Terrorists. Politicians. Drug dealers. Journalists. English lords and ladies. Zombies. It was a very good year for television, with all of that and more.
Here’s the best of the best:
1. "Homeland" » (Showtime) Sure, this is President Obama’s favorite show. But regardless of your political persuasion, it will reach out and grab you with its edge-of-your-seat tale of an American soldier-turned-terrorist-turned-double agent for the CIA. Stars Claire Danes, Damian Lewis and Mandy Patinkin are fantastic, and the fact that the producers have managed to keep the show this good in Season 2 is amazing.
2. "The Good Wife" » (CBS) This masterful blend of legal, family and political drama just keeps getting better — and it boasts the best cast on TV.
3. "Breaking Bad" » (AMC) Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) transformation from mild-manner school teacher with cancer to ruthless drug lord is pretty much complete. And I can’t wait to see how the show ends this coming summer.
4. "Revenge" » (ABC) It’s a lot harder than it looks to turn out a prime-time soap that’s just the right mix of melodrama and fun. And this is just the right mix.
5. (tie) "The Big Bang Theory," "New Girl," "Raising Hope," and "Modern Family" » (On CBS, Fox, Fox and ABC) Comedy is making a comeback on TV, and these are the four best sitcoms on the air. All are very different, and all are very funny.
6. "The Newsroom" » (HBO) This show didn’t come without controversy, but Aaron Sorkin’s latest series was compelling, thought-provoking and funny.
7. "Downton Abbey" » (PBS) Yes, it’s essentially a big soap opera featuring pretty people in period clothes — but it seems so much classier with all those British accents. And it’s so much fun to watch.
8. "The Walking Dead" » (AMC) This is another show that just keeps getting better. Season 3’s mix of horror, pathos and human drama transcends the huge gore factor.
9. "Sherlock," "Elementary" » (PBS and CBS) These two updates of the Sherlock Holmes story, both set in contemporary times, offer completely different takes on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s consulting detective. And they’re both smart and hugely entertaining.
10. "Game of Thrones" » (HBO) This is massive storytelling on a scale seen nowhere else on TV, with a huge cast of characters in a world outside our own, and it’s absolutely gripping.
By the way, limiting this list to 10 — well, 14 shows, because I cheated — was a painful process. This was the rare year when there were too many great programs for the list.
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