25 Best TV Shows of 2013 (Part Four)

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25 Best TV shows of 2013


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5. Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

After the much-hyped release House of Cards and return of Arrested Development, Netflix released Orange is the New Black with little fanfare, seemingly unaware of just how great a series they had on their hands. Based on the true story of a white, privileged thirty-something who is sentenced to 15 months in prison, the series explores the world of the prison that seeming protagonist Piper finds herself in. “Seeming protagonist” because after the first few episodes, the story shifts from showing her experience to instead exploring a different supporting player each week, giving viewers a glimpse of their life and the experiences that led them to where they are. Each of these women are fascinating in their own way and the cast is as diverse as any show in television history. Orange is the New Black is a wonderfully comedic and dramatic examination of life and circumstance and what happens to people when they’re placed with others so radically different from, and in some ways eerily similar to, themselves, and it’s absolutely one of the best shows of the year. (91 pts)

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4. Game of Thrones (HBO)

Game of Thrones has been a genre favorite for years, but 2013 is when it tipped over from popular prestige drama to public obsession. After the Red Wedding, viewers were outraged. They were heartbroken. They couldn’t believe what had happened, and they couldn’t stop talking about it. With its massive world and complicated mesh of interconnected storylines, it takes a while for Game of Thrones to build to its emotional and story climaxes each year; earlier this season, Jon and Ygritte started their relationship, Arya cheered for the Hound’s death, Jamie took a bath, and Brienne fought a bear. The ultimate success of the season usually comes down to the execution of the payoff to the season’s long build and this year, in the climactic moment at the Twins when the musicians started to play “The Rains of Castamere”, everything came together. The pacing and structuring of the season was masterfully handled to give this moment the greatest possible impact for book fans and new viewers alike and show creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss succeeded completely, devastating viewers everywhere, exploding the internet, and creating one of the most memorable moments, and by extension seasons, of the year. (100 pts)

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3. Mad Men (AMC)

Few series break new dramatic ground in their later seasons. This year Mad Men, in season six, not only gave viewers some of the most memorable and entertaining moments in the series, it took Don on a massive emotional journey, showing his gradual loss of control over each element in his life until he can’t help but lay his soul bare at the wrong time and to the wrong people, costing him his job but prompting him to open up to his children, finally showing them a piece of who he is. It’s a tremendous breakthrough for the character, and a costly one, and hopefully it’s just what Don needs to finally move forward. This season introduced the intriguing Bob Benson, played fantastically by James Wolk, saw dramatic changes in most of the character’s relationships and careers, and gave viewers Kenny tap dancing and Pete falling down the stairs. It was certainly an eventful year at SC&P, but it’s the fallout, not the fireworks, that makes Mad Men stand out this year. (104 pts)

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2. Hannibal (NBC)

Serial killers were everywhere on TV in 2013. Show after show went to the same well for creative inspiration, or more accurately, an easy way to raise their body count. Of these many shows, Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal was the only one to take a long, hard look at the effect violence has not only on the victims, but the perpetrator. It’s the protagonist Will Graham, not the titular character, who is the lens for this examination. Forced to kill defensively in the pilot, Graham slowly loses more and more of himself, disturbed by his action and constantly weighed down with burdens he feels compelled to shoulder. Throughout the season, Graham works to catch a particular serial killer (Hannibal, though he’s unaware of this), and the devastation he sees in his work only compounds his internal struggle. The performances are strong throughout, but Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen are particularly captivating as Graham and Dr. Lecter, giving new takes on these familiar characters. Perhaps even more striking are the visuals, which match in scope and lush beauty the gothic horror of Hannibal’s violence. One of the most gorgeously cinematic, and horrific, series this year, Hannibal redefined the serial killer drama, raising the bar for its network and cable brethren. (108 pts)

Best TV Shows of 2013

1. Breaking Bad (AMC)

One of the best series in television history, Breaking Bad had impossible expectations to live up to as it started the second half of its final season. Yet with its strong opening run and stunning final episodes, it managed to not only meet these expectations, but exceed them. Even putting aside Bryan Cranston’s towering performance as Walter White, one of the greatest performances in television history, the show was filled with memorable and powerful moments for each character and each actor, all of whom delivered. There were laughs, there were tears, and there were entire episodes where we couldn’t breathe. The scripts were amazing, the direction was visually striking and insightful, the cinematography was beautiful, and the music was alternatively delightful and evocative. Every element of the show came together to make the final stretch of episodes not only among the series’ best, but television’s best. In a fantastic year for television, among incredibly stiff competition, Breaking Bad was far and away the best show of 2013. (180 pts)

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