The Tube: Catch up on some of the best shows of 2013

The Tube
Who needs a heater when you have the warm, gentle glow of a television screen? — photo by Rachel Jessen

It’s cold and snowy outside, but despite our desire to stay indoors buried under piles of blankets with Netflix’s virtual fireplace crackling on our laptops, many of our favorite television shows are still on their mid-season breaks. While some started right on Jan. 1 (don’t be ashamed Dance Moms fans!), others will pick back up towards end of the month (Workaholics on Jan. 22) or throughout February (The Walking Dead, Feb. 9; House of Cards, Feb. 14; and Scandal Feb. 27). There’s nothing like living in the past at the start of a new year, so here are some of the best shows that debuted in 2013 for you to watch through winter.

Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)

Just like it sounds, Inside Amy Schumer is a sketch comedy show featuring comedian Amy Schumer. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I stumbled across what is now one of my favorite sketches: “Lunch at O’Nutters.” Making fun of the ridiculousness of restaurants like Hooters or Tilted Kilt, the servers at O’Nutters are all men with large testicals who get patrons to participate in wet nut competitions. Schumer’s other sketches are equally hilarious and usually offer smart social critiques. Check out “Sexting” and “Compliments” on YouTube if you need more convincing.

The Americans (FX)

The Americans is a Cold War-era drama starring Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, two Soviet K.G.B. spies posing as an American couple living in the suburbs of Washington D.C. The show is filled with both tension over their family possibly being exposed and numerous extramarital sexual encounters in the name of espionage. Plus, The Americans was created and produced by a former CIA agent, so that’s kinda cool.

Sleepy Hollow (FOX) 

This show started a little slow for me, but I’m glad I stuck around. Sleepy Hollow is a supernatural drama that features Revolutionary War-era time traveler, Ichabod Crane. While investigating the Headless Horseman in contemporary Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., Crane’s 18th-century worldview is constantly juxtaposed with the norms of modern society. This is best exemplified by Crane’s observations after purchasing donuts (read with a Colonial American English accent): “This meal cost $4.95?! Dear God. With an additional tax of 41 cents? … A 10 percent levy on baked goods. You do realize the Revolutionary War began on less than 2 percent? How is the public not flocking to the streets in outrage? We must do something.”

Rectify (Sundance Channel) 

Premiering last April, Rectify is the first original series developed by Sundance Channel (it’s actually considered a six-part miniseries). The premise: After spending 19 years on death row for the rape and murder of his teenage girlfriend, Daniel Holden (Aden Young) is exonerated after new DNA evidence is revealed. The show follows Holden, his family and the small southern town he resides in as he adjusts to life post-release. Awesomely, Damien Echols, one of the West Memphis Three, reviewed Rectify for the Huffington Post and praised the creator for capturing “the wonder a man experiences once he’s returned from the land of the dead.”

Hannibal (NBC)

This series is based on the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, and details the early relationship between FBI investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and everyone’s favorite cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). Half the fun of this show, for me, are the references to the novel’s sequels, particularly when Hannibal visits the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, which is where he was imprisoned in The Silence of the Lambs. The other half of the show’s fun comes from Laurence Fishburne’s performance as Special Agent Jack Crawford. These together make Hannibal emotionally engaging and supremely creepy. Watch it!

Banshee (Cinemax) 

I recently started watching Banshee after finding out that Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood) is one of its producers, and I was not disappointed. Like Rectify, Banshee tells the story of an unnamed protagonist who is recently released from a 15-year prison sentence. His crime? Stealing diamonds from a Ukrainian gangster named Mr. Rabbit. Upon his release, the diamond thief heads to the fictional Banshee, Pa., in the hopes of reconnecting with his former love. However, problems arise—as they usually do—and he eventually kills the local sheriff and assumes his identity. I could go on about how ridiculous and awesome this plot is, but I think you get the idea.

Masters of Sex (Showtime)

I love Lizzy Caplan (Party Down, New Girl), so even if this show was horrible (it’s not!) I would probably still watch it. Caplan and Michael Sheen play sex researchers, Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, who were famous for their work on human sexuality and sexual responses from the late 1950s through the 1990s. Numerous television critics compare the show to Mad Men, which seems a bit obvious given the period its set in, but the show is also garnering such association because it’s also visually beautiful and full of scandalous drama. And sex. Lots of sex.

Time of Death (Showtime)

This six-part documentary follows several terminally ill individuals, and their families and caregivers, during their final months, weeks, days and even seconds, of life. I had never heard the term “actively dying” before as I am fortunately sheltered in the ways of death, so I learned a lot about the process of dying and how it’s absolutely nothing like the television and movie depictions we watch on a near constant basis (shocker, right?!). Watching this will make you cry a lot of tears and feel a lot of feels, but it’s worth it.

Some other honorable mentions: Trophy Wife (ABC), The Wrong Mans (Hulu) and The Returned (Sundance Channel). Of course Orange is the New Black (Netflix) and Orphan Black (BBC America) would be on this list, too, but you’ve already been subjected to an entire column of me praising them.

Melissa Zimdars’ winter TV list, which includes FINALLY starting Doctor Who, will probably take her years to get through. 

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