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Best of the year in TV? Best new shows?

By Rich Heldenfels Published: December 17, 2013

Hitfix conducted its annual poll of TV critics, and I was one of those participating. You can see the consensus list here. I am always leery of these things, much as I am about best-movie lists, because time and obligation keep me from seeing everything I want. There are some shows my colleagues rated highly like "Broadchurch" which I liked in what I saw, but didn't see enough to add to my list. And I might have considered "Inside Amy Schumer," among others, for the new show list -- if I had remembered it. That said, six of my top 10 were consensus top 10 -- but I am content with even the choices that the poll as a whole ranked low.

In any case, here's how my list of best shows looked, with the corresponding HitFix number in parentheses. I have added some notes I made when I was assembling the list.

1. Mad Men (6). A great, dark season for a show that began when the American dream still seemed possible but has gone ever more deeply into how America failed both the dream and the dreamers.
2. Breaking Bad (1). So often we ask shows that are ending to come up with a great finale. BB went beyond that, to provide one of the great next-to-last episodes, next-to-next-to-last episodes and so on.
3. Masters of Sex (5). Brilliant performances and a terrific consideration of the changing mores about sex.
4. Orange Is the New Black (2). Another fine cast, another meditation on our our condition, not only on prison but on the nature of crime in this country. (Only as I was finishing this list did I realize how many shows I picked were in some way about the American condition. Hence ...)
5. Justified (12). As a character piece, terrific week in and out. As a view of a part of America that is often ignored, even better.
6. The Americans (7). How could we come to care so much about two people bent on bringing down our society -- and doing awful things to accomplish it? Great writing and acting.
7. Scandal (19). The most bitterly cynical show on network TV, and all the more enjoyable because of it.
8. The Good Wife (4). Smart, sexy, well-dressed -- and always a pleasure to watch.
9,. The Big Bang Theory (23). Still my favorite TV comedy.
10, Girls  (44). It troubles me, it stays in my head long after I have watched, its characters can be infuriating -- and that's one reason why it's so good. (Another thread in this list: a lot of seriously flawed characters.)

Hitfix also askedf for a list of the best new shows for this poll. Looking at the list above, you can guess a lot of it. Here's my 10, again with the consensus numbers.

1. Masters of Sex (2)
2 Orange Is the New Black (1)
3. The Americans (3)
4. House of Cards (6)
5. Sleepy Hollow (10)
6. The Blacklist (12)
7. The Bletchley Circle.(54, and I was the only critic who voted for it)
8. Almost Human (30)
9. Orphan Black.(5)
10. Bates Motel (18)



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