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The world of television was filled with twerking, CGI sharks and Rob Ford in 2013

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As always, there was a whole lot to watch. And as always, there was a whole lot to discuss, dissect and debate.

Television had a very busy year in 2013, from scripted-series farewells and new hit series arrivals to headline-grabbing events and personalities.

Here, in no particular order, are 10 TV topics that had viewers talking during the past 12 months:

Walter White's long, bad goodbye

The final eight-episode run of Breaking Bad was one of the best home-stretch sprints in TV history, with Bryan Cranston's bone-chilling performance providing the anchor for some amazing ensemble work. From Jesse's meth-bunker ordeal to Hank's stone-faced acceptance of his fate to Skyler's descent into deeply conflicted complicity and then resignation, it was a fitting finish for one of the tube's best shows ever.

The Amazing Race Canada

Skeptics (this one included) were inclined to dismiss this budget-conscious Canadian spinoff when CTV announced the entire "amazing" race would take place within this country's borders, but the show's producers turned out to be correct in their assertion that there's enough breathtaking variety in Canada to make this work. And locals got an extra payoff when they got to watch two of their own -- the father/son duo of Tim Hague Sr. & Jr. -- win the whole darned thing.

Miley Cyrus's twerking tempest

Controversial? Calculated? Crude? Correct, correct and correct -- the foam-finger-enhanced bump-and-grind performed by Cyrus and Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards made the performer, then 20, the subject of endless tabloid attention and the target of scorching criticism, but it also accomplished exactly what she intended it to -- raising her pop-culture profile, shifting her career to a new, more "mature" level and selling oodles and oodles of music.

Cory Monteith's untimely end:

There probably wasn't a sadder showbiz story in 2013 than the death of the 31-year-old Glee star, who overdosed on a combination of alcohol and heroin in a Vancouver hotel room in July. The Canadian actor's tragic exit left Glee's producers scrambling to deal with the loss, which they did with a touching episode focused on the death of Monteith's character, Finn Hudson, in the show's third episode of the fall season.

Halifax's lovely Last Tango:

The PBS drama Last Tango in Halifax, a British import that explores love, romance and marriage for the widowed over-70 set, was 2013's unexpected charmer. Gentle, warm, smart and seamlessly acted by stars Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, it was, quite simply, impossible not to love.

The royal baby watch

It wasn't so much the birth of bonnie Prince George that had TV watchers talking; it was the around-the-clock pointlessness of the pre-birth mass-media stakeout that was one of the year's real head-scratchers. In the age of the multi-platform 24-hour news cycle, the lead-up to the arrival of the Windsor heir was a staggering commitment of media resources to absolutely, completely nothing.

Stupid is as Sharknado does

Pointless, mindless, senseless, scriptless and mind-numbingly clueless, this ultra-low-budget horror-action flick (which starred Tara Reid, Ian Ziering and a bunch of tornado-launched CGI sharks) became an instant Twitter sensation (by the end of its U.S.-cable première, the word "Sharknado" was being tweeted more than 5,000 times a minute) and earned an immediate place in TV's so-bad-it's-almost-kind-of-good hall of fame.

The life (after death) of Brian

Fox's enduring animated comedy Family Guy caused a big pop-culture fuss in November when the Griffins' martini-sipping, wise-talking canine, Brian, was felled by a speeding car. Outrage -- and an online petition -- followed, and three weeks later (meaning the return was written, drawn and completed long before the death-of-Brian episode aired), a Christmas wish by Stewie brought Brian back. Series creator Seth MacFarlane's tweeted post-return comment was succinct: "I mean, you didn't really think we'd kill off Brian, did you? Jesus, we'd have to be (expletive) high."

The Red Wedding

Well, that was messy, wasn't it? The TV season's bloodiest family celebration found Game of Thrones fans divided into two camps: those who'd read the books and knew it was coming, and those who hadn't -- and didn't. The shock level was heightened for the latter group, but it's safe to say all the HBO series' viewers were united in their slack-jawed wonder at the brutal, bloody excess of it all.

Rob Ford

Really, was there a better/worse/sadder and more bizarre/alarming/pathetic soap opera anywhere on TV this year? From crack-use confessions to bull-rush bowl-overs of elderly city councillors to that ill-considered Sun News Network TV show for the brothers Ford (which was cancelled after one airing), Toronto's mayor was the go-to guy for TV news cameras, on-air commentators and late-night joke writers throughout the second half of 2013. Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 26, 2013 D3

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