For the past few years, it’s become abundantly clear that when it comes to buzzworthy entertainment, TV has far trumped movies. In fact, we can’t remember the last time we waltzed into work in the morning desperate to dish about the great new release we caught the night before at the Cineplex. Rather, we come in primed to spend as much time as possible discussing everything from “Homeland” and “Breaking Bad” to “Scandal” and “The Voice.”
This year, the number of best-in-class television shows was pretty thrilling, but it’s the new advances in TV’s distribution models that made the year a groundbreaking one. This is largely thanks to Netflix, which tossed its hat in the original programming ring and released every episode of two of the year’s most stellar shows (“House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black”) all at once, making it a cinch to feed our binge-watching addiction.
This year also brought with it shows that aren’t new, but that really shined in 2013 (“Mad Men” and its bleak, this-can’t-be-good penultimate season.)
However, the real TV star of 2013 was “Breaking Bad,” which drew to a resounding close in September, and which spent its final season firmly cementing its deserved place in the canon of all-time best television shows in the history of television, ever.
To honor some of the year’s best TV, we rounded up shows that really blew us away in 2013. Click through and let us know which shows you couldn’t get enough of this year. Warning: Some light spoilers ahead.
For fans of the retro AMC drama, there's no denying that this year's exceedingly dark penultimate season—which aired from April to June—was a revelation. For viewers, a lingering sense of dread was ever-present, as the entire season was—by all accounts—The Beginning of the End for Don Draper (Jon Hamm.)
We saw the formerly smooth-as-silk philandering ad man transform into a wallowing, pitiful, pathetic hack fighting to stay relevant in a changing world, and along the way, left a very messy trail (we'll never forget the scene when Don's already-confused young daughter walks in on him in a compromising position with a woman who wasn't his wife). Episode one's placement of Dante's Inferno proved to be telling, and we can't help but wonder what will become not only of Don next season, but everyone left in his wake (or, for that matter, at his wake.)
After 19 years on Death Row for the rape and murder of his teenage girlfriend, Daniel Holden's conviction has been vacated due to new DNA evidence and he's a free man. This razor-sharp drama—which started airing on Sundance this year—follows him home, where his reentry into the outside world isn't easy, and the show does an excellent job of creating character studies of Daniel, his extended family, and the people in his Southern town.
"Sons of Anarchy"
This FX drama may have picked up some extra press this year due to star Charlie Hunnam's "50 Shades of Gray" kerfuffle (he's in, he's out), but it hasn't overtaken the fact that it's a really good show. Loosely based on Hamlet, the series centers around a Northern California motorcycle gang, and manages to fuse abundant violence with family drama, led by Hunnam and Katy Segal, who plays a fiercely protective (if crazy) matriarch.
Season six—which just wrapped last week—was chock full of bloody murders (one particularly deserving), dire situations (everything that happened to Tara, ever), and some heartbreaking moments (Juice, in the brothel, high on Oxy.) Yeah, the season was a tad puffed-up, but that's what made it so watchable.
"Orange is the New Black"
Nexflix killed it this year in the original progrmming department, and this show had everyone buzzing. The series revolves around bougie Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling), an upper-class engaged woman living in New York, who is sentenced to 15 months in a women's federal prison for transporting drug money to her former drug-smuggling lesbian lover ten years prior.
What's so smart about this dramedy (it's by the creator of "Weeds") is that viewers go from caring about lily-white Piper to caring about her fellow criminal inmates even more.
"House of Cards"
Netflix's other shining star—also released as a binge-worthy block of 13 new episodes this year—is a political drama starring Kevin Spacey as Machiavellian Congressman Francis Underwood, a Democrat from South Carolina's 5th Congressional District and House Majority Whip. After getting passed over for appointment as Secretary of State, Underwood decides to exact revenge on those who betrayed him. Robin Wright stars as his wife, Claire (with whom his relationship is unconventional to say the least) heads up a socially-conscious organization in the private sector but shares her husband's thirst for power.
Produced by David Fincher of "The Social Network," this addictive show paints Washington as a corrupt, manipulative, pretty scary place.
The first part of "Breaking Bad" Season 5 was what could only be described as the greatest form of foreplay (not to mention, the biggest tease) of all time, and when show-runner Vince Gilligan's hit drama returned for the final episodes, viewers' minds practically exploded.
Not one drop of "Breaking Bad" Season 5, Part 2 was predictable, whether it was Walt letting Gretchen and Elliot live, or using the ricin on Lydia, Gilligan and his team of writers did everything in their power to not let down fans with obvious plotlines. Heisenberg's character arc remains unparalleled, and Bryan Cranston's work will go down in history as one of the greatest performances of all time. The series finale was at once the most satisfying and heart-wrenching 75 minutes of television, well worthy of the top spot on any superlative list of TV shows this year (or ever.) (Augusta Falletta).
This fairly new HBO show is a surprising gem about the extended care unit of a hospital that deals with the elderly. It's at once outrageously funny and deeply sad. Laurie Metcalf—one of the most underrated comedic actresses of our time—shines as an underemployed doctor, Alex Borstein of "Family Guy" and "MADtv" is expectedly hilarious as a neurotic nurse, and fans of "Reno 911" will be estatic to see Niecy Nash back on the small screen. (Megan Segura)
This mind-bending Canadian Sci-Fi drama—which aired on BBC America this year—stars actress Tatiana Maslany who plays multiple women (a small-time con-artist, a soccer mom, a detective, a relgious fanatic, and more) who are revealed to be clones. Still with us? The series largely focuses on one particular woman who assumes the identity of her clone after witnessing the latter's suicide.
It sounds out there, but much like "Battlestar Galactica"—another science fiction show with very cerebral themes—"Orphan Black" raises issues about human cloning, and personal identity.
Overall, 2013 was a paltry year for reality competition shows (Sorry, who won "American Idol" again?), and then came Season 5 of NBC's shining star "The Voice." The show’s been on for two years and it’s always been entertaining, but fans may have noticed that this season, there was a slightly altered vibe making it even better. It had to do with a number of factors, namely Christina Aguilera's newfound confidence, less of an emphasis on Blake Shelton and twangy artists, and the incredibly talented and personable group of finalists.
Of course, Adam Levine—2013's de facto mayor—and his honest mentoring (and overall hotness) may have contributed a little, too, which is why he came out on top in the end.