On Twitter: @JamesEppler
There's no doubt that we are living in the Golden Age of Television. There's so much good stuff already available, and we keep getting new ones. In fact, three new series made my list of dramas and three on my list of comedies.
We've also seen the TV experience revolutionized by Netflix and the freedom to watch an entire run of a series in one sitting. It has changed the way we watch TV, and in turn, how some of these shows are written. On top of that, cable channels are making the competition nearly unfair for networks in terms of the quality of shows and what they're allowed to do.
With all of those factors in mind, here are my selections for the best shows from 2013:DRAMA SERIES
1. BREAKING BAD (AMC)
It's not even close. One of the best drama series ever forged gave us a final run of episodes that were all masterful in bringing the show to its conclusion. There wasn't a wasted scene or a missed step.
2. THE AMERICANS (FX)
The best new drama series of the year featured killer performances and story arcs that had me dying for the next episode week to week.
3. HOUSE OF CARDS (NETFLIX)
The Netflix series that changed everything. I love Kevin Spacey in the lead role and the show's (rightly) cynical and dark view of Washington DC. It's also beautifully photographed.
4. HANNIBAL (NBC)
The only show from the four networks to make my list, and the violence is so brutal I honestly can't believe this show is on network television. But the developing relationship between Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is compelling stuff.
5. GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
This is epic storytelling unlike anything we've seen on TV. It does, however, risk being so overstuffed sometimes that it's too shallow.
6. BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO)
A solid comeback for this series that kind of lost its way in its third season. For this fourth season, it's like the writers figured out what their viewers like (Harrow, Chalky) and don't like (Margaret).
7. JUSTIFIED (FX)
This might be the best ensemble cast on TV, and the writing is whip-smart, surprising and intense.
8. RECTIFY (SUNDANCE)
Another new series about a man released from prison after DNA evidence gets him off death row. His reluctant attempt to assimilate back into society is a fascinating cultural and character study with a pretty amazing performance by Aden Young.
9. MASTERS OF SEX (SHOWTIME)
Yet another new series. Okay, the title sucks. But Showtime (like HBO) has the freedom to indulge in copious amounts of racy material, which is a perfect fit for telling the story of Dr. William Masters (a great Michael Sheen) and his study of human sexuality in the late 50s with the help of a former lounge singer (Lizzy Caplan needs an Emmy).
10. LUTHER (BBC AMERICA)
The best cop show on TV right now, and Idris Elba is magnetic as a tortured detective. While it has slipped a bit in quality since its first season, this third one is still better than most shows of its ilk. There are reports a movie is in the works. Yes, please.COMEDY SERIES
1. ARCHER (FX)
With "Louie" taking the year off, this takes the crown for the most clever and consistently hilarious show on TV. It's an office comedy and adventure series all laced with razor-sharp dialogue. Love it.
2. VEEP (HBO)
A terrific ensemble cast lead by Julia Louis-Dreyfus that takes a satiric aim at the Beltway and hits the bulls-eye every time.
3. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (NETFLIX)
Look, it's not as good as the original three seasons because the writers had to work around cast availability. What they did was pretty remarkable considering the challenges, and it absolutely feels like the series we loved all those years ago. This is also the best example of a show written for the "Netflix model" of binge-watching. Jokes in early episodes pay off wonderfully much later. "Arrested" is STILL breaking ground all these years later.
4. SOUTH PARK (COMEDY CENTRAL)
After some creative ups and downs over the past few years, this most recent run felt like vintage "South Park." Episodes like "Let Go, Let Gov" and "Black Friday" featured the kind of stinging topical humor that has made this show great for years.
5. BROOKLYN NINE-NINE (FOX)
I can't remember a new show that hit its stride so quickly and easily as this cop comedy. I like the whole cast, but the real treasure is "Homicide" alumnus Andre Braugher as the uptight (and gay) police captain who has to put up with his unit's shenanigans.
6. KEY AND PEELE (COMEDY CENTRAL)
Sketch comedy shows are all the rage right now, especially on Comedy Central, but the things Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele are coming up with are consistently terrific. This finally fills the void "Chappelle's Show" left.
7. THE GOLDBERGS (ABC)
Here's another new series that I hope has time to find an audience. It's often as hilarious as it is sugary-sweet as we follow the trevails of a family in the 80s. (Most of these are true stories by the series creator). It's like the "Wonder Years" only lighter, and doesn't make you feel terrible.
8. IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA (FXX)
Another show that's been around a long time and had a resurgence of creativity this year (plus an episode written and directed by the "Game of Thrones" creators). I only wish Emmy voters would finally throw them a bone. (They won't - never will).
9. GIRLS (HBO)
At times, this series is a bit too self-worthy and uneven, but I admire writer/star Lena Dunham's thought process, the way she develops characters and challenges the norm. It's also a painfully funny show and sharp with its observations about sexual dynamics.
10. NATHAN FOR YOU (COMEDY CENTRAL)
What an odd, delightful little show this was. It seems no one saw it, but comedian Nathan Fielder was doing some pretty fearless things in this docu-reality series where he'd put himself in some pretty awkward situations to see how people react. It's the kind of humor Sacha Baron-Coen perfected, but with a sweeter, more innocent twist. Seek this out online.
Coming Soon: My best and worst movies of 2013