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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

THE AMERICANS

Craig Blankenhorn/FX

Arrested Development, Netflix, Season 4*

Arrested Development
Sam Urdank / Netflix

Bob’s Burgers, Fox, Season 3

BOB'S BURGERS

FOX

Enlightened, HBO, Season 2 (Final)

enlightened

LACEY TERRELL / HBO

Game of Thrones, HBO, Season 3

Game of Thrones

HBO

The Good Wife, CBS, Season 4

top10_episode_goodwife.jpg

CBS

Girls, HBO, Season 2

Girls

HBO

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

NEW GIRL

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

RECTIFY

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.

78 comments
Donacrz
Donacrz

If Mad Men is on that list, why isn't House of Cards on that list? Brilliant show!

AngelCetroniBarry
AngelCetroniBarry

I agree with most but Walking Dead should be on this or any other list- great writing and character development

swagger
swagger

Orphan Black is outstanding.

KellyGalore
KellyGalore

ohhhh and what happen with THE VAMPIRE DIARIES??? DID ANYONE SAW THE FINAL EPISODE??? AND WHAT  HAPPEN WITH PRETTY LITTLE LIARS??? THIS LIST IS ALL RON|!!

DBrigz_94
DBrigz_94

What about History Channel's "The Bible"? That show was surely more than an Epic despite inaccuracies and roller coaster rides , as shown by weekly ratings throughout it's 5-week run.

swagger
swagger

Orphan Black, BBC America, Season 1

Onepatriot
Onepatriot

I can't comment on the HBO shows as I don't get them, but I always watch Justified and the Americans on FX and I love them.  They are fresh and unpredictable and the casting is superb.  They keep you guessing as to what is coming next.  The Good Wife characters keep you drawn in as to what they'll do next and   New Girl is just so funny.  Sometimes silly, but mostly just funny.  Mad Men's Don Draper is mesmerizing.  Also I like The Killing for the reality of the slow pace of solving crime.  More like real life, it is the doggedness and perseverence of it that works.  They don't pack too much in  on one show.. It's gritty. 

Portal
Portal

How come no dexter , no hannibal , no following -_- . One of them needs to be a part of this list. Even elementary can be a part of this too.



Portal
Portal

How come no dexter , no hannibal , no following -_- . One of them needs to be a part of this list.

DeNiro
DeNiro

Hannibal should be in there. Other than that, great list.



SageJerryLevine
SageJerryLevine

Longmire is also a very interesting new show with great stories and good acting.

SageJerryLevine
SageJerryLevine

i love Orphan Black! Who wouldn't like a show, produced by the BBC, starring British actors,about clones living in the USA,? The Brits sound more American than most Americans! 

LamarBourgeoisIII
LamarBourgeoisIII

I'd put Parenthood on that list, especially with the addition of Ray Romano.

JoeMatz
JoeMatz

These would all make my list with the exception of The Good Wife (which I don't watch) and Top of the Lake (which I need to finish), and I would definitely add Hannibal and probably House of Cards and Happy Endings as well. Hope the Emmys give most of these shows their due recognition. 

MitchWeiner
MitchWeiner

I agree with pretty much every comment left here about omitted shows but one show no one has mentioned is Downton Abbey ! How is that not mentioned here ? Thank you for having the foresight to include Orphan Black, however ! It would be one of the biggest crimes in Emmy history if Tatiana Maslany was not at least nominated although she absolutely deserves to win !

MichaelPapes
MichaelPapes

House of Cards is missing, but so glad to see Oprhan Black get some love!

mabely
mabely

So glad Orphan Black is getting such great buzz, apart from the obvious shows left out (Hanniba, Copper, House of Cards, etc.) I would also add Longmire and the Bates Motel

AnastasiaCarter
AnastasiaCarter

OMG NO Hannibal or BBC America's RIPPER STREET or Copper!!!! What the FUDGE! :-P

RainrodreaLibro
RainrodreaLibro

I say Hannibal and Copper (and the The Killing is in its 6th episode... also superb).

origamiquill
origamiquill

Netflix's House of Cards and NBC's Hannibal are easily two of the best new shows of 2013. Brilliantly crafted pieces of storytelling, and I can envision both having a strong presence at the Emmys.

latin90sgirl
latin90sgirl

Orphan Black is one of the best shows this serie is incredible

EricaCrokin
EricaCrokin

Doctor who and continuum are missing

EricaCrokin
EricaCrokin

Doctor who and continuum are missing!!!

TamaraGalbraith
TamaraGalbraith

The Americans was riveting. Great writing, great acting. Excited for Season 2!

forgotn1
forgotn1

I'm excited to see Orphan Black on this list. The show is phenomenal. 

MMogoldin
MMogoldin

Thank you.Bob’s Burgers, Fox, Season 3  is interesting.

anngorah
anngorah

Biggest surprise is lack of Hannibal.

lellingw
lellingw

Thanks for putting Enlightened in there.  Thought that show was just a masterpiece.  Very nice.  You are missing Vice though and Girls... Meh!  

MelissaKlett
MelissaKlett

Hannibal is missing, of course. And Elementary?

Madworld430
Madworld430

The two show missing from this list are Veep Season 2 and House of Cards.

mdreamer7989
mdreamer7989

What about walking dead how is that left out


swagger
swagger

@DBrigz_94 you mean that racist fairy tale that portrays obama as a black devil while jesus is a white hippie/surfer dude?  that bible?  sharknado is supposed to be a 10 compared to the bible's 1.

DeNiro
DeNiro

@MitchWeiner Because Downton Abbey is not that good. It was great in its first season, then heavily decayed in regards to quality in its second season, and improved a bit in its 3rd, but still not as good as the first. It has ridiculous plot developments.

MitchWeiner
MitchWeiner

@AnastasiaCarter Three of my favorite shows as well although it did take me probably five episodes to really enjoy Ripper Street which I feel is Copper Lite !

DeNiro
DeNiro

@lellingw Yeah, Girls is good but not great. It's overrated by many critics.