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2013 In Review - My Thoughts On A Terrific Year Of Television

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I think it's fair to say 2013 has been a excellent year for television. As the industry continues searching for fresh new ideas and concepts, the fans are the ones who get to experience the benefits and reap the rewards of having such variety to choose from. It's been a huge year, and I'll only be scratching the surface with my thoughts in this article.

If there's one trend that's become abundantly clear in 2013, it's the rise of the serial drama. All the big networks and many cable networks have been working very hard with the genre to give viewers concepts, characters, and content, that hasn't been tried before. Drama is the only genre I watch, and even then I'm not a pushover, but I've been spoiled for choice this year.

Early in the year, and currently, ABC's Scandal and CBS's Person of Interest were the highlights for me. Both shows grew their storylines and characters dramatically in the second halves of their seasons. For Scandal it's resulted in a cult following of Gladiators, and a spectacular rise in ratings. In the case of Person of Interest, a storyline which has grown in complexity and the death of a main character in the past few weeks show the intent of the creative team to push the boundaries.

In the middle of the year I was catching up on a few other shows and tasting a few new ones that I'd heard about but thought best to leave. The most noteworthy of those was BBC America's excellent new series Orphan Black. I only watch drama but never watch anything with sci-fi weaved through it, however Orphan Black has been a big exception because despite having sci-fi listed in its genre, there's almost none in it at all. The storyline is superb, and a small cast led by the exceptionally talented Tatiana Maslany keeps things close-knit and allows strong character development. The technical prowess of the editing team is second to none - having the lead actress playing 3 characters at once who are all in the same room talking to each other is a real sight to see. I'd strongly recommend you give this series a go if you're looking for something to watch that's technically superb and has excellent characters and storylines. The second season of Orphan Black begins April 19, 2014.

Uniqueness is paying off, with freshman series with unusual concepts garnering my eye in 2013. CBS scored a huge summer hit in 2013 in the form of Under the Dome. The series which hails from a Stephen King novel of the same name scored huge ratings and audiences in its 13 episode run from June onward. It's a series which puts its own spin on a post-apocalyptic scenario, and by developing strong characters and relationships, has won me over. Back at the start of 2013, FOX's Kevin Bacon starring breakout The Following also won big ratings with its dark hero vs villan story arcs, and fascinating characters. NBC's The Blacklist has coupled a well respected cast with a highly unpredictable, action-packed storyline, though the special effects and CGI leave a lot to be desired at present. CBS's Hostages has gone for conventional on the surface, but again the storyline excels. It goes without saying that I'll be following all these shows very closely in 2014.

However my biggest television event in 2013 didn't actually air on television, but instead on Netflix. Yes, it's House of Cards. The multiple Emmy-nominated drama deserves every accolade it gets. The superb cast and characters, and the excellent, intelligently written storyline gives me everything I want in a television series. But there's far more to it than the show itself, it's what House of Cards means for the television industry as a whole. Netflix and Amazon are perfectly poised to become huge players in the emerging web-based series market, and to take advantage of the millions of cable subscribers ditching the set top box and moving online for their entertainment. House of Cards' huge successes prove that there doesn't have to be a television network in control in order to produce superb content for the small screen. The series returns for season 2 with all 13 episodes released on Netflix February 14, 2014

The shift online by millions of viewers is only a couple of years away from reinventing the industry, and a large portion of that shift has piracy to thank. Unsurprisingly, 2013 was a huge year for piracy as fans worldwide seek ways to break the barriers of geo-locking and the ruthlessness of television networks and studios who fail to deliver the content they want, when they want it. Honorable mentions this year have headed the way of HBO's Game of Thrones and AMC's final season of Breaking Bad. Both shows were pirated by tens of millions more fans than the number of cable viewers in the US. Showtime's Homeland and AMC's other hit The Walking Dead also featured on the weekly lists produced by TorrentFreak. Once networks and studios decide to unlock their content and target the worldwide market with competitive pricing and no geo-locking, they'll be able to reap the rewards from fans all over the world who are happy to pay for content but who can't legally access it.

The way television is promoted is also changing. Twitter and Facebook were being tried and tested in 2012, but 2013 has seen more hashtags splashed over the screen than there are words in the English dictionary. It's not just Twitter that supports hashtags either, with other social networks including Facebook adopting their use in 2013. It's also worth noting that Nielsen began releasing Twitter ratings in 2013, which have been proving interesting reading despite the lack of a comparison or data from previous years.

It's now standard for television series to feature their own Facebook and Twitter pages, which have seen sizeable gains in their following during 2013. Social networking allows fans to interact with each other whenever they like. It's worth noting the massive following ABC's Scandal has garnered during 2013, with a large part of its newfound success down to the fans on Twitter working hard to promote the show. There's now a new hashtag for each episode, and the cast of Scandal, among other shows, are posting behind the scenes content and live tweeting episodes much more frequently. NBC's The Blacklist also produces a weekly YouTube series, Beyond The Blacklist, and Castle, also on ABC, and CBS's Person of Interest have hosted unique fan art and comic based content throughout the year. While being on a social network and interacting with other fans is the absolute last thing I want to do when watching my favorite series, it's been nice to have that unique content there to browse when I've got some spare time.

Twenty-thirteen has been an awesome year. I'm loving where the television industry is at right now, and I can't wait to see what the new year brings us. Onwards and upwards is the only path from here.

But holding onto the past isn't how television works. Twenty-fourteen will no doubt bring a new set of challenges and changes to the television industry, along with new series to try and new concepts and characters to oversee. I'm looking forward to the return of Netflix's House of Cards FOX's The Following, and the always lovable MythBusters on Discovery, and the hilarious Top Gear early in the year, and Orphan Black and Under The Dome later on. Of course there's the numerous other shows which I follow that are on winter hiatus for now, and the dreaded renewal and cancellation news that comes from March onwards. I'm expecting to see some new web based series this year as Netflix and Amazon, among others, refine the art of television production for themselves, and open doors that the rest of the industry may choose to enter. Serial dramas are without a doubt here to stay, and social networking interaction and piracy will set controversial new new records.

Thanks so much for reading my articles in 2013, and I hope you have a safe and happy New Year! I've only scratched the surface with my thoughts, so don't forget to share your own thoughts and comments below, along with your personal highlights of television in 2013!


About the Author - Jimmy Ryan
Jimmy Ryan lives in New Zealand. He is an avid follower of drama television and has a keen interest for television ratings and statistics. Some of his favorite shows right now are Person of Interest, Scandal, House of Cards, Orphan Black, The Blacklist, and Castle. You can visit his website, or follow him on Twitter, @SeriesMonitor.

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