Editors' Picks: The TV.com Staff's Top 10 Shows of 2013

  • 523comments

One of the reasons I love being employed at TV.com is that I get to work with so many great people and hardcore TV fans. They're a strange lot, with tastes ranging from the predictable to well outside the norm, and nowhere is that more obvious than in our annual collection of editors' picks for the best TV series of the year. I mean, Cory named Catfish as one of his top shows! But in this mad 365 days of television that offered so many amazing series to satisfy everyone's weird preferences—we even upped our lists from five picks to 10 to accommodate more shows—unusual choices are more than welcome, because that's what makes us individuals. So take a look at our lists and pay particular attention to the shows you might not be familiar with, who knows, maybe you'll find a new favorite, too. Thanks for reading, and here's to an equally amazing 2014.

Your pal,
Tim


Cory Barker
Writer / Absolutely Who He Says He Is on the Internet

10. Catfish
9. Key & Peele
8. Hannibal
7. The Americans
6. Justified
5. Enlightened
4. Rectify
3. The Good Wife
2. Mad Men
1. Breaking Bad


Spotlight: Catfish

Here's the thing, guys: There was so much great television in 2013 that I could have done a top 40 and still felt like I'd missed something. My top eight shows have been locked in for a while, and so really, it's a 32-way tie for ninth, and I thought it'd be best to pay some attention to shows that other people probably won't mention. And also, Catfish is pretty amazing. The MTV docudrama really came into its own in its second season, and not just because Nev let my dude Max share the spotlight. Whether the show is totally—or even remotely—real is beside the point, as week after week, it was a weirdly moving platform for (admittedly brief) explorations of not only personal identity and heartbreak, but also sexuality, class, depression, and much more. It's weird to say it, but Catfish is one of the few shows that really digs into issues that speak to and about our contemporary culture. In that regard, it's not only one of the best shows of 2013, it's one of the most important. —Cory


Nick Campbell
Writer / VP of Social Marketing for B613

10. New Girl
9. Scandal
8. Mad Men
7. The Wrong Mans
6. The Returned
5. Orange Is the New Black
4. Game of Thrones
3. The Americans
2. Arrested Development
1. Breaking Bad


Spotlight: The Wrong Mans

Anyone who's been paying attention to British comedy for the past 25 years wouldn't be surprised by the high-level premise for The Wrong Mans: A scrawny, socially impotent, very English gent finds himself a hapless victim of circumstance and egged on by an over-enthusiastic, bold, thick, and somehow also very English friend to do extraordinary things. There's something different about this show, though, as Sam and Phil seem more like active participants in a plot that seems to increase in hopelessness and awkwardness in impossible amounts. Unlike other underdog action movies, in which bad things happen but you see the window the story leaves open for your heroes to escape, Sam and Phil are doomed by the universe—it's like Final Destination, except instead of nature conspiring to kill them, their predators are conniving members of the organized crime underworld, pinning any number of heinous acts on the guys or just outright trying to shoot them. And the fact that the single season is only six episodes long doesn't hurt. Compact, no dull moments, commercials are your only relief. (I love you, British series length.) —Nick 


Andy Daglas
Writer / Cone of Dunshire


10. Shark Tank
9. The Returned
8. Switched at Birth
7. Arrow
6. Parks and Recreation
5. Game of Thrones
4. Justified
3. Key & Peele
2. Spartacus: War of the Damned
1. The Good Wife


Spotlight: Spartacus: War of the Damned

I’m not one for relative rankings of stuff. I started with a list of two or three dozen shows that could’ve made my top ten, and on a different day any of them very well might have. So like Cory, part of my thought process was to choose a few shows I didn’t expect to see cited elsewhere, and Spartacus was definitely one of them. It concluded its run in 2013 with far less fanfare than your Breaking Bads or your Dexters, though it was often the equal of the former and vastly better than the latter. Going in, War of the Damned faced a few hurdles—the loss of several popular characters the previous season, an inevitably morbid conclusion predetermined by history. But it never lost its knack for brash, confident storytelling. Blending lurid, pulpy entertainment with canny cat-and-mouse maneuvering and a darkly philosophical mien, the series rode its breakneck plotting all the way to an emotionally resonant finale that refused to either ignore or succumb to the fatalism at the core of this story. With its uniquely florid dialogue, lush production design, thrilling fight choreography, and meticulous direction, Spartacus looked and sounded like nothing else on TV. For that alone, it’ll be missed. —Andy 


Noel Kirkpatrick
Writer / Drawer of Useless Clocks

10. Flowers of Evil
9. Key & Peele
8. Scandal
7. Gatchaman Crowds
6. Rectify
5. Top of the Lake
4. The Good Wife
3. Breaking Bad
2. Orange Is the New Black
1. Hannibal


Spotlight: Hannibal 

In a year filled to the brim with new shows about the tolls of murder and death, Hannibal stood apart from its colleagues with an aesthete's eye for dreamy horror and and a narrower focus on psychological trauma. It wasn't just that there was a serial-killer-of-the-week to catch, but that these killers had a reverence for their victims, and a desire to transform them, into everything from mushroom gardens to bloody angels to totem poles to cellos (yes, cellos). Like Hannibal's dishes—themselves a transformation of his victims—the show's cases were lovingly constructed pieces of art with a baroque sense of gore, both terrible to look at and yet impossible to look away from. And while the visuals alone would've earned Hannibal a spot on this list, what pushed the series to the top of a rich year was its unflinching psychological destruction of Will Graham. Few shows about murder are willing to delve into the scars that death inflicts on those who solve the murders—as Hannibal does with Will's struggle to cope with his empathy—but then Hannibal doubles down on that notion through its title character's use of honeyed speech, misleading psychological insights, and outright lies to destroy Will. The show's ultimate scare, it turned out, wasn't the gore, but the soft-spoken words of a well-dressed man posing as a friend. —Noel


Price Peterson 
Writer / Orca Truther


10. Eastbound & Down
9. Breaking Bad
8. Veep
7. Game of Thrones
6. Orange Is the New Black
5. Orphan Black
4. Enlightened
3. The Heart, She Holler
2. Teen Wolf
1. American Horror Story: Coven


Spotlight: Teen Wolf

Uh, it's no longer up for debate how good Teen Wolf is, because it is VERY good and has been for a while. Last season proved it was one of the weirdest, most inspired, and entertaining shows on TV. But Season 3 was some next-level insanity. Seriously, the sheer ambition of telling such a sprawling, interlocking story about the Darach, the Alpha Pack, a banshee, the Druids, and the myriad emotional dramas between a stellar roster of characters automatically made Season 3A the best yet. Plus, the fact that executive producer Jeff Davis actually stuck the landing means this season might be a hard one to beat for the rest of Teen Wolf's run. Sure, the labyrinthine plotting and hilariously lugubrious backstory sometimes felt unwieldy, like a runaway locomotive barreling into Hot Topic. But if we're being honest with ourselves, that kind of beguiling, dream-logic confusion is exactly what Teen Wolf does best, and what more TV shows need more of (like, it appears the creators of Sleepy Hollow definitely took note). 

And I can't talk about the season overall without praising one episode in particular: "Motel California" was certainly a high watermark for Teen Wolf. It somehow managed to be terrifying and elegant and intimate (that instantly groundbreaking sex scene!), and it did so without the benefit of serialized set-up or payoff. No, "Motel California" was a standalone horror show that brought hints of Argento, Carpenter, and Hitchcock to MTV. From week to week, Teen Wolf's third season thrilled and confused us with unpredictable (and occasionally baffling) storytelling, but its emotional through-lines remained flawless. At this point it's hard to know whether it will keep up this impossible trajectory when the second half of Season 3 starts next month, but knowing this show's track record thus far, it'd be foolish to expect otherwise. —Price


Ryan Sandoval
Writer / Horse Thief


10. Adventure Time
9. Veep
8. Eagleheart: Paradise Rising
7. Orphan Black
6. Orange Is the New Black
5. Game of Thrones
4. Eastbound & Down
3. American Horror Story: Coven
2. The Americans
1. Breaking Bad


Spotlight: Eagleheart: Paradise Rising

This Adult Swim epic is the rare comedy for weirdos and classic humorists alike. Making the transition from procedural to a 10-part serialized "Thursday-night movie," Paradise Rising follows the continued adventures of U.S. Marshal Chris Monsanto (Chris Elliot, who we would watch read the phonebook if phonebooks still existed) as he fights bizarre criminals and maneuvers around the secret that he violently killed partner Brett Mobley (Brett Gelman) in wood-chipper accident. What began as a skewed Walker, Texas Ranger parody has now evolved into a gleefully violent theater of the absurd, where Maria Thayer markets a show that stars apple-head dolls and Joe Estevez uses his traveling soul to grift for spaghetti. It's a Naked Gun for a new generation— quotable in an early Homer Simpson kind of way, with plenty of laughs for the those of us sociopaths who enjoy plots about sentient fedoras and preposterous ultra-violence. —Ryan


MaryAnn Sleasman
Writer / Trampstamp Aficionado


10. Covert Affairs
9. Graceland
8. Downton Abbey
7. American Horror Story: Coven
6. Shameless
5. Supernatural
4. The Americans
3. Grimm
2. Mad Men
1. Continuum


Spotlight: Continuum

Ah, Continuum, among the finest of the Canadian imports. Continuum's second season continued to bring all of the awesome things: timey-wimey stuff, badass lady cops, and a future ruled by nerds. Well, one nerd. Maybe. Depending on how that aforementioned timey-wimey stuff works out. Season 2 also tackled the more personal side of dicking around with time travel—if, in fact, that's what's actually happening and not an unavoidable (and unfortunate) fate playing out as it was always intended. We met up with Kiera's old partner, watched Kiera have a nervous breakdown that was a loooong time coming, and encountered the ruthless "freelancers." Erik Knudsen brought out the darker side of nice, nerdy Alec and for the first time, the question of how such a gentle dweeb evolved into Big Brother personified was addressed—and it was sad because of course it was. We long suspected that Liber8 might not actually be the baddest of the baddies on this show, and by the end of the season, they actually looked like the closest thing to allies Kiera had left. Now if only we could figure out how to get the U.S. and Canadian broadcasts to cooperate! —MaryAnn 


Lily Sparks
Writer / Painter of Light


10. Twisted
9. Lost Girl
8. Adventure Time
7. Orange Is the New Black
6. Eastbound & Down
5. Veep
4. Game of Thrones
3. Once Upon a Time
2. Reign
1. American Horror Story: Coven


Spotlight: Reign

I wanted to throw a little love to Reign, The CW’s ambitious period piece, because in its brief run it's been making all the right choices, and that deserves applause. In addition to looking lush and beautiful and expensive AND having an incredibly appealing cast, the series is aiming high for its audience. With intricate plotting that moves lightning fast and a shrewd, brave heroine (Mary Queen of Scots, portrayed by the instantly lovable Adelaide Kane), it's defying all my expectations for how a typical teen romantic drama should operate while preserving all the elements I watch teen dramas for: Hello angst! Hello sweeping romance! Hello unbearable heartache! All that, but wrapped up as a period drama. Also Anne of Green Gabl— excuse me, Megan Follows— is KILLING IT as the diabolical Catherine de Medici. If you have even a passing interest in Renaissance politics or a castle with secret passages or just a teen drama that portrays girls as considered, layered individuals and not H&M mannequins, this is the show you’ve been waiting for. Long may it Reign! —Lily


Tim Surette
Senior Editor / Dana Brody's Soulmate

10. Orange Is the New Black
9. Comedy Bang! Bang!
8. The Returned
7. Person of Interest
6. Game of Thrones
5. The Americans
4. Rectify
3. Justified
2. Enlightened
1. Breaking Bad


Spotlight: Comedy Bang! Bang!

Maybe it's because it's tucked away on IFC that more people aren't talking about this show, but no series on television has ever made me laugh harder on a consistent basis. Comedy Bang! Bang! is a fake talk show with infinite potential because it exists in a fake world full of zany characters, taxidermy that talks, and the occasional ghost. The series' endless creativity keeps it eternally fresh and funny; bandleader Reggie Watts and host Scott Aukerman have chemistry that would make Walter White jealous, and the revolving door of guests—both real and fake—showcases some of the best talent out there who you may not be familiar with (do yourself a favor and watch any of Andy Daly's appearances). If you're a fan of Community, check it out, as it's meta as all heck and essentially a real-life version of Troy & Abed in the Morning. —Tim 


Kaitlin Thomas
Associate Editor / Hobo Werewolf-in-Training

10. Arrow
9. Teen Wolf  
8. Parks and Recreation
7. Mad Men
6. Veep
5. The Americans
4. Game of Thrones
3. Orphan Black
2. Justified
1. Breaking Bad


Spotlight: Justified

In 2013, FX's Justified moved away from telling stories about Big Bads like Mags Bennett and Robert Quarles and took on a new format: the season-long mystery. It was a bold move for a series entering its fourth year, but the search for Drew Thompson was just as thrilling as any other story from the show's past. By separating Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder for most of the season, the series proved that it was more than capable of driving forward without relying on their electrifying relationship as fuel, making everything that much better when their roads eventually did cross in "Decoy" as the search for Thompson brought them back into each other's orbits. Season 4 also featured a compelling storyline for Jacob Pitts' Tim after three seasons of mostly tertiary plots, and when you add in Patton Oswalt's fantastic turn as Constable Bob, it was filled to the brim with stellar performances. Of course, those performances wouldn't exist at all if it weren't for writing that I dare say is on par with that of series like Breaking Bad and Mad Men. The series is as smooth as the best whiskey in Kentucky, it deftly inserts dry humor into moments of tension, and it's baffling to me that it doesn't earn more awards recognition—but as long as Justified is content with flying under the radar while still turning in some of the most gripping drama currently on TV, I'm okay with it too. (But I'd be totally cool if Walton Goggins won an Emmy, just saying.) —Kaitlin


Jen Trolio
Managing Editor / Lil' Sebastian Is My Spirit Animal


10. American Horror Story: Coven
9. New Girl
8. Masters of Sex
7. Mad Men
6. Parks and Recreation
5. 30 Rock
4. Game of Thrones
3. Orange Is the New Black
2. Breaking Bad
1. The Americans


Spotlight: Masters of Sex

I can't believe I'm the only one with Masters of Sex on my list! Okay, maybe the pilot didn't turn you on, but if that's the case, Showtime's new period piece is worth a second look—the series is a grower, not a shower. It takes its time and it isn't selfish; it wants to keep viewers satisfied. By the end of the first season, even the smaller side plots had reached a compelling climax—almost as if to underscore the finding that size doesn't matter. And while there's plenty of pay-cable coitus (duh), Masters of Sex does an impressive job of not being lazy or gratuitous with it; generally, it takes an artful, winking approach that elevates the sexy funtimes to make them both emotionally resonant AND entertaining. Meanwhile, the show skillfully uses its '50s setting and real, historical source material in a way that's both titillating and eye-opening—no easy feat for a story whose ending can be found on Wikipedia. And the performances, oh, the performances! As you may've heard, Michael Sheen is indeed pretty masterful as the somewhat-cold and calculating William Masters, but it's Lizzy Caplan who deserves all the accolades for her captivating turn as Virginia Johnson, one of the year's best new characters. The supporting cast is excellent, too, particularly Beau Bridges and Allison Janney as the university's closeted gay provost and his heartbroken wife. All in all, Masters of Sex is a seductive new series that I can't wait to, errrr, jump back into bed with when it returns for Season 2. —Jen


Your turn! Let's hear your favorite TV shows of 2013 in the comments.



Like TV.com on Facebook