Bullz-Eye’s 2013 TV Power Rankings

When we published our first TV Power Rankings in 2005 listing the best shows on television, the revolution in TV viewing habits was well underway with cable shows like “The Sopranos” raising the bar for TV dramas. Meanwhile, DVDs and on-demand viewing started to change the way we watched our favorite programs and discovered new ones. Since then, the changes have only accelerated, and now many teenagers and people of all ages are addicted to streaming TV, watching everything by their own schedules. Many have even “cut the cord” and eliminated their cable TV subscriptions altogether. Water-cooler discussions about “must-see TV” have given way to shows aimed at niche audiences.

With these developments, the quality of the shows has improved dramatically. That may not be true for sitcoms and most of the stuff on network TV, but many have called this the new “golden era of television,” as the cable networks in particular have given talented writers and directors the freedom to create masterpieces like “The Wire” and “Breaking Bad.” Now with Netflix triumphantly entering the fray with the excellent “House of Cards,” the bar keeps getting raised even higher. I watch fewer movies these days as the quality rarely matches that of the best TV shows, which also have the advantage of developing characters over a much longer time period.

“Breaking Bad” has been one of our favorites for years, and it tops our list again as it completes its final season. When it’s all said and done, it will be part of every conversation of the best TV shows ever. Our list is dominated by cable TV dramas and we’ve left off reality shows. Some are entertaining, but none match the quality of the programs on our list.

We’ve kept spoilers to a minimum, but you might want to avoid some of the write-ups if you want to avoid learning about plot developments.

1. Breaking Bad

Expectations for the fifth season of Vince Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad” would’ve been running high anyway, given that Season 4 concluded with Walter White (Bryan Cranston) bringing an explosive end to Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) while also revealing just how far he was willing to sink to get things his way. It doesn’t get much lower than poisoning a child to trick your former partner into working for you again, but the knowledge that it truly was the beginning of the end (i.e. the final season) really amped up the adrenaline. With posters for Season 5 showing Walt surrounded by stacks of cash and emblazoned with the tagline “Hail to the King,” the question at hand was whether or not Mr. White would be able to keep his ego in check successfully enough to take over Gus’s meth empire. The answer: not entirely. Although Mike (Jonathan Banks) agreed to join the operation more out of an attempt to help keep Jesse (Aaron Paul) safe, he quickly grew frustrated and tried to bail out, only to end up in a terminal tussle with Walt. Meanwhile, the domestic situation in the White house has reached all new levels of tension, thanks to a power struggle of sorts between Walt and Skyler (Anna Gunn). As the first half of Season 5 wrapped up, however, the biggest reveal of all took place, with Walt’s DEA-agent brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), finally discovering that he’s the infamous Heisenberg. This show has yet to disappoint, and there’s no reason to think it’s going to start now. – Will Harris. Check out our “Breaking Bad” blog here and our Fan Hub page here.

Breaking Bad Mike and Jesse

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Blu Tuesday: Political Edition

The hits keep on coming this week with several more high-profile releases, but you better enjoy it now, because the next few weeks don’t look nearly as promising. In fact, there are so few quality Blu-rays hitting stores in late March/early April that I’ll either be skipping my column during those weeks, or I’ll combine them into one post. With that said, there’s plenty worth being excited about today, with such a heavy emphasis on politically-themed films and TV series that you’d almost think it was November again.

“Lincoln”

Steven Spielberg has been trying to make a movie about Abraham Lincoln for so long that it seemed like it might never happen. But after years stuck in development, his passion project finally got made, albeit with a different actor in the title role. Though Daniel Day-Lewis is certainly no slouch, the prospect of Liam Neeson reteaming with his “Schindler’s List” director was a lot more exciting. Nevertheless, Day-Lewis proves himself a more than adequate replacement as the 16th U.S. President, commanding the screen with a vigor that combats the film’s languid pace. His Lincoln is stubborn and stoic, but also witty when the mood permits, and though he was the only cast member to win an Oscar for his performance, the acting is top-notch all around, including fellow nominees Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field, and James Spader as a slimy lobbyist. While the more bureaucratic scenes drag on for too long, they’re a big part of what “Lincoln” is all about and provide some of the film’s best moments. The movie does get a little too caught up in the intricacies of the political process at times, but it’s an engaging behind the scenes look at one of the country’s most historic moments.

Blu-ray Highlight: A review copy didn’t arrive in time, but some quick research shows that there are two versions of the Blu-ray available: a barebones two-disc edition with a pair of brief featurettes and a four-disc edition with an additional 65 minutes of bonus material. If you’re a history buff, or you just really like behind-the-scenes extras, go with the latter set. Otherwise, the two-disc version should suffice.

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