5. Broadchurch (BBC America)
Nothing in his previous work could prepare you for David Tennant’s brilliant work in this superb series. Playing a Scottish inspector whose laser like focus on the case in front of him eliminates every bit of humanity around him, Tennant probed the death of a child and the underlying darkness of an otherwise cheerful small English town. Watching the townspeople turn on each other and their disgust at the event was one of the most harrowing experiences I’ve had on television in years. An American version of the series is coming soon; even with Tennant at the center, it will be very hard to imagine any American version being as good or as frightening as this. But then again…
4. House of Cards (Netflix)
Some of the intense drama and sly wit never aired on a TV screen at all. Netflix arrived as a source for entertainment this year by taking a classic British series and turning it into one of the most realistic— and terrifying— new series. Majority Whip Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey’s best work in years) reacts to being passed over for a cabinet position by beginning a long process to simultaneously undermine and curry favor with the administration that just betrayed him. Spacey’s work alone would be enough to give this series high marks; his more than able supporting cast, starting with Robin Wright as his equally crafty wife, creating a spider’s web of intrigue and manipulation that makes the real D.C. look like a nursery school. In doing so, they did something nearly impossible, creating a remake that is better than the original.
3. Parenthood (NBC)
Emmy Voters are Clueless Exhibit 2. It’s not quite as awe-inspiring as it was last year. That’s basically the only negative I have for the series. How can a series that has eighteen leading roles never seem to underutilize anybody? Watching Julia and Joel’s marriage disintegrate has been heartbreaking because we’ve come to really love these characters. Watching Kristina overcome cancer and then run for mayor of Berkley and then see Monica Potter robbed of even a nomination was almost as painful. And that’s only a handful of the relationships that I’ve come to treasure on this series. NBC has made a lot of mistakes over the last decade; keeping this little gem on the air was not one of them.
2. Breaking Bad (AMC)
Is it the greatest television series in history? Since a new one seems to be coming every five years, it’s hard to say. Considering the enormous inrush of new viewers that emerged in the show’s final eight episodes (I was one of them) would seem to indicate that a lot of people had reached that conclusion. One thing I am absolutely certain of — writer/director Vince Gilligan managed to do what The Sopranos and Lost didn’t do— stick the landing. The last eight episodes were among the most stunning and mind-blowing for a series conclusion I’ve ever seen, and watching Walter White finally take responsibility for the utter destruction that he has wrought— along with the fitting ending— has made me realize how utterly moronic I was for pretending this series was just a Weeds rip-off. This is as gripping as television gets.
1. The Good Wife (CBS)
When they start doing a list of the greatest TV shows of the last ten years, this series will be the first on it. Extraordinarily well-acted, written, and superbly cast in every minor role, an already exceptional series has become spectacular since Season 5 began. Daring to completely tear down it’s foundation in ‘Hitting The Fan’, watching Florrick-Agos & Associates struggle for survival in what has become a life-or-death struggle with Lockhart-Gardner has been gripping TV. The repercussions have been hitting everything from Alicia’s family to Eli manipulations for Peter, to the still unknown quantity of Will’s rage and betrayal. Earlier this year, Leslie Moonves ranted at how ridiculous the Emmys are for ignoring broadcast television over network. This show is practically spitting in the Academy’s face daring them to pass it over. This series will be the first to come back next year; I’m breathless with anticipation.
5. Broadchurch (BBC America)