I made a midyear confession that I don’t love parties because people who meet me for the first time invariably ask things like: Don’t you just love “Masters of Sex”? Didn’t you just love “The White Queen”? Don’t you think “Breaking Bad” is the best series on TV?
I usually give a vague answer to avoid revealing one of the secrets of being a television critic: We don’t watch everything.
Even if you watch 24/7 there is no way to see a tenth of the programs on the 1,000 or so channels, especially if watching local TV news and national sports are big parts of the job.
It is even more impossible to watch everything with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu getting into the new series act.
This is my way of telling you my annual list of the best and worst of national TV programs of 2013 doesn’t account for all the things you have seen and I haven’t.
I get paid to watch TV, but there is no amount of money in the world that would make me watch just about any reality-based series with sleazy single girls, desperate housewives or bearded rich guys.
Sometimes, I do run into them when I am visiting someone. That’s how I saw my first episode of “Duck Dynasty” last spring about a modern-day “Beverly Hillbillies” family which made its fortune via a successful duck-call business. I didn’t get its success then, nor do I now.
Without further ado:
The “List” of Good New Shows: It isn’t a long one. I’ve become a regular of NBC’s hottest new drama, “The Blacklist,” starring James Spader though it became too violent before it went on its winter hiatus. TV violence and formerly forbidden language seem to be near an all-time high these days.
I also became a fan of Fox’s “The Following,” Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” and the FX spy series “The Americans.” But the best new drama of all was Netflix’s political drama “House of Cards” with Kevin Spacey.
“Good is Great”: CBS’ “The Good Wife” with Julianna Margulies and Buffalo native Christine Baranski opened the season with several delicious episodes loaded with office politics and betrayal but was in danger of taking the plot line too far by the year-end break.
“Dallas” Award: To PBS’ “Downton Abbey.” I got hooked a year ago after spending the holidays watching the first two seasons. It really is just “Dallas” with better accents, but I’ve learned to love it and look forward to Season Four starting a week from today even if all the big twists are online since the episodes already aired across the pond.
They Shot J.R. Again: TNT’s somewhat laughable reprise of “Dallas” cleverly killed off J.R. Ewing a few months after the real-life death of Larry Hagman, the actor who played the lovable rogue.
“Maddening” Season: AMC’s “Mad Men” with Jon Hamm struggled so badly for several episodes that I almost gave up watching. It finished strongly for those who stayed with it.
“Bad” is Great: AMC’s “Breaking Bad” with Bryan Cranston had a terrific eight-episode final run that culminated in one of the best series finales in recent memory. Reportedly, there is a plan for a sequel. Bad idea.
Summer Love: Summer audiences fell in love early with a Stephen King miniseries on CBS, “Under the Dome,” that was originally planned for Showtime. It was granted a second season, a dubious call since the ending of a bloated season one was so lame that you wonder how many viewers will return.
Oliver! Oliver!: Brit John Oliver did so well subbing for Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” that HBO rewarded him with his own show. He will be missed.
“Amazing” Buffalo Finish: Buffalo newlyweds Max and Katie Bichler supplied a good share of drama and finished as bridesmaids on last winter’s edition of the CBS reality series – a perfect Buffalo ending.
Buffalo Isn’t a Big “Scandal” Lover: I wasn’t instantly a fan of the ABC series that has propelled Kerry Washington into superstardom. But a buddy got me to give it a second look and I binge-watched the season.
The preposterous elements – the president killed a Supreme Court justice last year and his vice president killed her gay husband this season – make it tough to love. And then there’s all that shouting by every character.
Western New York, which certainly knows all about political scandals, isn’t a big “Scandal” market.
Tony Soprano, R.I.P.: We got to know more about the caring side of actor James Gandolfini, who played the lead in “The Sopranos,” after his unexpected, sad death than we did when he was alive. The underappreciated film that he starred in that opened after his death, “Enough Said,” was one of the year’s best.
Family Viewing: NBC’s “Parenthood,” which almost didn’t survive its opening season and has been on the bubble for years, has turned into the best family drama series in years.
Modern Love: ABC’s “Modern Family” continues to impress, but reruns on WNYO surprisingly have been a ratings disappointment, probably because they also air on USA Network.
Shark of the Year: There are a lot of sharks in TV land, but none topped “Sharknado,” the cable movie about sharks and a tornado that Twitter turned into a national phenomenon. It got more viewers than several award-winning series that I haven’t had time to watch.
The Line of the Year: NBC’s “The Office” had one of the best comedy series finales ever as writer-producer Greg Daniels somehow gave all the series’ 100 or so characters (OK, I exaggerate slightly) a decent send-off. It was funny, it was nostalgic, it was a little weird (as “The Office” always is) and it was moving. The line of the night came from delusional Andy Bernard (Ed Helms): “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them,” said Andy.
Think about that line as 2013 comes to a close.