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Top 10 TV Shows of 2013
2013 was an interesting year for television. There were some unexpected surprises, and they were some new shows that came on the scene and changed everything.

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10. Girls
Girls was my #1 show last year for its inaugural season. While some have sad that it experienced a sophomore slump this year, I couldn’t disagree more. Some of the storylines didn’t have the payoffs that I expected, but it was still a confident unique look at twentysomething life in NYC through the eyes of creator Lena Dunham. “One Man’s Trash” was one of the most talked-about episodes of television this year; inspiring lots of conversation about the direction of the show and how the audience should feel about the main character Hannah. It was a perfect example of what Girls aspired to do. A show that can inspire that type of intellectual conversation deserves to be praised. I can’t wait to see what Lena Dunham and company have in store for the third season in January.

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9. HBO Documentary Films
I feel a little bit guilty for including films on this list, but I really felt HBO and Sheila Nevins deserve credit for bringing high quality documentaries to television. Some of these films would never have a chance at a decent theatrical release. HBO and Nevins putting them on the air gives them a wider audience than they could’ve ever hoped for. They’ve even expanded their slate of films to include new entries all year long. Their summer series is always my favorite programming of that season and featured some particular memorable films. Casting By was a fascinating look into the Hollywood casting process, Pussy Riot featured the story of the controversial Russian protest group, Gideon’s Army did an excellent job of profiling first year public defenders, and The Crash Reel documented the injury and recovery of snowboarder Kevin Pearce. The last film that aired this year, Six by Sondheim, was a fascinating look into composer Stephen Sondheim. The range and variety of topics covered by these films are unmeasurable and provide some of the best programming on television.

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8. Bob’s Burgers
The Belcher family is probably the best family on television. They are dysfunctional and press each other’s buttons, but at the end of the day they all love each other and that shows through more than anything else. But more than anything else, the show is just downright funny. Each of the characters are uniquely written and contribute something different to the show. Tina remains one of my favorite characters on television. She’s the heart and soul of the series and the writers are still consistently proving that. I hope more people check out this show.

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7. Mad Men
Many have complained about the sixth season of Mad Men by saying its by far the worst season. While I would agree that it would be it wasn’t its strongest year (this is the first time in the show’s history that it didn’t make my personal Top 5 of the year), it was still a completely worthy drama and one of the best things to watch on television this year. It had a very dark tone for the entire season and the finale only hammered that home even harder. The finale wasn’t happy by any means, but it was one of the best hours of television this year. Don Draper’s presentation/meeting with Hershey’s will go down as one of Jon Hamm’s best acting moments. It was painful and difficult to watch, but completely earned from where the show was heading from the premiere episode.

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6. The Good Wife
While many are saying that broadcast shows can’t compete with cable offerings, The Good Wife comes along in its fourth & fifth season and proves that wrong. The show turned out its strongest batch of episodes this year by basically turning the show upside down. We are used to seeing shows stay the same year after year. But creators Michelle King & Robert King shook things up and changed the dynamic of the show. The took the main character and gave her a whole new purpose and direction. The shakeup of Alicia & Cary leaving Lockhart/Gardner completely upped the stakes of the show and gave it an incredible momentum. They’ve been able to maintain it so far and I have complete confidence that the creators will continue to do so.

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5. Veep
The concept of the show alone is enough to make it a ‘good’ show. Julia Louis-Dreyfus playing a Vice President. But the show deserves so much credit for giving JLD such a complex, difficult character to play every week. Selina Meyer is a brilliant creation. The combination of JLD’s performance and the writing make it Meyer one of the most interesting character we’ve ever had on television. The ensemble also deserves their own mention. Each of them are completely invested in their characters and they create a richer world that benefits the show. The final three episodes were an incredible run of perfection, advancing the characters and the plot and leaving me desperate to find out what happens in the third season.

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4. Game of Thrones
I had major problems with Game of Thrones‘ second season. It made me think that the show wasn’t going to end up on any all-time lists and that it was downhill from there. I was completely wrong. The third season came back with a strong fire and made me believe that my thoughts on the second season were misguided. However, I think this last season was much more consistent. The pacing was much better, the story lines were more tightly constructed, and the focus on character development was clearer. The journey the characters took this season was much more rewarding. And you can’t talk about GoT without mentioning “The Rains of Castamere” and the infamous Red Wedding, which will go down as one of the most memorable moments of television ever. I’m a firm believer in the show again.

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3. Orange Is the New Black
Netflix was destined to make its mark on television this year. I pretty much expected it to. House of Cards was a premium cable production starring Kevin Spacey & Robin Wright and directed by David Fincher. Of course that was going to make a mark. Arrested Development was returning with a new season of episodes that people have been anticipating since 2006. Of course that was going to be talked about. But nobody expected a women’s prison dramedy from the creator of Weeds to be the show that defined Netflix and make the biggest creative splash. The show could’ve disappeared like many other web offerings, but the quality of the writing, directing and acting made sure that it was noticed. Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman lead a colorful cast of characters that were both unique and realistic. The amount of development given to a wide ensemble of characters is one of the many things that the show accomplished.

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2. The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Looking back on my previous lists, this is the first non-election year that I’ve included these shows. I think that speaks to the importance of these shows. The country is getting more and more unstable every year, and I look to these two guys to put things into perspective. The Colbert Report had a particularly impressive year. His controversy with Daft Punk and MTV was one of the best take downs I’ve ever seen. His government shutdown wedding, featuring Tony winners Mandy Patinkin & Audra McDonald, was one of the most joyous and entertaining moments of the year. And an opening monologue in tribute to his mother (who passed away this year) was one of the most touching things I’ve ever seen. Colbert finally overtook Stewart this year at the Emmys and it was completely deserved. But that’s not to say that Jon Stewart isn’t still doing consistently great things every night. Watching him completely blast the news coverage on CNN and Fox News is completely entertaining (and a little sad considering they are supposed to be sources of news). The Daily Show also deserves credit this year for maintaining the quality of the show with Jon Stewart taking the summer off. John Oliver completely owned those summer months. He did such a great job that HBO offered him his own show to air next year.

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1. Breaking Bad
Up until this point, I had always used The Shield as an example of how to end a series. Now I can safely say that Breaking Bad is now the perfect ideal of how to end a series. Vince Gilligan and company used these final eight episode to take us on a bumpy, wild roller-coaster ride to a brilliant ending. The show had an incredibly difficult job of bringing this show to a satisfying end, and it delivered on that promise. The show had a freight train momentum heading into the final stretch of episodes. “Ozymandias” was one of the best things I’ve ever seen on television. That lead to an amazing conclusion in the final two episodes of the series. Walter White is one of the most complex characters to ever grace our television screen and his journey from the pilot to the series finale couldn’t have been more satisfying to watch.