It's a tradition that critics of all stripes end each calendar year with Top 10 lists. 10 is a nice round number, and a seemingly easy way to separate the best from the rest, but it's a number I've always struggled with. In all the years I've been writing about television, I almost always had to find a way to cheat the confines of 10, whether through ties (often but not always involving thematically-similar shows), more nebulous groupings (in 2001, my #2 entry was "Fact-based movies and miniseries," a particularly shameless canard that allowed me to squeeze "Band of Brothers," "Boycott," "61*" and a bunch of other strong movies and minis into a single entry), or multiple lists. In recent years, I've done separate lists for new and returning shows, and last December, when working on my Best of the '00s choices, I wound up coming up with a ridiculous 7 different lists encompassing more than 50 different shows.
The argument against my "Everybody gets a trophy" approach is that if you honor everything, than nothing seems special. My feeling has always been that there's so much good stuff on television - particularly over the last 10 or 11 years - that you can still make a clear demarcation between the truly special stuff and the rest even if you go past 10 and into 12 or 15 or even 20.
Still, the editors at HitFix wanted all of our critics to do lists of 10 and only 10 for our video lists, while leaving us free to go longer on our individual blogs, and I found the exercise really interesting. Forced to stick to 10 shows overall - particularly in a year that had featured so many great rookies, and so many veterans delivering series-best work - I had to make tough decisions. There's always a lot of apples-to-oranges comparisons going on, and I shuffled entries in and out of the back of the list a bunch of times before finally settling on my final 10, but when I did, I was happy with that 10, even as I was disappointed with some of the shows I left out.
Fortunately, I did have that freedom to do my usual new/returning split here on the blog, and all the shows that just missed the cut of the top 10 are represented somewhere in these two. So go watch the video list, then you can read my takes on the best new shows and the best returning ones, and then you can feel free to pelt me with your "No love for (show x)?" complaints in the comments for any or all of these posts.
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
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