The Best TV Series of 2013
The start of the 2012-13 TV season was little more than a barren wasteland. Of the few new shows I checked out last season there wasn’t any I stuck with for more than a few episodes. To say I was depressed this time last year at the state of TV would not have been an understatement.
But then something happened. Once ’12 ended and we rang in ’13 all sorts of interesting TV series began appearing, to the point that I’d call 2013 one of the better years for quality TV in recent memory.
Game of Thrones (HBO)
I’ve really liked Game of Thrones since it premiered back in ’11, but it wasn’t until this year that I thought it was the best show on TV. And that’s not a dig on previous seasons of the series whatsoever. Game of Thrones has always been great and it’s been getting better and better with each new season of the show. Plus now that we’re a few seasons in, I think the audience is a lot more invested in the series and its characters than before since we’ve gotten to know and “live with” the series these last few years.
Game of Thrones is the rare show where every action taken by the characters has consequences; some good, some bad and some both, and seemingly no character is safe from unexpectedly meeting their demise and earning a quick exit from the show. It’s almost to the point where I wonder who’ll still be in the last episode of the series who was also in the first?
One of the biggest surprises to me earlier this year was the network TV series Hannibal. Let that sink in for a minute, a network drama is one of the best shows of the year. While Hannibal has some of the trappings of a procedural cop series; flashy cases of the week, a wide cast of characters. Hannibal also breaks that same mold in that the title character of the show Will Graham (the wonderful Hugh Dancy) is actually a unique character I don’t think we’ve ever seen on TV before. His “gift,” if you can call it a gift, is that he can relate to an extreme level with serial killers while investigating their motivations for killing. But Graham begins to question his sanity when working with a pre-jail Hannibal Lecter (the equally wonderful Mads Mikkelsen) who councils Graham and begins to bend his mind to Lecter’s sick and twisted will.
The Americans (FX)
The other TV surprise this season was The Americans and unfortunately I had almost written off The Americans before I’d even seen it. For whatever reason I just didn’t think the show was going to be very good and only watched it since I watch a lot first episodes of series just be sure I’m really not missing anything. But literally five minutes into The Americans that’s about Soviet spies in Washington DC in the 1980 but is just as much about how relationships between couples work I was hooked.
Veep is the one show in the last few years that I laugh hard enough while watching that I literally have to pause it in order to compose myself in order not to miss the next big laugh.
Orange is the New Black (Netflix)
I think the biggest revelation this year was just how good TV series could be that wasn’t on a traditional channel, the best of which was Orange is the New Black on Netflix. The only reason this series isn’t much higher on my list is that there were so many other good series on TV this year in competition.
Mob City (TNT)
I’m not sure if it’s a genius move on the part of TNT to air the entire Mob City series over the course of three weeks, or a bone-headed one? Maybe viewers will dig watching all of Mob City quickly, or maybe it’ll all get lost in the clutter of the holidays? Regardless, I really dug this one and hope that the new year will bring tidings of comfort and of joy AND more episodes of Mob City.
The Fall (Netflix)
Another interesting series on Netflix, abet not an original production like with Orange, was The Fall. Starring Gillian Anderson as Detective Inspector Stella Gibson, The Fall follows Gibson as she tracks a serial killer on the streets of Belfast, Ireland. The interesting bit about The Fall is how the partisanship of Belfast works into everything and that we spend as much time with the killer and his cute family who have no idea that the “normal” dad is really a monster as we do with Gibson.
Underbelly: Badness (DirecTV)
I’m guessing I’m the only American who watches this Aussie crime drama import, now in its sixth year, but I thought Underbelly: Badness was a return to greatness for this series that had lagged in recent years.
Falling Skies (TNT)
I think I may be in the minority here when I say this, but to me Falling Skies was actually better this third season than the last. And I really liked that season too.
Young Justice (Cartoon Network)
The most overlooked show on TV the last few years was Young Justice, which ended this season. What I liked best about Young Justice was that it was the rare show, animated or otherwise, where the characters experienced actual change during the course of the series. It seems that we live in a world where once we get to the parts of the story that are actually interesting — Is Batman getting too old to fight crime? Can Spider-Man have a life outside of web-slinging? — that the story is ended and a new one rebooted so we can start at the beginning yet again.
But the characters of Young Justice actually grew and changed and matured over the too short two seasons of that show.
The Walking Dead (AMC)
I feel like The Walking Dead is still one of the best shows on TV, if it’s getting a bit harder and harder to watch now in its fourth season. I like the characters of The Walking Dead and it’s tough to see bad things happen to them time and time again living on a dangerous, zombie infested world. And simple put, I’m not sure how much more I can take of that. At a certain point my desire for the characters to escape their bleak world, which, according to the creator of the comic book will never happen, will collide with not being able to stomach the all the bad in The Walking Dead and I’ll bail on the show. It just hasn’t happened yet. 😉