Before I begin my list, let me just say that 2013 was an amazing year for television. There were many great series that continued to improve (Game of Thrones and Veep) or break out (Orange is the New Black and The Americans). While 2012 and 2011 were fine years, 2013 may be the peak of the new golden age of television, epitomized by the finale of Breaking Bad, easily the finest thing on the small screen this year. So here are the best shows (or at least my favorites) of 2013.
The best animated TV series on television and like most shows on FX unjustly ignored by awards. But awards don’t matter and Archer will always have the support of a dedicated fan base.
9. The Americans
I’ve actually only seen a couple of episodes of The Americans, but I’ve quickly found it to be the best new drama on cable television. The Americans juxtaposes American to Soviet life through a KGB spy couple living undercover in Virginia. Clever, thrilling, and always entertaining, The Americans is sure to be one of FX’s best shows.
In its sophomore year, Veep continued to grow and develop into one of the most poignant and best satires on television. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale (both of whom won Emmys for their performances) continued to deliver and Armando Iannucci’s cunning humor offers searing commentary on politics today.
7. Parks and Recreation/Arrested Development
If it weren’t for a few bumpy episodes, I would put both shows high (at the top five at least). But no matter; Parks and Recreation and Arrested Development delivered great seasons in a great year. In Parks and Rec, Leslie Knope continued to fight for her position as councilwoman as well as try to help the always incompetent town of Pawnee. The show, criminally neglected by audiences and awards alike, continues to be the most consistent sitcom on television. Arrested Development saw the Bluth family return to 2013 and they are as moronic and self-obsessed as ever. Argue whether Arrested Development’s fourth season was a disappointment or not, but for me it was a long welcome return of grace. I sure did miss the Bluths.
6. Mad Men
It wasn’t Mad Men’s finest year, but the series has always been at the pinnacle of television. Season 6 was no exception; creator Matt Weiner further depicted the growing counterculture of the 1960s while Don Draper continues to adjust himself to his ever-changing life. Mad Men begins its final season (at least the first half) next year and I’m sure Weiner and co. will deliver the goods.
5. The Daily Show with John Oliver
Every year, The Daily Show is guaranteed to make my list but I have to give the series special credit for John Oliver’s run. While Jon Stewart took a hiatus to work on his movie, Oliver took the reigns of the show in a politically hectic summer when Edward Snowden leaked NSA secrets, San Diego mayor Bob Filner was charged with sexual harassment, and Anthony Weiner got into even more trouble. Oliver proved to be as adept as Stewart in detecting bulls***t and provided the year’s best satire. John Oliver will soon helm his own show at HBO and I wish him the best of luck.
4. Orange is the New Black
House of Cards may be getting more attention, but Orange is the New Black, a dramedy that extensively tells the lives of cellmates in a women’s prison, is the stronger of the two new Netflix series. Equally dramatic and funny, Orange is the New Black is not only the best new online series, but the best new series in general.
HBO is usually great at protecting low rated series, but due to low ratings they cancelled Enlightened. Which is a real shame since Enlightened is one of the best shows on television, comedy or drama. Laura Dern’s role as Amy Jellicoe, who tries to keep herself together after a nervous breakdown, is the finest performance by an actress on television.
2. Game of Thrones
The HBO drama may whip up a storm of press for its blood, sex, and violence, but Game of Thrones is the most imaginative and expansive TV show today. Further proof that HBO is still the best at showing that television is film’s equal in terms of visuals.
1. Breaking Bad
Walter White finally saw his life fall apart as everyone and everything he loves turns against him. Every Breaking Bad fan knew from episode one that Walt would eventually pay for his sins, but I couldn’t have been more surprised with the final string of episodes, each as tense and riveting as the next. With the best cast and writers on television, Breaking Bad is one of the finest TV shows ever made.