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‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘Scandal’ and other great TV moments of 2013

Bryan Cranst'Breaking Bad.'

Bryan Cranston on "Breaking Bad."

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BEST SERIES OF 2013

1. “Breaking Bad” (AMC)

2. “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

3. “Homeland” (Showtime)

4. “American Horror Story” (FX)

5. “The Americans” (FX)

6. “Parks and Recreation” (NBC)

7. “Mad Men” (AMC)

8. “The Walking Dead” (AMC)

9. “Scandal” (ABC)

10. “Downton Abbey” (PBS)

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Updated: February 1, 2014 6:02AM



What a year in television.

Heisenberg hung up his porkpie hat on The Greatest Show That Ever Was and Ever Will Be, AMC’s “Breaking Bad.”

Miley Cyrus twerked her way to the top of pop culture at the MTV Video Music Awards. “60 Minutes” got clocked for its unreliable Benghazi report. NBC’s gutsy move with “The Sound of Music Live!” drew nearly 19 million viewers to the small screen — and an army of hate-watchers to Twitter.

AMC’s cop show “The Killing” was canceled, again. Then it was revived, again — this time by Netflix, the video streaming service that helped redefine what “television” is after scoring a seat at the big kids’ table at the Emmys.

Overall, 2013 proved to be a banner year for quality TV, which made coming up with a list of Top 10 TV moments even more daunting than usual.

Here are the scenes and episodes that resonated with me most, the ones I’ll remember — some more fondly than others — well into the New Year.

Great Scott! Michael returns to ‘The Office’

Despite repeated claims that Steve Carell would be a no-show, “World’s Best Boss” Michael Scott reunited with the Dunder Mifflin crew in the long-running NBC series’ finale. He turned up as a surprise guest at Dwight’s wedding — a touching gesture arranged by Dwight’s bestest mensch, Jim. “I can’t believe you came,” Dwight said, allowing Michael one last chance to recycle his favorite line: “That’s what she said.”

Breaking into jail on ‘The Walking Dead’

After the carnage at Woodbury last season, it was only a matter of time before the Governor and Rick squared off again. The long-awaited prison showdown in the recent midseason finale didn’t disappoint. It spelled the end for a good guy and a bad guy (I’ll miss the bad guy a lot more), and it forced Rick and his ragtag group of post-apocalyptic survivors to once again hit the road.

‘Downton Abbey’ downer

We all knew it was coming (thanks, Internet). But the tragic death of Matthew Crawley still ranks as one of the year’s most unforgettable TV moments. Proud new papa, crushed under his car. And it came on the heels of Lady Sybil’s demise shortly after giving birth to a baby girl. Think about much suffering could have been avoided this season if Branson had just stayed a chauffeur.

‘Scandal’ has a new Pope

Viewers did a red wine spit-take when Olivia Pope delivered the last word in the season two finale: “Dad?” Turns out the super scary head of the super secret black ops B-613 shares DNA with D.C.’s top fixer, a bombshell that opened up a whole new set of tracks for this ABC crazy train. Well played, Shonda Rhimes.

‘Homeland’ back on its meds

Showtime’s Emmy magnet and I almost broke up. Three episodes of Carrie’s cry face, surly Saul and broken-down Brody had me ready to write the Dear John letter. Then “Game On” happened and I fell in love again. We learned Carrie and Saul were in cahoots the whole time, using Carrie’s bipolarity as bait to lure Javadi. Preposterous? Maybe. Who cares? Showtime’s once stellar and still-better-than-90-percent-of-what’s-out-there series got its momentum back. And me.

Sweet sendoff for Liz Lemon

After seven uneven seasons, Tina Fey’s “30 Rock” said goodbye with a rock-solid finale full of meta humor, social satire and closure — plus a bonus Conan O’Brien cameo. Liz and Jack declared their platonic love for each other. Immortal Kenneth reigned at NBC. Jenna sang a heartfelt rendition of “Rural Juror.” Just thinking about it makes me hungry for Blimpie’s.

A prison without bars

Sundance Channel really stepped up its game this year with the miniseries “Top of the Lake,” the French zombie drama “The Returned” and, best of all, “Rectify.” This atmospheric series centered on Death Row inmate Daniel Holden, who becomes a free man — free, at least, to walk out of the Georgia prison that’s held him for nearly two decades. Holden’s uncomfortable reunion with his family in the premiere was more than just a powerful scene beautifully acted. It was a harbinger of the thought-provoking, slow-burn storytelling that made this underwatched drama such a gem.

‘The Good Wife,’ great again

Simmering betrayal, heartbreak and workplace competitiveness boiled over into full-blown rage when Will learned Alicia planned to bail on Lockhart/Gardner to start her own firm. Once Will got over the shock, he helped his ex-lover pack (read: knock everything off her desk). “Hitting the Fan” is the episode that changes everything — and hopefully that includes the minds of Emmy voters who need to put this CBS series back in the running for best drama.

The wedding slashers on HBO

“Game of Thrones” likes to unleash its OMG moments in the penultimate episodes of the season (see: Ned Stark’s head). The granddaddy of them all went down in “The Rains of Castamere,” or, as your nightmares will forever call it, “The Red Wedding.” The writers masterfully dialed up the suspense and dread before letting it all rip loose in a brutal bloodbath that destroyed Team Robb.

100 percent pure genius

“Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan called “Ozymandias,” the third-to-last installment of this peerless AMC series, “the best episode we ever had or ever will have.” Substitute “TV” for “we,” because it doesn’t get more perfect than these 47 minutes of gut-wrenching reckoning. Like Ozymandias, king of kings, Walter White’s empire came crashing down, one heart-stopping blow after another.

Email: lrackl@suntimes.com

Twitter: @lorirackl



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