I’m definitely a television geek so it’s strange that I’ve been making best movies/music lists all these years but have never done a best TV list. Probably because in the days before I had DVR, I caught up with everything on DVD and never watched shows week to week. Well, in 2010, I watched a lot of shows as they aired. I probably don’t watch more TV than your average American but I’m efficient about it – I try lots of shows and only stick around with the ones that are very good. We’re in a golden age of American television – if all you can find to watch are crappy reality shows and Law and Order spinoffs, you’re not looking hard enough!
Here are my personal favorites. Usual disclaimer – I’m an amateur critic only and don’t watch everything, so if your favorite 2010 show isn’t listed I probably just haven’t seen it. Or maybe I think it’s shit. Find out by posting your favorites in the comments!
- Mad Men. The fourth season of everyone’s favorite 60’s nostalgia series was the best one yet. The show’s amazingly talented writing staff made a smart decision to keep most of the action in the office of SCDP. Jon Hamm’s work as Don Draper was incredible as always (hopefully Emmy voters watch the best episode of the year, “The Suitcase”, where Don and Peggy work all night and Don copes with a personal loss). Mad Men is also one of the funniest shows on television – no other show can swing between tragedy and comedy as deftly. RIP Mrs Blankenship!
- Terriers. Never heard of it? Not surprising, seeing as how this scruffy private-eye show never got more than 800,000 viewers on the FX channel before being cancelled. I choose to focus on the positive and be thankful that we got 13 incredible episodes full of humor, pathos, and great dialogue. We also got a pitch-perfect series finale, which is more than most brilliant-but-cancelled shows get. In the immortal words of Hank Dolworth, “this may be more complicated than I thought”.
- Justified. FX also premiered this little gem of a show about a trigger-happy US marshal returning home to rural Kentucky. Luckily for us, it avoided Terriers’ fate and will be airing a second season in January 2011. Do yourself a favor and watch, and don’t forget that if Raylen Givens has to pull his weapon, he shoots to kill.
- Boardwalk Empire. HBO spent a fortune producing this Prohibition crime drama and it shows. Incredible production values and sterling performances from Steve Buscemi and Michael Pitt elevate the uneven plotting. I ain’t making no bookshelves.
- Rubicon. Also from the brilliant-but-cancelled file is this AMC conspiracy thriller. It had a slow start and a rather stupid finale, but in between were some excellent episodes and unforgettable characters. The show was at it’s best when getting away from the silly conspiracy storyline and focusing on the lives of the people who analyze intelligence for a living, and the immense human cost of the War on Terror. Also, Truxton Spangler taught us something about ties.
- Community. The best new sitcom of 2009 was the best overall sitcom of 2010. Highlights include the paintball episode from last spring and this fall’s brilliant bottle episode where the gang tries to figure out who stole Annie’s pen. Don’t get chloroformed!
- Venture Bros. Here’s a show that probably isn’t on many top 10 lists, but I have fierce love for the Venture family and the rich world they inhabit. We had to wait many many months for the show’s creators to finally finish season 4 but it was worth it to hear Brock and Col. Gathers discuss the world’s saddest tits.
- Fringe. This mad-science show was good-but-not-great in 2009, but towards the end of season 2 made the leap to greatness as the show ditched most of the Freak-of-the-Weeks and revved up the alternate universe storyline. Let’s make some labels and smoke some Brown Betty.
- Archer. Yet another stellar new show from FX (what a year for basic cable!). At first this animated spy comedy seemed completely unnecessary. Did the world really need another James Bond spoof? After watching this show, the answer is clearly “yes!”. Also, I learned about online pregnancy tests.
- The Pacific. HBO’s newest WWII miniseries was lethargic in it’s early installments and probably had a few too many characters. Still, the unrelentingly grim portrayal of soldiers being pushed to the limit and beyond had me riveted. War is mean, and you better get mean too boo.
Honorable Mentions: Daily Show, Sons of Anarchy, Lost, Chuck, Childrens Hospital, Treme, 30 Rock, and of course Jeopardy!
Great Shows from 2010 I Still Need to Catch Up With: Breaking Bad, Party Down, Parks and Recreation, The Good Wife, Louie, Friday Night Lights.
Guilty Pleasures: Hellcats, True Blood.