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Best of 2013: Top 10 TV Shows

AMC

BY DAILY ARTS STAFF

Published January 8, 2014

1. “Breaking Bad”

For a series as acclaimed and adored as “Breaking Bad,” ending the story can be a formidable undertaking. A series’ victory lap can be the difference between a wholly satisfying legacy (see “Six Feet Under”) or an infuriating conclusion to a once-great show (“Dexter”). For “Breaking Bad,” Walter White’s journey from Mr. Chips to Scarface ended with the unrivaled excellence and skill with which it began.

“Breaking Bad” ’s final episodes were both surprising and captivating — eight hours of television in its peak form. tThe sixth installment, “Ozymandias,” will be remembered as one of the finest hours of television in history.

The finale garnered 10.3 million viewers, up 442 percent from the previous year’s finale, capping off “Breaking Bad” ’s meteoric rise from critically acclaimed niche programming to full-blown cultural phenomenon. “Breaking Bad” ’s final eight episodes firmly cemented its place among the best television series of all time and with that, the legacy of Walter White.

-Alec Stern

2. “Orange Is the New Black”

Online streaming is the new broadcast television, Netflix is the new prime time and orange is the new black — orange and cell-block grey, that is. Based on ex-inmate Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, “Orange Is the New Black” has introduced color to a monotonous TV landscape and viewers to the unexplored bunks of an all-female prison: It bares the diverse realities of women, unmatched by even the most righteous TV ringleaders (see: Ryan Murphy and his choir of misfit toys). In an institution where individuality is traded for uniform jumpsuits and shackles, it’s the characters’ and cast’s identities — socioeconomic, racial, religious, gender and sexual — that swiiiiirl to form one of the most enlightened, vulnerable and witty scripts of the year. For once, we’re crossing our fingers for a longer prison sentence.

-Brianne Johnson

3. “Game of Thrones”

Westeros is a massive world. What “Game of Thrones” does brilliantly is that it shows us the pieces that fill this world, without spending too much or too little time in one place. The third season of “Game of Thrones” spent quite a bit of time allowing the show’s strong ensemble (led by Peter Dinklage of “Elf”) to speak with their own voices. The best example of this is what they did this season with now-crippled villain Jamie Lannister (Nokolaj Coster-Waldau, “New Amsterdam”) and lady-knight Brianne (Gwendoline Christie, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”). The show's producers rarely spent more than 7 minutes per episode with these characters, but each moment was important in their evolution.

There’s no way to talk about this season without mentioning the best scene on TV — at least this year not from “Breaking Bad.” “The Red Wedding” set the climax for the season and for the series. The writers and actors executed it as close to perfectly as they could with the impact they were looking for: shock, surprise and sadness.

"Game of Thrones" is a fascinating, large world filled with intriguing characters that make spending time in Westeros worth the investment — and the HBO description

-Alex Intner

4. “Scandal”

After three seasons, this political thriller on ABC still never has a dull moment. Olivia Pope, played by the brilliant Kerry Washington, kicks ass and takes names — all while maintaining flawless (mostly white) outfits. A quick witted, calculating career woman, Washington’s character portrays women in a way that many shows don’t dare to — as the political equivalent of men, able to manipulate and control situations with natural ease. 2013 was a great year for “Scandal,” and the mid-season finale left social media ablaze with astonishment over the unforeseen plot twists.