Year in Review: Allison’s Top 10 Returning TV Series of 2013

     December 22, 2013


In addition to a bevy of new and fantastic shows debuting in 2013, there were also plenty of trusted favorites to keep up with as well.  While BBC America and Sundance provided most of the best new content of the year, stalwart HBO dominates the list of returning programming.  Unlike the list of new series, the returning shows category features a few comedies, an acknowledgement that often it takes comedy series a little longer to get off the ground.  Bottom line, a good show is a good show regardless of format or genre.  Hit the jump for, in no particular order, the list of Top 10 Returning Series of 2013.

10.  Veep [HBO]


Some thought Veep only had niche appeal when it debuted last year (being based off of, and written by the team behind the acidic British political comedy The Thick Of It), but it’s really just a damn funny show.  The series’ second season proved that it was not afraid to continue being as confrontational and irreverent as its inaugural season, while also one-upping itself regarding some of the best one-liners and horrible name calling known to TV.  The baseness and selfish nature of D.C. politics has never been so fun.

9.  Game of Thrones [HBO]


Because dragons.  The third season of HBO’s fantasy drama was based on the first half of what many fans agree is the best book of the original novel series, which made the show better than ever before. (Especially for those who found the machinations of the second season a little slow).  It also provided one of the bloodiest, most emotional and most shocking episodes probably ever on TV — a gut-punch even for viewers who knew it was coming.  That game changer also proved for anyone still unaware that the show will kill your faves.  Along with everyone else.

8. Homeland [Showtime]


Okay, some of it was really wonky.  But the rest of it was really good.  The bottom line is that Homeland, while going through some major growing pains, still managed to stay really entertaining, whether it was because of its spy stuff, or because of the discussion of its super soap drama that filled Twitter the moment it happened.  Its finale also proved that the show is willing to shed things that aren’t working, but to do them in a really emotional and great way.  It has also positioned itself to go anywhere and do anything next year, and that’s a good place to be.

7.  Mad Men [AMC]


At its core, this later season of Mad Men provided further interesting insight into its characters, amid the backdrop of some of the country’s most difficult and confusing times.  Not every road traveled was a hit, and one’s tolerance for Don Draper and a belief (or not) in his redemption probably played a big part in enjoying — again, or not — this season.  Regardless, everyone else (Pete, Betty, Peggy, Joan and of course Bob Benson) provided such a rich tapestry of the kind of sadness and humor that has defined the show that, ultimately, it didn’t matter.  A good show staying solid.

6. Eastbound and Down [HBO]


Kenny Powers could never have imagined a comeback so good.  While this final season took on the look of those before it (Kenny is down and out, mounts a comeback, squanders his opportunities in service of his selfish habits, and learns a lesson … sorta), never has it played out so emotionally.  Kenny Powers has always been a character to laugh at, not empathize with.  But this season proved it was possible to feel genuinely bad for him, then angry, and ultimately sincerely pleased.  Plus, what a bizarre and hilarious final montage of scenes (not to mention the inclusion all season of the robot Yul Brynner).  Last season’s ending felt final, but we obviously had no idea what we were missing.

5. The Good Wife (Season 6) [CBS]


The Good Wife has always been an excellent show.  And not just “broadcast good,” but legitimately great.  In fact, it handles politics, and an understanding of the political machine, better than most political shows (even though it’s billed as more of a law procedural); not to mention its savvy grasp and inclusion of current tech.  Still, something stepped up a huge notch this year with the show’s sixth season premiere (2013 covers both the end of the show’s fifth season, and start of the sixth).  The show has been firing on all cylinders, moving at a whirlwind pace with a renewed sense of vigor, the likes of which I’ve never seen in a show that’s been on for so long.  Kudos, Good Wife.

4. Boardwalk Empire [HBO]


Boardwalk Empire finally found its footing again, after a lost season in the wake of a major character death.  This year, it retooled things in a number of great ways: it let Nucky take more of a backseat to more compelling secondary characters, it opened up an entire storyline that caused the show to create diversity by not hiring one, but a myriad of black actors in the driving narrative of the season, and it narrowed its focus back to just a handful of plots.  It also continued to inflict pain on viewers by ending the arc of a character who had become the soul of show, proving that if one lives by the sword, one will surely die by it, too.  There’s no getting out of this game.  Not that we’d want to.

3. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia [FXX]


Speaking of comebacks (the story of the last three series on the list), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia might have just finished its best season yet.  Every episode was tightly crafted and hilariously executed, finding ways to integrate meta storylines that seamlessly meshed the world of the show with events from the world outside of it.  It also rewarded long-time viewers by playing off of the well-established personalities of the leads, as well as old jokes from the show that cropped up for those who have been paying attention.  No wild card about this one.

2. Arrested Development [Netflix]


Though Netflix’s revival of the excellent series Arrested Development was met with hesitation from some fans, the show proved itself to be both strange and familiar.  The format didn’t sit well with some (character-focused episodes being the biggest change-up), and others found the show being stocked with so many celebrities — even for very minor roles — distracting.  But none could deny the show’s trademark intricacy and reflexivity regarding its own jokes and narratives.  If there is another season, or a movie, or whatever, bring it on.

1. Breaking Bad [AMC]


You’ll be sorely missed.  Bitch.

Honorable Mention: Treme [HBO], Luther [BBC America], Sons of Anarchy [FX], Call the Midwife [PBS], Modern Family [ABC], Downton Abbey [PBS]

Shows Excluded Because I’m Still Catching Up: Justified [FX], Arrow [CW], The Walking Dead [AMC]

Yesterday’s list: Top 10 New TV Series of 2013

Tomorrow: Miniseries, Miscellanea, and More

  • GrimReaper07

    Yeah, this list is ridiculous. Season 4 of Arrested Development was a massive disappointment that still doesn’t hold its own with repeated viewings and the first half of Homeland was just plain bad. I don’t get how Game of Thrones is in the 9th spot.

    • axalon

      I was kind of wondering what happened to Arrested Development. It was so hyped with anticipation and then when it came out it felt like nobody talked about it or quoted it or anything.

      Was it really that bad?

      • GrimReaper07

        Yeah. It was one of the biggest TV/film related disappointments I’ve ever had. It’s not even that its bad in comparison to the previous seasons, its just not funny at all and the plot is a convoluted and unrewarding mess.

      • Greyson

        It’s not great, but it’s no final season of Lost or Dexter…

      • GrimReaper07

        Half of Dexter’s seasons are terrible though, so I was readier.

  • Bhammer100

    Justified. Best show on TV. Can not wait for Season 5.

    • tarek

      Timothy Olyphant has a lot of charisma. Loved the first and second seasons.
      I have to watch the third.

      • Bhammer100

        Get on that. It only gets better. The writing, the acting, the plotting… perfection.

    • Rjd12345

      Justified may be the most underrated show out there. I don’t understand why it doesn’t get more attention. For me, it beats the majority of these shows and has some of the best character interplay on television.

    • J Wilson

      Was just logging in to say the same thing….Justified is easily TV’s best show today. Season Four is my favorite, which is really saying something.

      • Bhammer100

        I don’t know if I can call season 4 my favorite. I love seasons 2 and 3. But ranking them, I just don’t know if I can before the end of the season. But if I had to 2 …3 …4 …1
        I love all the seasons for different reasons.

  • The Flobbit

    Homeland and The Good Wife were terrible shows. And that “bitch” joke never gets old does it?

    • tarek

      agreed. I don’t know why all the hype on Homeland. I found it quite boring.

  • Mixed Race rich kid NYC
    • Matt Lane

      every time you post it i like him more and more

  • tarek

    First: Breaking Bad Ex aequo with Game of Thrones.

    3: Dexter

    4: Justified

    5: sons of Anarchy

    6: Hell on Wheels

    7: Viking

    • Batt Damon

      Hahahahaha Dexter. Good one.

      • axalon

        It’s like he’s a comedian trying out material

    • nbobo

      Dexter? Oh you’re joking, ok good one!

    • Greyson

      Dexter was my favorite show for a very, very long time…. But the final season still stings. Someone asked me if I wanted a Dexter poster for Christmas and I said…. no :( It feels so wrong.

      • Marissa Evans

        I still recommend the show to people who haven’t seen it, but I strongly suggest to them to stop at season 7.
        I didn’t like the last season either, but honestly I was getting so tired of it midway through the season I stopped caring about what happened, so the finale didn’t hit me as hard thankfully.

      • Matt Lane

        i tell them to stop at season 4

      • tarek

        they lost me when they started going the incest plot… So stupid move.

  • vpuik

    I’ve never watched any of them. I guess I’m missing out.

  • Bob

    Arrow deserves to be in here…catch up now…the mid season finale two episodes were actually amazing….show has grown into one of the best on TV currently.

    • pwnednoob

      Agreed. Arrow should be on this list.

    • Matt Lane

      couldn’t agree more

    • J Wilson

      Haven’t seen it, but I hear it’s pretty incredible. Need to check it out.

  • Fitzy

    i made allowances for alison when she was getting tons of plot points in her weekly breaking bad review wrong, but looking at her two best of lists its obvious she just aint got a clue

  • Kevin

    I guess by returning you mean shows that returned this year because some of these aren’t coming back.

    • tarek

      who knows… With the sequelmania floating around, they can bring back any series they want. Not those we want ( Firefly)

  • Marissa Evans

    I started watching Breaking Bad just after the final episode aired. I was the cynic saying “Pffft, it can’t be THAT good.” I finished the whole series in less than two weeks.

    • tarek

      I hear ya. I was recommending this series to my sister for months. she didn’t see it coming when she finally gave it a try.

  • Nick

    Wow, everyone’s pretty harsh on this. It’s not a terrible list at all. I think GOT should be #2 or 3 and even madmen should be further down. Maybe add SOA but otherwise it’s not a bad list at all

    • themanwithnoname

      it specifically says… “IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER” everyone.

  • Pingback: Allison’s other Best of 2013 Selections Include BREAKING BAD, BROADCHURCH, TRUE BLOOD, and More | Collider()

  • eternalozzie

    This really should be re titled “Top 10 Shows To Watch If I Want To Appear Cool To People”

    Arrow is lot more clever story telling than at least 3 of the shows on the list. Some of the best character development this year on TV is in young viewer’s shows like Teen Wolf … Jeff Davis is a storytelling genius … always has been.

    Collider takes itself way too seriously and skips so much quality entertainment because it wants to maintain its cool hipster cred.

    • tarek

      Arrow didn’t impress me much.
      The show missed something…