The most fascinating TV people of 2013

NewsdayDecember 22, 2013 

Ah, welcome dear reader, to my Second Annual Most Fascinating TV People edition, where the only criterion is … what interests me.

Or I suppose I should say, who interests me. 2013 was a banner year, so for this edition, I’ve expanded to 15. And away we go …

15. David Tennant: Almost absurdly brilliant Scottish actor who arrived center stage long ago (“Doctor Who”), but we – OK, I – never paid all that close attention until recently, thanks to “Broadchurch.”

14. Michael Strahan: How can one of the greatest defensive linemen in New York Giants history replace one of the greatest talk show hosts in history (Regis Philbin) – and in his first full year on “Live With Kelly and Michael” get an even bigger audience than the “King”?

13. Dan Harmon: The wild, tweet-spewing, virulently anti-NBC crazy man of “Community” – creator of one of the funniest, most imaginative series in NBC history – was fired, then rehired this year to set his show right.

12. Armando Iannucci: Anyone who pays close attention to “Veep’s” credits will see this name – belonging to a John Milton expert (!) and now arguably the funniest writer on all of TV.

11. Valerie Harper: Brings new meaning to “grace under pressure,” and who – at 74 and suffering from brain cancer – still made it to week 4 on “Dancing With the Stars.”

10. Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele: We salute these two stars of what may be TV’s best sketch show, Comedy Central’s “Key and Peele.” The duo has spoofed a broad assortment of targets, with President Barack Obama being one of their favorites. Fascinating why they remain nonhousehold names.

9. Nicole Beharie: Brings sex appeal and chemistry to a Fox series (“Sleepy Hollow”) where neither was exactly expected (umm, about a headless horse dude?). She plays Lt. Abbie Mills.

8. Tom Mison: Another scarily talented Brit who – as Ichabod Crane – has upstaged the Headless Horseman in “Sleepy Hollow.”

7. John Oliver: Guy takes over for Jon Stewart while the latter directs a movie in Iran; does crazy good job; gets hired by HBO to star in his own weekly talk show.

6. Jessica Lange: One of the most effortlessly talented, beautiful actresses in the history of the universe becomes a regular on a fairly silly FX series, “American Horror Story,” and somehow makes it compelling? Now that’s fascinating.

5. Cote de Pablo: No one leaves TV’s most-watched drama for no apparent reason – do they? But she did (she played Ziva David on “NCIS”). Her replacement, Emily Wickersham, has fascinating shoes to fill.

4. Cristin Milioti: Real fans of “The Sopranos” may recall her as Catherine Sacrimoni, mobster Johnny Sack’s daughter. But fans of “How I Met Your Mother” know her as Mom. The talented actress of stage and screen will be getting much face time over the next few weeks and months, but how will Mother’s story end?

3. Michael J. Fox: Sure, disappointing series (”The Michael J. Fox Show”), but Fox still finds a way to turn Parkinson’s into a punchline. By so doing, making it part of the act and exerting control over it, he just may inspire other people in the process. He got a Golden Globe nomination for his effort.

2. Dean Norris: Incandescent talent whom you know best as “Breaking Bad’s” Hank Schrader (or Big Jim on the summer hit “Under the Dome”). Cerebral, versatile Norris made Hank central to “Bad’s” success. Now, that’s fascinating.

1. Jimmy Fallon: My pick for Most Fascinating of the Year – who just happens to be your next host of “The Tonight Show.” Will he succeed where others – OK, one other – have failed? Will viewers embrace him? (Or the Roots?) Will Justin Timberlake become a regular? Will Fallon maintain his well-established late-night cool? Faaaascinating.

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