Clark: The best television had to offer in 2013

12/26/2013 12:00 AM

12/25/2013 7:56 AM

When you make a public resolution for the new year – oh, say in a newspaper column, for instance – you darn well better follow through.

Folks, I followed through and then some when it came to a promise last year to finally join the rest of the TV-viewing world and begin watching the critically acclaimed and universally beloved hit “Downton Abbey.”

It’s particularly nice to not only follow through on a resolution, but have it turn out to be one of the best things you did all year.

“Downton Abbey” became one of my favorite shows pretty much from the opening credits. And it’s No. 3 on my annual list of the year’s best shows on television.

The other nice thing about this year’s list is that it’s back to being a top 10. It was kind of awkward last year when I could only come up with eight actually good shows to praise. As television years go, 2012 just wasn’t especially stellar for this TV-aholic.

But thanks to several favorites that keep getting better and three shows that premiered just this fall, there’s a solid, full 10 comedies and dramas that I honestly can say are worth anyone’s time in front of the tube.

Still, the following top 10 list won’t match up to those of certain avid TV watchers – nor to national television critics. That’s because my household is devoid of premium channels. No HBO, Showtime or Netflix, where so many of the most critically acclaimed and award-nominated shows are found. Alas, “Game of Thrones” and “Orange is the New Black” might be among the best shows of 2013, but that simply is not for me to know.

But there was some pretty amazing fare to be found on broadcast and cable channels in 2013.

1. “Justified”: Sure, sure, a Modesto-bred actor stars in this FX drama. But even without Timothy Olyphant’s amazing lead turn as a tortured-soul Kentucky marshal, this still would be at the top of this list. The past season’s twisty finale was particularly satisfying.

2. “Mad Men”: Don Draper melted down all over the 1960s this past year and it kept this period-piece drama on AMC at the top of its game. How the writers will wind down a decade of Don and decadence by 2015 is as exciting a prospect as it is sad.

3. “Downton Abbey”: There’s no zealot like a convert. I finally started watching this PBS “Masterpiece Classic” megahit in its third season and fell madly in love. Since then, I’ve devoured the first two seasons online and can’t wait for its January return. Oh, but how I will miss Matthew.

4. “Top Chef”: OK, I’ll admit it, I’d make this Bravo franchise my No. 1 pick if I wasn’t too embarrassed to put a reality/competition show that high. But if appointment TV still existed in this day and age of DVRs and on demand, this would be my don’t-miss.

5. “The Good Wife”: This soapy CBS legal drama took a turn this season when Alicia left the firm – and her true love/fellow lawyer, Will – to start her own firm with Cary. That move made what might otherwise be a growing-stale story line fresh again. Kudos to the writers for keeping the sexual tension between Alicia and Will strong despite the usually TV-deadly move of having had it been consummated.

6. “Modern Family”: This ABC stalwart remains one of the funniest shows ever. Clever writing and spot-on, lightning-fast comedic timing from a great cast keep “Modern Family” fresh.

7. “Breaking Bad”: It’s not easy for a top-rated, critically acclaimed show to sign off for good in a truly great manner. Think “Seinfeld” and “The Sopranos.” But “Breaking Bad” ended its run on AMC in both shocking and satisfying fashion. Jesse survived and Walt didn’t, and that was how it had to be. Superb send-off.

8. “Sleepy Hollow”: Without prodding from my son, I never would have given this new fall show a glance. But it’s creepy, fun and fascinating. Plus, who can resist a resurrected Ichabod Crane with such an engaging demeanor and lovely accent? Happily, Fox already renewed this show for next season.

9. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”: They had me with Andy Samberg. The guy cracks me up. Andre Braugher was the icing on the doughnut on this new Fox police department-set sitcom with a stellar cast of dutifully kooky characters.

10. “The Michael J. Fox Show”: Maybe it’s just the nostalgic feeling of having Fox back on a sitcom that makes me love this new NBC show. Then again, it’s a pretty darn funny take on family life. And, admirably, Fox holds nothing back in comically dealing with his Parkinson’s disease.

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