Erin Payton and her inner circle dissect television in 2013.
Basic Cable & Netflix |
HBO & Cable | Sports & Reality | Sketch & Variety | Finales

For the record, they are ranking on the Neapolitan Scale, which was just made up: “Chocolate” being the tops of each category, “Vanilla” being . . . vanilla, and “Strawberry” being the flavor that’s still in the carton when you throw it away.

Basic Cable


Chocolate: “The Walking Dead’s” Season 4. It debuted in October with 16.1 million viewers tuning in to see who would live and who would un-die. Season 3 had many of the major characters going the way of the reanimated Dodo bird, including Lori, which sends Rick on a trip to Crazyville. It’s hard to fault a show that is based on a graphic novel and therefore already plotted out, but the Governor storyline got a little tiring, especially when there were other new characters, especially Michonne, who were much more intriguing. Season 4 keeps you guessing as to who will make it, who will get infected, and how many scenes I will have to watch through my fingers.

Chocolate: “Mad Men” (by Rebecca Fons): Here is the deal: Don Draper is a jerk. He’s a pretty crummy father, an adulterer, hit or miss at his job, and just a few bourbons away from being a drunk. But we LOVE to love him (and to hate him). Don is a complicated mess, and his story has kept “Mad Men” swiftly chugging along for six seasons, entering its seventh in 2014. What keeps us coming back to Don and all of his dark and twisty feelings, actions, and decisions is the world of “Mad Men:” style, historical references, and the cast of characters that influence the pace and outcome of the show. From annoying Megan to the fabulous Joan; from the Bob Benson murder mysteries to the ever more lascivious Roger – the characters all tackle their own complications and faults, all leading to the same question: What is going to happen? Google “’Mad Men’ theories” and you’ll come up with a never-ending list of ideas about who might die, who will rise to the top, what will become of all of these fools we’ve come to love. “Mad Men” is a show whose overall critical success will likely depend on the final episode, which I will be watching with a very large martini in hand.

Chocolate: “Major Crimes”: I really didn’t think this show would work. I loved “The Closer,” and when Mary McDonnell’s Sharon Raydor was introduced in Season 5, she was so unlikable that I would never had dreamed that she could head a show. But the addition of Rusty, the poor orphaned street hustler/murder witness did the trick and allowed for TVland to see her softer side. We are willing to overlook that fact that Lt. Provenza might just be too old to be on active duty because his interactions with Lt. Flynn, especially this season, are hilarious.

Creamy rich Godiva chocolate: “Psych”: I have bullied several people into watching this series. I have taunted, cajoled, and stolen lunch money until they have added “Psych” to their Netflix queue. It’s not that I like being the bad guy. It’s that I know they will come to me in a few weeks red around the cheeks with embarrassment that it took me giving them a swirlee in the men’s bathroom for them to experience the glory of Shawn Spencer, Santa Barbara PD’s fake psychic detective, and Burton ‘Gus’ Guster, his steadfast best friend and sidekick. After seven seasons, the show continues find fresh ways to play on pop culture (see the “Twin Peaks,” “Blair Witch,” and “Shining” episodes for example. Seriously, see them. Don’t make me tell you again). In December, “Psych” pushed its comfort level up a notch by airing a two-hour one-off musical. None of the actors will be given recording contracts, but it was another example of why the series can’t be missed.

Chocolate: “Doctor Who” (by Roger Payton): “Doctor Who’s” 33rd season (The Jesus Season) has rolled along with highs and lows galore. Highs: The almost divorce of Amy and Rory (so close Rory); the old Soviet sub and the Martian general; the way-overdue demise of Amy and Rory (sorry Rory); and every episode subsequently following “The Crimson Horror” (really where there the season took off). Lows: Going to the Dalek well yet again to open the season and that slow, inevitable march to the end of Matt Smith as the Doctor.

The seventh new season continued an ongoing debate I’ve had with fellow “Who” fans ever since the show rebooted back in 2005. Who is better the Doctor, David Tennant or Smith, and who is the better writer/muse, Russell T. Davies or Steven Moffat? I’m a Matt Smith fan myself, but loved the overall writing and through line of the show when Davies was at the helm. Don’t get me wrong, I do like where Moffat goes especially in shorter windows. Some of his early two-part episodes he wrote while working under Davies are admittedly some of my favorites, but the beginning to end quality and through line of the earlier Doctor Who seasons always felt better to me under Davies.

As the sun sets on the 7th new (33rd true) season of Doctor Who and the window closes on 11th Doctor “Matt Smith,” my nerd wish has always been that Smith and Davies could have done a full season together from start to finish.

A special Basic Cable shout out: Hallmark/ABC Family 


I acknowledge that these are two separate stations, but both fill me up with such sweet, sweet saccharin from Thanksgiving to Christmas that I am combining them for one big smooch. I have seen that one movie where the harried business exec (Jennie Garth/Candace Cameron Bure/Tori Spelling/Kelli Martin/Brooke Burns/Alicia Witt) is dating or engaged to the very wealthy but very vain business exec and for unforeseen circumstances has to travel to Small Town, USA where she falls in love with The One Who Got Away/The Widower Father of a Cute Child/The Owner of the Mill/Store/Farm/Restaurant that our gal is supposed to love. Please continue to make these movies, HallmABC Family. This is my one Christmas wish.

Strawberry: Don’t let Shannon Elizabeth ever do her own singing again. For a complete guide to the Hallmark Channel movies, click here.


house of cards

Turns out Netflix turns out nothing but chocolate:

  • “House of Cards,” Season 1: Four Golden Globe nominations; nine Emmy nominations resulting in three wins; one SAG nomination, three WGA nominations.
  • “Arrested Development,” Season 4: One Golden Globe nomination; three Emmy nominations; two SAG nominations.
  • “Orange is the New Black,” Season 1: One Golden Globe nomination; four WGA nominations.

Like it or not, Netflix has proven its mettle as a competitor to traditional television. Based on the critical and commercial success of its product, the number of original programs showing up on Netflix is sure to increase.