Top 10 TV Shows of 2010

1 Jan

Why was it ever cool to act like you didn’t own/watch TV? Yeah, there’s been a lot of shit on the airwaves in the past, but the medium is better than it’s ever been. In the midst of belittling reality television, there seems to a bigger number of smart comedies and dramas being greenlit than ever before (not including Outsourced, of course). And while this list will show I haven’t been as on-the-ball with new programs as I could be (so I didn’t watch Walking Dead or Boardwalk Empire, and who knows if I ever will), 2010’s TV certainly kept me on my toes.

10. Skins
Alright, alright, I’m just going to go out and say that this selection is mere filler. Let’s face it: the British teen sensation has never been worse than it was this year. Like, that chick who killed herself whose story was resolved in two episodes? The ENTIRE crazy Effy storyline? WHAT THE HELL, DUDES? Though this shit was super disappointing, it gave me something to yell at, which I guess makes for an appropriately cathartic experience for its mostly teenage audience. Well done? (No.) Whatever, it was at least better than True Blood.

9. The Big C
Showtime’s new Laura Linney vehicle is only so low on my list because I didn’t catch the entire season. Though College Humor’s (kind of accurate) accusations that it was Breaking Bad minus everything that made Breaking Bad awesome, this suburban exploration of cancer read like a Bucket List for a busy mom who didn’t have time to fly planes to Mount Everest and shit. A light, late summer existentialist comedy that boasts some of Linney’s best moments yet. I’ll probably have to catch up with it sometime.

8. Nurse Jackie
Of all of Showtime’s female-heavy powerhouse performances, who can top Edie Falco? I mean, what a fierce bitch. Though oftentimes despicable anti-hero her titular character is, you can’t help but be transfixed by her downward spiral. Season two takes her further down the rabbit hole, and while I thought the intense finale had its hokier moments, Nurse Jackie continues to make its case as one of the most fun, interesting, and well-cast shows on television.

7. United States of Tara
If there’s anything I really appreciate about Showtime’s aforementioned female dramedies, it’s that they seem to unravel like real life– with a quirk or two. The Diablo Cody-penned show on multiple personalities really hit its stride in this season, with Toni Collette and John Corbett’s marriage at its rockiest, Patton Oswalt at his most awesome, and highly intriguing teenage identity crises. In fact, it’s usually the exploits of Collette’s onscreen children that I enjoy the most, and Keir Gilchrist’s sexual schism and Brie Larson’s post-high school confusion made for the show’s most exciting performances.

6. Futurama
They say good things come to those who wait, and the long-awaited return of Matt Groening’s nerdier project proved to be worth it. Coming back from the exact moment where 2008’s DVD series left off, Futurama is back with more bite than ever. Though episodes clearly inspired by recent pop cultural events were welcome (if not a little late– an early season Susan Boyle jab seemed a bit irrelevant), sweeping standouts like “The Late Philip J. Fry” reminded fans how much the show shines when it revels in the limitless possibilities of its time period.

5. Mad Men
Season four of the deafeningly acclaimed period drama proved polarizing to fans. Though I might agree with thoughts that this was a stellar show’s worst year yet, a less than perfect season of Mad Men is still phenomenal television. Plus, if the latter half of this season felt unsatisfying, that’s probably because the near flawless Don & Peggy-heavy “The Suitcase” made itself incredibly hard to follow up. Negative reactions to a season that’d be stunning for almost any other show says just how high smart TV keeps expectations elevated, and Matt Weiner continues to spoil us.

4. 3o Rock
Is there any network out there having more fun than NBC? Taking a weekly peek at Tina Fey’s exaggerated retelling of her SNL head writer’s stint makes it seem highly unlikely. Not only that, but you can tell the cast and crew are having a blast making it. Though the live episode may have been a bit hit-or-miss, you’ve got to appreciate how much effort is put into making this show a really unique experience for its fans. It’s also incredibly fun to watch the characters’ growing outrageousness combined with their actually pretty relatable problems, something at which 30 Rock has always truly shined. 

3. Misfits
British channel E4 continues to amaze me with its envelope-pushing teen dramas, and they have never made anything as sensational as Misfits. Seconds into the first episode of its second season, you could tell this ambitious superhero series has very, very big plans for itself. With the introduction of a mysterious new protector in town, fans were treated to a hell of a story with all the intelligence and panache of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies (just try and tell me “Superhoodie”s lair bears no resemblance to Christian Bale’s Batcave). Late 2010’s episodes changed the game of an already game-changing show, going so far that even a fair-weather fan (do those exist for this show even?!) would have to wonder what our offbeat heroes have coming next.

2. Community
They say pride cometh before a fall, but is that always the case? Dan Harmon’s cult hit knows it’s fantastic, but that’s a big part of its continued success. Call its second year gimmicky if you want, but I’ve never seen a show pull off such adventurous plots week after week as well as they do. Notoriously hip and consistently trying to outdo itself, the show references culture and itself with more confidence than anyone before them. Plus, the writer/audience relationship of Community is one of the most beautifully symbiotic relationships in the media, as the nuances of the program make it clear that Harmon & Co. love their fans as much as visa versa. Don’t believe me? Watch “The Psychology of Letting Go” and “Cooperative Calligraphy” a second time and get back to me.

1. Breaking Bad
If seasons one and two of AMC’s baddest drama seemed hard to watch, its third season made them look like cakewalks in comparison. Vince Gilligan’s spectacular story of a terminal chemistry teacher’s descent into hell has gotten better with each passing year, even with its notoriously sadistic repetition of the question “Could it get any worse?” Every episode seems to say yes in a scarier way than the one before it, and this year took our protagonists to unprecedented depths. Breaking Bad dug deeper and deeper into the tortured psyches of so-called kingpins, obsessed DEA agents, and wives tainted by knowledge, and while the journey wasn’t a fun one, it made for this year’s most compelling hour of television. With episodes like Brick director Rian Johnson’s cerebral “Fly” and the heart-stoppingly visceral fan favorite “One Minute”, TV has undoubtedly never been like this before.

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