Year in Review: Top 10 TV Shows of 2013

Like each year before, it is excruciatingly difficult picking out a Top 10 list of TV shows. In fact, it seemed that television critics everywhere found creative ways to go around the traditional Top 10 list. They broke down TV shows by categories: best new shows, best returning shows, best comedies, best dramas, best cable, best broadcast, or any other way they could carve out the television pie into smaller pieces. Then some just gave in and posted lists of their Top 20 or Top 30 shows of the year.

For 2013, the only downside to too much great TV is that a Top 10 list is virtually impossible to come up with.

So in trying to come up with our Top 10 lists at, we allowed each of the contributing staff the opportunity to come up with their own “Top TV” list this year. It seemed only fair since everyone has such diverse taste and criteria as to what makes it into their “Top” lists.

Tiffany’s Top 10 TV Shows of 2013
It has been painful whittling down my TV shows, but I did come up with a Top 10, quickly followed by another 20 TV shows that I thought were top performers in 2013. These are TV shows which not only brought me great joy, but also brought their creative edge and spark to television this year. (Note: To any show that didn’t make my list, do not think I do not love you too. Be reassured, I do love you too and I am a devoted fan. It was just too hard to fit all 100 of my TV shows onto such a small list!)

For those who discovered this amazing show, no explanation is needed. It was simply stunning. Fortunately, ORPHAN BLACK was not content to simply shock and surprise, it rose to the occasion and delivered pure entertainment. It understood that its purpose was not to be the cleverest show on television (though it certainly has earned that accolade as well), it was simply one of the most addictive and entertaining. In fact, once viewers started watching, it was all anyone could talk about. It also won over the bulk of tough, jaded television critics who thought they had seen it all. ORPHAN BLACK immediately became part of the universal zeitgeist overnight as fans hotly debated which clone was the best, and in a mere 13 episodes, it etched a permanent place in television’s esoteric hall of fame, remaining one of the most eagerly anticipated returning shows of 2014. For those uninitiated, the question is frequently asked: what’s so exciting about clones? To which, we all just enthusiastically respond: just watch and see. There’s a reason why everyone is talking about it: Tatiana Maslany. With her performance simultaneously portraying 7 different characters, she created a work of art and became a television phenomenon. (Special shout-out to Jordan Gavaris whose portrayal of Felix is also deliciously awesome.) ORPHAN BLACK returns with new episodes in Season 2 on April 19, 2014 on BBC America.

Another TV show that simply left viewers gasping with pure delight and horror was the British series BROADCHURCH. A murder-mystery series is a hard sell as one of the best shows on television, but when such effort goes into every nuance of it as put into BROADCHURCH, it makes you take notice. The carefully crafted writing, the nuanced casting, the haunting location, and the pain lacing each scene was acutely felt. It made viewers feel each and every step of the investigation into who could have murdered a young boy. It also managed to take an actor best known as the Tenth Doctor on DOCTOR WHO and turned him into a character that had viewers just as riveted. In fact, the pairing of Olivia Colman and David Tennant was brilliant; one could simply not stop watching them. BROADCHURCH captured our attention and when it finally revealed the killer, we understood how shattering it was. As such, BROADCHURCH’s second season remains one of the most anticipated TV shows in 2014. Look for it on BBC America later next year.

Both the 4th and 5th seasons of THE GOOD WIFE were beyond anything we could have imagined. The show continues to defy expectations and manages to take its characters to places we never thought they would go. What is surprising is how surprised we feel when it does. Premised on a woman who stands by her husband after he is caught cheating and accepting sexual favors in exchange for political contracts, viewers thought they knew what this show was about. Yet year after year, it finds a way to exceed our expectations and leave us wanting more. From the timely court cases to its delight in technological advances to the willingness to let its characters be as ruthless as possible to achieve their goals and win their cases, THE GOOD WIFE knows exactly what captures our attention. Frequently called the only cable TV show not on cable, the series delivers a level of quality and ambition that most network TV shows do not aspire. But, like its characters, THE GOOD WIFE does not trumpet its intent to conquer the world, it simply does. In addition, its guest casting is a thing of beauty and rises to the level of pure art. THE GOOD WIFE currently airs Sunday nights on CBS.

Despite the backlash from TV critics, THE NEWSROOM remains a critical darling amongst viewers. Why? Because the stories it seeks to share are imaginative and compelling. The stories are woven amongst a tapestry of office politics that should be too ludicrous to be true – yet there is always a distinct grain of truth to them — for indeed, truth is stranger than fiction. Borrowing liberally from world events and news scandals, THE NEWSROOM, finds a way to make the real world more interesting than the actual news of today actually is. It also remembers that human beings are frequently the cause of false reporting, misconstruing information, and delivering information through their own world-weary biases or rose-colored glasses. Fortunately, THE NEWSROOM is not a documentary and instead enjoys the privilege of finding the comedy in dire news, as well as the outrageous world of news reporting. It dares to skewer anyone and everyone in its quest to showcase the fallacies of news reported by profit-businesses. It is a delight and we hope to enjoy it for many years to come. THE NEWSROOM should return in summer 2014 on HBO.

Also turning preconceptions on its head, THE AMERICANS had the audacity to ask its viewers to root for two Russian spies while they navigated the thorny world of espionage and family life. Casting the unexpected pairing of Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, watching them transform into various personas and disguises, the ease with which they can manipulate and exploit everyone around them, and their characters’ simultaneous internal struggle to find peace and happiness in their own personal lives is mesmerizing. The Cold War has never felt more romantic and cheer-worthy – and it is bizarre to feel so tempted to root for the Russians as they try to bring down our government. But that is the clever twist of this series: it seduces even the more diehard, pro-American supporters into cheering for the enemy; for likability and good intentions can woo even the most ardent supporters. Also returning February 27, 2014 for its second season on FX, we are happily counting down the minutes.

Oh what a wicked game is played in politics. Daring to introduce a hero who will literally kill to achieve his political goals, we could not help but fall under the spell of Kevin Spacey as the slimy political opportunist, Frank Underwood. Perhaps because he specially invites the viewers into his long-con and we are party to each step of the master plan to eventually put himself in the White House, viewers are happy to accompany him along the wild ride. In its first season, fell under its spell asking: How long can he get a way with it, and who will next sell their soul for a piece of the political pie? It also seemed to reinforce what we all want to secretly believe: Washington is for sale. It can be bought, bribed, blackmailed and when all that fails – stolen. By playing to our dark political fantasies, HOUSE OF CARDS hooked its audience and left them clamoring for more. Fortunately, Netflix answered that prayer and Season 2 is coming out Valentine’s Day in 2014.

Some shows flounder in their fourth seasons searching for stories. This was not the case for FX’s drama series JUSTIFIED, which seemed to have found its groove and blazed straight through with the tale of the missing Drew Thompson. Each episode deftly wove each of the character’s personal and professional lives into a hornet’s nest of problems. But it was a blast watching Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins’ portrayal of Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder as they dug themselves deeper and deeper into the Harlan underworld, proving that no matter how hard they try, there fates were sealed together long ago. With a brilliant ensemble backing up their performances, all the characters seemed to shine on screen together and one was never quite sure who to root for. Addictive, compelling, unflinchingly brutal with bullets flying, JUSTIFIED is a show that one feels they just have to live in, if only for awhile. JUSTIFIED returns with its 5th season on January 7, 2014 on FX.

Daring to tell the tale of mass kidnappings of young women on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border, THE BRIDGE was both stark and startling, and yet it quickly hooked viewers into its terrifying world. Teaming up Diane Kruger with Demian Bichir as Detectives Sonya Cross and Marcos Ruiz was clever and ultimately the reason one tuned back in each week. They made for an odd-couple detective team, but both unyielding in their pursuit of a killer with a personal vendetta wrapped up in a political message. One never doubted that whatever their methods, nothing was going to stop Sonya and Marcos from seeking all the culpable parties and making sure justice was served. Their bulldog approach was tempered by their humorous steps towards friendship and trust between the unlikely partnership. Viewers were not tuning in just to see killers caught, but to see what Sonya and Marcos will be up to next. Their unpredictability was fun in very dark tale of murder and mass kidnappings. FX was smart enough to order a second season for this great show and it will return summer of 2014.

Another dark, disturbing tale of murder of young runaways and prostitutes, THE KILLING is not an easy show to watch. But helmed by the charismatic team of Detectives Linden and Holder, it was fascinating to watch how they slowly worked their case, tracking down lead after lead to find a killer. Rough on the edges and difficult to like, this odd duo somehow found a mutual appreciation for each other’s methods and tenacity. So much of police work is simply the desire to never give up and to relentless pursue each piece of evidence until the puzzle is complete. It made watching Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnamen as the deeply flawed detectives working tirelessly through their own problems to find a way to get their thankless job done riveting and compelling. For those looking to see what is next for Holder and Linden, after three seasons on AMC, THE KILLING makes its 4th season debut on Netflix in 2014.

With a rare display of fine craftsmanship, PERSON OF INTEREST built its series around a non-human character, and that is what keeps viewers hooked and coming back. Without the Machine, PERSON OF INTEREST would be just another philanthropic-hero story of those trying to help others in jeopardy and need. But add in a super computer with artificial intelligence that recruits those it wants to work with, and suddenly there is a cool sci-fi spin on a familiar tale. The all-seeing Machine anticipates when people are about to kill or be killed and then tasks a team to help them. It made for a fine procedural-based story, but as this past year has demonstrated, there is now a lot more going on: The Machine orchestrated its own rescue and freedom from the constraints that the government and Harold Finch placed upon it; and once freed the Machine set up teams to protect itself and others. Adding a few key characters with differing goals and methods, and the willingness to sacrifice another to give the show a heightened sense of real world threats, PERSON OF INTEREST took a huge step up creatively and earned a place on this Top 10 list. Currently in its third season, PERSON OF INTEREST airs Tuesday nights on CBS.

To see the TV shows that didn’t quite make the Top 10, but which made my Top 30, here’s the list.

Tiffany Vogt is the Senior West Coast Editor, contributing as a columnist and entertainment reporter to She has a great love for television and firmly believes that entertainment is a world of wondrous adventures that deserves to be shared and explored – she invites you to join her. Please feel free to contact Tiffany at or follow her at on Twitter (@TVWatchtower).