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The 20 Best TV Shows of 2013 (So Far)

July 5, 2013  |  1:58pm
The 20 Best TV Shows of 2013 (So Far)

Summer provides a lull in the TV season and a good time to look back (and catch up) on the year’s best shows so far. Several of our entries are brand new in 2013, but a couple wrapped their series finales already this year. While HBO and AMC continue their critical reign, Netflix, FX, BBC America and even The Sundance Channel have entered the mix. And while NBC flounders commercially, they still have the best showing among the networks when it comes to our critics. Here are the 20 Best TV Shows of 2013 (So Far).

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20. Bob’s Burgers
Creator: Loren Bouchard
Stars: H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Eugene Mirman, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal, Larry Murphy
Network: FOX
The foul-mouthed, sexually confused and socially disastrous members of the Beelcher family from Bob’s Burgers are so compelling not because of their flaws but because they actually care for each other. That real affection is also what makes it the best family comedy on television, and developing the show around this has led Bob’s Burgers to a unique sense of humor that, unlike every other animated comedy, isn’t just derivative of The Simpsons. The show’s third, and first full, season was great because its characters, for all their eccentricities, never stopped feeling real, their constant worries about money and status making them more than just a set of gag-generating machines. That its stories could be as weird as “O.T.: The Outside Toilet” or “An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal” while pulling off such a feat is even more admirable.—Sean Gandert

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19. Family Tree
Creators:
Stars: Chris O’Dowd, Michael McKean, Nina Conti, Christopher Guest, Ed Begley Jr., Lisa Palfrey, Tom Bennett
Network: HBO
With a television landscape that embraces auteurist series and documentary-style comedy, it’s sort of surprising it took this long for Christopher Guest to make the jump to TV. On Family Tree, Guest’s repertoire of great improvisers is joined by Chris O’Dowd’s Tom Chadwick, a Brit trying to find a future for himself by digging into his family’s past, a search that eventually leads him to America. The deeper Chadwick goes into learning about his family, the weirder and more entertaining it gets. O’Dowd, Nina Conti as his puppeteer sister Bea and Tom Bennett as his best friend Pete, are excellent additions to the expected Guest cast. Guest has been one of the biggest influences to television comedies in the last decade, and his first series shows he is still one of the comedy greats.—Ross Bonaime

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18. Archer
Creator: Adam Reed
Stars: H. Jon Benjamin
Judy Greer, Amber Nash, Chris Parnell, Aisha Tyler, Jessica Walter, George Coe, Adam Reed, Lucky Yates
Network: FX
Since its 2010 debut on the FX network, Adam Reed’s Archer has provided some of the funniest, raunchiest moments on television delivered by the best ensemble of voice actors found this side of Springfield and New New York. This year’s fourth season was no exception, as Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin), his psychologically damaging mother/boss, Mallory (Jessica Walters) and fellow agents (Aisha Taylor, Chris Parnell, Reed) and support staff (Amber Nash, Judy Greer, Lucky Yates, George Coe) continued to make the world a more dangerous, yet hilarity-filled place.—Michael Burgin

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17. Hannibal
Creators: Bryan Fuller
Stars: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Hettienne Park, Laurence Fishburne
Network: NBC
Bryan Fuller has created several cult shows that surround around death, with Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies, but never to the level where every minute drips doom in the way that Hannibal does. Unlike most recreations of popular characters, Fuller’s Hannibal is as dark and fascinating as any prior adaptations of Thomas Harris’ dark character Hannibal Lecter. Mads Mikkelsen as the title character has a silent terror and confidence to him, while Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham is empathetic to the murderers he searches for and often bordering on too intense. Hannibal is not only one of the most beautifully shot and eerie shows to air on a major network in years, but also a phenomenal retelling of the origin of characters that have already been told before in a fresh and impressive new way.—Ross Bonaime

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16. Community
Creator: Dan Harmon
Stars: Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Jim Rash, Ken Jeong, Chevy Chase
Network: NBC
No, Community hasn’t been the same without Dan Harmon, but it’s a tribute to the show’s creator that his DNA will always be found in Abed, Troy, Annie, Jeff, Britta, Shirley, Pierce, Chang and the Dean. Temporary stewards David Guarascio and Moses Port did a yeoman’s job of paying meta-tribute to Harmon with an alternate sitcom reality, a Troy-Abed Freaky Friday switch and a return to the darkest timeline. Still, it’ll be good to have Dan Harmon back at the helm for Season 5.—Josh Jackson

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15. Southland
Creator: Ann Biderman
Stars: Kevin Alejandro
Arija Bareikis
Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Regina King, Michael McGrady, Benjamin McKenzie, Tom Everett Scott, C. Thomas Howell
Network: TNT
Southland was canceled by TNT in May. The DVR half-full way of looking at it is that the series, which was abruptly canceled by NBC in 2009, got four additional glorious seasons after being revived by TNT. But I’m selfish, and five seasons of this brilliant cop drama is not enough. The final season showcased Michael Cudlitz, whose troubled and stoic Officer John Cooper is one of the best television characters. Ever. Cudlitz’ tour-de-force performance, which deserves an Emmy nomination later this month, was devastating and brilliant. The final shot may have been a fitting end, but it was an emotionally shattering one for the viewer. TV shows don’t really get more than two lives, so Southland is gone for good. All that’s left to do is feel sorry for the people who missed out on this tremendous series.—Amy Amatangelo

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14. The Americans
Creator: Joe Weisberg
Stars: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Maximiliano Hernández, Holly Taylor, Keidrich Sellati, Noah Emmerich
Network: FX
With the unlikely backdrop of the Cold War, the first season of The Americans deftly explored marriage and loyalty while taking viewers on a thrilling weekly ride of high-stakes espionage and shocking plot twists. The performances on the FX series, which will return for a second season early next year, were phenomenal. Stars Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell surprised as the show’s central couple while Noah Emmerich’s unstable FBI agent Stan Beeman was fascinating to watch. Somehow we always found ourselves rooting for the murderous spies out to destroy America. In the nail-biting finale, no one wanted Elizabeth (Russell) and Philip (Matthew) to be caught. Not because if they were caught, there would be no show, but because Russell and Rhys have made us not only care about their duplicitous characters but also understand their plight. The final moments of the first seaon found Elizabeth and Phillip this close to being caught and this close to getting back together. Bring on Season Two.—Amy Amatangelo

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13. Girls
Creator: Lena Dunham
Stars: Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky
Network: HBO
Everyone seems to have an opinion about Girls, and this season continued to give us plenty to talk about. Girls’ characters are distinctly unlikeable and self-absorbed, but it’s their familiar flaws that make them relatable. We saw the complexities in characters’ personalities mostly through the way that they handled relationships, as friendships suffered and romantic relationships became blurry in that on-again, off-again, are-they-even-something kind of way. Dunham repeatedly juxtaposed characters’ actions, however pitiful, with the way that they spun events into an image they projected to others. Whether Hannah’s exagerating a book deal or Marnie is fudging the details on her break-up with Booth, the emphasis on our image-conscious generation made Hannah’s deterioration in the finale all the more powerful. —Dacey Orr

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12. Rectify
Creator: Ray McKinnon
Stars: Aden Young, Abigail Spencer, J. Smith-Cameron, Adelaide Clemens, Clayne Crawford, Luke Kirby
Network: Sundance Channel
Rectify has a simple enough premise: A man sent to rot on Death Row is released from prison after 19 years. Sure, the big and small screens have seen their fair share of crime dramas, but Rectify’s plot isn’t what sets it apart: It’s the rest of it. Daniel Holden, arrested for the rape and murder of his girlfriend, finds himself back in his hometown, greeted by constant life-threatening hostility. The show explores the bonds between Daniel (played to perfection by Aden Young), his family and his enemies as they struggle to deal with Daniel’s homecoming. Superbly acted, the program successfully meshes the best bits of a TV show together, managing to be at times heartbreaking and suspenseful, while also beautifully incorporating moments of effortless humor. Rectify is thought-provoking and will make you care about the future of its characters—like all the best shows do.—Rachel Haas

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11. Doctor Who
Creators: Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Stars: Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman
Network: BBC/BBC America
This year, the 50th of Doctor Who’s existence, brought eight new episodes with Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor. His companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman) is the impossible girl, an enthusiastic foil to the Doctor’s recent brooding. She’s at the heart of this season’s main arc, a puzzle that the Doctor can’t figure out until another grand finale. Along the way are the kinds of villains and horrors (one penned by Neil Gaiman) that have made the series’ 21st-century revival so much silly fun.—Josh Jackson

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