2013 was a great year for television. The exact same thing was said about 2012 when we kicked off last year’s “Best of” list, so maybe we’re passed the point of having to openly state that TV’s been pretty freaking awesome for a while now. It’s been so good for so long that critics now spend less time arguing for TV’s place at the artistic big kids table, and more time figuring out what exactly we’ll be calling the last decade-plus of boobtube brilliance years from now. Golden Age, Silver Age, Digital Age –however you put it, the most notable problem plaguing TV lovers these days isn’t finding something good to watch, it’s finding enough hours in the day to try and just keep up with all the shows worth watching.
So what made the TV landscape of 2013 look any different from 2012’s? The omissions for one, with series like Louie and Sherlock deciding to take well-earned hiatuses. As for the shows we lost, if this were an “In Memoriam” piece, we’d just need two photos: one, of NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt sobbing uncontrollably on The Office, cradling a picture of 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon, and a second, in which Walter White is putting Dexter Morgan out of his misery, leaving an Albuquerque-shaped hole in his heart, as well as the hearts of all Breaking Bad fans. But it wasn’t all bad news. The insane dream of Arrested Development returning from the dead finally became a reality and with The Killing once more escaping AMC’s executive/executioner axe, it now seems that getting pulled off the airwaves means you’ve got a second chance at life online.
Netflix really was the big story of the year, both for providing a rehabilitation center for cancelled shows, and for breaking into the original content business in a big way. The “full season, no waiting” releases for House of Cards and Orange is the New Black made binge-watching 13 hours of a new show on day one totally viable, and it was a decision justified by the fact that the content was good enough to make viewers want to spend a whole day doing nothing but watch Kevin Spacey strut around congress like a scheming Foghorn Leghorn. Though nowhere near as successful, Amazon also jumped in on the digital frontier of original program development, which has only intensified the continuing struggle between the cable networks who make much of the year’s best TV, and the internet cables in every home that make traditional models of distribution look outdated.
But the most exciting trend to come out of 2013 was the sheer number of awesome new shows that premiered this year. Not on network channels, mind you: pilot season for the big 5 networks was a truly sorry affair, with the only real success stories being the show with a big, fat Marvel seal of approval on it, and the one based on freaking Sleepy Hollow, of all things. But when you looked away from the major airwaves, there was an embarrassment of new riches to be found on cable and specialty channels. Masters of Sex, Broadchurch, Black Mirror, Rectify, The Returned, and The Fall were just a few of the great series to premiere stateside this year, each offering a viewing experience you weren’t going to find anywhere else. How many of these series will thrive for multiple seasons is anyone’s guess, but the diversity of programming 2013 offered was never short of inspiring.
Fittingly, our Top 10 TV Shows for 2013 -a list culled and crafted from the selections of WGTC’s most avid TV-watchers-, is nearly half composed of rookie shows, along with the usual returning favorites, and a few surprises. So hit the jump, and check out what our top picks for the year were. You might wind up remembering what made some of our favorites yours too, or wanting to add an unfamiliar show to your Netflix queue, or just shouting, “where’s “X”!” And be sure to tell us what “X” is in the comments below!