Sabienna’s Top 20 TV Shows of 2013 [Part One]

Boiling a year in television down to just a handful of shows on a list is an impossible task. For one thing, no one can watch every show on television even if watching television is a huge part of their job. For another, judging which shows were the “best” is such a personal thing. Sure, I could go all analytical on you, but I lead with my heart. The 20 shows on this list represent a small sampling of what I watched in 2013, but for many reasons which I will explain in great, gushing detail as we go along these are the ones that stuck with me. Some were haunting, some thrilling adventures and some made me laugh until I cried.

(Before we carry on, I have to disclose that I have not seen Breaking Bad season five or all of American Horror Story: Coven or The Returned yet. I mention these three shows in particular because I suspect they would have made the list had I finished them. However, we will just have to forge ahead without Walter White, witches or French zombies. Now on with the listage!)

20. Graceland
 

Graceland Episode 9 Smoke Alarm (1)

I went into Graceland expecting little and came out of the first season with a shiny new addiction. Unlike USA’s typical Blue Skies dramas, Graceland is a twisty story that examines what happens when family and work collide. Twisted loyalties played out against a sunshine background that hid the lies and secrets between the agents/housemates, all leading up to a final run of episodes that were intense, powerful and far deeper than they had to be. Graceland could have been just another case of the week show with a fun domestic twist, but it chose to be so much more and was all the better for it.

Best Episode: “Smoke Alarm” was a standout for the way it unraveled Briggs right before our eyes, but “Hair of the Dog” took the series’ best character, Charlie (Vanessa Ferlito), and turned her world inside out with one shocking choice.

19. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
 

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland Episode 4 The Serpent (5)

The temptation to move OUAT in Wonderland higher up the list was strong simply because of the emotional response it elicits from me. This is the show the original flavor Once wishes it could be. Shoddy special effects aside, Wonderland is a vivid tale that sparks the imagination and warms the heart without being saccharine. Sophie Lowe burst onto the scene with a quiet, no-nonsense strength as a lost, but determined adult Alice, while Michael Socha stole more hearts than The Red Queen with his snarky, tough guy with good intentions routine. Together they make up one of the year’s most dynamic duos even if everyone is missing out on ABC’s hidden gem.

Best Episode: “Who’s Alice?” revealed Alice’s backstory and why she was so desperate to hold onto happiness that an enchanted forest could make her forget her beloved Cyrus. The episode played out like a true fairy tale: a dark sense of whimsy mixed with the real world pain of realizing you can never go home again.

18. New Girl
 

The back half of season two soared to untold heights as New Girl navigated the rocky terrain of putting Nick and Jess’ will-they-or-won’t-they question to bed– literally. What followed was one of television’s best kisses ever, the return of Coach, an epic battle for a parking space and Winston’s increasingly bizarre relationship with his cat. New Girl hit a few rough patches (the Cece/Schmidt/Elizabeth triangle was almost unbearable), but overall it was one of the most consistently funny and touching comedies of the year.

Best Episode: “Cooler.” Come on, you saw that kiss.

17. Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous
 

Destined to be a cult classic, MTV’s one and done Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous shined a harsh light on the current generation’s desire to chase fame at any cost. At its center was a protagonist who was by turns overwhelmingly selfish, naive and charming. Bo Dunham made a show that spoke to a YouTube obsessed nation that achieved greatness in a few short episodes. It is a shame more people didn’t tune into watch his smart, cynical take on the pursuit of happiness and the trouble with youthful optimism.

Best Episode: The ugly side of crushes came to light in the uncomfortably real “Zach Stone Is Gonna Be an Actor.”

16. Veep
 

I’m still reeling from the perfection of Veep‘s second season finale. While the entire ensemble cast is hilariously cutthroat, this show belongs to Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her beautifully conniving, foulmouthed, wonderful VP Selina. As she visited groping foreign dignitaries, tripped out on sedatives and made a play for the presidency, Selina struggled to be a true leader in a government so ineffectual it could make even the most patient person want to rip their own hair out. Forget House of Cards, Veep is where it is at when it comes to sharply observed Washington hijinks.

Best Episode: “D.C.” was a superb capper to the season, but “Running” edged it out on the funny scale thanks to Selina’s accidental trip through a glass door.

15. The Wrong Mans
 

Six episodes of adrenaline-fueled, genre-infused comedy made The Wrong Mans Hulu’s best import to date. The bromance, the running, the actual body count– it’s a comedy with real stakes. How often does that happen? And how often does it happen with as much style, passion and insanity as The Wrong Mans delivered?

Best Episode: With each episode leading into the next it is nearly impossible to choose between them so I’m not going to. Watch them all in one go as Hulu and the TV gods intended.

14. Being Human UK
 

I came close to skipping the final season of the original Being Human. With no Mitchell, George or Annie, I didn’t see the point in carrying on with the show. Having stuck with the series for four years though, I decided one more couldn’t hurt. I was wrong. It did hurt, but in the way television is supposed to hurt. The new trio of Alex, Hal and Tom proved to be a compelling bunch which made their confrontation with the devil himself difficult to watch. In the end, we finally got our answer to what the struggle to maintain humanity truly means, but there was no true happiness to be found. A fitting end for a series that always chose the darkness over the light.

Best Episode: “The Last Broadcast” was everything a series finale should be. It provided closure, it gave us a stirring dance number and left us with a final image that remains chilling months after it aired.

13. Bob’s Burgers
 

No other show on television makes me laugh more than Bob’s Burgers. In 2013, this oddball family comedy offered addictive musical numbers, forced mother/daughter bonding, a boy befriending a talking toilet, a disastrous camping trip and a weirdly moving episode about Bob stuffing turkeys in the toilet. Bob’s Burgers‘ brand of comedy remains as unique as Bob’s specials of the day.

Best Episode: “Topsy” remains my favorite outing of the year thanks to Louise almost electrocuting Tina in an attempt to bring down her Edison loving science teacher. Also, “Electric Love” is still stuck in my head.

12. The Americans
 

The Americans created a slow-burn Cold War thriller grounded by the exquisite performances of Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. Their marriage of convenience was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Layered, heartbreaking and hard to understand– the bond that kept these two people together was always a fragile thing and as interesting as all of the spy business was, it was their crumbling marriage that compelled me to tune in week after week.

Best Episode: “Only You” hits you like a punch to the gut. Everyone was terrific, but Derek Luke gave a powerful performance without going over the top. We watched helplessly as Gregory surrendered to fate for the woman he loved rather than move to a country he claimed to fight for.

11. Justified
 

Just outside the top 10 is Justified. Season four never quite reached the dizzying heights of season two, but it did delve deep into the themes of nature versus nurture, identity and what it means to be a man. Television’s golden age is littered with antiheroes, but none of them are as deeply conflicted or as prone to self-examination as Raylan and Boyd. Are they good guys? Are they bad guys? Can they escape the expectations placed upon them? In season four, neither man could truly rise above their darker inclinations leaving them more broken than ever before when the final episode came to a close with Raylan back to the start and Boyd facing a dead end.

Best Episode: “Decoy” was a big screen worthy caper with the always incredible Jim Beaver at its center. Add in one awesome performance by Patton Oswalt and an hour that racketed up the tension with every second that ticked by on the clock and you have one of the year’s best episodes.

 

Come back tomorrow for the top 10 and let me see your lists in the comments!

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