Best of Cable TV 2013: Best Cable TV Shows, People, Movies, Moments And More That Charmed Us In 2013
21. Everybody Loves Ray
The rich and famous can rest easy and be sleazy when they’ve got a fixer like Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) in their corner. The hit summer drama Ray Donovan had the most viewers for an original series debut in Showtime’s history. Problem solved.
20. Uneasy Lies The Head
England’s royal family ruled the headlines this year, but Starz was quietly crowning some royalty of its own with the 10-part period drama The White Queen, based on the novel by Philippa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl). Breakout star Rebecca Ferguson ascended to the role of a commoner turned queen during 15th-century England’s War of the Roses.
19. TV Goes Where You Do
Take your TV subscription on the go and watch on your computer or mobile device, thanks to “second screen” apps offered by many cable networks. Most of them are free to customers who log in to their accounts, and they’re a great way to catch up on your favorite series or watch a live sports event.
18. 2 Cute 2 Quit
While the media bombards us with partisan politics, violent atrocities and the spawn of Kim and Kanye, it’s nice to know we can always turn to Animal Planet’s Too Cute! and its heartwarming tales of basset hounds who befriend hamsters.
17. Under The Surface
The beauty of New Zealand’s mountains was the backdrop for human abomination in Sundance Channel’s engrossing seven-part miniseries Top of the Lake from writer/director Jane Campion. Stars Holly Hunter, Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) and Peter Mullan expertly brought this disturbing crime story to life.
16. Fish Stories
Facts? Pfft. Science? BORING! Discovery Channel’s Shark Week chomped on all-time high viewership for the speculative Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives “documentary.” Animal Planet’s Mermaids: The New Evidence attracted some interesting comments on our blog, like “Mermaids are real. I’ve seen and communicated with them. Beware of the dangers in the sea …” OK, then!
15. Bridges Rebuilt
It was said of Keith Olbermann’s ugly divorce from ESPN in 1997 that Olbermann “didn’t just burn bridges [at ESPN]. He napalmed them.” After bouncing from network to network, he returned to the Worldwide Leader in Sports in August with his well-received Olbermann talk show on ESPN2.
14. Send In The Clones
We liked breakout star Tatiana Maslany so much in BBC America’s hit sci-fi thriller Orphan Black, we’d love to have her cloned so she can act in more stuff. Maslany took on the role of a troubled woman who witnesses the suicide of someone who looks exactly like her. (Mind blown.)
13. Twerkin’ For A Livin’
The 30th annual MTV Video Music Awards was the arena for the radical wrecking-ball reinvention of Miley Cyrus. America reacted like it had never seen a pop star do something so calculatedly outrageous before. But the real outrage was having to explain “twerking” to your grandma.
12. DON’T LOOK DOWN!
Almost 13 million people watched Nik Wallenda on Discovery Channel as he made history by becoming the first person ever to cross over the Grand Canyon on a high wire (at 1,500 feet high) and THIS GUY IS CRAZY! OMG! DON’T FALL! PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE DON’T FALL!!
11. Mama’s Boy
A big audience checked into A&E’s Bates Motel, the contemporized Psycho prequel series starring Freddie Highmore as a teenage Norman Bates and Vera Farmiga as his suffocating mom, Norma. It could’ve been a disaster (see 1998’s Psycho, or don’t), but A&E pulled it off and Farmiga earned an Emmy nomination.
10. Yes, Virginia
As half the legendary Masters and Johnson duo of sex researchers depicted in Showtime’s Masters of Sex, Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) is sexy, smart, determined and inventive, and reportedly gives one humdinger of a first date.
9. Epic March
The History Channel had a month for the history books with the debut of docudrama miniseries The Bible and its first original scripted series Vikings in March, both delivering ratings of epic proportions.
8. Caught In The Webb
ESPN sportscaster Brent Musberger made lemonade from the college football BCS National Championship Game lemon with his borderline-creepy fawning over Katherine Webb, Miss Alabama USA 2012 and girlfriend of Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back on land, Syfy unleashed Sharknado, the brilliantly cheesy movie about waterspouts spewing sharks all over Tinseltown. Sharknado blew up Twitter with 300,000 tweets (peaking at 80 tweets per second). Brace yourself for Sharknado 2: The Second One coming in 2014.
6. Tickling The Ivories
With director Steven Soderbergh and a cast including Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Rob Lowe, Scott Bakula, Dan Aykroyd and Debbie Reynolds, HBO’s Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra had the look of a big-screen blockbuster without creative constraints from box-office accountants. The effort paid off with a total of 11 Emmy wins (including Creative Arts Emmys).
5. Dramatic Sweep
Cable shows hauled in the Primetime Emmy hardware and swept the drama categories, winning best drama (AMC’s Breaking Bad), best actor (Jeff Daniels, HBO’s The Newsroom), best actress (Claire Danes, Showtime’s Homeland), best supporting actor (Bobby Cannavale, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) and best supporting actress (Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad).
4. Who Done It
BBC America celebrated the 50th anniversary of the world’s longest running and most successful sci-fi series Doctor Who, participating in a global simulcast of The Day of the Doctor in November. BBC America dedicated an entire week to Doctor Who with marathons and new specials.
3. Healthy Paranoia
FX made the Cold War hot again with its spy drama The Americans, which follows undercover KGB agents Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) living near Washington, D.C. Renewed for Season 2, the show is part of FX’s underlying conspiracy to create engaging, high-quality dramas for an older audience.
2. JFK Remembered
Whether you remember November 1963 or only know about it from the history books, cable networks like National Geographic Channel (Killing Kennedy), TLC (Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy), TCM (Faces of November) and others kept the flame of president John F. Kennedy burning 50 years after his assassination.
AMC’s Breaking Bad cooked up a cultural phenomenon in its final season, hooking viewers who previously had not tuned in and spurring mad fits of binge viewing. The triumphant final season — “Ozymandias” is the best episode of any TV drama series in history according to IMDB users — had Walter White (Bryan Cranston) marvelously tying up the loose ends.
Did we get it right? Was there something we missed? Something we overrated? Let us know in the comments!