For this list, I’ll just be sticking to the shows I have on my TV Bucket List, because if I attempted to cover all the shows I watch regularly, I’d probably be here for days. 2013 was a year of eclectic TV watching for me, so this will be a rather varied list. Here goes nothing!
1. Bates Motel, A&E, completed May 2013
I’m a huge advocate for this show, so be prepared for some fangirling here. Bates Motel is a modern-day prequel to the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho, and, though that may seem a daunting challenge, the show certainly lives up to its predecessor. Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga give fantastic performances as Norman and Norma Bates, who are probably the most compellingly dysfunctional mother-son pairing since Oedipus and Jocasta. This shows moves easily from creepy to sad to hilarious and pulls riveted viewers through lots of twists and turns. Season two premieres in 2014, and I’ll anxiously be waiting for that moment until it happens.
2. Breaking Bad, AMC, completed January 2013
I really only watched a season-and-a-half of Breaking Bad in 2013 if you don’t count the final eight episodes, but that certainly doesn’t diminish its status as one of the greatest shows of the year, and probably in TV history. There isn’t much to say about it except that I’m still reeling over the final episodes, and so very happy with the show’s conclusion. In essence, this is a perfect show, despite its many terribly dark and disturbing moments. You’d be surprised how quickly you think meth dealing might be a viable career option.
3. Dawson’s Creek, Netflix, completed December 2013
I’m kind of stretching the truth on my completion date as I’ve still got one season to go, but at the rate I’ve sped through the past three seasons, it’s safe to say I’ll be done before the end of the month. I was looking for an easy and fun show to balance out some of the dramas and comedies I’d been watching, so I turned to Dawson’s Creek on a whim, and I’m very happy with the decision I made. First of all, the show has totally changed my feelings about Katie Holmes (the moment when someone FINALLY happened tp mention Tom Cruise’s name to Joey was probably the highlight of my week) and I’ve developed such a crush on Joshua Jackson (or maybe just Pacey Witter… it’s kind of hard to say). Though the stories can get a bit dramatic, I’ve really enjoyed watching the show, especially because of the varied and well-developed teenage females that are somewhat rare in television. If you’re ever feeling nostalgic for the 1990s, this is a must-see.
4. Downton Abbey, PBS, completed March 2013
Even though I do a lot of binge-watching, there are only a few shows that with which I become truly obsessed, and Downton Abbey has earned its place among the chosen few. Watching Downton is kind of the equivalent of snuggling up on the coach with a hot tea and a good book on a winter day. It’s comforting, heartbreaking, and hilarious, and just British enough to make Americans feel somehow more cultured. It’s safe to say I’ve never cried harder for TV than I did watching Sybil’s death, largely because Tom Branson is basically my favorite fictional human ever (okay, that may not be true, but I just have a lot of favorites). This is perfect for binge-watching over the holidays, especially since the fourth season premieres in the US in January.
5. Game of Thrones, HBO, completed March 2013
I have to admit, I was a bit slow on the uptake with this one, but I’m very glad I persevered. After watching the first two episodes in January and feeling underwhelmed, I decided to give it another try in March before the premiere of season three. After overcoming the difficulty of attempting to remember all the characters’ names, I became totally enraptured with the many layered stories in the show. Nerd culture is cool largely in part to this show, so give it a chance if you haven’t. But be warned, the “it’s not porn, it’s HBO” slogan could basically just be applied to just this one show. A word to the wise: this isn’t the kind of show you want to stream in a public place unless you’re looking for some serious embarrassment.
6. Scandal, ABC, completed October 2013
I was very reluctant to start Scandal, but when my roommate started watching it, I decided to join in, and it ended up being totally worth it. The first season, which is only seven episodes long, drove me a little crazy, but it still kept enough of my attention to keep me moving with the show. Then, at some point in season two, it just got better; the stories got more interesting and less episodic, the characters developed in unexpected ways, and the chemistry between Olivia Pope and Fitzgerald Grant is too hot to ignore. As an added bonus, Jeff Perry and Joshua Malina are fantastic in two secondary roles that can almost always be relied on for a few laughs during tense episodes. This is a total guilty pleasure show, and since it’s only in season three, it isn’t hard to catch up if you’re interested. On an unhappy note, the show’s last new episode for the fall airs this week and it won’t return until February 27, and they recently cut season three’s total run from 22 to 18 episodes. A serious bummer, but still totally worth a watch.
7. Top of the Lake, Sundance Channel/Netflix, completed August 2013
Top of the Lake is perfect if you’re looking for an quick and enticing show to stream over the holidays. It’s a miniseries that premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival and is now available on Netflix, and with only seven episodes, you can easily cruise through it in a day or two. Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss stars as a cop searching for a pregnant 12-year-old who goes missing at the end of episode one, and the series follows this search and the lives of the strange characters who populate a small New Zealand town. The show at times is both dark and violent, but the story is so interesting you won’t be deterred. Also, Holly Hunter gives a great performance as a total weirdo, so that’s always a plus.
8. Twin Peaks, Netflix, completed June 2013
Twin Peaks is a show I’ve heard my mom talk about for years, so this summer, I finally decided to sit down and watch the 30-episode show on Netflix, and it was definitely worth it. (Side note: it’s interesting to watch this before Bates Motel or Top of the Lake, because you’ll see definite similarities in these newer programs). Twin Peaks is about a small community near the Canadian border in Washington that’s populated by a rather eclectic group of people. When a high school sweetheart’s body washes is found in the pilot episode, an FBI agent is brought in to investigate the case. I would say that some of the show’s intrigue wanes toward the end of season two, but there are many moments that will both freak you out completely (I’m serious) and will haunt your nightmares (there are a few images that I still see every time I wake up in the middle of the night, and it isn’t pleasant). This is a bizarre show, but it’s very fun to watch, especially since it plays with various aspects of comedy, horror, and melodrama in a way that keeps viewers guessing.
9. Veep, HBO, completed June 2013
If you’re interested in watching Veep, the best advice I can give you is to stick it out through season one to get to season two. On the plus side, season one is only eight episodes, so it’s easy to cruise through the opening season when it appears the show was still figuring itself out. Season two, however, flows perfectly, and viewers will certainly see why Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale took home top awards at the Emmys this year for their performances. One line I repeat over and over is that I think the role of Vice President Selina Meyer was absolutely written for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, because she has an uncanny talent for making unlikeable characters intensely likeable. If you’re looking for something smart and funny, this is the show for you.
10. The Wonder Years, Netflix, completed August 2013
Aside from Dawson’s Creek, The Wonder Years is the longest show I completed this year (I’m still watching Seinfeld and Cheers, so those don’t really count). This is the kind of show to watch with your family; it has endearing characters, moments of happiness and sorrow, and an historical context that adds a layer of complexity to an often lighthearted show. Watching Kevin Arnold and his friends grow up in often funny, sweet, and sad, especially when you get to the final season and realize how much the actors changed over the show’s course. This is an easy show to stream while you’re doing other things since the plot lines are never very complicated, and it’s a pretty comforting way to spend your time. Also, if you’re at all a fan of the new ABC comedy The Goldbergs, you should absolutely watch The Wonder Years since they’re basically the same show, just set in different decades.
What new shows did you discover in 2013? What are you looking forward to next year?