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The Best TV Shows of 2013 (So Far)

Our TV critic picks 14 great shows from an especially strong half-year of television

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I’m not very well-organized, either in my private or professional life, but one exception is my end-of-the-year TV listmaking; I keep a running list of my favorite shows and episodes throughout the year so that, come December, I don’t forget everything that aired in January. Before leaving on vacation—I’ll be gone when you read this—I updated my lists and realized that it’s been a good first half of 2013, so much so that I’ll have a hard time trimming my lists down to a Top 10 by year’s end, especially if the second half of the year is nearly as strong.

So to give some attention to some work that I may not have room to highlight come December, I give you my Best TV of (The First Half of) 2013 list. Tell me yours in the comments! But a few notes first:

• Unlike my official year-end list, I put more than ten shows on this one, because I can.

• This list is in alphabetical order, not ranked order, because I hate ranking shows once a year much less twice.

• There are plenty of shows on TV that I like but didn’t put on this list; the very loose standard I used here is that these are the shows I could at least imagine, at this point, putting on an annual top-10 at the end of the year.

• That said, I reserve the right to put a show I omitted here on my year-end list,  because I changed my mind and life is unfair.

• I loved 30 Rock’s finale and may well put it on my best-episodes list, but I don’t think the show aired enough episodes to qualify as a best show. See also Life, Unfairness Thereof.

• I left off two shows that should totally be on this list. See if you can figure out which ones they are!

Now for The Best TV Shows of 2013, So Far …

The Americans, FX, Season 1


Craig Blankenhorn/FX

Arrested Development, Netflix, Season 4*

Arrested Development
Sam Urdank / Netflix

Bob’s Burgers, Fox, Season 3



Enlightened, HBO, Season 2 (Final)



Game of Thrones, HBO, Season 3

Game of Thrones


The Good Wife, CBS, Season 4



Girls, HBO, Season 2



Justified, FX, Season 4

JUSTIFIED -- Ghosts -- Episode 13 (Airs Tuesday, April 2, 10:00 pm e/p) -- Pictured: (L-R) Timothy Olyphant as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder  -- CR: Prashant Gupta/FX

Prashant Gupta/FX

Mad Men, AMC, Season 6

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) - Mad Men _ Season 6, Episode 12 _ 'The Quality of Mercy' - Photo Credit: Jaimie Trueblood/AMC

Jaimie Trueblood/AMC

New Girl, Fox, Season 2


Patrick McElhenney/FOX

Orphan Black, BBC America, Season 1

Orphan Black

Steve Wilkie / BBC

Parks and Recreation, NBC, Season 5

Parks and Recreation

Rectify, Sundance Channel, Season 1


Sundance Channel

Top of the Lake, Sundance Channel, Miniseries

Top of the Lake

Parisa Taghizadeh/Sundance Channel

* CORRECTION: An earlier version of the text identified the latest season of  Arrested Development as being its first on Netflix. It’s now identified as being the 4th overall.