Here Are the Hot List TV Winners


TV Executive of the Year

John Landgraf, FX Networks

Photo: Karl J. Kaul/Wonderful Machine

Under John Landgraf, FX has produced some of the decade’s most critically acclaimed original TV series. With the addition of the Cold War spy thriller The Americans and border procedural The Bridge, the net has generated a battery of sophisticated dramas reminiscent of the auteur era of the ’70s. (For those with much pulpier appetites there are American Horror Story and Sons of Anarchy.) Landgraf proves making TV for the smart set needn’t be a loss leader; per SNL Kagan, FX is on track to generate north of $1.2 billion in revenue this year, making it the fourth biggest earner in its competitive set. Meanwhile, the spinoff comedy channel FXX is making waves in the wake of a blockbuster off-net deal that locks in the cable, VOD and streaming rights for The Simpsons for the next decade. Next up for Landgraf, who in June was named CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions: the Guillermo del Toro vampire thriller The Strain and adaptations of Fargo and American Psycho.


TV Creative of the Year

Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad

Photo: Ramona Rosales/August

Vince Gilligan created, wrote and produced the smartest, most gripping American television series since David Chase’s The Sopranos faded to black. And while Breaking Bad wasn’t AMC’s first critically acclaimed original series (that honor would go to Mad Men), it was by far the most perfectly realized narrative on a network overflowing with high-concept storylines. When Walter White’s options started to close in on him, Breaking Bad just got leaner and meaner—while ratings and ad revenue went in the opposite direction. Gilligan hopes lightning strikes thrice with Battle Creek, a detective series created for CBS, and BB prequel Better Call Saul. (It speaks volumes about Gilligan’s importance to AMC that the network committed to the spinoff without having seen so much as an outline.) Not bad for a showrunner who feared his masterpiece would never see the light of day. Thanks to Gilligan’s unflagging devotion to his creation, Walter White and Jesse Pinkman have entered the pantheon of TV’s most memorable characters …and there is little doubt that Breaking Bad will forever be remembered as one of the greatest shows in history.


Hottest Show of the Year

Breaking Bad

What began as a story about a dying man’s struggle to provide for his family’s future while his own body starts to turn on itself on a mitochondrial level, Breaking Bad metastasized into a ferocious meditation on all the dark stuff clogging up the human machine. (It’s all there—the hubris, the preening narcissism, the treachery, the two copies of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.) And then, after 62 hours of the most meticulously plotted and sure-footed drama, creator Vince Gilligan demonstrated what it means to stick the landing. Dramatic catharsis doesn’t come any better than this.

Readers' Choice Poll
Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)


Hottest Guilty Pleasure

American Horror Story

FX’s baroque and bonkers American Horror Story: Coven features such diversions as a chafing dish full of eyeballs, an al fresco tryst between a human voodoo doll and a Minotaur, and an angst-ridden, boy-band Frankenstein’s monster. Then there’s the telekinesis, the ritual burnings at the stake, zombies of all stripes and Angela Bassett unforgettably intoning the words “a unicorn that shits $100 bills.” These are just a few of the dark, daffy delights in the third manifestation of Ryan Murphy’s campy horror anthology, which is devouring its Wednesday night broadcast competition. A monument to excess, Coven at times takes itself much too seriously—but that doesn’t mean that you should.

Readers' Choice Poll
Pretty Little Liars (ABC Family)


Hottest Comeback

Robin Williams

Photo: Daniel Boud

The last time Robin Williams starred in a TV series, Ronald Reagan was in his first term as president, the Commodore 64 had just hit the market, and Ozzy Osbourne was rushed to an Iowa hospital after drunkenly biting the head off a live bat. (Ah, memories.) After ABC canceled Mork & Mindy in 1982—Williams read the news in the trades, an experience he likened to reading his own obit—the comedian went on to star in seriocomic films like The World According to Garp and Good Will Hunting. When asked why he was returning to the tube, Williams remarked: “Divorce is expensive.” While he may be in it for the money, Williams’ hypercaffeinated shtick is a welcome addition to the CBS lineup.

Readers' Choice Poll
Laura Prepon, Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)


Hottest Newcomer, Comedy

The Crazy Ones

While it is the lower rated of the two freshman sitcoms in CBS’ formidable Thursday night chuckle stack, David E. Kelley’s new comedy set in an advertising agency is arguably the more autonomous show. Unlike The Millers—which enjoys the most desirable lead-in on broadcast with The Big Bang Theory—The Crazy Ones is earning its deliveries by virtue of its consistently puckish scripts and on the inestimable charms of the original Manic Pixie Dream Codger, Robin Williams. (Sarah Michelle Gellar and Mad Men’s James Wolk—“Not great, Bob!”—round out the cast.) Through its first seven episodes, Crazy is averaging 9.95 million viewers and a 2.5 in the 18-49 demo, making it the fifth-highest-rated new show on the dial.

Readers' Choice Poll
The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC)


Hottest Network for Comedy


After engineering the biggest TV rights deal in history, FXX has put cable’s established comedy networks on notice. The Simpsons may not put up the same kind of ratings as The Big Bang Theory on TBS, but there’s no question the venerable toon will help pump up FXX’s prime-time deliveries while serving as a sturdy launch pad for new originals. In the meantime, ratings for FX transplants The League and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are commensurate with FXX’s smaller footprint. (Nb: FXX will share this honor so long as the convulsively hilarious Louie remains on the FX roster.)

Readers' Choice Poll
Comedy Central


Hottest Comedy

The Big Bang Theory

Now in its seventh season on CBS, Chuck Lorre’s genially dorky sitcom is off to its strongest start, averaging 18.2 million viewers and a 5.3 in the 18-49 demo. Broadcast’s highest-rated scripted series, it is also the priciest non-NFL buy, with the average 30-second spot fetching a princely $326,260. In a season in which the 13 freshman comedies are averaging a measly 1.8 in the demo, Big Bang is a testament to the undying allure of particle physics and ditzy blondes.

Readers' Choice Poll
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)


Hottest Drama

The Walking Dead

That the highest-rated scripted series on the tube is a basic-cable drama set in an apocalyptic landscape haunted by ravenous, ambulatory corpses probably speaks volumes about the 21st century American psyche. With an average draw of 13.4 million viewers and a staggering 6.9 in the dollar demo, AMC’s The Walking Dead has set off a feeding frenzy among clients desperate to tap into zombie mania. And while they have to be careful about their adjacencies, it should be no surprise that youth-skewing fast-food restaurants are one of The Dead’s biggest boosters.

Readers' Choice Poll
Orange Is the New Black (Netflix)


Hottest Thriller


Shonda Rhimes’ Beltway potboiler is not only a whole lot of fun, it’s also the only 10 p.m. broadcast drama to grow its ratings YOY. Through the first seven weeks of the season, the ABC show is averaging a 3.1 among the all-important 18-49 demo, marking a staggering 55 percent improvement. While some Olivia Pope fanatics say this season has indulged in Vaseline-lensed flashbacks at the expense of steamy sex scenes, advertisers can’t get enough of the show that delivers the youngest audience in its time slot.

Readers' Choice Poll
Hannibal (NBC)


Hottest Show on Social Media

Pretty Little Liars

While there are seemingly scores of research outlets that measure social-media activity, every number cruncher from Nielsen’s SocialGuide to Rentrak’s TV Essentials agrees that ABC Family’s delightfully subversive tween drama is the most socially aflutter series. Last season, PLL was the most-tweeted cable series, and when it returned for its fourth run on June 11, it accounted for 52 percent of the night’s overall Twitter traffic.

Readers' Choice Poll
Breaking Bad (AMC)


Hottest Late Night Host

Jimmy Fallon

There’s no denying that this is Jimmy Fallon’s year. The 39-year-old Brooklyn native’s song parodies alone have made NBC’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon a zeitgeist show in the same way that David Letterman established the network as the home of heady midnight mayhem in the ’80s. Unlike his predecessor, however, Fallon has been awarded the genre’s most plum gig, succeeding Jay Leno behind the Tonight Show desk after the Winter Olympics. Set to premiere Feb. 24, Fallon’s Tonight Show will be broadcast from Studio 6B at 30 Rock—where Johnny Carson held court before moving to Burbank in 1972.

Readers' Choice Poll
Craig Ferguson, The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson (CBS)


Hottest Syndicated Show

The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Now in its 11th season, The Ellen DeGeneres Show is the top-rated syndicated talk show on the dial among viewers in the key daytime demo of women 25-54. A floppy, friendly golden retriever of a show, Ellen revels in its genial goofiness. While so many daytime talkers are suffering ratings declines, Ellen closed out the 2012-13 campaign up 13 percent in the demo, earning itself a four-season renewal and clearance in 96 percent of the country.

Readers' Choice Poll
The Ellen DeGeneres Show


Hottest Broadcast Network in Prime Time


Home to 10 of the top 20 shows on broadcast—a roster that includes TV’s No. 1 comedy (The Big Bang Theory), the year’s two biggest freshman sitcoms (The Millers, The Crazy Ones) and the tube’s most-watched scripted series (NCIS)—CBS unquestionably is America’s favorite network. In an era when every other net’s schedule is shot through with seemingly irreparable holes, CBS draws ’em in night after night with a mixture of unsinkable franchises—now in its 11th season, NCIS still averages 19.2 million viewers—and new hits. Now just four-tenths of a ratings point behind front-runner NBC, look for CBS to surge in midseason.

Readers' Choice Poll


Hottest Network for Drama


If the sozzled, juniper-reeking charms of Don Draper have begun to wear thin—even the roguish Roger Sterling seems to have grown weary of the handsome fella’s Claude Rains routine—there’s little evidence that Mad Men fans are similarly disposed. Six years in, the show that established AMC as a destination for discriminating viewers appears poised for a record-setting final act. There’s no question Matt Weiner’s angsty melodrama will have to do a lot of heavy lifting come next spring; while AMC still cleans up with The Walking Dead, the conclusion of Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad has depleted the net’s creative reserves. Like Heisenberg’s meth head clientele, AMC is desperate for another hit.

Readers' Choice Poll


Hottest Network for Sports


Ripped to the gills on performance-enhancing drugs and bathtub crank, ESPN’s 800-pound gorilla is not to be trifled with. In October, ESPN averaged 2.78 million prime-time deliveries, nearly 13 times what upstart Fox Sports 1 managed in the same period, and a good 14 times better than NBCSN’s nightly numbers. If attempting to steal share from the Worldwide Leader™ weren’t already an arduous task, ESPN will become even more powerful next year, when the new Bowl Championship Series playoff scheme kicks in. Analysts say that ESPN stands to rake in $230 million in BCS ad sales revenue—43 percent more cash than what it generates under the current system.

Readers' Choice Poll


Hottest Network for News


The Jeff Zucker era hasn’t been without its share of issues. In early November, CNN saw its ratings plummet to a 15-month low. But that appears to have been an anomaly in what’s been a slow-boil turnaround. Through the first three quarters of 2013, CNN grew its adults 25-54 ratings by 19 percent YOY, making it the only cable news net to achieve growth. (Fox News Channel was down 16 percent and MSNBC fell 12 percent.) And while CNN attracts less than half of FNC’s overall audience in total day, the network’s demo composition is vastly superior. Per Nielsen, 80 percent of FNC’s viewers have aged out of the guaranteed demo; conversely, 68 percent of CNN’s deliveries reach the target demo.

Readers' Choice Poll


Hottest Family Network


After enduring a 22 percent drop in its target demos a year ago, Nickelodeon this summer stormed back to post its strongest quarterly ratings in 16 years. A number of new shows for the footie pajamas set are over-performing—Sam & Cat and Sanjay & Craig are both averaging some 3 million viewers per episode—while veteran SpongeBob SquarePants remains a workhorse. It all went a long way to helping Viacom pull out of a tailspin; by year’s end, Nick will have grown ad revenue 20 percent to $1.13 billion, more than a quarter of the media conglomerate’s overall take.

Readers' Choice Poll
The Hub


Hottest Newcomer, Drama

Sleepy Hollow

It may not benefit from an overblown lead-in or a superheroic brand halo, but Fox’s riotously fun genre mashup has quietly established itself as the season’s most unambiguously successful new series. Through Week 7, Sleepy Hollow was the No. 3 new series on the tube, averaging 8.22 million viewers and a 2.9 in the 18-49 demo—off two-tenths of a point from NBC’s The Blacklist and a tenth off the pace set by ABC’s pricey Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. That Sleepy has nearly trebled Fox’s ratings in the Monday 9 p.m. time slot without the intercession of a blockbuster like The Voice or a cameo from Thor goes a long way toward explaining why Fox made it the first freshman series to earn a renewal. (Now if only someone would introduce Tom Mison’s Ichabod Crane to the simple joys of Banana Republic. Those 18th century duds have got to go, Icky!)

Readers' Choice Poll
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)


Hottest Reality/ Competition Series

The Voice

Photo: Michael Clinard

Broadcast’s third-biggest hit, NBC’s singing competition is averaging 13.2 million viewers and a 4.2 in the demo. It’s impossible to overstate the impact The Voice has had on the network’s schedule; since earning a spot on the fall roster, the show has allowed the Peacock to run circles around the competition on Monday and Tuesday nights. It also provides a sturdy lead-in for The Blacklist, which now stands as the top-rated new series of 2013-14. NBC’s biggest challenge may be figuring out how to incorporate The Voice’s iconic red chairs in every episode; as soon as the spinning seats were mothballed for the season, the ratings fell 16 percent.

Readers' Choice Poll
The Voice (NBC)


The 2013 Hot List Winners

View the rest of the 2013 Hot List winners here: Print | Digital