So what kind of TV did I watch in the year? Admittedly, my tastes didn't change much though it's getting harder and harder to clear my DVR. My lack of access to Netflix made it difficult to watch a number of shows that made most critics' top ten lists; I haven't seen "House of Cards," and I've only watched the first episodes of "Orange is the New Black" and the new "Arrested Development." I kept forgetting to record "Breaking Bad," but I'll take your word for it and assume "Ozymandias" was a mind-blowing episode. I know that doesn't make my list sound any more appealing, but I still managed to find all sorts of great TV in 2013.
1. "Bob's Burgers," Fox. I can't blame the fourth network for not knowing what do to with this quirky cartoon. It had a no-name producer (Loren Bouchard, late of "Home Movies"), a cast top-loaded with "alt" comedians (H. Jon Benjamin, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal), and a refusal to make cheap, near-constant pop culture references. Above all, it was more family-friendly than its "Animation Domination" counterparts. A truncated second season, with only nine episodes in lieu of the more common 13, made its few fans wonder if "Bob's" would be another one of Fox' brilliant-but-cancelled casualties. Bucking expectations Fox proved patient, and this weird little cartoon about a fledging family of restauranteurs has not only flourished creatively, it's also a modest hit. The id-ego-superego construct is expanded from three to five, and each principal character plays off each other like a jazz combo: weary Bob, optimist Linda, awkward Tina, impulsive dimwit Gene, angry sociopath Louise. The bar was initially set so low that anything could happen; that under-the-radar mentality has allowed "Bob's" to blossom without missing a beat. Notable Episodes: "Mother Daughter Laser Razor," "O.T. The Outside Toilet," "Fort Night"
2. "Mad Men," AMC. It took a long time for people to figure out what season six was all about. Quoting from Dante's Inferno was a clever, if not oddly on-the-nose way to usher the ad agency into the chaos of America circa 1968, but the allusions to The Merchant of Venice and Old Testament were bewildering at first. Ultimately, the turbulence of '68 was white noise for the self-destruction of Don Draper. The carefully crafted persona was ripped into shreds, his life collapsing under the weight of his many lies. The infidelity and drinking spiraled out of control, his career strained by indifference and egomania, and Draper's family and co-workers left exasperated. I can't wait to see how the final season (i.e. 1969) picks up the pieces. Notable Episodes: "The Flood," "The Crash," "In Care Of"
3. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," Fox. The year's most interesting new comedy probably has more in common with "Barney Miller" than any other recent workplace comedy. Unlike the top two picks, the concept is neither labyrinthe nor obtuse; it's just a really funny mismatched buddy-cop show. Andy Samberg is charming as an immature goofball who's also a fantastic NYPD detective, and Andre Braugher is Emmy-worthy as his by-the-book captain/straight man/yang. Give this show time; it's going to be something special. Notable Episodes: "Pilot," "Old School"
4. "Girls," HBO. Yes, season two had its share of problems. The storytelling wasn't as tight, the characters lost some dimension, and at times it seemed like Lena Dunham was caving into the ego trip that her critics expected her to fall into. And yet, it still made for ambitious, cinematic, delightfully serio-comic television. At the center-point was the almost isolated "One Man's Trash," a gorgeous fantasia that skews general roles in romantic comedy, then climaxes in astounding self-actualization. Notable Episodes: "It's a Shame About Ray," "One Man's Trash," "Boys"
5. "Parks & Recreation," NBC. After thirty-plus years, NBC's Thursday night comedy block basically collapsed this year. Unfortunately, that means fewer people are tuning into one of the most consistent comedies on network television. Half of the Pawnee gang is seemingly either married or pregnant, so I can't blame people for assuming P&R jumped the shark. At the center of the transition is Retta, whose sassy Donna has become the veteran comedy's secret weapon. Notable Episodes: "Two Parties," "Are You Better Off?" "Recall Vote"
Honorable Mentions: "Boardwalk Empire," HBO ("The Old Ship of Zion," "White Horse Pike") and "Childrens Hospital," Adult Swim ("Country Weekend," "Coming and Going").
Of course, this is a blog about great TV, so I'll save my comments on my least favorite shows of '13 for those who have already skewed the likes of "Dads" and "Low Winter Sun." I don't want to spend the last 24 hours of the year dwelling on why "Two and a Half Men" is still on the air, and neither do you. With that said, my most sincere thanks to anyone reading this for their continued friendship and support during such a trying year, and I'll see you all in 2014.