2013 felt like a weak year, particularly for the big four networks. However, there were a handful of shows that debuted this year that felt like they moved television forward, especially on the drama side of the ledger. Without further ado, here are the shows that debuted this year that shined the brightest.
5 – Getting On (HBO)
I just reviewed this show a couple of weeks ago, and until that time this fifth slot was very much in play. I was particularly amazed at the strength with which it blended its’ dramatic and comedic elements and how the cast seemed to do an excellent job playing off type in comparison to the roles they became best known for. While it may not be the sort of series that’s for everyone due to its’ extreme darkness, it is the sort of show that could fit a niche in the HBO lineup for years to come.
4 – Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
This was not a banner year for the sitcom, as the big four debuted a large number of series, the vast majority of which will not or should not see a second season. However, standing head and shoulders above that pile of mediocrity was Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which mixes up sitcom elements with procedural elements and is already miles ahead of where Michael Schur predecessors The Office and Parks and Recreation were after nine episodes. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is consistently funny and much like Parks and Rec has a surprising amount of heart.
3 – Hannibal (NBC)
I spend a decent amount of time pointing out every horrendous decision the peacock makes, so when something goes right over at NBC I feel compelled to throw them a bone. If Cult was the bottom of the serial killer trend we saw this year, than Hannibal stands hands and shoulders above the rest. Bryan Fuller has done the impossible with this show, which is to make a Hannibal Lecter that is different from, but not inferior to the Anthony Hopkins version from the films. The show also benefits from strong performances by Hugh Dancy and Laurence Fishburne as Will Graham and Jack Crawford respectively. However, to me, where Hannibal truly set itself apart was in it’s visuals. For a morbid show, it’s actually downright beautiful, a trend that establishes itself from minute one when Will is dissecting the first murder scene in his head. Here’s hoping this one makes it to season four, when Fuller will finally decide to tackle Red Dragon.
2 – Broadchurch (BBC America)
Bringing the single focus Twin Peaks vibe into the new generation, we get this new mystery from the BBC. Already optioned to be produced in America by Fox, the miniseries revolves around the death and disappearance of an 11 year old child, with the investigation being impeded by an irresponsible media and the closeness of inspector Ellie Miller to the family, her son’s wholesale destruction of evidence, and the new lead inspector’s questionable past. David Tennant and Olivia Colman get particular kudos as the lead inspector pairing, and quaint resort setting provides the perfect eerie backdrop for this case.
1 – The Americans (FX)
The best new show of the year was one that FX hyped a ton in 2012, including ads during all of its’ major shows and a website takeover. The Americans lived up to that hype, providing a throwback spy thriller about two Russian sleeper agents who happen to have their lives deconstructed, down to their marriage which exists solely for appearances. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell shined in the lead role, with Russell playing ideologically tilted wife Elizabeth Jennings, while Rhys drew the harder task as conflicted husband Philip. Throw in a mix of visuals that seem simultaneously cutting edge and historically accurate while having feeling like an homage to the Beastie Boys “Sabotage” video, and it becomes clear how The Americans came to be the best of 2013.
Next Time: Friday we look at the biggest stories of the year in what seems to have been the beginning of a long term paradigm shift for television.