2013 was an… interesting year in TV. American networks continued to churn out complete crap by the truckload, but networks across the world put out a variety of fresh, innovative new shows… along with a bunch of crap, too. But there’s plenty of great stuff out there if you know where to look. And this year’s TV roundup contains a few surprises: two shows from New Zealand, and the first French language show to appear on my list!
First, you’ll first find the list of my favorite new shows. As always, remember that the list is only for new shows, so old favorites like Breaking Bad and Mad Men aren’t on the list. After that, there’s a list of “worth a watch” shows, a list of shows that tried but failed, a section about miniseries, a tribute to shows that have left the air, and various odds and ends.
THE 12 BEST NEW SHOWS ON TV
#12: Wonderland (Network Ten Australia) – This is my guilty pleasure of the year. It’s a light, breezy primetime soap about a group of friends who live in an oceanview building in Sydney called “Wonderland”. One of the main characters, Tom (Michael Dorman), can’t seem to commit to anything, be it a career or a woman. The only thing he seems to truly love is his 1964 Ford. In the first episode, Tom and his friend Steve bet that Tom will not sleep with a female roommate for 12 months, else Tom will have to give Steve his beloved car. But then Steve’s sister Miranda shows up needing a place to live. Tom obliges. Can Tom keep his end of the bet? And what will Miranda say when she finds out about the bet? And what happens when control freak Grace meets the handsome, easygoing Carlos from Brazil? And how will Collete and Rob survive once she admits to having a one night stand? See? It’s all soap opera, but for some reason – attractive cast members playing generally decent human beings? – I was totally sucked in to this. And I make no apologies for it!
#11: Hannibal (NBC) – I put Hannibal on the list because it fascinates me. We know “harder” swear words and casual nudity are strictly forbidden by the FCC. But Hannibal proves that while you can’t show boobies on network TV, you can certainly show boobies being chopped in to pieces… and maybe even cooked and eaten, too. I’m also a fan of Bryan Fuller (creator of Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies). While Hugh Dancy is officially the “star” of the show – as Special Agent Will Graham, an FBI academy lecturer and expert on serial killers who re-creates crime scenes in his mind – we all know that Mads Mikkelsen is really the star as Hannibal Lecter. Mads underplays Lecter; at least compared to Anthony Hopkins’ version. In fact, if all we knew of Lector was Mad’s performance, we’d be in for a bit of a shock later on. But while the writing is pretty good (especially for a show on US network TV), it really is surprisingly graphic. I mean, I’m hardly a “prude” and have seen my share of horror films over the years.. but this show even shocked me!
#10: Sleepy Hollow (Fox) – This is possibly the silliest show to come on TV in ages, yet it somehow works. In the show’s universe, Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow doesn’t exist. Instead, a man named Ichabod Crane moves to New York from England in colonial times and switches his allegiance to the American patriots. He is killed on the battlefield by a mysterious Hessian fighter, who Crane manages to behead just before collapsing. Crane rises from the grave 220 years later, and has a friend in Westchester County police lieutenant Abbie Mills: on the same night Crane awakes, Mills sees her mentor. Sheriff August Corbin, killed by the same horseman that Crane had beheaded. And so begins a series which is a delightful mix of the National Treasure movies (Founding Fathers, Freemasonry, esoteric symbols) and The X-Files (mysterious, supernatural bad guys). Hey, it ain’t deep TV, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun!