Before we get to ranking the best shows during January, I want to say a few words about the passing of Sir Paul Holmes - a man whose influence on the local journalism and broadcasting industry was obvious. And of all the tributes to Sir Paul that I've read, and watched on television, over the last few days (and weeks, given the way the media decided to eulogise him before he'd passed away), I thought this tribute, written by my blog stablemate Simon Sweetman, posted at his personal blog Off The Tracks, was the closest to reflecting how I felt. Here is a snippet:
"He understood New Zealand and New Zealanders. And he put so much of himself - and ourselves, by extension - out there. He was a diarist, a social commentator, a deliverer of news. He created talking points, offered a platform, championed issues, kept a light shining; he worked tirelessly. And so much of what he did as a broadcaster was brilliant ... Sir Paul Holmes died today at 62. I consider him a legend of New Zealand broadcasting. His voice was important. He took his job/s seriously. I tuned out from him a while back but I respect and admire so much of what he did and the way he did it."
The truth is that I was never really a fan of Sir Paul Holmes. I can certainly remember his daily current affairs show Holmes during the nineties, a show which I routinely tuned out of thanks to teenage apathy.
But while his work was mostly in a different stratosphere to my own interests, I can still appreciate his influence, his importance. He was the original talking head, no doubt inspiring the likes of Mark Sainsbury and John Campbell. He understood, as Simon points out, this country and its people, and he used that understanding to serve our interests, to put us front and centre.
And so I say farewell, Sir Paul - and I offer my condolences and thoughts to your family and friends. Thank you for everything you gave to this country, and to this industry. May you rest in peace.
Now, a wild change of subject: here are the ten best shows of January 2013, as judged by me, in reverse order ...
10: Don't Trust The B In Apartment 23 (Four, Monday 8.30pm)
News of Apartment 23's demise are greatly exaggerated. At least where Four is concerned: it may have been yanked from the schedule Stateside, but the good people at Four are keeping it going as long as they can. And it's a good thing too - Krysten Ritter is at the top of her game, and the sight of James Van Der Beek taking the mickey out of himself each week is the gift that keeps on giving. If you're not watching, you should be.
09: Moone Boy (UKTV, Thursday 9pm)
Whether young Martin Moone (played wonderfully by youngster David Rawle) is trying to fit in with a gang of corrupt altar boys, or tearing down the back wall of the garden to shorten his school commute, Moone Boy is packed with laughs. It helps that it's set in Ireland around the time I was living there, giving it a strong nostalgic element. For me, anyway.
08: Banshee (SoHo, Tuesday 8.30pm)
I'm still not sure about the sex, violence and language - which, after three episodes, is still coming across as totally gratuitous. But I am loving everything else around that stuff: Antony Starr is improving on a weekly basis, the story of Lucas Hood is engaging, and Kai Procter (Ulrich Thomsen) might yet turn out to be the best villain on television this year.
06: 30 Rock (Four, Monday 9.30pm)
We've only got five episodes left at the time of writing (the show finished up last week in the USA, to rave reviews and overflowing tributes), which is all the 30 Rock we're ever going to get - a real shame since the show is as good in its seventh season as it has been at any other stage in its run.
05: Girls (SoHo, Thursday 8.30pm)
I have mixed feelings about Girls, the Golden Globe-winning comedy by Lena Dunham. On the one hand, I think the character of Hannah Horvath is one of the most interesting, albeit irritating, characters on television right now, and the show is ridiculously funny at times. But at the same time, I wonder if very much of the show is going right over my head, or how much (if any) of the thinking behind Dunham's writing is a "girl thing". Either way, a great show. I like it.
04: The Syndicate (UKTV, Monday 8.30pm)
One of the best British dramas I've seen in a while, The Syndicate follows a group of Lotto winners forced to split a first division haul, and the problems that ensue. Prolific writer Kay Mellor nails the characters, with actors like Matthew McNulty, Timothy Spall and Joanna Page (of Gavin & Stacey fame) turning in phenomenal performances.
03: New Girl (Four, Monday 8pm)
Personally, I think the more we see of Julius Pepperwood from Chicago, the better. Zooey Deschanel is ostensibly the star of the show, but the best lines and story arcs seem to always go to Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield, a pair of actors who own the screen with their sense of timing and comedic delivery.
02: Dexter (SoHo, finished)
We only got one episode of this killer show in January, but it was a doozy (warning: spoilers): LaGuerta finally corners Dexter, only to be gunned down by Deb, while Hannah McKay escapes jail and makes a threat at the beloved serial killer - setting up an eighth and final season that will bring everything to a thrilling conclusion. I can't wait.
01: Boardwalk Empire (SoHo, finished)
As I wrote after the finale, "A lot of the action in the first half or three-quarters of the season seemed kind of arbitrary; stories featuring characters like Richard Harrow, Al Capone and Chalky White appeared to be disconnected from the main narrative - the final few episodes of the season brought everything together brilliantly ... Boardwalk isn't the most action-packed show around, but after a third season which was expertly planned and executed from a story perspective, I think we need to start discussing its place among the cream of the quality television crop."
What were your favourite shows in January 2013? What shows did you enjoy most? What do you think of my list? And feel free to offer any words about Sir Paul Holmes ...
Has Home and Away jumped the shark? (spoiler)