The year in television: twerking, Breaking Bad, Doctor Who and more

Miley stole the awards show, but Hollywood stars flocked to the party as cable and web dramas added lustre to television’s new golden age. Greg Kennedy recalls the highs and lows of 2013 in TV.

What a banner year we’ve had with the telly. It’s mostly been the best of times – but the worst of times still happened. The daughter of the one-hit-wonder Billy Ray Cyrus gave us an achy-breaky headache yet, on the other hand, aces like Bryan Cranston and Kevin Spacey reminded us of the greatness of a human story well told. For a lick of all the glorious and gory details, read on.

The bad twerk

Lunches were lost in America’s ultimate gross-out as then-20-year-old Miley Cyrus gyrated her nether regions with a disturbing vibrato in the very immediate vicinity of the Blurred Lines singer Robin Thicke, 36, at the MTV Video Music Awards in August.

The Gaga rejoinder

Not to be outdone by a skinny girl who straddles wrecking balls in the buff, the increasingly irrelevant Lady Gaga did her own striptease on the same awards show, which further churned the bellies of America’s TV critics. Tums, anyone?

The Miley redemption

Miley covered up tastefully as guest and musical host on the October 5 Saturday Night Live – winning positive reviews – where she poked fun at herself, promised no more twerking, updated fans on her Disney alter-ego Hannah Montana (“She was murdered”) and poked brilliant fun at the US government shutdown. Meanwhile, Wrecking Ball ruled the charts. Pure marketing genius.

The stars trek

The allure of Hollywood isn’t all that anymore as more A-listers shun the fickle cruelty of the box office and leap to television drama, where the grand stories are being told. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson will team up in January on HBO as detectives pursuing a serial killer in Louisiana in True Detective. Other silver-screen stars who have migrated to the telly include Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Kevin Bacon (The Following), Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) and Don Cheadle (House of Lies). And let’s not forget Robin Williams (The Crazy Ones), Anna Faris (Mom), Michael J Fox (The Michael J Fox Show), James Spader (The Blacklist) and Paul Giamatti (Downton ­Abbey).

The big frustration

We want so badly to see that bratty boy-beast King Joffrey meet his ugly and well-deserved demise in Game of Thrones. Can’t we just poison that nimrod already? Please?

The good death

Spoiler alert: “Guess I got what I deserve,” sang Badfinger as Breaking Bad’s Walter White (Bryan Cranston) drifts off to eternity – bleeding out on the floor of a meth lab – in the dying seconds of the masterful drama series. In the end, the one-time chemistry teacher-turned-drug emperor Heisenberg found a way to provide for his family’s future, to free Jesse (Aaron Paul) from the neo-Nazis, to settle old scores and to meet his maker at peace – more than any drug dealer could rightfully hope for. Well played.

The Britney b’bye

Britney Spears left The X Factor after only one season as judge. Did you notice? Did you care? Yawn.

The Mum revealed

It took eight seasons, but How I Met Your Mother finally did the right thing. In its May 13 episode, the “girl with the yellow umbrella” is played by Cristin Milioti, who became a regular for the ninth and final season as the Mum.

The Netflix juggernaut

In the first Emmy nominations for long-form programmes made specifically for a web-streaming TV service, three Netflix original productions – Arrested Development, Hemlock Grove and House of Cards – garnered a combined total of 14 nominations for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards. History is made.

The temper tantrum

Alec Baldwin may be a gifted comic actor, but his 15 minutes of fame and verbal hygiene have soured like cabbage in a barrel. After yet another sexually nuanced insult to a TV reporter on the streets of New York, Baldwin saw MSNBC suspend and later cancel his new talk show Up Late with Alec Baldwin.

The Who’s 50th

No, not the Brit-invasion band, but the Time Lord. The 50th anniversary of the debut of Doctor Who was celebrated with a global simulcast of a special episode, The Day of the Doctor, on November 23, and an interactive game featuring all 11 doctors debuted on Google’s home page.

The game-show immortal

Six years after stepping down as host, Bob Barker popped up on The Price Is Right to mark his 90th birthday on December 12. How much Plinko can one man take?