It’s time to do what we always do at the end of the year, reflect. Reflect on the best TV shows of 2013 that is! Now when I say “best” what I’m really referring to are my own personal favorite (or “best”) programs. TV shows I can’t live without. I watch A LOT of TV (more than my wife would probably care for me to) so I get a good look at pretty much everything. Reality TV, dramas, comedies, you name it I’ve probably seen it. I also get screeners of shows sent to me and have online access to screeners of shows yet to be released. That’s a lot of TV. But just like everyone else, I have my own personal preferences.
When you go through this list you won’t see many sitcoms (I just don’t find many things on TV to be that funny.). You’ll also notice a mix of old and new programs. My criteria for a “Best of 2013″ show wasn’t confined to programs that have been on the air a long time. One of the TV shows on my list has only run six episodes. In my opinion, if it’s a good show and stays away from DVR purgatory (when you record something because you think you might watch it but it stays on your DVR forever) then it’s a candidate to be on the list. There were a lot of nominees that didn’t make it (“Elementary,” “House of Cards,” “Million Dollar Listing New York”) but these are the top 10 shows I felt were the best of the best.
Think I missed something? Feel free to weigh in on the comments. Tomorrow look for my picks for the Best Video Games of 2013. But for now, here are the Best TV Shows of 2013.
10. Sleepy Hollow, FOX
With “Sleepy Hollow” Fox did the impossible – they made Ichabod Crane cool. Cool jacket, cool accent, cool attitude. This show, which is a re-imagining of the Washington Irving short story, finds Icky (that’s I call him) in modern day New England, battling all sorts of odd mystical creatures including the Headless Horseman. Crane (played by Tom Mison) has great chemistry with his police detective partner (Nicole Beharie) and I always get a kick out of his man-out-his-time-period moments.
9. Archer, FX
I’ll admit that “The Big Bang Theory” makes me chuckle now and then and the funny “Brooklyn Nine Nine” just missed this list, but the only show that can make me laugh on a consistent basis is “Archer.” Super spy Sterling Archer may be a misogynist and a complete jerk but much like “South Park’s” Eric Cartman, he’s a riot anyway. Thankfully the show returns for its fifth season January 13. Let this trailer keep you happy until then.
8. Mad Men, AMC
Don Draper is an enigma, wrapped in a blanket, wrapped in a tortilla. A team of psychiatrists couldn’t figure him out, which why he’s so fascinating to watch. Season six ended on a bit of cliff hanger (no spoilers here) so the series’ final season is one I’m really looking forward to.
7. The Americans, FX
When it comes to TV, the 1980s is a decade usually relegated to the world of sitcoms. And truth be told, because of the clothes, music and hairstyles of the time, the 80s are a target rich environment for cliches and jokes. But “The Americans,” which focuses on two Russian spies living in the U.S. disguised as a happy family, makes use of the 1980s better than any other TV show before it. There was a fear that existed in that decade that’s palpable in the show. A fear of nuclear war, a fear of communism, a fear of losing our way of life. You could say we live like that now but the Reagan era 80s were a different animal. What makes “The Americans” so unique is that you actually root for the bad guys. Even though the husband and wife team of Elizabeth and Philip (played by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) are spies, in many ways they just want what every American wants.
6. The Walking Dead, AMC
After the end of season three I was done with “The Walking Dead.” Season two was long and drawn out and season three was much of the same. After getting absolutely no resolution with the evil, eye patch wearing Governor I was ready to throw in the towel. As a fan of the comics, the disconnect between the show and the graphic novels was just too wide. I was done. What a difference a show runner can make. Scott Gimple took over and season four has been everything I hoped this show could be since season one – a fascinating blend of the comics it was borne from along with the creativity a TV show requires. TV is a different medium, Gimple understands that but still keeps “The Walking Dead” grounded in the world in which it was created. Something that hadn’t happened in the two seasons prior. I hope Gimple stays on for a long time.
5. Almost Human, FOX
This show has only aired six episodes but it still makes the cut. “Almost Human” proved that a sci-fi TV show can actually work if you have interesting characters and the special effects serve a purpose (something “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has never learned). Detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) and his android partner Dorian (Michael Ealy) are my favorite crime fighting duo since “Lethal Weapon’s” Riggs and Murtaugh.
4. Survivor, CBS
In 2012 this show looked to be on its last legs, then came the 2013 seasons of Blood vs Water and Caramoan. A well selected mix of new and returning cast members and some unique twists have helped my all time favorite reality show get back to form.
3. Arrow, CW
Superhero shows are very difficult to pull off. They either come across as too campy (see Adam West’s version of Batman) or run the risk of skewing too young (the likable but flawed “Smallville”). Thankfully the CW Network hit the nail on the head with “Arrow.” The network took the Green Arrow, not exactly a household name among non-comic book readers, and turned rich snobby bad boy Oliver Queen into a badass justice seeking vigilante that anyone could root for. Add a solid cast of supporting characters to lead actor Stephen Amell’s tough, determined, yet witty Queen and you have a winner.
2. Game of Thrones, HBO
“Game of Thrones” has its flaws – a cast of 100 different characters with weird names and some less than interesting story lines (most of the kids). I also get bummed when characters I’m fond of die while others who deserve to don’t. But that’s the great thing about George R.R. Martin’s world of Westeros, the good guy doesn’t always win. In fact, they typically get killed in gruesome fashion. This brings me to “Game of Thrones” 2013′s “Red Wedding” episode, which was one of the most talked about TV events of the year. It was an emotional football to the groin. This show is full of moments like that, which is why I’m addicted to “Game of Thrones.” Of course the dragons and nudity are cool too.
1. Breaking Bad, AMC
There really is only one choice for the best TV show of 2013. “Breaking Bad” is one of the best written, best acted and most dynamic shows in television history. For five seasons over six years, “Breaking Bad” was the leanest show on TV, with every episode cleverly moving the story forward with hardly any wasted moments to speak of. “Breaking Bad” was the first water cooler TV show since “Lost” and was a program people actively recruited other people to watch. If you’re a “Breaking Bad” fan you had the, “Are you watching Breaking Bad? No?!? What’s wrong with you?!? You need to get on Netflix now and get caught up!” conversation about two times a day. In September AMC pulled off a rare feat, finishing an amazing series with a gratifying ending.