Genre TV for summer and fall of 2013

This past summer was much better for genre television than for movies. Thanks in part to counterprogramming by cable channels, there was a wider range of decent content on the small screen. The fall TV season is equally promising. (Note: Some of the articles linked to below contain “spoilers.”)

Top picks

My favorite TV shows of the past several months include the History Channel’s bloody Vikings, SyFy’s time-travel/dystopian Continuum, and BBC America’s clone thriller Orphan Black, which I’m not alone in considering as the best genre show of the year. They’ve been enough to keep my DVR filled and to keep me from wanting Netflix.

BBC America's Orphan Black
I know I’ve said it before, but this is the best new SFTV show of 2013 so far.

Janice and I have been getting our Doctor Who fix with Doctor Who Confidential, and the transition from Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi was one of the bigger genre news items of the past few months. We’ll see if Arrow can follow up a surprisingly strong first season (learning from Smallville‘s mistakes) with its introduction of the Flash.


Shows that got bumped to my “B” list include the postapocalyptic Defiance and Revolution and bodice-ripping potboilers such as Starz’s Da Vinci’s Demons and The White Queen (and the upcoming Reign and Shakespearean Hollow Crown). While all these shows have decent casts, strong production values, and arc-driven storylines, the quality of the writing still varies significantly.

I haven’t been watching various Doctor Who alumni on BBC America’s Broadchurch, but PBS’s Silk has been OK, We’ll see whether Starz’s pirate swashbuckler Black Sails or BBC’s Atlantis (from the creators of Merlin) can match Spartacus or Magic City for period drama.

More mysteries

Janice and I have also been watching PBS’s Masterpiece. Of the mysteries, I still prefer the original Inspector Morse and sequel/spinoff Inspector Lewis to the prequel Endeavor. After the darkly riveting Bletchley Circle and reruns of the superlative Jeremy Brett version of Sherlock Holmes, we’re waiting on the return of Foyle’s War, Sherlock, and Elementary.

I’m looking forward to the return of Castle and White Collar (despite their dips toward soap) and the prescient Person of Interest, as well as the bittersweet series finales of the fun Psych and Warehouse 13. I’m afraid the new Ironside will run into the same difficulties as the recent attempted remake of Kojak.

Paranormal prodedurals

Speaking of paranormal activities, there’s also the Buffyesque Grimm, which I prefer to other fairytale-themed shows (including Dracula and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland). Da Vinci’s Demons has had a frothy mix of history and pre-steampunk conspiracies.

I don’t know where Sleepy Hollow will fit in this subgenre. New procedurals include Joss Whedon’s return to TV with Marvel’s Agents of Shield and robot/cop partners on Almost Human.

In other new shows, Believe could be good, and it has some of the X-Files/Fringe vibe. Tomorrow People and Star Crossed are more responses to the rise of metahuman melodramas, but whether they will be more like Heroes, which started strong but ended badly, or the underrated Alphas is yet to be seen.

Food, glorious food!

For reality shows, we’ve watched “food porn” such as Phantom Gourmet and TV Diner, as well as occasional shows on the Food Network and Travel Channel. We’ve also watched Top Shot All-Stars, American Ninja Warrior, and some documentaries. However, I’ve avoided the current wave of shows exploiting geekdom.

Animation nation

I’m still pleased with the Seinfeld-style antics on The Looney Tunes Show, franchise continuations Dragons: Riders of Berk and Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, and atmospheric newcomer Beware the Batman. Disney/Marvel may dominate live-action, but its Avengers Assemble and Hulk and the Agents of SMASH aren’t animation I’d recommend.

This fall, I’m looking forward to Avatar: the Legend of Korra and more DC Nation shorts. Younger audiences might appreciate Kung-Fu Panda: Lgends of Awesomeness, Monsters vs. Aliens, Teen Titans Go, SheZow, and Rabbids Invasion. Note that most of these are now computer-based rather than 2-D cell animation.

Coming soon: Game transitions and more movie musings….