So I decided to do something I haven’t done in several years: a list of the year’s 10 best new shows. In any year, no matter how good the new talent is, it’s hard for brand-new shows to find space among all the returning shows that are at their peak. This year, I had only four new shows on my 10 Best list. (Before 2007, TIME’s TV best lists included only new shows, which allowed more variety but didn’t really offer a true picture of the year in TV either.)
This list recognizes the banner year we had for premiering series and miniseries–and even at that, I had to leave plenty off. Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Trophy Wife are my favorite new fall sitcoms, and they may make my overall best lists some year if they stick around and grow–but they didn’t make the cut this time out. NBC’s Hannibal was a stylistically gorgeous adaptation (and I expect to see it on plenty of other lists), but it also left me cold, in a year already overloaded with stories about wicked criminal masterminds. Inside Amy Schumer was a fun surprise with voice to spare, but I don’t have room to spare. See also Broadchurch, The Bridge…
(Why keep this list to 10, then? Because I think that if a “best” list is to mean anything, it has to acknowledge that not everything can be best; that is, it has to involve tough omissions. That, and the HitFix critic’s poll asked me for my top 10 new shows, and I wasn’t about to come up with yet one more list.)
Anyway, to repeat myself from my earlier lists, there’s only one real answer to the question, “Why isn’t ______ on the list?”: Because I couldn’t bring myself to take any of the other 10 shows off to make room for it. In other words, it’s not about what was wrong with everything else, but what was right with these 10–in a year when there was a hell of a lot that was right with TV.
Now, in alphabetical order, The 10 Best New TV Shows of 2013:
The Americans (FX)
An emotional Cold War thriller about Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, KGB spies, wig wearers, and wed menace
Masters of Sex (Showtime)
A 1950s period piece in which science is the weapon and the workings of sex are the mystery
Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)
This darkly ensemble drama set in a women’s prison took a confined environment and found worlds within worlds
Orphan Black (BBC America)
The performances(s) of the year by Tatiana Maslany in a suspenseful, surprise-filled gift of smart sci-fi
Please Like Me (Pivot)
Australian comic Josh Thomas’ endearingly funny story of coming out and living out gave voice to a brand-new channel
A mesmerizing, slow-burning, graceful drama about an ex-convict sprung from jail, neither fully exonerated nor forgiven
The Returned (Sundance)
In this atmospheric French import, the dead return, not to gnaw your brains but to eat at your heart
Sleepy Hollow (Fox)
What do you get when the American Revolution meets The Book of Revelation? A crazy good time.
Time of Death (Showtime)
A painful, indelibly moving (and strangely uplifting) documentary series about the one ending that needs no spoiler alert.
Top of the Lake (Sundance)
Elizabeth Moss was the detective of the year in this miniseries about crime and secrets in remote New Zealand.