Ed Martin's Top 25 Programs of 2023 (Part Two)

By Ed Martin Report Archives
Cover image for  article: Ed Martin's Top 25 Programs of 2023 (Part Two)

Science fiction is well represented on my best of the year list, which continues below. (Click here to read Part One.) At the top of that genre subset are the latest seasons in two franchises that have spanned seven decades on television (and other media) and show no signs of coming to an end.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+) -- First up is Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (pictured at top), which does what every revived or rebooted chapter in the life of a long-running franchise should do -- it illuminates and honors the past while setting up something excitingly new. SNW chronicles the early adventures of Captain Christopher Pike (who preceded the legendary James T. Kirk) and his young crew (including Spock, Uhura and Number One) aboard the Starship USS Enterprise. Fun facts: Pike and Number One were characters in the unaired pilot for the original Star Trek back in the Sixties but were dropped from the show when the pilot was reworked. Various writers have kept both characters alive through the decades of Star Trek shows that have followed, and now here they are, front and center, played by Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn, respectively. It's not for nothing that Paramount+ is referred to as the Star Trek Network. The year also saw a sensational crossover between SNW and the animated Star Trek: Lower Decks as well as a full-on Star Trek: Next Generation reunion on Star Trek: Picard.

Doctor Who (Disney+) -- The other franchise that has spanned seven decades but this year managed to excite me all over again is Doctor Who, which ended its previous season with the Thirteenth Doctor (who was, for the first time in history, female) regenerating (as the character does when it is time for a casting change) back into the Tenth Doctor -- the one played by David Tennant! He was joined once again by one of his most memorable companions, Donna Noble (the wonderful Catherine Tate), who when last we saw her was supposed to die if she ever remembered her long-ago adventures with our favorite Time Lord. Tennant and Tate were back for only three episodes, which ended with yet another tantalizing twist for the franchise. (No spoilers here.)

The Last of Us (HBO) -- Continuing with the many surprises the sci-fi genre brought us this year HBO's adaptation of a violent ten-year-old videogame served as the foundation for some of the most emotionally impactful TV entertainment of 2023. In tandem with his portrayal of the title character on The Mandalorian and his disarmingly hilarious, Emmy-worthy hosting gig on Saturday Night Live, it cemented Pedro Pascal's reputation as one of the brightest stars on television. It put scary talented youngster Bella Ramsey, remembered by many for her work in Game of Thrones, back in the HBO spotlight. And it provided unforgettable roles for acclaimed guest stars including Anna Torv, Melanie Lynskey, Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman.

I'm a Virgo (Prime Video) -- I haven't seen this show formally defined as science-fiction, but given the scope of the genre how can the fascinating story of a giant teenager trying to find his way in the world not qualify? Like the best sci-fi stories, the life and times of 13-foot-tall Cootie was all about navigating the complexities of human existence while dealing with a powerful villain who isn't necessarily what he seems. Jharrel Jerome exuded the same natural appeal playing Cootie as he did in his Emmy-winning portrayal of Korey Wise in the Netflix limited series When They See Us.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Prime Video) -- The best series of the year on Prime Video was the beloved and certain-to-be-missed gem The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Season five was its last, but it went out on top with its winning combination of sparkling nostalgia and madcap period comedy intact. Even after five years series creators and executive producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino managed to give material to series stars Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein that was so fresh and funny it must have left countless other actors seething with jealousy. On top of that, they gave Tony Shalhoub some remarkable dialogue when he was talking with other men about what it meant to be a man of his age and experience. TV will be something less without this marvelous comic masterpiece.

The Crown (Netflix) -- Speaking of sensations that recently came to an end, 2023 also gave us the final season of this popular historical drama. Like Mrs. Maisel before it, The Crown went out a winner, with its first four episodes depicting the tragic love affair of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed and the remaining six chronicling the impact of their deaths and the final years of Queen Elizabeth. It would have been very easy to mishandle the tragic tale of Diana and Dodi -- but The Crown proved once again that, when it comes to television drama, you can never go wrong with thoughtful restraint. Honors all around to Elizabeth Debicki as Diana, Khalid Abdalla as Dodi Fayed, Dominic West as Prince Charles, Salim Daw as Mohamed al Fayed, Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth and the rest of this sublime cast.

Frasier (Paramount+) -- Following The Good Fight and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Paramount+ once again showed everyone how reboots and revivals should be done with the return of Dr. Frasier Crane, now back in Boston (where we first met him in Cheers) and teaching at Harvard. TV history is being made here, as this is the character's third series (spanning five decades) -- and that doesn't count his guest appearance in an episode of Wings. Credit the writers, and the generous talents of star Kelsey Grammer, with the quick development of a new cast of characters, especially Jack Cutmore-Scott as Frasier's firefighter son, Freddy, and Anders Keith as Harvard student David Crane, son of Niles and Daphne. Also, characters from the O.G. Frasier have been advanced, either through conversation (Niles and Daphne) or guest appearances (Lilith and Roz). Next season, bring on an old friend or two from that bar where everybody knows your name.

Dancing with the Stars (ABC, Disney+) -- Every year this invaluable entertainment program brings us moments we won't soon forget, and 2023 was no exception. Consider: The emotional dance tribute to the late Len Goodman by past and present pros (which left Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba in tears), Barry Williams' triumphant performance on what turned out to be his last episode, the big fun of seeing delightful Alyson Hannigan remain in the competition to the very end and watching Ariana Madix propel herself from the ashes of the #Scandoval on Bravo's Vanderpump Rules to become one of our most popular media personalities. Thank goodness Disney smartened up and returned this marvelous show to ABC after last season's inexplicable move to Disney+. It still plays there, as well, but DWTS belongs on broadcast.

To be continued ...

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