1) Banshee (Cinemax)…sex, murder, mayhem…where the good guys are morally ambiguous and the bad guys sociopathic…oh did I mention the sex, murder, and mayhem? Oh and Ivana Milicevic is hot, no I mean really hot.
2) Bates Motel (A&E)…Prequel to Psycho with Vera Farmiga’s brilliant portrayal of Norma Bates, part caretaker, all parts crazy. Brilliant over the top performance.
3) Getting On (HBO)…Only three episodes in, this show about the staff at a hospital rehab center is dark and witty. What I wish Nurse Jackie could be at times, a tremendous ensemble cast featuring Alex Borstein, Niecy Nash, Laurie Metcalf, and Mel Rodriguez.
4) House of Cards (Netflix)…Granted I am a latecomer to this series, but if there was ever a role made for Kevin Spacey, this is it. Full disclosure, being a political geek, I am likely biased in my judgment.
5) Ray Donovan (Showtime)…Liev Schreiber’s portrayal of a flawed Los Angeles fixer is Emmy nominee warranted. Add the spectacular cast including Paula Malcomson (Deadwood’s Trixie), Eddie Marsan and Dash Mihok as Ray’s brothers, a despicable Jon Voight as Ray’s dad, and I can even forgive Steven Bauer’s awful Israeli accent, you have a great series.
6) Masters of Sex (Showtime)…I have always been a big fan of the underrated Lizzy Caplan (Virginia Johnson), and Michael Sheen turns in a spectacular performance of pioneering sex study doctor Bill Masters. Oh, and if it has Allison Janney in it, a show automatically makes the 1st cut.
7) Mom (CBS)…Yes, I picked a network sitcom because Allison Janney (see above) is at her comedic best: the facial expressions and timing are perfection. (if you haven’t seen The Way Way Back, you must see it just for her performance). Anna Faris, of Scary Movie fame, plays Janney’s daughter and more than holds her own. Critically panned early on, Mom is the rare sitcom that wins Digg’s approval.
8) Sleepy Hollow (Fox)…I was wary of where this show was going early on, but have come to appreciate the ‘bigger story’ it is trying to tell. Nicole Beharie (42) as Lt. Abbie Mills is a perfect match for Tom Mison’s Ichabod Crane. Very Scully and Mulder.
9) Top Of the Lake (Sundance)…Miniseries set in a desolate part of New Zealand starring Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men’s Peggy) as a detective searching for a missing girl. Beautifully shot and featuring mentally scarred characters, Top Of the Lake is what I would call television for adults.
10) The Bridge (FX)…The latest in a long line of gritty dramas from FX. Right from the opening 15 minutes, this show that takes place on both sides of the El Paso/Juarez border features multiple stories about drug and human trafficking, immigration, revenge, and hope. Like all FX programs, things are not as they seem and the cast featuring Diane Kruger, Demian Bichir, Annabeth Gish, and Ted Levine are stellar.