The year 2013 may forever be remembered for the technological shifts in the way we watch TV, notably watching programs on streaming services like Netflix and on mobile devices. But for us here at TVFirstLook, it will be remembered most for being a great year to watch TV. A year when Hollywood and studios around the world produced some of the best TV shows ever.
TV networks cranked out some remarkable new programs, like PBS's amazing Shakespeare production The Hollow Crown, Showtime's heartbreaking docu-series Time of Death and comedies like Hulu's brilliant Brit import The Wrong Mans.
Today, we are handing out TVFirstLook's 3rd Annual The Besties, our awards that readers chose as the year's best new shows. The Besties are awarded in four categories: comedy, drama, unscripted and miniseries. Then, Honorable Mention goes to a show that we here at TVFirstLook deem to be too good not to get an award.
The Bestie: Comedy
Orange is the New Black - Netflix plunged headfirst into original programming with the pretty good, Emmy-winner House of Cards. But it was Orange is the New Black that raised up its benchmark for high-quality TV.
Like HBO's hardcore, edgy, incredible drama The Wire, Orange takes place in a prison, this time a women's prison.
Orange, TVFirstLook readers' No. 1 pick for the year's best new comedy, is a comedy plus. At its core, it's about a well-to-do pretty white girl (Taylor Schilling) who's tossed into prison with seemingly broad-brushed caricatures, lesbians, black lesbians and naked women having sex with each other.
But Orange, which is a drama as much as it's a comedy, is much more than that. It's a funny, touching and terrifying portrayal of a woman whose previously on-track path to middle-class suburbia is upended by her own desires, which include everything but white picket fences.
Extra props to co-star Laura Prepon whose performance is understated, subtle and nearly perfect.
Honorable Mention: Comedy
Close behind Orange in reader votes is a four-way tie for No. 2: ABC's The Goldbergs, CBS's The Crazy Ones, Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine and NBC's Michael J. Fox Show.
Of those, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the best. And it's our editors' pick for the year's best new comedy.
It's the type of show that could've stalled. Former Saturday Night Live star Andy Samberg plays a sarcastic Brooklyn detective in a rundown precinct. His unconventional style brushes up against new captain, played by Andre Braugher.
But its thin premise hasn't derailed the show. In fact, quite the opposite. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which Fox has given its post-Super-Bowl slot, has quickly become a smartly written ensemble comedy. Andy is the star, but he is confident enough to step aside to give his co-stars time to develop their characters into people we care about.
The Bestie: Drama
The year 2013 was a really great one for new dramas. TVFirstLook readers' votes reflect that. Out of dozens of new dramas to choose from, readers voted big for 23 shows that each came close to winning The Bestie.
Among those was a three-way tie for No. 1: Fox's Sleepy Hollow, PBS's The Paradise and Sundance Channel's Top of the Lake. Each is great.
Sleepy Hollow is exactly the type of TV show that gets worldwide audiences excited, which is exactly why it became the fall TV season's first show to get a second season. On the show, Washington Irving's character Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) time travels to the modern-day village of Sleepy Hollow. There, he helps the pretty Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) to save the world from evil.
PBS's totally adorable, sweet-and-soapy The Paradise, based on the Emile Zola novel, is a Victorian-era love story. It takes place in one of the world's first department stores, where women's empowerment collides (cutely) with a more genteel era. Starring: Joanna Vanderham and Emun Elliott.
Top of the Lake is a glorious, and gloriously gloomy drama from director Jane Campion with Mad Men's great Elisabeth Moss and the great Holly Hunter. The short-run show revolved around a missing, pregnant 12-year-old girl in New Zealand. But, more than that, the investigation into her disappearance forces Moss's detective Robin Griffin to confront the dark side of her own childhood.
Honorable Mention: Drama
While readers' picks were spot on, we think the best new drama of 2013 is Broadchurch on BBC America, which came thisclose to snagging a win with readers, too.
On the show, Doctor Who's David Tennant brilliantly portrays a detective investigating the disappearance of a boy in a British seaside town. The case unhinges the townsfolk who start pointing fingers and try to hide their secrets. Co-star Olivia Colman, who plays an under-appreciated investigator, a mother and an emotional wreck, is fantastic. She deserves an Emmy.
The Bestie: Reality/Unscripted
Fox's fiftieth (or so) unscripted show with chef Gordon Ramsay, MasterChef Junior, snagged a decisive win among TVFirstLook's readers for best new reality show.
The spinoff of MasterChef pits kids who are would-be cooks against each other in fun, entertaining competitions.
Plus, they're kids, so they're cute. So much so that the usually apoplectic chef is kinda warm and fuzzy on Junior.
Honorable Mention: Reality/Unscripted
Tie: Alternate Route and The Getaway, both on NBC's new, award-worthy cable network Esquire. The network, with only a misfire or two in its short life, is to TV what gabardine is to fashion: classy and reliably so.
On Alternate Route, host Matt Hranek spins the tired travel genre on its head. This is a guy's travel show for guys who like to shoot guns, drive souped-up cars, hang out at bars and, oh yeah, set aside a third of their income for handmade clothes. The show is beautiful, fun and it manages to make even the most ordinary destinations look dreamy.
The same can be said of The Getaway, a travel show from executive producer Anthony Bourdain. On each episode, a celebrity visits a favorite vacation spot to give an almost-local's viewpoint on a city, like Aisha Tyler in Paris or Aziz Ansari in Hong Kong. Beautiful, fun.
The Bestie: Miniseries or Special
We confess, we'd barely heard of PBS's The Bletchley Circle when TVFirstLook's readers started voting in big numbers for it to win this year's The Bestie for best new miniseries. Now, we're going to go back and find out what all the loving's about.
On the three-episode series, which, the Variety said is "smart, addictive and situated in a fascinating historical moment," a group of British women who had secretly worked as codebreakers during World War II reunite in the 1950s to investigate a series of unsolved murders.
Honorable Mention: Miniseries or Special
This year's best new miniseries honorable mention winner, PBS's outstanding The Hollow Crown, is also our pick for 2013's best new TV show, period.
The four-part series ties together four of Shakespeare's masterworks, Richard II, Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II and Henry V, starring a long list of actors, notably Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Patrick Stewart, John Hurt, Julie Walters, David Suchet, Michelle Dockery and David Morrissey.
The four episodes mix modern movie-making with William Shakespeare's 400-year-old text. The images are lush, beautiful and cinematic. The acting is exceptional. And the words of Shakespeare, so often unintelligible and rendered meaningless, are spoken with confidence and clarity.
The result is quite possibly the best-ever filmed version of Shakespeare's plays. Incredible.