Top ten or five or whatever lists are strange things as they only represent the personal preference of the one making the list. So there will be no top list here, but merely one of favourites.
Masters of Sex
A Period drama about men and women in the late 1950s and the taboo of sex at the time, Masters of Sex is a show that has been dubbed the new Mad Men. Frankly, they are both different beasts. It dramatises the real life experiences of sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson and the work they did exploring human sexuality. The show ended up being a critical darling and with good reason as it was perfectly acted by all involved particularly by it’s leads Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen. Each episode is stacked with tension which keeps the viewer captivated and makes everyone want to come back for more. Of course as it is a show about sex, it does not hurt that there is a fair amount of nudity – for those that like that sort of thing. Allison Janney in a supporting role as the wife of Beau Bridges also does a fantastic job as a woman finally coming into her own after thirty years of marriage as does Caitlin Fitzgerald as Masters’ significant other. Season 2 cannot come soon enough.
Spartacus: War of the Damned (or Season 3)
Sometimes when you have a drama based upon historical facts, certain liberties are taken by the producers and writers, and Spartacus was not a show to depart from that practice. But while it may have not been the most accurate show to have ever been made, the tale of a slave who overthrows his master and then makes that cause bigger than himself to free all slaves enthralled by Rome, was fantastic. It had drama, intrigue, suspense and of course, action. This show had more action than any other five programs on the air at the time. One of the biggest credits due to this show was that it put Starz on the map as a television studio, more than any other and it did so with great writing, directing and acting. All three seasons as well as the prequel season are now available everywhere for purchase and should you be looking for something to pass the time, this adult-oriented tale will fit the bill.
David Tennant had a full plate in 2013, starring in many a show, but none of them were as good as this series where he stars as a police detective who is on his last run. He is a broken man in many ways, and being shipped off to Broadchurch where quiet is the predominant crime, his superiors hope he can ride out his job into retirement. A slowly paced story, but one that pays off in spades as it slowly burns its way through your senses in eight dramatic episodes. After its airing we found out that it had been renewed for another series, so expect more superior storytelling next year.
American Horror Story: Coven (or Season 3)
The previous two seasons of this Ryan Murphy helmed show were freaky to say the least. With this season there is not too much of the outlandish to be found, but there is a stronger element of traditional horror which works just as well, if not better. Witches both young and old feature strongly within the show, as the subtitle suggests, as well as a serial killer, voodoo, resurrection, bloodletting, Kathy Bates and of course Jessica Lange. As with every series, many of the previous actors have returned to play different roles, while some like Angela Basset and Emma Roberts are new. This also happens to be the strongest cast out of every season and one that is predominantly made up of women. Strong work by all involved, in every aspect of the show, and one that does not disappoint as you never quite know just what is going to happen.
The Good Wife Season 5
After a lacklustre season last year, The Good Wife returned with a vengeance with some of the strongest storylines the show has had in years. Every episode has you wanting more, and not just when the show ends, but before every commercial break – should you watch it on network television that is. The battle between Lockhart-Gardner and Alicia’s new firm is intense like a game between the proverbial cat and mouse. The fact that the show has been able to rejuvenate itself in its fifth season is a testament to the talent involved. Not too often a network show is this good anymore, especially with the rise of cable, but this is one show that deserves your attention.
Banshee chronicles the struggle of one man to reclaim his life after having spent nearly a third of it in prison to save the woman he loved. The show is action packed from start to finish, features great drama and fine performances from all involved. Antony Starr is charismatic in the lead role and is matched by his antagonists Ben Cross and Ulrich Thomsen as Kai Proctor. The women in the show – Trieste Kelly Dunn, Lili Simmons, and Ivana Milicevic – are just as strong as the men and are perhaps stronger than at first realization. Most of the characters have an intensity about them, like they are tigers in a cage and it makes the show incredibly suspenseful. One of the best parts of the show is the post-credits scene, which usually ties into one element of what you have just watched, and while they last no more than a few seconds, they sometimes provide a whole new level of meaning to some characters. This turned out to be one of the best new dramas to come along, on any channel or station, in quite some time.
The Americans is a fantastic little cold-war spy drama taking place during the 1980s about a man and a woman who become a couple to go undercover in the U.S. at the behest of the Russian government. Keri Russel has not been this interesting or enjoyable in anything since Felicity went off the air, which perhaps has given her a reason to be as good as she is in this. Mathew Rhys as her opposite number is great as he tries to keep his family together while also trying to run different ops and keep his FBI neighbour off his back – all simultaneously. Great new drama that fires on all cylinders right out of the gate, full of intrigue and machinations that sadly puts Homeland to shame.
Other shows that were damned good but can only talk about so many:
Supernatural, Vikings, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Cult, The Blacklist, Scandal, Revenge, Elementary, Bob’s Burgers, Alan Carr: Chatty Man, Waterloo Road, Skins, Breaking Bad, Under the Dome, The Fall, The Walking Dead, Modern Family, Hello Ladies, Nikita, Misfits, Burn Notice, Graceland, The Bridge