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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 Kelly’s list, which begins with the long-awaited fourth season of Arrested Development at #5.
5. Arrested DevelopmentArrested Development’s first three seasons shined as an ensemble comedy, and in that respect, the long-awaited fourth season had a lot to live up to, and faced a pretty major challenge, when factoring in the availability of its cast. So, it seems almost necessary to grade Season 4 on a curve, when we consider the structure of the season — each episode focused on a different character’s story arc , with the whole picture coming together piece by piece — which was at least partially crafted to operate around the cast’s limited availability. But a curve is only necessary when comparing Season 4 to the previous three seasons. As a comedy on it’s own, Arrested Development ranks among some of the best TV has offered us this year.
Season 4 of this off-beat comedy brought the Bluths back to form in what was essentially one big episode told from 9 different character perspectives over the stretch of 15 episodes. It was complex and ambitious and most importantly, it was funny, delivering a truly unique and entertaining television experience to Netflix subscribers in the process. Not only did Season 4 return this lovable, ridiculous dysfunctional family to our TV screens for another season, but binge-watching Season 4 of Netflix and trying to piece together the Bluth madness episode by episode also proved to be one of my favorite TV memories of 2013.
4. Spartacus: War of the DamnedThe blood! The carnage! The closure! Spartacus: War of the Damned offered up plenty of all of it as it closed out the story of a group of rebel slaves standing up to the behemoth that was the Roman army, fighting for freedom for themselves and the generations to come, becoming legends in the process. After the bloodbath that was Spartacus: Vengeance, War of the Damned faced the challenge of re-investing us in a story that was no longer focused on personal vengeance for one man and his growing army of freed slaves, but emphasized the bigger picture, which was freedom and victory against the Romans.
History spoiled us on the outcome, as we all knew it wouldn’t end well for the title character, therefore, much of Spartacus’s suspense and entertainment value — as is the case for any series, really — rested in the telling of the story. And Spartacus did that well throughout the duration of its run. This year, War of the Damned delivered a thrilling final chapter, returning us to this underdog tale with its final installment, mounting the suspense toward an exciting, emotionally moving and incredibly satisfying conclusion. There’s truly nothing quite like this show out there and TV won’t be the same without it.
3. ScandalKnowing that some shows rise and fall over the course of their run, I feel particularly appreciative in how much I'm enjoying Scandal right now while it’s on the rise. And that can be said for both the tail end of Season 2, which aired earlier this year, and the first half of the third season, which has been keeping us on the edge of our seats and our jaws dropping on a weekly basis over the last few months. What’s working so beautifully with Scandal right now is how evenly the show is paced, despite the tension being at an almost constant boil.
Scandal knows when to simmer and it knows when to charge forward toward the next dramatic scenario. While Olivia and Fitz’s relationship remains a driving force in the drama, the series doesn't rely entirely on that will-they-wont-they roller coaster, which is a good thing, as it makes almost every arc well worth anticipating. We don’t just tune in for the romance, we tune in for the chaos, the scandals and the incredible emotional moments — holy Mellie this season!— and we tune in because we just have to know what’s going to happen next. That’s what drama can be when it’s great, and right now, Scandal is great.
2. The FallLast year if you would have told me a U.K. crime drama was going to be in my Top 5 series of 2013, I wouldn’t have believed you, but here I am, putting The Fall as my second favorite series of 2013. Murder dramas are hit or miss for me, and honestly, they’re mostly miss, as I’m more compelled by character drama than I am by violence and a whodunnit mystery, in general. But The Fall manages to find the sweet spot between those elements, skipping the whodunnit aspect entirely, as the series divides itself between Jamie Dornan’s character stalking and murdering women in Belfast, and Gillian Anderson’s detective character working hard to figure out who’s responsible for these murders. Little by little, we get to know both characters as we wait to see which will manage to catch their prey first. So far, Dornan’s Paul Spector is in the lead, much to the misfortune of some young, beautiful women in Northern Ireland. But it may only be a matter of time before Anderson's Stella Gibson catches up to him, and when it does, I have a feeling it'll be amazing.
It usually takes me a handful of episodes to get hooked on a series, but The Fall had me by the end of the first episode, which is probably a good thing, as the first season only consists of five episodes. It’s truly riveting TV and one of the most unexpected TV favorites for me this year.
1. Breaking BadMy top pic this year was a no-brainer. We waited nearly a year to watch the last eight episodes of the series, and Vince Gilligan, the other writers and the cast did not let us down. From the start, Breaking Bad led us to believe it was a story about a desperate man willing to use his brilliance at science to do illegal and immoral things in an effort to provide for his family after he learned he was dying of cancer. Little did we know at the time that this was a story of the makings of a villain whose hunger for power and status would rise to the top of his priority list. That revelation emerged earlier on in the series, but this year’s second half of the fifth and final season concluded the story of Walter White, offering moments that were both long awaited and in some cases, impossible to predict. Many great shows peak too soon and fizzle by the time they’re ready to wrap up. Breaking Bad was not one of those shows. Walter White may not have deserved a happy ending, but he deserved a good one and the pay-off was an intense, suspenseful, mostly unpredictable and truly satisfying wrap-up to one of the decade's best TV dramas.
Though this is a Top 5 list, it feels necessary to mention the five shows that almost made the cut but didn’t quite get there… 10. Almost Human 9. Grimm, 8. Parenthood, 7. Game of Thrones, 6. American Horror Story: Coven.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the other writers’ Top 5 lists, coming soon!