Hey trill believers, I’m here to sit back and give you my top television shows of 2013. Now see, I’m not going to give you guys an ordered list—just my 10 shows I think were the best in two categories: live action and animation. Now you might be asking why and you’ll get no answer, at least not this early—just enjoy the ride here.
I catch a lot of television (including writing the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recaps for Punch Drunk Critics), not as much as I used to and I don’t see every single show, but I do watch more than the average person and probably more than the average smart person. So I’m going to start with live action, here we go (like my man Super Mario says):
Game of Thrones
This show, y’all, this show. No series has ever caught me be surprise as much as this show. This was the season after seeing FREAKING SNOW ZOMBIE DUDES ON SNOW ZOMBIE HORSES!! This season had everything, an odd couple with Brianne/Jaime on the road, Davos learning how to read, seeing Tywin Lannister (a.k.a. the bad guy from The Golden Child) play the best game of real-life chess ever, Jon Snow do a Donnie Brasco, poor Theon, and that one moment to rule them all—that damn Red Wedding. Each performance was great and the pacing of the season for me was stellar. No episodes felt like filler or a waste of my time, nor did any feel crammed with too many plots. It must be something that a show that is an adaptation is fun to watch for people like me who have never read any of the books, and for someone like my colleague Rocky Hadadi, who has read all of it. It’s a complete shame that it didn’t get enough love in the awards recognition. In the end, it’s all good—right now this show is still rising and far from falling off.
David Simon, for me, might be the best 21st-century TV show creator alive right now. Do his shows get a
lot of hype like some other shows (that are even on this list)? Nope. Do his shows really ever get nominated for anything? Nope. Do his shows allow you a way to escape your boring regular life into some type of crazy world or power fantasy? Nope. This guy and his collaborators create shows about OUR lives in OUR world in the now. You can’t sum up his shows in a simple cool phrase. When people ask me what Treme is about, they start to glaze over about three words in, but what they don’t know is that’s it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever watched, let me know I need to visit New Orleans, and it by far has the best music of any drama ever period in TVdom. It’s a double-edged sword that HBO brought it back for a short 5-episode season to end it, since it’s great it’s getting an ending but it sucks because it’s ending. The only thing that makes me less mad about how overlooked this show is, is that one day way later on people will probably catch it and watch it all in one big chunk and then celebrate how awesome it was all over the Internet and during get-togethers in the near future—much like Simon’s previous masterpiece, The Wire.
House of Cards
Man, House of Cards was the jam. This is show that excels at writing and performances about portraying some pretty not good people. And what’s the kicker is that it’s about Congress at a perfect time when Congress really really sucks at their job, which just heightens all we see about what Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood does to hold onto power. House of Cards has a killer pilot directed by David Fincher that grabs you instantly, and thanks to it being on Netflix, you just get sucked into the vortex of watching either the whole thing or half of it in one time. I think one of the main reasons I love this show is that it actually really looks like Washington, D.C. Not some other random city in Canada with one shot of like K Street, but the actual city and region. House of Cards for me made me believe that Netflix can be a player in original content, and seriously put AMC and HBO on watch for the crown.
You know a lot of people feel this past season of Mad Men wasn’t as good, and you know, they may be right in that assertion. It’s kind of hard to follow up on what is your best season of a series and it’s also very hard to watch a person hit bottom. That’s what this season is about, even more than the changing times, is watching Don Draper finally hit bottom and in a way a culture hitting a bottom in a certain way in 1968. Watching Don fall so hard into the bottle and into his infatuation with Sylvia Rosen, set against seeing essentially the origin of his issue with women in the flashbacks, for me made for a great season, a calm of sorts before the last season. Another trend that I loved about the season is seeing the arcs of Peggy as she becomes her own version of Don and Sally as she finally loses her innocence. With those things and many others, no other show had me giving each episode as much thought and analysis as Mad Men has.
So the show to rule all shows this year. It’s been a long time since a show ending has totally caught the pop culture wave that Breaking Bad had in those last eight episodes. Walt’s final fall into becoming white suburban Scarface was complete, and with each cliffhanger ratcheting up hardly anything else could get into your brain other than “Oh my gawd what’s going to happen to Jesse or Hank or Walt?” So much tension was packed into each episode that it still leaves an impression on me, even though it’s been months since I saw them. Now I’m not one of the people that are calling it the GOAT (that’s The Wire, fools, get familiar.) But it is in that top list of greatest shows on television. Cheers to that whole group of folks who made this a great piece of work.
See, animation is my heart. I watch more cartoons than live action TV since a lot more goes into making 30 minutes of animation than people think. Not only do they have to do all the same stuff showrunners have to do for live action, they have to design everything from the characters to the backgrounds to the props. I wanted to do this so that these cartoons can be spotlighted to people that might not know about it and are missing some quality TV. So here are my favorite 5 of the year.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This one is a pure nostalgia pick here. I love Ninja Turtles. Ninja Turtles is the reason I draw, which led to most of my decisions in life. I’ve seen almost every Ninja Turtle show (damn you, anime Turtles, for evading my gaze!). This new show which popped up on the 25th anniversary of the 1987 show really hit a nicely perfect blend of having good characters, a nice season arc, and a way to merge all the versions of the Turtles into one great show that people of all ages can watch.
See this show, with it’s out-there character design and magical/fantastical world, is kind of off-putting at first, but once you have someone—i.e. me (I’ve done this plenty of times)—show you the just how smartly funny and deep this show is, you’ll be glad you got lost in one of the many many marathons Cartoon Network runs of this show. This past year decided to show a lot of more dark and actually creepy parts to the show (episode “All the Little People” might just be one of the most messed up things I’ve watched in a cartoon all year) to generally sad (the episode “Simon & Marcy” is the saddest damn piece of animation this year, even more than Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises). None of the other Punch Drunks gets down with this, but trust I won’t let you down on this cartoon game.
To me, for what it’s worth, Regular Show is the best-written comedy on television. Yeah, I said it. Does it make sense that a bluejay and a raccoon work for a gumball machine in park owned by a lollipop man? No, it doesn’t, but it’s the heart and the situations of two early 20something slackers that hold true. Also, it might have some of the best daggone ‘80s and ‘90s pop culture references that don’t feel forced (take note, Seth McFarlane) and actually help the plot and sell the punch line.
Legend of Korra
So if you haven’t watched Avatar the Last Airbender, you need to fix that (it’s on Amazon Prime instant watch), and then you need to sit down and watch The Legend of Korra, which even though it’s in the same world has a completely different feeling. The season was titled “Spirits” and focused on the source of the Avatar’s power along with more on the Water tribe. It’s pretty rare having a female action protagonist in the animation world, so it’s nice to see that along with a great and complex story that is able to pull together politics, Hong Kong crime cinema, romance, family issues, Asian folklore myth, and a Howard Hughes riff, all along with some of the best damn martial arts fight scenes I’ve seen all year. If you haven’t really watched a “cartoon” before you should really give this one a look, you might be surprised by how into you get.
Young Justice: Invasion
See, this wasn’t the whole season, only the last 11 episodes, but this is by far probably one of the best versions of superhero storytelling on TV ever done, right up there with the old DCAU (DC Animated Universe Batman TAS – Justice League Unlimited). To be honest, as I watched each episode I truly though how in the world the showrunners thought this would be interesting for young children. This show was full of intrigue, betrayal, secrets, and conspiracy along with relationship drama. It’s a damn shame what Cartoon Network did to it, first by hampering it and then canceling it. In the end the show became a celebration of a DC Universe and characters that no long exist in their new catchup to the Marvel movies phase, but what a great sendoff it was.