Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Top 10 Best TV Shows of 2013

It's that time of year again. The year is winding down. The family is coming together to celebrate the holidays. And all your favorite TV shows are going on hiatus for a couple of weeks.

It's also the time to look back at the year that happened as we prepare for the new one approaching. That means I, as a TV Critic, have to offer my 2 cents on which TV programs of the last year were the 10 best. 

2013 was a great year for television. It was the year of dramas. My list of the Top 10 shows of the show is filled entirely by dramas - from both broadcast, cable and online. There is such a wide wealth of quality currently happening in the medium. No two critics have had the exact same Best Of list this year. My list is different than everyone else's - and that's perfectly fine.

I tried to list my 10 favorite things I watched this year. There may have been series with better seasons this year. I've heard that Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire had their best seasons to date. There's only been amazing things said about Sundance's trio of entries - Top of the Lake, Rectify and The Returned. Tatiana Maslany and her show Orphan Black have been fueling the discussion of every awards announcement this year.

But I chose to rank the seasons that I've actually seen this year. And even then, it was so difficult to rank all the great stuff that happened in 2013. So, I am expanding my list to 20 shows to better showcase what I loved this year. My Top 20-11 was where I recognized most of the comedies of the year.

20. Trophy Wife (ABC)
19. Ground Floor (TBS)
18. Parenthood (NBC)
17. New Girl (FOX)
16. Girls (HBO)
15. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
14. Veep (HBO)
13. Arrow (The CW)
12. Switched at Birth (ABC Family)
11. Broadchurch (BBC America)

Despite expanding the rankings, I still felt like I was alienating stuff. I enjoyed what Bunheads, Suits, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Blacklist, House of Cards, American Horror Story: Asylum and Vikings did in 2013. But there just wasn't enough room for all of them to make the list.

So here's my Top 10 list of the best TV shows that aired in 2013.

Season 1: September 16 - December 9, 2013

The biggest surprise of the year was how much I've enjoyed this FOX drama. Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie are perfectly cast in the leading roles. The show around them is so crazy but is so entertaining and fascinating. Yes, Orlando Jones is frequently off on his own show that is so different than the one everyone else is in. But listening to Ichabod chat with OnStar's Yolanda and discussing the absurdity of taxes on baked goods more than makes up for that.

BEST EPISODE: 1.08 "Necromancer"

Season 2: January 10 - May 16, 2013
Season 3: October 3 - December 12, 2013

Like Sleepy Hollow, Scandal showcases a world where outlandish things are constantly happening but they never play simply for the shock value. Scandal has a firm grasp on its characters and doesn't worry about whether or not anyone is viewed as likable in the audience's eyes. The early 2013 hours were the series' best string of episodes that cemented this drama on my year-end list and the hours since then - while delving wider and not deeper in this world - have just been a nice bonus to watch every week.

BEST EPISODE: 2.13 "Nobody Likes Babies"

Season 1: January 30 - May 1, 2013

The Americans had the strongest debut season of any FX drama so far. Led by the excellent pairing of Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, the drama gave one of the strongest and different depictions of marriage on any show - past or present. Couple that with strong supporting turns by Noah Emmerich and Margo Martindale as well as a breakout performance by Annet Mahendru and a great soundtrack, The Americans was wonderfully and exciting to watch.

BEST EPISODE: 1.09 "Safe House"

Season 6: April 7 - June 23, 2013

Mad Men is in the later years of its life. A series end date has been set and the awards show have largely moved on to the newer and flashier things. But the show hasn't lessened in quality at all. At the start of the season, sure I had my doubts because it did feel like Don was retreading on stuff he already had done. But the stuff with Peggy was fascinating and the season really got into high gear once the two agencies merged and brought new and interesting dynamics into the workplace. Jon Hamm then got something entirely new to play once his daughter Sally walked in on him having sex with Linda Cardellini's character. A game-changing finale also more than solidified this aging series spot on this list.

BEST EPISODE: 6.13 "In Care Of"

Season 4: January 6 - April 28, 2013
Season 5: September 29 - December 1, 2013

The Good Wife has frequently been hailed as "broadcast television's best." That's a double-edged sword. It's a great show to watch and it's on a broadcast network. Or it's a great show for a broadcast network. But this year, The Good Wife has just phenomenal, period. It all started last February in "Red Team/Blue Team," when it discovered that the characters were more interesting when they faced each other. That sprang into an amazing arc with Alicia and Cary plotting to split away from the firm to start their own. "Hitting the Fan" was the series' best episode ever - and in the Top 5 for the best of any show on any network for 2013.

BEST EPISODE: 5.05 "Hitting the Fan"

5. MASTERS OF SEX (Showtime)
Season 1: September 29 - December 15, 2013

It would be easy to write off Masters of Sex as just another Mad Men copy. But that couldn't be farther from the truth. Yes, the two share similar time periods but that's just about the only comparison. Masters of Sex is something different and fresh and much needed in a time where cable dramas are trying and failing to be set around anti-hero males. Masters of Sex has a profound story to tell and it does it well and with nuance. Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen are dynamic and compelling as the leads. And if Allison Janney doesn't win the Guest Actress in a Drama Series Emmy next September, then there really is not justice in this world.

BEST EPISODE: 1.11 "Phallic Victories"

Season 4: January 8 - April 2, 2013

Justified's fourth season was a masterfully plotted arc - cumulating in the series' best episode "Decoy" that featured absolutely everything that what makes this drama so great. Raylan is falling further into the criminal world and questionable ethics just like his father did. Adding in his father's death and this was a strong season for Raylan Givens and portrayer Timothy Olyphant. Additionally, Boyd and Ava's romance sparked new complications that gave both performers some truly amazing stuff to play.

BEST EPISODE: 4.11 "Decoy"

Season 1: April 4 - June 20, 2013

The Good Wife has been called broadcast's best. Even though the CBS procedural had its best year to date, I believe Hannibal on NBC was even better. The last thing any of us needed was another show about a serial killer. And yet, Hannibal put a new spin on that genre as well as on all of these characters already made famous in the movies. The drama really examined the psychology of mental health and what that costs for the people who investigate such demented crimes. Hannibal was imaginative and thought-provoking and produced truly astounding work from Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Laurence Fishburne and Caroline Dhavernas.

BEST EPISODE: 1.13 "Savoureux"

Season 1: July 11, 2013

Netflix entered the original scripted foray this year. In House of Cards and Arrested Development, the streaming service made quite the flashy entrance. But it's this prison comedy-drama that truly made what Netflix wanted to do a true reality. The ensemble series truly delves into the world of the prison atmosphere and creates more than a dozen memorable characters that you just want to spend so much more time with. Orange Is the New Black made me laugh and made me cry. It was new and original and a pleasure to watch a show fronted by a large and diverse female cast.

BEST EPISODE: Episode 1.11 "Tall Men with Feelings"

Season 5: August 11 - September 29, 2013

It should be no surprise that Breaking Bad topped my list for the Best TV in 2013. It's final season was one of the strongest batch of final episodes in the history of cable dramas. It serviced all the characters well in its peddle-to-the-meddle storytelling. It offered one very satisfying conclusion to the man who went from Mr. Chips to Scarface - all because he loved cooking meth. "Ozymandias" was the strongest episode of the year with Walter White finally having to deal with everything he created while the final two episodes of the season were a nice, thoughtful and didantic piece of how much every character has lost during this six-year journey. Sure, everything was wrapped a little-too nicely in the finale but this is a show that won't be forgotten about any time soon. This final season strongly cemented Breaking Bad as one of the top shows of all time - and the best of 2013.

BEST EPISODE: 5.14 "Ozymandias"