Best in TV 2013

The Best in TV list is only going to look at series that premiered in 2013. This excludes shows such as Psycho-Pass and The Mindy Project that began Fall 2012. Let's not muddy the waters further. Another unranked list because, to be blunt, I didn't find a lot of new shows I fell in love with this year. Let's get to it.

The 2013 Sketchys: Best TV

Wander Over Yonder (Disney)

The 2013 Sketchys: Best TV: Wander Over Yonder

If you're not watching Wander Over Yonder yet, you're missing out. This is the brand new cartoon series by Craig McCracken (The Powerpuff Girls, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends) and written/produced by his wife Lauren Faust (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends). It's incredible. It's like the second coming of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy only from a sci-fi, not a horror, perspective.

Wander is an orange alien traveling the world with Sylvia, a bright blue space horse, and continually running into and foiling (by chance) the evil plots of Lord Hater. The show is hysterical and packed to the gills with amazing voice actors: Jack McBreyor, April Winchell, Craig Freguson, Tom Kenny, and more. The style is great and the humor is that best kind of layering where children and adults can have fun laughing at the show. The original music by Andy Bean (The Two Gentlemen band) is a riot and really sets the show apart from other wacky modern cartoons.

Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

The 2013 Sketchys: Best TV: Orange is the New Black

The more I think about Orange is the New Black, the more I really like it. The show is inspired by Piper Kerman's memoir of the same name. Essentially, privileged white woman Piper is sentenced to jail time for her role in a drug smuggling operation right before her youthful crimes would have fallen beyond the statute of limitations. She tries to balance her life outside of the walls--a body care line, her writer/fiance, her obsessive extended family--within the arbitrary rules of the prison run by people willing to punish you just for saying the wrong thing.

Once you get past how terrible Piper is as a character (and it's a brave character choice by the writers and Taylor Schilling to make the lead so unlikable), you're dealing with an incredible ensemble drama focused on people not often represented well in media. Laverne Cox steals the show as a transgender inmate fighting for the continuation of her hormone treatments against state budget cuts. Danielle Brooks, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, Laura Preppon, Uzo Aduba, Kate Mulgrew, and a slew of other actors (sorry, the list would be most of this write up if I listed everyone) bring humanity and realism to a show that could easily be nothing but sensationalism and stereotypes. Orange is the New Black never feels forced, even as it swings from episodic character study (focusing in on one inmate's backstory) to broad comedy to shocking drama.

Attack on Titan (Simulcast on Crunchyroll, Hulu)

The 2013 Sketchys: Best TV: Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan is an incredible sci-fi/action anime straight from Japan. The prevalence of online streaming services and the popularity of Japanese animation around the globe has made simulcasting--releasing the show with subtitles all around the world at the same time--a viable business model; everyone wins, especially with shows as well-conceived as Attack on Titan.

In a (presumed) dystopian future, humanity has been forced within the borders of one large kingdom split into three concentric circles. The outer ring is where the poor workers live, gather resources and supplies for the well-off middle ring and the king and his court in the central ring. The walls are designed to keep out the Titans, giant humanoids that wander the Earth eating any humans they find. One day, a Colossal Titan rips through the outer ring, slaughtering most of the population and leaving young Eren an orphan. He vows to personally take down the Titans by joining the Survey Corps who venture beyond the walls to attack the creatures in their own habitat.

Filled with phenomenal character development and great action, Attack on Titan is the rare action series that doesn't lose sight of its characters without becoming nothing but maudlin whining. It's smart, it's shocking, and it's unpredictable in the best ways possible.

Click through for two more great shows from 2013.

Naked Vegas (SyFy)

The 2013 Sketchys: Best TV: Naked Vegas

Candid reality TV shows are a dime a dozen. Less common is one that focuses on artists being artists without coming across as a joke. Obviously inspired by the continuing success of Face Off and the more vocal critics complaining about the treatment of body painters on that show (ahem), SyFy produced Naked Vegas. This show follows a team of four body painters opening up a boutique body painting company in Las Vegas to cater to special events. The cast includes some very well-known names in the body art world, including totally hosed over Face Off contestant Nix from Season 2.

Though the SyFy show focuses on the more outrageous clients, the production is closer to a show like Oddities. Naked Vegas is a real company with real clients and it shows. The most fascinating aspect is not the client requests or the finished product, but the process of getting there. Each episode features two clients with very specific needs. The team of artists experiment with various body painting techniques--application methods, paints, sealers--and special effects--prosthetics, prop fabrication, electronics--until they find just the right method for the client. The most fascinating episode featured models painted into the background of a private room of a casino. I never would have imagined a reality show actually showing body painters really discuss the added difficulties of the curves of the human body on forced perspective artwork. Oh, I'm aware that was a challenge on Face Off (twice, to be precise). Naked Vegas actually makes those challenges entertaining and educational.

Orphan Black (BBC America)

The 2013 Sketchys: Best TV: Orphan Black

I dragged my heels on Orphan Black because of the lead actress, Tatiana Maslaney. No, it's not fair that I still associate her with her annoying beyond belief childhood role in Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed. She's obviously improved her skills from when she was a teenager playing a 12 year old and she is the reason Orphan Black works.

It's hard to discuss the show without spoilers. Essentially, a young woman returning home after a 10 month absence witnesses another young woman commit suicide on the train tracks. The problem? The other woman looked exactly like her. And they're not the only ones with the same face, same body, and almost identical birthdays roaming around the world. They're just not supposed to know the others exist.

Orphan Black is a bizarre sci-fi/thriller series anchored by Maslaney's performance as all of the...women with identical faces. She uses accents, body language, speech patterns, and a wonderful hair and makeup team to play many difficult scenes opposite herself, including ensemble scenes opposite multiple copies of herself. It's fascinating to watch just for her craft and the story makes it so much better.

So those are my top new TV series of 2013. What are yours? Share your favorites in the comments below

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