Netflix series, which follows a Machiavellian politician, is an adaptation of a BBC series of the same name. <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/01/31/170465471/spacey-and-fincher-make-a-house-of-cards">Hear an interview with Spacey and Fincher</a>.
Credit Patrick Harbron / Netflix
Bryan Cranston (left) stars as chemistry teacher turned meth dealer Walter White, and Aaron Paul plays former student and drug-dealing co-conspirator Jesse Pinkman in AMC's <em>Breaking Bad</em>. <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/10/03/228813142/breaking-bad-writers-this-is-it-theres-no-more">Hear an interview with the writers of <em>Breaking Bad</em></a><em>.</em>
Credit Ben Leuner / AMC
Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan portray pioneering sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson in the Showtime series <em>Masters of Sex,</em> based on a book by Thomas Maier. <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/07/30/206704520/pioneering-masters-of-sex-brought-science-to-the-bedroom">Hear an interview with Maier</a>.
Credit Craig Blankenhorn / Showtime
Taylor Schilling plays Piper Chapman in Netflix's <em>Orange Is the New Black</em>, which is based on Piper Kerman's memoir of her year in prison. <a href="http://www.npr.org/2013/08/12/211339427/behind-the-new-black-the-real-pipers-prison-story">Hear an interview with Piper Kerman.</a>
Credit Jessica Miglio / Netflix
Bob Stookey (Larry Gilliard Jr.), Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan), Tyreese (Chad Coleman), Beth Greene (Emily Kinney), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) on AMC's <em>The Walking Dead</em>.
Credit Gene Page / AMC
Carrie Underwood played Maria in NBC's live production of <em>The Sound of Music</em>. "If you give people reasons to watch live TV, or TV at the same time, they still will," says Bianculli.
This was a good year for TV, says critic David Bianculli, and that had a lot to do with two new shows from Netflix: House of Cards, the American adaptation of the BBC political thriller series, and Orange Is the New Black, a dramatic comedy which takes place in a women's federal prison. "I was very impressed with the overall quality of what Netflix gave us," Bianculli tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "... That was quite a string of good shows."
So, without further ado, here's Bianculli's top-10 TV list for 2013:
A new MDV Entertainment boxed set called <em>Here's Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection</em> features the widow of Ernie Kovacs, in shows from her 1962-64 ABC variety series, which was televised just after her husband's death.
Bryan Cranston (left) stars as chemistry teacher turned meth dealer Walter White, and Aaron Paul plays former student and drug-dealing co-conspirator Jesse Pinkman in AMC's <em>Breaking Bad.</em>
Credit Ben Leuner / AMC
In 1976 Louise Lasser starred as a fictional housewife from Fernwood, Ohio, in <em>Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.</em>
Here's a short list of some of the most exciting recent TV offerings on DVD. These are sets you can still order and receive in time for the holidays — and regardless, they're perfect to dive into over the vacation period, enjoying an episode or two a night.
Alex Borstein (left) and Niecy Nash star as nurses in the HBO comedy series <em>Getting On, </em>which was modeled after the hit BBC series of the same name.
Credit Lacey Terrell / HBO
Show creators Mark V. Olsen (back left) and Will Scheffer with their cast. In adapting <em>Getting On,</em> the men drew on their experiences with their own mothers, who were in extended-care facilities before they died.
Credit Lacey Terrell / HBO
Laurie Metcalf (left) plays the role of Dr. Jenna James, with Alex Borstein as head nurse Dawn Forchette and Niecy Nash as Didi Ortley, the new nurse on the ward.
When they set out to create the HBO series Getting On, Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer wanted to create a different kind of workplace comedy — one that celebrated the workplace and the employees in it.
Decades ago, the SAT test was seen as a measure of raw ability, not as something students ought to cram for. Now, test prep is a huge industry. Linguist Geoff Nunberg wonders what exactly students learn when they're flipping through vocabulary flashcards.
When I took the SATs a very long time ago, it didn't occur to us to cram for the vocabulary questions. Back then, the A in SAT still stood for "aptitude," and most people accepted the wholesome fiction that the tests were measures of raw ability that you couldn't prepare for — "like sticking a dipstick into your brain," one College Board researcher said.
Joel (left) and Ethan Coen wrote and directed <em>Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men</em>, <em>A Serious Man</em> and <em>True Grit.</em> Their latest film is<em> Inside Llewyn Davis.</em>
Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:
Pioneering country music artist Ray Price — who created hits like "Heartaches by the Number" — died Monday of pancreatic cancer. He was 87 years old. Price was born in Cherokee County, Texas, in 1926. When he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, he was described by musician Kris Kristofferson as a living link from Hank Williams to the country music of today.
Her is the best film of the year by a so-wide margin. It's gorgeous, funny, deep — and I can hear some smart aleck say, "If you love it so much, why don't you marry it?" Let me tell you, I'd like to!
I certainly identify with the protagonist, Theodore Twombly, who falls in love with his computer operating system, his OS, which calls itself — sorry, I gotta say "who calls herself" — Samantha, and who sounds like a breathy young woman.
Way back in the 2004 film Anchorman, Ron Burgundy was a local TV-news host in '70s San Diego. Fast-forward to this year's sequel, and that epic haircut is national news: Set in 1980, Anchorman 2 follows Will Ferrell's vain, shallow character as he graduates to a CNN-style cable news network.