The Second 15 Best TV Shows of 2013 from The Fien Print
Showtime and FX dramas lead No. 11-25 for The Fien Print
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By now you've had the chance to see my Top 10 as a video, check it out as part of HitFix's Critics' Poll and also hear the darned thing as part of the Best of 2013 podcast with Sepinwall.
That's a lot of different Top 10 delivery systems. Of course, to get down to that Top 10, I had to make a lot of tough choices in what was surely a terrific year for TV. So what follows is my Second 10, which is actually a Second 15 and it includes some cheating in that Bonus 5.
In case you've forgotten, here's the Top 10.
1. "Breaking Bad"
2. "Orange Is The New Black"
3. "Mad Men"
5. "The Returned"
7. "Game of Thrones"
8. "Bob's Burgers"
9. "56 Up"
Click through for the continuation of my list over two pages. And check out the photo gallery below for 15 more new shows that Sepinwall and I thought were worthy of notice.
11. "Boardwalk Empire" (HBO)
So close. I really wanted to include the fourth season of "Boardwalk Empire" as a recognition of the sort of top-tier literary storytelling that "Boardwalk Empire" does better than nearly any show on TV. "Boardwalk Empire" never forces its dramatic moments. Every plot point feels character-motivated and carefully charted, rather than thrust upon the characters out of the need for shocking twists or cliffhangers. As a result, the journey Richard Harrow took in Season 4 meant something. The struggles of Nucky's brother Eli meant something. Although we sometimes perceived him as being adrift last season, Van Alden's character evolution meant something. Even marginalized or frequently narratively estranged characters like Margaret and Gillian had little moments that meant something and if "Boardwalk" didn't feel like Margaret was required for much of this season, she was never shoehorned in gratuitously. Each season, the 12-episode sum of "Boardwalk Empire" has exceeded the apparent value of its parts and I get the feeling that when the series is over, the same may be true of the totality Terence Winter's story.
12. "Shameless" (Showtime)
While there were definitely darkly hilarious comedic arcs in the third season of "Shameless" -- I'd put Carl's "cancer" arc in that category, as well as the Kevin/Veronica baby saga, Frank's brief stint as a gay rights advocate and a couple other storylines -- the Showtime favorite continued its progression into more dramatic terrain. I'd say that the courtroom drama in "A Long Way From Home" gave Emmy Rossum her best showcase to date, but Rossum has always been spectacular. I'd say that the finale, "Survival of the Fittest" helped bring the sometimes outlandish William H. Macey more fully into the show's tonal fold, but he was great in the Season 2 arc relating to his mother's death. I'd say that Season 3 proved that "Shameless" has one of the deepest benches of young actors on TV, with Ethan Cutkosky, Emma Kenney, Jeremy Allen White and Cameron Monaghan doing great work, but fans of the show already knew that. So really, it was just another awesomely screwed up year for that Gallaghers.
13. "The Good Wife" (CBS)
There are still "Good Wife" tics that irritate me -- Kalinda's unstoppable sexuality, whatever was happening with Melissa George this fall, nearly anything involving Grace, nearly any appearance by Stockard Channing, the ongoing inference that Alicia/Will remains a relationship that makes any sense. But whereas there have been times when my reservations about "The Good Wife" have overwhelmed my appreciation, the show has become so consistently good that those stumbling blocks are now only minor irritations. The things "The Good Wife" is doing right are myriad, especially since the "Red Team/Blue Team" episode last February. They've rediscovered Alicia's spine. They've made Will into a villain and, in the process, brought back Josh Charles' hunger. I couldn't be happier that after wasting her for nearly three straight years, the writers have found a way to recapture the marvel that is Christine Baranski. And I'm not doing a Top 10 Episodes of 2013 list or gallery, but "Hitting the Fan" would make it for sure.
14. "Parks and Recreation" (NBC)
I genuinely can't tell you if "Parks and Recreation," a centerpiece of my Top 10s for years, was more a victim of overall outside quality, a decrease in its quality or the perception of a decrease in its quality. By that, I'm saying that if you look at the actual episodes that aired in 2013, starting with the instant-classic marriage episode "Two Parties," continuing with the frequently hilarious "Women In Garbage" and "Ann's Decision," carrying through into the season-opening two-parter "London," "Parks and Recreation" had more great episodes than most shows on TV and certainly more great episodes than any other pure comedy on TV. And yet when making my list, I couldn't shake the feeling that the Ann/Chris baby stuff hasn't necessarily been convincingly handled and that the absence of Andy has been felt this fall and that Councilman Jamm was a jarring character that the writers seem to like more than the audience (ditto with members of Jean-Ralphio's family beyond Jean-Ralphio and I am, I confess, even tired of Jean-Ralphio). But if any new comedy had delivered the 2013 that "Parks and Rec" turned in, I'm pretty sure it would have been in my Top 10. Sorry for taking your excellence for granted, "Parks."
15. "Hannibal" (NBC)
Kudos to cinematographers James Hawkinson and (for two episodes) Karim Hussain. "Hannibal" is the best-looking show on TV. "Even better-looking than 'Game of Thrones' or 'Breaking Bad'?" you ask. "Yes," I respond without hesitation. The snubbing of the "Hannibal" photography by Emmy voters was just an embarrassing sham. But merely having pretty pictures isn't enough, so kudos to series directors Tim Hunter, Guillermo Navarro, Michael Rymer and more. Actually, something-above-kudos to David Slade, who directed the pilot, plus two other episodes, and has now cemented his place atop my list of people who should direct basically every available drama pilot whenever possible. But when you rave too much about technical things -- Much love to culinary consultant José Andrés -- it seems like you're talking about a show that lacks emotion or soul. Nope! Thanks to Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen and a fine (if often underutilized) ensemble, "Hannibal" is also a showcase for some excellent acting and, thanks to Bryan Fuller, so rich writing. "Hannibal" put itself in a very interesting position at the end of its first finale and I can't wait to see where they go next.
16. "Masters of Sex" (Showtime)
There aren't many on-screen pairings doing better work every week than Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan on a Showtime drama that worked wonders by consistently avoiding the kind of tonal pratfalls that could doom a show that relies so heavily on its depiction of sex. As good as Sheen and Caplan were, they were almost usurped as the show's most interesting couple in the second half of the season by Beau Bridges and Allison Janney, who have probably never been better, which is saying a lot when you look at their respective Emmy resumes. But Bridges and Janney were only recurring characters, because they both had CBS sitcoms to do and where "Masters of Sex" struggled a bit, at least for me, was in the regular supporting cast, or rather in its supporting characters. I was legitimately jarred at times by how differently the show seemed to be viewing Nicholas D'Agosto's Ethan from the way I was viewing him. To me, he varied mostly between creepy and genuinely abusive -- both physically and emotionally -- and when the show asked us to view him as either a professional victim or a semi-viable romantic possibility, I tuned out. The more I think about that and about Libby Masters and her straight-out-of-"Far From Heaven" dancing lessons, the further I bump "Masters of Sex" down my list.
17. "Veep" (HBO)
HBO initially sent out four "Veep" episodes for the second season and I was a bit disappointed. It wasn't that I didn't still enjoy Armando Iannucci's dialogue or the Emmy-winning performance by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I just wanted more, especially from Gary Cole, whose presence seemed like a huge wasted opportunity. Sadly, I never felt like "Veep" totally capitalized on Cole's gifts with profanity, but everything else took a major leap in the season's last six episode, from "Helsinki" on. Had the season all been on the level of "Shutdown," "First Response," "Running" and "D.C.," "Veep" definitely would have made my Top 10 for the year and might have made my Top 5. This is the second time in my Second 10 that I'm singling out Allison Janney, whose head-to-head showdown with Louis-Dreyfus in "First Response" was comic gold. Throw in the very good work that Janney is doing on CBS' still-erratic "Mom" and it was a heck of a 2013 for Allison Janney.
No. 18-25 (plus a few Honorable Mentions) are on Page 2.