best of 2013 – TV

Here’s my unedited selection of picks of the top TV from my ‘Best of 2013‘ post on the Forbidden Planet International blog. This is the category I found the hardest to cut down – television is producing some of the best dramas currently.

Developed by Bryan Fuller
I came to this sceptical as I didn’t think new life could be breathed into the franchise based on the Thomas Harris books, but Hannibal defied all my expectations and offered me some of the most memorable television in 2013. Apart from the intense central performances by Hugh Dancy as Special Agent Will Graham and Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and the rest of the talented cast, the series features a superb production design on all levels: lighting, sets, costumes, and music. It’s like watching a series of European arthouse movies on television – from America. It’s also some of the most unsettling and scary television I’ve watched in years.

The Returned (Les Revenants)
Created by Fabrice Gobert
This creepy French television series is adapted from a 2004 film of the same name, and looks in minute detail at the occupants of a mountain town and what happens when their deceased loved ones return to the land of the living. The central mystery as to why this is happening keeps you intrigued as the stories of the dead and the living unfold at a measured pace.

American Horror Story: Coven
Co-created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
The third in the AHS series, and by far my favourite. This one focuses on a coven in present-day New Orleans which is guided by a Witch Supreme, who is fading as her successor comes into her powers. All the cast are on the ball, but it is a pleasure to watch marvellous performances from veterans Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, and Angela Bassett who play complex, powerful women who are (mostly) at odds with each other. Coven is pure Grand Guignol, with characters fighting tooth and nail for their survival: including a zombie attack that was partly fended off by a girl with a chainsaw… If you like horror, you should be watching this.

DaVinci’s Demons
Created by David S. Goyer
This is a show of pure indulgence for me: a historical fantasy with Leonardo DaVinci (Tom Riley) as the central character, which features Italian political machinations, an occult secret society, and fabulous costumes. Riley plays the dashing genius with panache, as he wheels in and out of intrigues, trying to uncover the mystery of his past, while retaining his artistic and moral integrity. Good fun, entertaining telly.

Developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg
Another show I came to with scepticism, but was won over by it. Adapted from DC’s Green Arrow comics, this series follows wealthy scion of Starling City, Oliver McQueen, as he returns from a five year absence and tries to re-built the relationships in his life – all while masquerading as a hooded vigilante, revenging his father’s death. The dynamics have changed in the second season as Ollie drops his homicidal bent and focuses more on being a hero, despite a new legion of bad guys and some allies. Engaging and well-paced, although I’d prefer to see less emphasis on the ladies’ interest in Ollie, and more on their own kick-ass abilities.

I must give a shout-out to Elementary, one of the most engaging crime shows on TV currently, with Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu killing it as modern-day Sherlock and Watson in New York, accompanied by a fine cast playing rounded characters. Also, for the cheese factor, I’m enjoying The Witches of East End developed by Maggie Friedman, from the books by Melissa de la Cruz – witches, and curses, and shapeshifters, oh my! Light, breezy entertainment.