Chris Philpott 's Opinion

Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

Chris Philpott: A top five list of nearly everything on TV

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Chris Philpott kicks starts the end-of-year countdown with a top five list to end all top five lists.
The Netflix series 'Orange is the New Black'. Photo / AP
The Netflix series 'Orange is the New Black'. Photo / AP

The end of the year is upon us, which means that every critic will be writing exhaustive lists of what they consider the best and worst shows of the past twelve months.

I'll have those lists too, toward the end of next week. But a mere two lists isn't enough. I love lists!

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to sum up the last year in television, broken down into handy top five-sized chunks - I call it The Top Five List Of Nearly Everything.

TOP FIVE: New Shows

1. Orange Is The New Black
2. Rectify
3. The Americans
4. Orphan Black
5. Tie: Rebound (Les Revenants) / Masters Of Sex

This was the strongest year for drama in some time, and particularly for new shows: Netflix enjoyed buzz with original series House Of Cards, but Orange Is The New Black proved they were capable of consistent quality.

Rialto entered the market as a new home of quality drama with Rectify, a slow burning but riveting drama about a former death row inmate, and Rebound, a French supernatural thriller also known as Les Revenants, proving niche is nice. Period dramas The Americans and Masters Of Sex were titillating, while Orphan Black boasts the most original television premise in years and, in Tatiana Maslany, one of the year's best performances.

'Jono and Ben at Ten'.
'Jono and Ben at Ten'.

TOP FIVE: Kiwi Shows

1. The Almighty Johnsons
2. Jono & Ben At Ten
3. Harry
4. Super City
5. Sunny Skies

It speaks badly to the viewing choices of Kiwi audiences that only one of the above shows - Jono & Ben At Ten - is guaranteed to return in 2014; The Almighty Johnsons jumped up about four levels in quality while capping off its three-season run, Harry proved that Kiwis can do gritty as well as anybody, Super City was funnier and more relatable in its second season, and Sunny Skies captured the vibe and the characters of beachside New Zealand with pinpoint precision. As for Jono & Ben At Ten, the satirical comedy will end the year as the funniest show on television. Bravo, chaps!

'The Syndicate'.
'The Syndicate'.

TOP FIVE: British Shows

1. The Syndicate
2. Black Mirror
3. The Hour
4. Luther
5. Moone Boy

UKTV were a force to be reckoned with this year, snapping up half the spots on this list and airing a number of shows - Bad Education, An Idiot Abroad, Red Dwarf X, to name three - which could also have been considered here. The first season of Kay Mellor's The Syndicate comes out on top for me: Charlie Brooker's dark visions of the future and Neil Cross' police drama were great. But it was the first season of The Syndicate, which followed a group of lottery winners in the wake of a huge windfall, which stole a place in my heart. Even a subpar second season couldn't keep it off the top of this list.

'Dexter'.
'Dexter'.

TOP FIVE: Surprisingly Bad Shows

1. Dexter
2. Best Bits
3. Under The Dome
4. Vegas
5. Red Widow

I was surprised by all these shows - Under The Dome was sillier than it should have been, Vegas didn't know what kind of show it wanted to be, and Red Widow had an awful cast to go with a terrible premise. But the first two shows on this list, Dexter and Best Bits, are the only shows that actually made me physically angry. The final season of Dexter disappointed on every level possible and delivered an ending that reeked of indecision; it was painful watching it make mistake after mistake in ending its story - especially since it was airing alongside the brilliance of Breaking Bad. Local clip show Best Bits, on the other hand, was a really good idea that turned into a mess after Rose Matafeo left to join Jono & Ben At Ten: too many digs at Country TV, not enough improv from Te Radar, a horrible laugh track, the weekly interviews coming off as half-assed, Hayley Holt seeming completely lost, and the crime of being too safe with its humour in an adults-only time slot. Despite all that, I actually think there is a great skeleton of a show here. Seriously, TVNZ, call me. I can rebuild it! I have the technology!

'Rectify'.
'Rectify'.

TOP FIVE: Surprisingly Good Shows

1. Rectify
2. Orange Is The New Black
3. Girls
4. Bunheads
5. Banshee

We've talked about Rectify and Orange Is The New Black already - both are shows I'll be keeping an eye on next year. I'm still stunned that Girls, the comedy-drama from Lena Dunham, is a show that I enjoy on a regular basis. Bunheads, a teen drama that followed the travails of a ballet class and a former showgirl, managed to worm its way into my chest and tug on a few heartstrings. And there was no better guilty pleasure than Antony Starr's Banshee. I mean, the guy cut off an albino's genitals with a prison shiv in one episode. If that doesn't scream "hilariously cartoonish uber-violence", nothing does.

'The Almighty Johnsons'.
'The Almighty Johnsons'.

TOP FIVE: Cancelled Shows That Tragically Won't Be Back In 2014

1. The Almighty Johnsons
2. Bunheads
3. The River
4. The Hour
5. Go On

Matthew Perry comedy Go On was hilarious, British period drama The Hour actually got better in its second year, The River was the first truly entertaining horror series I've seen in some time, and Bunheads was a surprisingly entertaining hour which ended up sequestered to Sunday afternoons, and the ratings failure of The Almighty Johnsons is a tragedy of the highest order. Farewell, great shows. You'll all be missed.

'Breaking Bad'.
'Breaking Bad'.

TOP FIVE: Shows That Ended On Their Own Terms

1. Breaking Bad
2. 30 Rock
3. Luther
4. Fringe
5. Futurama

Not every show that ends is pushed - these five actually managed to go out their own way and end with a bang. Tina Fey's 30 Rock ended its run in February, going down as one of the weirdest shows ever to exist. Neil Cross' moody crime drama Luther enjoyed a brilliant four-episode send off amid claims the super-cop may resurface in a feature film. Fringe spent its final 13 episodes delivering a dystopian thriller for the ages, while Futurama gave us a surprisingly emotional farewell. The best ending goes to Breaking Bad, which delivered a truly thrilling batch of episodes to close out the series. The show might eventually be considered the greatest ever made but it is undoubtedly the best show this year, and probably the greatest ending to a series ever committed to a television screen.

'The Americans'.
'The Americans'.

TOP FIVE: Fox Shows That I Miss Most

1. The Americans
2. Sons Of Anarchy
3. New Girl
4. Homeland
5. Modern Family

I'll be honest: I'm starting to worry now. It's been more than a month since Mediaworks brought an end to their dealings with Fox and we've heard nothing to indicate that a new deal has been reached with anyone. We're falling further and further behind the USA on most of these shows, and plenty more. Here's hoping a deal is reached soon.

'Hannibal'. Photo / NBC
'Hannibal'. Photo / NBC

TOP FIVE: New Shows I'm Looking Forward To In 2014

1. Hannibal
2. Agents of SHIELD
3. Broadchurch
4. Tie: Step Dave / Cover Band
5. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Hannibal, the serial drama spinoff from Thomas Harris' series of Hannibal Lecter novels, is getting all kinds of praise from critics and appearing on many a Top 10 list. I'm a sucker for superheroes, so Agents of SHIELD should be right up my alley. Broadchurch is apparently so good that US audiences were treated to both the original and a remake, coming next year. A pair of Kiwi shows - Step Dave and Cover Band - sound like they should be a hoot. And Brooklyn Nine-Nine is produced by the team behind Parks & Recreation - colour me keen.

My annual Worst Of 2013 and Best Of 2013 lists will be appearing here late next week. In the meantime ...

* What do you think of my Top 5 lists - agree or disagree? Suggest your own Top 5's in the comments section, below!

Chris Philpott

Chris Philpott is nzherald.co.nz's resident TV expert.

In a strange way, Chris Philpott has grown up with television: his first big addiction was The X Files, which he watched as a teenager, enthralled by what was possible with the form. Chris’ love of TV grew over the years, parallel to the popularity and quality of serial dramas like The Sopranos, Lost, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. He began writing about TV professionally in 2010, before joining the NZ Herald in late 2013, and considers writing about TV more than a passing interest or hobby: he genuinely loves sharing new series and discussing the big shows with readers. Chris is based in Whangarei, and lives with his wife and daughter. When he isn’t watching television … just kidding, he’s always watching television.

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