Thank you all for reading our coverage of the best TV of 2013, which comes to an end today. We really loved pulling this series together, and we hope that you enjoyed reading it and arguing about it. Here’s a compendium with links to all of our articles, so you can read them to your heart’s content in the months—nay, years—to come.
Before we get to the list, though, a quick word about our methodology.
At the beginning of November, 27 of our writers gathered in an off-site forum to talk about what our favorite shows of the year were. All were allowed to list up to three unique shows that were then added to a big list of shows we were discussing. After that process was up, we turned to making sure we weren’t missing any obvious blind spots on our list (including a couple of shows that wound up in our top 40). This complete list of shows we discussed is included at the end of this article, for those of you who want to be true completists. We then began the process of winnowing those shows, over 100 in number, down to a more workable list. In the process of doing that, we realized that it would make sense to include certain shows together in omnibus articles that, technically, made our top 15 more of a top 26, but who wants to split hairs? It’s almost Christmas!
Once that process was over, we had a list of 25 shows and groups of shows that we felt confident about. TV Club senior staff Todd VanDerWerff, Erik Adams, and Sonia Saraiya pulled teeth and hemmed and hawed and ultimately arrived at the top 15. The leftover shows were bumped down to the top 40, where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth.
From there, our discussion split in two different directions. First, the top 15 were pitted against each other in a straight-off vote where all of our writers were allowed to pick three of them to make the top three. Bob’s Burgers and Enlightened separated themselves from the pack, while Breaking Bad narrowly eked out a victory over Orange Is The New Black (hence the “Best New Show” trophy for that show) and Game Of Thrones for the third spot. (If you think I’m going to tell you how the other 11 shows fared, you’re nuts. The point here is to stay as unranked as possible.) Those three shows were then pitted in a round robin tournament against each other, in which Enlightened beat all comers, and Bob’s Burgers lost to all comers, leaving the ranking we currently have. We also spent this portion of the process coming up with ideas for coverage of all 15 shows and groupings of shows, which resulted in the wide variety of articles you’ve seen over the past three weeks (as well as a bunch of even wackier ideas we couldn’t use because of various limitations, some of which we may pull out next year).
Meanwhile, we asked our writers, then, to consider what should join the shows cut from the top 15 in slots 16-40. Once again, we got a huge response, and Todd, Erik, and Sonia carefully pared that list down, based largely on the raw passion of certain writers. (It’s one reason Spartacus, which only a couple of us watched, made the list. It wouldn’t have had a prayer under the old system.) If the top 15 is meant to be at least vaguely scientific, then spots 16-40 are meant to be a bit more personal and idiosyncratic, the shows that at least a few of us were willing to absolutely and completely go to the mat for. (And even then, a bunch of shows a number of us really, really liked got left out, which is why we also have the AVQ&A for you to look at.)
And that’s how we arrived at our list! We hope you had fun reading it, and we hope to do an even better version next year.
Spots 5-15 (unranked):
Dec. 2: Comedy Central’s new wave (The Daily Show With John Oliver, Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele, Kroll Show, and Nathan For You)
Dec. 3: The Americans
Dec. 4: Scandal
Dec. 5: Sundance Channel arrives (Rectify, The Returned, and Top Of The Lake)
Dec. 6: Hannibal
Dec. 9: Justified
Dec. 10: The Good Wife
Dec. 11: New Girl and Girls (The shows we argued about)
Dec. 12: Mad Men
Dec. 13: Acquisition theater (Black Mirror, Borgen, The Fall, Moone Boy, and Please Like Me)
Dec. 16: Game Of Thrones
Best New Show of 2013:
Orange Is The New Black
Bronze medal winner:
Silver medal winner:
Gold medal winner:
You can read our unranked list of the next 25 shows on our list here.
And you can read the AVQ&A about shows individual writers are sad missed the list here.
Todd VanDerWerff’s FOC about the year in television will arrive Monday, and this article will eventually link to it.
The complete list of shows: Adventure Time, American Dad, American Horror Story, American Masters, The Americans, Archer, Arrested Development, Arrow, Axe Cop, Awkward., Banshee, Behind The Candelabra, The Big Bang Theory, Black Mirror, Boardwalk Empire, Bob's Burgers, Borgen, Breaking Bad, The Bridge, Broadchurch, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Bunheads, Call The Midwife, Childrens Hospital, The Chris Gethard Show, The Colbert Report, Comedy Bang! Bang!, Community, Continuum, Cougar Town, The Daily Show, Doctor Who, Don’t Trust The B---- In Apt. 23, Downton Abbey, Eastbound & Down, Elementary, Enlightened, The Eric Andre Show, The Fall, Family Tree, The Fosters, Frontline, Futurama, Game Of Thrones, Getting On, Girl Code, Girls, The Good Wife, Gravity Falls, Grimm, Hannibal, Happy Endings, HBO Docs (an omnibus category we invented when it became clear there was no strong support for any one HBO documentary but a lot of support for the genre as a whole), Hell On Wheels, The Hollow Crown, Homeland, Inside Amy Schumer, The Jeselnik Offensive, Justified, Key & Peele, The Killing, Kroll Show, Last Man Standing, The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, Louis C.K.: Oh My God, Mad Men, Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Masters Of Sex, The Middle, Misfits, Mom, Moone Boy, Nashville, Nathan For You, The Neighbors, New Girl, NTSF, The Office, Orange Is The New Black, Orphan Black, Out There, Parade's End, Parenthood, Parks And Recreation, Person Of Interest, Please Like Me, Push Girls, Raising Hope, Rectify, Regular Show, Reign, The Returned, RuPaul's Drag Race, Scandal, Shameless, Shark Tank, Sleepy Hollow, Southland, Spartacus, The Staircase 2, Steven Universe, Strike Back, Suburgatory, Suits, Survivor, Switched At Birth, Top Of The Lake, Treme, Trophy Wife, Uninspired, The Vampire Diaries, Veep, Venture Bros., Vikings, The Walking Dead, Web Therapy, A Young Doctor's Notebook
The Dollhouse rule: To be eligible, an ongoing series must run at least seven episodes in a calendar year or more than half of its season. This disqualified 30 Rock and Rick And Morty (whose 2013 episodes will be eligible for next year’s list), among others. (The rule is so named because Dollhouse almost made our 2011 list based only on three episodes. Why seven episodes? I am glad you asked. That was the exact number of episodes of Friday Night Lights to debut in 2011 and also exactly one more than half its final season.)