best tv of 2013

A friend asked me this year what my New Years tv marathon would be. I hadn’t really found a good one yet, because I feel like I’ve already seen everything I like. Quite a few times. I’d just finished s5 of Merlin which has been my favorite holiday indulgence for a while so there wasn’t anything left but to put them all on a list and move into the new year.

Which is when she suggested Arn: The Knight Templar. It is officially the honorary mention this year. In part because it’s only 6 episodes so it is more of a mini-series than a full show. And because it is a lot like Kingdom of Heaven, only Swedish. But it’s incredibly well produced and the characters pull you in even though it’s predominately sub-titled (and for the record, Swedish is really beautiful). If you have an idle 6 hours, it’s well worth watching.

You can see how it compares to the shows that did make the list of best tv shows this year.
I actually don’t know what to saw about the shows this year. Most of them feel like they’ve been around forever even though two of them are new. They’re an eclectic mix of fantasy and sci-fi and drama. But this is probably the first year where they’re all very typically my style somehow.

10. Sherlock
I admit this one is totally cheating. Because I actually watched both seasons in 2012. But I re-watched both seasons in 2013. And I was having a really hard time coming up with 10 shows this year. The last two contenders (Castle and Suits) both had issues in recent seasons I really felt kept them from meriting a spot on the list. And so a re-watch of Sherlock was better than either show so I cheated. Every year there’s a ‘my list, my rules’ show and this year it’s Sherlock.
9. White Collar
White Collar barely made the list this year. As much fun as Neal and Peter are, there just isn’t that same spark. The writing isn’t as witty and quotable as it has been in seasons past. Neal doesn’t get to do the small, quirky, really fun cons he used to. Each season is, ‘Neal is lying to Peter and Peter doesn’t trust Neal and also there’s a big bad.’ I want it to be innovative and fun and witty again and I realize that gets harder and harder to do 5 seasons in but this show has such great characters I think it could.
8. Haven
The mythology got a little twisted the past two seasons and you can really see how much more the writers are creating that mythology as they go along. Even so, they’re making interesting choices. And the characters are good and keep me coming back each season. The expansion of the mythology has pushed all of them into new territory which is good because it’s never fun when characters get stale.

Bonus points for adding Colin Ferguson for season 4. I haven’t seen how it ends yet, but his storyline is one of those interesting twists and he’s fun to have around again.

7. Downton Abbey
Everyone who watches Downton Abbey thinks it’s great. So, I really don’t have to explain why it’s on the list. And I also don’t have to explain why it was almost left off the list.

Everyone also knows that Dame Maggie Smith is awesome. I just wanted to say it out loud.

6. The Crazy Ones
I know some people are annoyed by Sarah Michelle Gellar. Luckily, I’m not one of them. And I pretty much think both she and Robin Williams are nearly perfect tv stars. They can each carry a show well and just have a great tv presence. Put them together with quirky, funny scripts and you’ve got a pretty good show. Granted, at least a quarter of the script is probably Robin Williams and James Wolk improving. But they edit it enough that it doesn’t become annoying, like Williams can when he’s just allowed to go fooorrevvver.

Plus, Sarah Michelle Gellar mentioned Sunnydale in one of the outtakes so I like her even a little more for that.

5. Agents of SHIELD
In some ways, SHIELD would kind of be on the list no matter what. The petigree of the show is spectacular. It’s Marvel and it’s Maurissa and Jed Whedon and Joss helps some too. It gives Coulson a chance to live again. But it doesn’t just coast on those advantages. I don’t love all the characters. Sometimes it feels like they’re trying too hard. I like the way it plays into the Marvel mythology and is really working with the elements from the movies and expanding them. And I like what they’re trying to do – capture the smaller side of this world they’ve created. The lower decks crew on a superhero starship, if you will. I hate to say that I don’t think it’s as good as it could be. But I think that’s mostly because they haven’t given me characters to love. But I like it well enough. And most of all, I want to trust the writers enough to give the characters room to move and grow and be worth caring about.
4. Revolution
This season has been much bloodier and more violent. But it’s also been a great reinvention of a show. The lingering mystery was solved in great detail and flashback the first season. And while there’s mysterious things this season, alleviating it from the burden of the unknown allows it to be a show about these characters.

And the characters are more interesting this season. They’re wrestling with new struggles and burdens and reacting a lot to the choices they made last season. Miles is a little less interesting, he needs to really be in command again. But Monroe is a lot more interesting when he’s given more than a single maniac role to play. I’d like to see Rachel less broken but Charlie’s much better this season.

3. The Tomorrow People
This is like the perfect CW show. It’s got action and an other-worldly element and it’s full of beautiful young people. It could be Roswell or Buffy or Supernatural. Plus it has a great special effect when they teleport.

The thing that hooked me, though, is that they’re toying with interesting dynamics to these characters. It all happens too fast to really delve into anything or let too much linger. But in the first half season there’s already been betrayals and uncovering of sordid secrets and characters put to the test. It’s exciting and it’s fun and in a lot of ways it’s John’s show more than Stephen’s because with his rich history he’s a much more interesting character.

2. Arrow
The second season of Arrow is pretty fantastic. I don’t care that much about the bad guy of the week, or even the big bad of the season. The characters are interesting and the action is fun but most of all Stephen Amell is an incredibly compelling actor. He pulls off the casual arrogance of Oliver Queen but balances it with the unflinching authority of his Arrow persona. And I don’t really care much about a relationship with Felicity and Oliver other than that she’s the person he is most interesting with. She has great lines at the most hilarious and inappropriate times. But the nuance of his reactions and expressions around those moments are almost stunning. He’s not just incredibly well built, he’s a really fun, dynamic actor who gets stronger and more interesting as the show goes on.
1. Merlin
Season 5 was the end. And it was complete, just like Battlestar. And it was good even though it was heartbreaking. But the season leading up to the finale was brilliant. The characters were pushed and tested in painful and beautiful ways that made me think this show is everything Once Upon a Time wants to be. OUaT wants to have character conflicts that cut into you, that are shocking and deep and meaningful. But it only scratches the surface. This season was a silver dagger carving out your heart with breathtaking precision.

It helps that I’ve always loved the characters. That they’re fun and sweet and noble and strong. I loved Merlin when he was the dragon lord and the power he wielded without question or hesitation. It was beautiful and I wish there’d been more of it. He was such a strong character in so many ways and it was amazing to see how he’d changed, embraced his power and wasn’t afraid to use the strength and the knowledge he possessed. Colin Morgan totally deserved to win the NTA even though he beat Matt Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch. I loved the knights of the round table, their loyalty and how much fun they were. I liked the twists in the mythology and I even liked the end.

spoilers ยป
It ended so well because they knew what the audience really wanted isn’t a happy ending so much as a day where Arthur knows the truth about Merlin, where they can talk about it and see the truth of so many moments in the past 5 years.
I loved Arthur in the end.

It’s number 1 this year because it’s brilliant. And because the characters are so good it’s easy to go back and watch all five seasons again and again so that it’s never really entirely over.

Posted January 6, 2014 : Annual Best TV List / , , , , , , , , , ,