The Top 10 TV Shows of 2013

January 14, 2015


I continue my top 10 catch-up march by looking at the best TV shows of 2013 after the jump.

  1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 1: 1-11)

Sure, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ premiered in the fall of 2013 and was displaced a few weeks for baseball, but it came right out of the gate to make me laugh and only continued to get stronger through the 11 episodes as it was tweaked by the same creative team that created and then effectively tweaked ‘Parks and Recreation’ into a great comedy. The childish enthusiasm of Andy Samberg mixed well with the deadpan hilarity of Andre Braugher and the supporting cast all provided the perfect dash of unique styles of comedy to the great show.

  1. Orphan Black (Season 1)

It’s impossible to separate the surprise of the great first season of ‘Orphan Black’ from the incredible performance by Tatiana Maslany. She brought life to every version of the clones at the center of the show and allowed each to be unique while possessing enough similarities to feel like they were cut from the same cloth. The plot was filled with just enough twists and turns to keep things entertaining without getting lost while moving ahead at a blazing pace so as to not allow anyone to feel safe at any point in time.

  1. Parks and Recreation (Seasons 5:10-22 & 6:1-9)

The most consistently funny and warm comedy on TV had another great year as Leslie and Ben got married, Leslie had to deal with the difficulties of the city council dream that she always wanted, Andy went to spend some time in London (while filming ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’), and Ben invented an incredible new game called the Cones of Dunshire. The characters on ‘Parks and Recreation’ feel more and more like family every year and the family had many great moments in 2013.

  1. Arrested Development (Season 4)

Wait, did this really happen? After years of talk and false speculation, did they finally make a fourth season of ‘Arrested Development’ and most importantly, did they have a good reason to make it? Well, the answers appear to be yes, yes, and for the most part. I think I liked this new, Netflix season of ‘Arrested Development’ more than most, but I can admit that the design of the season lead to several of the weakest episodes that the show has ever made (primarily those focusing on Lindsay and George Sr.). Nevertheless, the style of humor remained consistently meta, call-back-y, and explosively funny. The jigsaw puzzle style of the season will also have a lot to continually explore on future viewings.

  1. Broadchurch (Season 1)

This 8-hour, British mystery focused on the effect of the death of a young boy on a small, beachside town and the human secrets revealed in the wake of the intense spotlight of a murder investigation. Things felt a bit arch in the first couple of episodes, but as the emotions continued to build on each other, things became cumulatively more intense and powerful. The great British cast, including ‘Doctor Who’-alums David Tennant and Arthur Darvill as well as the always incredible Olivia Colman and David Bradley, really brought things to life.

  1. Hannibal (Season 1)

Bryan Fuller, the creator of such other incredible TV shows as ‘Pushing Daisies,’ ‘Wonderfalls,’ and ‘Dead Like Me,’ might be my favorite creative force working in television right now, but even I was skeptical of him bringing the umpteenth adaptation Hannibal Lecter into the current TV landscape saturated with terrible serial killer ”dramas.” Turns out that my fears were misplaced as Fuller and an incredible cast cut through the cookie-cutter noise to create the most artistic, beautiful, and disturbing show on network television. More of a moody art film than a procedural, the show cared more about feel and beauty than answers and plot, all things that I support.

  1. The Americans (Season 1)

The story of Soviet spies living amongst the suburbs of Washington DC in the early 1980’s heart of the cold war was full of tension and thrills, but at its heart captured and explored many of the complexities of marriage and relationships. A superb use of period appropriate music enhanced the 1980’s feel without ever rubbing the audience’s face in the similarities/difference to modern times. Unfortunately the children of Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell’s Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings were underutilized, but the performances by the two lead actors as well the American good guy played by Noah Emmerich were some of the most complex of the year.

  1. Bob’s Burgers (Seasons 3:10-23 & 4:1-8)

This sweet, animated show was a far cry from the cynicism and stupidity of the Seth McFarlane shows on FOX, and it was all because of the zany but caring Belcher family. The journey of 2013 took the Belchers from talking, intuitive toilets, to a family camping trip, and finally a Christmas fist-fight with a candy cane trucker. Yeah, it sounds weird, but the way that the family cared for each other throughout the many odd trials and situations grounded the show and gave it a heart that’s not easy to find even in live action TV.

  1. Rectify (Season 1)

Sure there were only 6 episodes in the first season of Sundance channel’s first original, scripted drama ‘Rectify,’ but they were an impressive 6 episodes. Like NBC’s ‘Hannibal,’ the pace of ‘Rectify’ was very unique, acting more like a small scale Terrence Malick film, than what one would expect for a show about a wrongly convicted death row inmate being freed to his small hometown after the reveal of new DNA evidence. The entire town was affected by the release of Daniel Holden and the show was more concerned with those effects rather than the mechanics of what happened upon his release. Additionally, the show had one of the most positive portrayals of Southern Baptist Christians on TV.

  1. Justified (Season 4)

The framework of season 4 of ‘Justified’ used an old mystery buried in the heart of Harlan county, and specifically the Givens family, to tease out the usual personal/moral issues within the U.S. Marshals and villains of Kentucky. Though it took a couple episodes to get the ball rolling with the mystery, the climax and conclusion brought things together in spectacular fashion and the crisp, terse dialogue for both the stoic main character played by Timothy Olyphant, and the charismatic wildman played by Walton Goggins kept the proceedings electrifyingly entertaining along the way.


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