Some of you will hate my choices–let’s hope so, because let’s be honest, that’s half the reason top-10 lists exist at all. Others will have questions, and some of the same ones come up every year, so here’s a short FAQ:
* Why did you leave off ____? Don’t you like it? This is not the Top 10 and Everything Else Sucks list. I liked far more than 10 shows on TV this year; these ones were tops. It’s not a matter of what was wrong with the shows I left off, but what was right with the shows I put on.
* Don’t you like ____ anymore? Last year, Parks and Recreation was my #1 series. This year it’s not on my list. I still love it! But this list is only about 2013: it didn’t have as strong a year, and more important, the competition was just much tougher.
* How is _____ better than _____? Beyond the first few, honestly, the rank order is fairly arbitrary and apples-to-oranges. I didn’t measure these shows with a nuclear qualitometer. Think the #9 show (Mad Men, in which Jon Hamm played Don Draper) should be #6 (Bob’s Burgers, in which Jon Hamm played a talking toilet)? Sure, fine. Print it out and rearrange them. For that matter, there are probably 20 shows that I could just as easily put in the bottom 5 of this list.
* Aren’t top 10 lists just shameless trolling for readers? Sure! Also, they’re sort of a lie. Yes, this is, more or less, list of what I thought were the 10 best shows of the year. But I also think a list should be a document in itself–a statement, as a whole, of what I value in TV and what TV did best this year. So it’s, sort of, a list of the 10 best shows of the year and, sort of, a list of the 10 shows that represented the best in TV this year–which are related, but not exactly the same thing.
* Um, it’s not the end of 2013 yet. Thanks for pointing that out! I had to finalize this list in November. They still kept making TV, though! I may thus be regretting some choices already, but at some point you just have to let it go.
* You forgot _____. Probably not. I keep a running list of potential shows starting in January, and revise it throughout the year. (My top-10 episodes list, about which I’ll post separately, is a different story–I can’t watch everything, and I almost certainly I did forget things.)
Apologia out of the way, here’s my list (but read the full writeup to see what I thought of each show):
Finally, a word about everything else. 2013 was an unusually great year for TV. (Much more so than 2012, when I honestly had to reach to fill out my list.) There was more good TV and more places for good TV: I was considering shows not just from the usual TV suspects, but Netflix, Hulu, and Pivot. So it was a much harder year to get this list down to 10. That’s good; if a list doesn’t involve tough choices, it doesn’t really mean anything. But to give you a taste of just how big a year this was in TV, here’s a very incomplete list (in, I think, alphabetical order) of some of the other shows that, at one point or another, I considered:
Key and Peele
Masters of Sex
Parks & Recreation
Please Like Me
Time of Death
Top of the Lake
Post your own top 10 in the comments. Let the TV wars begin!