Pop culture supplied many headlines in 2013. Netflix jumped into the television game with an "Arrested Development" reboot and two brand new dramas, "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black." Jay Z and Beyonce, also known as Mr. and Mrs. Carter, re-imagined the way albums could be released. Scandals abounded, with cooking host Paula Deen and "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson making controversial statements, and LL Cool J and Brad Paisley teaming up to make well-intentioned but problematic song about race. And of course there was the usual parade of Oscar bait-y films and Golden Age of Television programming attracting the usual critical rants and raves. But looking back at 2013, there were a number notable films, television shows and music that maybe didn't get all the attention they were due. Here are just a few:
Come for the campy Soviet-era spy antics, silly wigs and fun '80s soundtrack. Stay for the insights "The Americans" has into identity, marriage and what it means to be patriotic. That both the Emmys and the Golden Globes snubbed this year's best new drama is its own crime against the state.
"Boomerang," the song that closed out the fourth season of "Arrested Development"
The fourth season of "Arrested Development" was an ambitious project, with an intricate, interwoven structure that made the most of Netflix's binge watching format. But it ended with a pleasantly catchy song, "Boomerang" by Lucy Shwartz. "Arrested Development" creator Mitchell Hurwitz re-edited the season finale just so he could include the tune and Shwartz even made a cameo in one of the episodes.
"Fruitvale Station" follows a fairly typical day in Oscar Grant's life, but even in his quotidian activities the film hints at the racial tensions that still dominate many Americans' lives. The tragedy that awaits Oscar that night -- based on the real events of Dec. 31, 2008 -- makes "Fruitvale Station" a must-watch, with wrenching treatment by director and writer Ryan Coogler.
The "Inside Llewyn Davis" Soundtrack
Even if you don't particularly like the Coen brothers deadpan humor or their ambivalence towards their protagonists, the soundtrack to their latest film "Inside Llewyn Davis" is well worth a listen. Produced by T Bone Burnett -- a musical Midas who also worked on "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", "The Hunger Games" and the TV show "Nashville" -- the soundtrack revisits the pre-Bob Dylan folk scene of New York in the early '60s, with Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver and Mumford and Sons making some surprise vocal appearances. It's a shame the Academy's strict rules made the film's music ineligible for an Oscar. Not to be missed is the sweeping "Fare Thee Well," haunting "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me," and "Please Mr. Kennedy," a kitschy jingle you won't be able to get out of your head.
"The Mindy Project"
In its second season, "The Mindy Project" looks like its facing a "Parks and Recreation" problem. That is, it's a darling little comedy beloved by critics and its devout fan base that has struggled to bring in network-sized viewership, with its current hiatus being the latest nail in the coffin. Don't let the network powers that be cancel this show, created by and starring the wonderful Mindy Kaling. In addition to hilariously subverting rom-com conventions, it pushes an empowering feminist subtext.
"Much Ado About Nothing"
When he's not making big super hero movies ("The Avengers") and television shows ("Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."), Joss Whedon can also make intimate little Shakespeare adaptations -- this one a sexy, sly take on the comedy "Much Ado About Nothing" that includes one hell of a party scene.
About the release of a man convicted and then rectified of a murder after 20 years in prison, Sundance Channel's "Rectify" is a slow burn -- a quiet but mesmerizing look at a family in small Georgia town turned upside down by a crime and punishment.