Question of the week: what was your favourite show of 2013?

Lots of TV blogs and sites have top 10s and 20s of the year’s programmes. Not wishing to be left out of the crowd, I thought I’d do one, too. But in my usual chaotic fashion, I decided to just list as many as I remember liking and then turn to you, my lovely readers, in the hope you’re more organised. And that you’ve nothing to do.

Anyway, this is really just the new shows that I loved in 2013. Feel free to list old shows, new shows or even DVDs you enjoyed last year.

The winner by a mile for the coveted top slot was:

Hannibal (review)
Elegant horror of the finest order, a simply sublime season that instead of being built around gore (although there was some incredibly disturbing imagery), hamminess and archness à la The Blacklist gave us a true horror: the fear of going mad, with FBI investigator Will Graham slowly beginning to doubt his own sanity. With a season-long arc that was hard to perceive until the final episode, it ended with a single image that made the whole thing worthwhile. Astonishing TV in almost every sense, from the dialogue to the visuals to the acting to the soundtrack to the throw-aways at the end of episodes that will haunt you for a long time after viewing.

Having said that, they cast Eddie Izzard in a key role so it wasn’t entirely perfect.

The runners up (no particular order)

  1. The Americans
  2. Serangoon Road
  3. Anno 1790
  4. The Tunnel
  5. Y Gwyll
  6. Engrenages/Spiral
  7. The Almighty Johnsons (season 3)
  8. Banshee
  9. The Blacklist
  10. House of Cards

But how about you?

  • Thierry Attard

    The Blacklist.

  • Mark Carroll

    Yes, Hannibal, no contest there. Thank you for the reminder. I wish I were better at remembering this stuff.

    I've been quite liking Continuum too, mind.

  • Mark Carroll

    By the way, Eddie Izzard was okay, I thought. I just saw him in Shadow of the Vampire, which was a surprise.

  • GYAD

    Rather weirdly, considering that I have no interest in the genre, my pick would be “Death Comes to Pemberly”.

    The writing, acting and filming were all superb. I simply can't think of any way in which they could have been improved.

    Failing that, “Strike Back: Shadow Warfare” blew a lot of stuff up in extremely entertaining ways.

  • Strike Back is always fun at blowing stuff up. I wish it would stick to that side of things, since the soft porn side is just embarrassing.

    I did try watching Death Comes to Pemberly last night, but something for me didn't gel at all. It felt too much like a PD James story that used characters with the same names as Austen's, and so lacked the joie de vivre, humour energy of Austen. But then I had the same problem with the book.

  • JustStark

    I must watch Hannibal.

    I'm thinking of subscribing to Net-Flix, to replace my send-me-DVDs deal with the now-in-administration Blockbuster (I object to Love Film's business practices & Blockbuster were the last dicks-by-post company that didn't turn out to really be Love Film in a false moustache). Is Hannibal on that? Is it a good idea in general?

    I hear there aren't many movies on it, but I'm much more interested in TV than movies; is its selection of TV good (will I be able to watch stuff like Wish Me Luck as well as things like Continuum? The Net-Flix website seems reluctant to let me search for particular programmes and tell me if they are available).

  • JustStark

    Very few of those eleven have made it to the UK yet (on free-to-air TV anyway)! It's a bit like reading the Oscar nominations, thinking you've missed them all, and then realising that no, it's just that they haven't come out over here yet.

    I thought The Americans was good, though.

    Personally I think the high-points of 2013 TV-wise were The Returned and the final episode of The IT Crowd — which was flawed in all the ways extended episodes of sit-com are usually flawed, but was worth it all for the joke which seemed squarely aimed at a board-game-designer friend of mine ('Textile Merchant: Norfolk Edition' still makes me giggle, and I actually had to check whether 'Ports of Essen' was a real game because it sounded like just the sort of thing he makes us play when we're round at his house).

  • I think the nature of British television in 2013 has changed from even a few years ago – which is in part why this 'ere blog's mission statement has changed. Now, you can't expect to watch anywhere near all the best TV by sticking to either the terrestrial broadcasters or even free-to-view broadcasters. Basically, you have to pay to watch the best, whereas free will get you access only to above average or good (with only the occasional excellent). Sign of the times, innit – first it was the movies, now it's the TV programmes. And to be fair to Sky Atlantic, Netflix, etc, that's their business model – to put out the best TV so that people will be prepared to subscribe to them to watch it.

    So of the ones in my list – and bearing in mind that there are readers from around the world here so there'll be people who can access some shows but not others, other people who can do the reverse and so on, so it's a list that's partially got that in mind – in the UK, Hannibal was on Sky Living, The Americans was on ITV, Anno 1790 is available on DVD (not aired anywhere in the UK), The Tunnel was on Sky Atlantic, Y Gwyll was on S4C and is now on BBC1 Wales, Engrenages was on BBC4, The Almighty Johnsons was on SyFy (earlier seasons available on Netflix, Lovefilm and Virgin catch-up), Banshee was on Sky Atlantic, The Blacklist is on Sky Living, and House of Cards is on Netflix/DVD. Basically, Serangoon Road is the only one you can't watch in the UK yet, but yes, you'll have to pay to watch most of the others.

    Didn't really like The Returned, but The IT Crowd was excellent. And as someone who owns Settlers of Catan with all the expansion packs, I know exactly where Textile Merchant: Norfolk edition is coming from…

  • My usual joke is that Netflix never has the show you actually want to watch, but it will have something you might want to watch instead. As far as TV goes, it's got some decent foreign stuff (The Killing, Wallander, Borgen), a lot of the ITV crime series (Morse, Cracker, Prime Suspect), a lot of US sci-fi/fantasy series from the 90s (Andromeda, Highlander, Xena), a few Channel 4 shows, some BBC shows (House of Cards, some Doctor Who), lots of animated series for kids (X-Men: Evolution) but usually not the show you're looking for (Continuum).

    You can do a free trial for a month to find out if Netflix is for you, but there's also a complete list of the current shows here:

  • GYAD

    I agree. The sex scenes are probably necessary to keep Cinemax involved but they're horribly embarrassing to watch.

    As for DCTP, I've never read the book and am ashamed to admit that I'm not much of a one for Austen either. I've read several of her books but they never grabbed me.

  • JustStark

    The annoying thing about Sky (and SyFy), though, is not so much the cost as the limited distribution options: it's cable or satellite, which are awkward if you live in rented accommodation (and if you prefer to use your own hard drive recorder rather than one rented form the service). I would pay to receive Sky Atlantic over the digital airwaves (and did pay to receive Sky One back in the old OnDigital days) but that simply isn't an option.

    As above, I am considering getting Net-Flix (again, my problem with it was less the cost and more the distribution model — I don't like the internet and yes I am aware of the irony so you don't need to point that out to me, thanks). So maybe I'll get access to some stuff through that.

    And I didn't realise that Y Gwyll was Hinterland — not really up on my Welsh — I an intending to watch that over the I Player soon now it's available in English.

  • JustStark

    Yes, I'm just now trying to work out when to start the month's free trial in order to maximise the amount-of-stuff-I-get-for-free (ie, there's no point in doing it when I'm going to be on holiday for a week during the period, is there?). Even if I do decide to continue I don't want to pay for any more than I absolutely have to.

  • Have you considered a Now TV box? Streams Sky channels over the Internet for £5 a month.… Although if you don't like the Internet…

    As for Y Gwyll/Hinterland, I will refer you to yesterday's post while I cry for a bit and feel neglected… http://www.the-medium-is-not-e

  • JustStark

    Oh I saw the post (and filed away 'must watch that on iPlayer now') it's just that when it came to reading the Welsh name of the series I just filed it under 'load of consonants'. And didn't connect it to the other load of consonants in the list.

    Sorry, Welsh people. If it helps I have the same reaction to Irish. And don't get me started on Ulster-Scots…

  • JustStark

    I hadn't seen the 'Now TV' thing and now I'm interested. But I've only just reconciled myself to the idea of maybe trying Net-Flix! This bewildering tsunami of change is making my head spin! I don't think I can cope with all that at the same time as getting used to it being a different year as well.

    This is almost as bad as that time I was just getting used to the twentieth century and then they went and changed it all on me.

    But I shall keep it in mind and possibly return to it later.

  • Mark Carroll

    As Rob observes, Netflix's UK selection isn't great. I don't watch a whole lot on it, next for me will be season four of Spiral that I skipped when the BBC showed it because I hadn't yet seen season three. They have some random stuff, ranging from stand-up comedy to a subset of South Park to Safety Not Guaranteed. They weren't great in the US, either, but there they have the advantage of also offering a by-mail service with a much better catalogue.

    I too object to LoveFilm; after Blockbuster folded I switched to Cinema Paradiso and have not looked back. (Please, don't tell me that they are “powered by” LoveFilm, they sure beat Blockbuster.)

  • Mark Carroll

    Yes, we've been in rented accommodation too; it does rather limit options. With “The Almighty Johnsons” I'm only as far as Netflix permits. At least a bunch of the Sky (to whom I also object) stuff also turns up on DVD in the end, I can be patient. I am now really close to setting up a MythTV box though.

  • JustStark

    I myth TV too. Oh no wait, I see what you mean. That doesn't give you any more channels, though, does it?

    I don't really object to Sky, except for the not being able to erect a dish and preferring to use my own hardware for recording rather than a rented Sky+ box.

    And I can be patient: I am happy to watch Mad Men on the DVDs a year or so behind everybody else. Immediate gratification is just so vulgar, do you not think?

    I hadn't heard of that Cinema Paradiso company; they look good, I'll give them a try (the usual way I find out if something's really LoveFilm is that I try signing up for their free trial: if they claim I've
    already been a customer, they are LoveFilm). Thanks very much.

  • Pingback: The Medium is Not Enough TV blog()