2013 has been a great year for television, so narrowing down our list of favorites was no easy task. As TV Blend has numerous writers with varying tastes in TV shows, we decided to go solo this year in sharing our Top 5 lists of the best series of 2013. This is Jessica's list, which begins with Parenthood at #5.
5. ParenthoodFew TV programs get better with age, but NBC’s Parenthood has proved growing older can sometimes lead to tighter writing. Over the last several years, we’ve seen the Braverman clan struggle and triumph, oftentimes in stressful and life-altering ways. Forever bordering along melodrama, for years Parenthood asked audiences to invest in babies and weddings, new businesses and relationships. And then 2013 happened, and the ante was upped quite a bit.
2013 was the year of Kristina Braverman (Monica Potter), a mother and political campaign manager, found herself faced with breast cancer. Potter’s emotional range through the end of last season and the beginning of the fall season has been a joy to watch, leading to her very first Golden Globe nomination. Kristina's always been a mother, first, and to see her struggle with cancer and then find the fortitude to run for Mayor of Berkeley has been an interesting journey to watch, supplemented by plotlines including stress between Crosby and Adam due to a brand new business, Sarah ruining healthy relationships and watching from the sidelines as her daughter does much the same, stress between Julia and Joel, and much, much more. It's hard to define all of the things that Parenthood brings to the table, but this year, it's been an emotional story that has tugged us at our cores.
4. The AmericansThe Americans hasn’t gotten a lot of love by awards panels, but FX’s action-oriented espionage drama is one of the strangest programs to ever grace our television screens. Joe Weisberg’s drama is a lot of things—it’s a period drama and a spy thriller, a family story and a fish out of water tale. The program about two KGB agents gathering information in American suburbs during the Cold War era should be enough to suck any cable subscriber into one episode of the drama, but doubtless people will stay for the slew of excellent performers, including Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich, Margo Martindale and Annet Mahendru.
The first few episodes of Season 1 set The Americans up to be a drama that was very much focused on spy intel, with a nice side helping of relationship problems. However, as the weeks wore on, the familial issues of the Soviet Spy family The Jennings, as well as the FBI family the Beemans, became a satisfying and important addition to the series, making it a well-rounded family drama that asks its viewers to invest in moral grey areas and different philosophical viewpoints. The Americans would no doubt have been a fun supplement to FX’s schedule if it had only focused on spy gadgets and information gathering, but FX knew it didn’t need another Archer. Instead, the network gave us an intelligently crafted program with enough action and suspense to ask us to return each week.
3. Brooklyn Nine-NineShows very rarely have a stable rhythm or flow right out of the gate. However, Fox’s new comedy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, has flown completely against the norm, creating not only a flawless, laugh-filled pilot, but a great overarching premise and characters that should sustain the series well beyond a first season.
After Hot Rod and That’s My Boy, I wasn’t sure Andy Samberg had it in him to be a leading man. However, placing Samberg’s Detective Jake Peralta opposite straight (gay) man Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) really allows Brooklyn Nine-Nine to explore some amusing gags and premises while keeping the week’s mystery interesting enough to maintain a relevant, engaging premise. Plus, the show had a great cast out of the gate. Terry Crews and Jo Lo Truglio play a key role each week, but if you aren’t watching the comedy for the ladies, you should be. The virulent Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), the neurotic Amy Santiago (Meliss Fumero) and the wacky Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti) all bring different comedic sensibilities to the table, and have made me gaffaw more than once. They might not be as familiar as the characters on Parks and Rec are, yet, but I’m way more excited to tune in to see what this gaggle of characters will say each week.
2. The Good WifeNow in its fifth season, The Good Wife has introduced us to an entirely new brand of drama. In the past, the firm of Lockhart & Gardner has gone through its ups and downs. Clients and allegiances have been won and lost, employees have come and gone, but at its core, the firm has mostly seemed like a stable unit. In Season 5, that feeling of allegiance has been utterly lost. In its place is bickering, infighting, and the perfect plot device to introduce us to new characters.
If you haven’t been watching this season of The Good Wife, I’ll just go ahead and let you know you must not have your television tuned to the right channel on Sunday nights. What you’ve missed is pretty simple, but impactful. Alicia, Cary, and a few of the other employees have left the firm, branching off on their own and leaving Lockkhart & Gardner nothing short of seething. The act and the subsequent response felt personal for both Will and Alicia, and their scenes have been electric this season—for the first time not in a romantic sense. The emotional grasp the writers have on the characters is a compelling reason to watch, but so are the verbal barbs the characters continue to throw at one another week in and week out. In short, in Season 5, The Good Wife has been polished and perfect, just as we’d expect fourth-year associates to be.
1. JustifiedBack when Justified was still figuring out exactly what it wanted to be, FX’s hit drama put together a season that placed marijuana deals, coal-mining and moonshine at the forefront. Our hero, Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) was faced with a formidable opponent in Mags Bennet (Margo Martindale), and the various stand-offs that occurred were bold and beautifully done. I thought Mags might be the greatest idea the Kentucky-based drama might be able to dream up. Thank god for Walton Goggins.
Season 4 of the drama aired this past spring, and gone were the days of any sort of procedural plotline added to the series to keep the episode count up. During the course of Justified’s run, Mr. Givens have fully acclimated to his new situation as a Kentucky Marshall and has become familiar with much of the local riff-raff. This means we get to spend more time with the bad guys. It also means more of the bad guys get multi-episode arcs. Season 4, in fact, should be renamed the era of Boyd Crowder, a man with his little finger wrapped around a Bonnie & Clyde dream that might be destined to morph into a nightmare. Harlan County, Kentucky, might not be a favorite setting for TV watchers, but if you get beyond the geographical location and settle into the dialogue, you might just find that Justified is the most entertaining and cleverly drawn program that cable has to offer.
Even if you don’t find that, it’s still damn good TV.
This list might be comprised of my five favorites, but there are quite a few other programs that were close to making the cut, including Game of Thrones, Eastbound & Down, Defiance, and The Blacklist. And kudos to South Park for having an excellent fall run.
You can check out some of this year’s other picks by TV Blend’s fine staff of writers, here.