When I started working for Nerdophiles last year, a lot of my work became TV recaps. So you can imagine that TV became more of a part of my life than it usually is. I mean, I already love TV, much to the horror of some of my friends who brag about how they don’t watch TV.
So what were my favorite TV shows last year? Well, that question might be more than you’re prepared for. I’m breaking it down by new shows, returning shows, and favorite episodes. Got it? Good. Here we go then.
Oh, and it should go without saying, but prepare for spoilers!
Favorite New Shows
Honorable Mention: Masters Of Sex (Showtime)
It’s kind of insane how quickly I got addicted to watching this show. What started off with me and my friend Roger just wanting to watch a few episodes lead to us mainlining the series over the course of several nights. There are parts of it that can be silly and tropetastic as hell (like the finale with Bill Masters waiting in the rain to tell Ginny how much he needs her), but it’s also a compelling well acted drama that Showtime should be proud to have. Even if it does occasionally fall under the HBO trope of drama and boobs. I can’t wait to sit on the futon, eating pizza and cry over the somewhat fictionalized lives of Masters and Johnson more next season.
6.) Wander Over Yonder (Disney Channel)
This is such a weird little show that I’m kind of surprised it made it on Disney, but they’ve also been playing Phineas and Ferb for several years that I really shouldn’t be. This Craig McCracken created show also features major collaboration from his animation partner and wife Lauren Faust. Combining the wackiness of 90s Cartoon Network with the heart of the first season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Wander Over Yonder is an adorably sweet and silly show about the misadventures of a kind space traveller named Wander and his best friend/companion/steed and certified badass Sylvia. It can be weird, but it’s the good kind of weird that gives you the warm fuzzies when you’re done watching.
5.) Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
I can practically hear your eye rolling from here. I’ll admit that this show did have its bumps early in the season, but a lot of good shows have. Around episode six, we do see an upswing in quality not unlike its Whedonverse predecessor Dollhouse. Maybe I’m a little biased since I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe so much, but the show is a whole lot of fun with the stories and characters and it gives us a chance to see the MCU outside of the movies. Instead of just hearing about a brave new world post-The Avengers every six months, we get to see it. And now that this season’s Big Bad is starting to unfold, I’m looking forward to the back half payoff.
4.) Bravest Warriors (Cartoon Hangover)
Technically, this show started in late 2012, but so much of the show aired in 2013 that I’m giving it a pass. This show is like Adventure Time’s weirder, cruder, and yet somehow cooler older brother. Which is not to say that Adventure Time isn’t cool anymore. It just means Bravest Warriors can get away with more shit. It’s strange, compelling, and funny as hell. The best part of the show though? CATBUG! Because your life needs an adorable cat-ladybug hybrid that’s voiced by a six year old boy. Don’t tell me it doesn’t.
3.) Steven Universe (Cartoon Network)
BLESS REBECCA SUGAR SO MUCH. THIS SHOW IS A GIFT.
A lot of people have dismissed the show because of Sugar’s involvement with Adventure Time, expecting it to me more of the show’s usually weird out humor. However, I wonder if these people miss the fact that Sugar co-wrote some of the show’s most emotional and feminist episodes. Lucky for us, Steven Universe carries so much of Sugar’s touch that made those episodes stand out. About a young boy named Steven who wants nothing more than to be like his magical girl guardians The Crystal Gems, the show mixes a lot of Adventure Time with the magic and beauty of 90s shojo/magical girl anime. It also doesn’t hurt that on a show and network aimed at boys, three of the main characters we see nearly every week are women that Steven loves and who love him right back. Women that are easily distinguishable from each other in appearance and personality. It’s something that is needed more of in animation and I’m so happy that this show does it.
2.) Orange Is The New Black (Netflix)
I’ve talked at length already about the original Netflix comedy-drama set in a women’s prison and for good reason. It’s a rare show, even for premium outlets like HBO, Showtime, and Netflix. It’s smart, funny, emotional, and actually gives women a chance to be in stories that are usually reserved for men. In fact, a lot of the men in this show fulfill the roles usually filled by women in shows like this and it’s an interesting switch up to see. Really though, for me, it’s all about Burset and Red. It’s Laverne Cox and Kate Mulgrew’s world. We just live in it.
1.) Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
I did not expect to watch this show, let alone love it so much. And yet, I fell so hard, I’m surprised I didn’t bust my head on the pavement. A workplace comedy that my friend Missy has described as “Parks and Recreation meets Reno 911!,” this show is gut-bustingly funny while giving us characters to root for each week. It’s also probably one of the most diverse shows on TV right now, with characters that paint a wide swath of demographics without ever depending on stereotype humor to get it done. If you’ve been hesitant on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, just watch this clip of Sgt. Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) trying to build a princess castle and get back to me later.
Favorite Returning Shows
(Note: For the sake of this section, a returning show is defined as a show that started a new season, a previously established show that chugged through all of 2013, and/or returned from a hiatus of four months or longer.)
6.) The Legend of Korra (Nickelodeon)
I feel like I need to put a huge caveat right at the beginning of this segment since I recapped the entire season for Nerdophiles. That caveat is that I ONLY LIKED THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON. The second half is pretty much the only reason The Legend of Korra is on the list. The first half was a confused mess of episodes. Every episode from Beginnings on was some of the best TV I watched all year. However, you probably have to endure the first part of the season to understand what’s going on. Still, for the terrible buildup, the payoff is fantastic with gorgeous animation and emotional stories that no other show could do.
5.) Adventure Time (Cartoon Network)
Adventure Time didn’t really go anywhere in 2013. Season 5 has been plowing through since 2012 and is finishing up its season now. That doesn’t mean the season didn’t actually go anywhere though. This season was probably some of the darkest, most absurd and most dramatic this series has gotten. In the best way possible, of course. Instead of feeling like experiments in randomness like the first season or two, the fifth season of Adventure Time has proven that it does indeed have a rich universe at the core.
4.) Arrested Development (Netflix)
Mitchell Hurwitz finally delivered on his promise of more Arrested Development this year with the series’s highly anticipated return on Netflix. I’ll admit, the way the story was told this season was a bit jarring, with each episode focusing on one character at a time and telling their part of the giant story of the fourth season. However, it actually made for interesting watching and upped the rewatch value of a show that has traditionally made its viewers pay attention to the jokes. Plus, it was just really fantastic to see Maeby struggle for once and GOB just be… well… GOB.
3.) Elementary (CBS)
Elementary had a lot riding on it going into the second season. What, with Sherlock’s one true love also being his one true enemy and Joan coming into her own as a detective. So far though, the second season has kept up that quality with introducing the audience to Sherlock’s brother Mycroft and Sherlock having to come to terms with the fact that his methods do often conflict with how others perceive him and do their work. However, that also brings out Sherlock’s humanity, which isn’t really seen in other Holmes adaptations. It’s also just immensely satisfying to see Joan grow into her own as a detective and do so enthusiastically.
2.) Gravity Falls (Disney Channel)
Technically, the show was still in it’s first season this year, but experienced a four month hiatus between the episodes ‘Summerween’ and ‘Boss Mabel.’ However, the second half of the season was well worth the wait and showed why the show has the devoted fanbase it does. The episodes were adorable and funny, but also had the characters dealing with real things amongst all the supernatural that lives in Gravity Falls, Oregon. Dipper learned that interfering with someone’s life for your own gain doesn’t mean they’ll appreciate it, no matter how good your intentions were. Mabel experiences her first love and learns what it really means to love someone. Stan has to learn how to be a guardian and not just… well… Stan. It was compelling and fantastic, especially when the characters really became tested in the later episodes. Not to mention the season finale is what dreams are made of.
1.) Parks and Recreation (NBC)
I think the second half of season five and the early part of season six just prove why I love this show so much. We see Leslie and Ben get married! April becomes the head of animal control! Andy bounces back from failing to get into the police academy! Ron gets married to a woman who isn’t Tammy! Leslie loses her job and is starting to realize that she might be too big for Pawnee now! Most comedies would have fallen into a usual cycle by this point, but Parks and Recreation still delivers the character development that makes us love the characters and want them to succeed instead of laugh at their failures.
Favorite TV Episodes
Honorable Mention: Colbchella ‘013
As much as I love The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, it’s often hard to remember them by whole episodes. Segments, yes, but not entire episodes. There are a few standout episodes though and the Colbchella ‘013 episode of The Colbert Report is one of them. Born out of the most bullshit Viacom contract ever, the episode came together out of a mix of original plans and winging it to create what was one of the most epic episodes of anything on Comedy Central. Most people will remember the elaborate music video to Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky,’ but there was so much more there to be had if you’re willing to set aside the 23 minutes to do it. Well, 20 if you skip ‘Blurred Lines’ like I do because fuck that song.
6.) ‘FZZT’ (1×06) – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
You know what I said earlier about S.H.I.E.L.D? Yeah, this is the episode you realize you’ve started to care about the characters on the show. Centered around the apparent murder of a first responder to The Battle of New York (aka the entire third act of The Avengers), it soon turns out to be an alien disease killing the firefighters and puts one of the team’s own in danger. I did a full recap of the episode here, but it’s definitely the episode where the emotional resonance and cliffhangery action makes me want to tell people to give the show another shot.
5.)’Sky Witch’ (5×29) – Adventure Time
As I mentioned before, there were a LOT of episodes of Adventure Time to choose from this year. From ‘Bad Little Boy,’ ‘Simon and Marcy,’ ‘Frost and Fire,’ ‘Jake The Dad,’ ‘Be More,’ ‘James Baxter The Horse,’ and ‘The Vault’ were all contenders. However, when I began to think of episodes, ‘Sky Witch’ was the first one that came to mind. The first episode focused solely on Marceline and Princess Bubblegum, it has the two perpetual teenagers going on a hunt for Marceline’s long lost bear Hambo in the lair of Maja the Sky Witch. It was not a Rebecca Sugar episode, but an episode I don’t think could have existed if she hadn’t laid groundwork for these characters. Marceline is determined and stubborn, but still a softie who just wants to hold on to that last piece of Simon she has. Bubblegum doesn’t really get it and can be quite abrasive, but she uses her brain and comes through for her friend in the end as a result. The show could benefit from more episodes like ‘Sky Witch,’ and I’m not just saying that as a Sugarless Gum shipper. Though, really, the fact that the shirt Marcy gave Bonnibel had more sentimentality in it than Hambo did really set off my shipper alarm.
4.) ‘The Chickening’ (1×05) – Orange Is The New Black
Most of what people will remember about this episode is the chicken and for good reason. The hunt for the mystic feral chicken leads to some of the funniest moments on the show in the first season and is part of the reason I think Kate Mulgrew needs an award for her performance on the show (that, and the ending of ‘Bora Bora Bora’ where she resolves to end Pornstache). However, the episode is also astounding for seeing how prison life is starting to get to Chapman, seeing the beginning of the friendship between Burset and Sister Ingalls, and just how messed up the relationship between Daya and her mother Aleida is. It’s my favorite, and one I’m looking forward to rewatching on my Orange is the New Black rewatch in a few months.
3.) ‘Leslie and Ben’ (5×14) – Parks and Recreation
This episode was written to be a series finale just in case they didn’t get a back half order for season 5. If this is where the show had ended, I would have been so happy. After seeing Leslie’s plan for the Pawnee Commons come together, Leslie and Ben decide that they’re going to get married at the benefit gala for the new park that night. Everyone scrambles to get the wedding together, but they do so happily for their friends and even come through when it seems as if everything they worked for that evening is in jeopardy. I cried so many times watching the episode, but all happy tears to see Leslie and Ben get their own happy next chapter. Plus, Ron punches Councilman Jamm and it’s the best.
2.) ‘The Woman/Heroine’ (1×23-24) – Elementary
I’ll admit, I predicted the twist that happened in this episode a few weeks prior, but it was more of “Hey, wouldn’t that be cool?” versus an actual episode prediction. But nope, this episode turned my expectation that they wouldn’t have the balls to make The Woman into Sherlock’s greatest villain, but it did and it was amazing! Natalie Dormer was perfect as the cunning Jamie Moriarty and her character Irene Adler, and to watch her contend with Sherlock to the point she didn’t even see Joan coming to take her down reminded me just why I was all about Elementary from the beginning. Sherlock Holmes may be one of the smartest men around, but even he has his blind spots to be exploited but also protected. And Joan Watson is never to be underestimated ever.
1.) ‘Beginnings, Parts 1 and 2’ (2×07-8) – The Legend of Korra
I’ve gone on at length about these episodes. I’ve cried at length about these episodes and how they’re some of the best stories told in the Avatar universe. The animation is beautiful and the story is emotional to the point I can’t think about Avatar Wan or Raava without getting a little teary eyed. Even if Korra has left you cold, ‘Beginnings’ is worth a watch to see how the universe came about.
Well, that’s it for TV in 2013. If you thought this post was bad, well prepare yourself now because guess what?
I saved my music post for last.