Tuesday, December 21, 2010
The 10 Best TV shows of 2010
Entertainment Weekly put out their "Best & Worst of 2010" lists this week, and it got me inspired to start mine. I still have a bunch of movies to see before I can make that list, so I figured I'd start with TV.
This is the year that TV eclipsed movies for me. It seems like movies are getting worse and worse, while television just gets better and better. I recently read an article arguing that shows like The Wire are replacing The Great American Novel. Makes sense to me.
Even when I was in Thailand, there were a few of these shows I was watching religiously. Big Love and True Blood were both disappointments this year, and I think The Walking Dead is complete garbage. But this year also brought some of the coolest, more engaging, well-written entertainment I've ever seen.
One random thought--True Blood didn't make the list, mostly because its shameless camp and got stupid by the end of the season, but it had one of my favorite lines all year. When Jason Stackhouse leaned back sadly, looked up at the camera and said "I always reckoned I wasn't smart enough to get depressed...but here I am."
Without further adieu, here are my picks...
I wasn't a big fan of the first season of Community, but the second season really differentiated itself. What other show could do an entire episode with claymation?
Chevy Chase and Joel McHale are the weak links, but the rest of the cast is stellar. (My favorite characters are Abed and Troy).
#9. 30 Rock
Favorite line this season: When Tracy is getting booed by a crowd he yells "I am not scared of you! I know most of you are not even ghosts!"
One major problem for the show is that there have never been real consequences, and nothing of significance ever really happens.
This season, however, things changed. Vince got addicted to coke, started dating a porn star, and Ari Gold finally got in trouble for the way he treats his employees. And SPOILER ALERT: Eminem punched Vince in the face! (My favorite moment of Entourage ever).
#7. Men of a Certain Age
But this show has such an easy-going feel, and such a dedication to the minutiae of everyday real life. It just feels true. Nothing spectacular or crazy ever happens, but the characters feel real. I love Scott Bakula as a sadsack aging actor and Andre Braugher as an overweight family man car salesman. Ray Romano is pretty good too.
The best part of the show? Ray Ramano's bookie, played by Jon Manfrellotti. That guy is hilarious.
#6. The Office
I'm hyped that Amy Ryan is back as Michael's love interest, and I'm interested to see what happens once Steve Carrell leaves. I love that Darryl, Andy, Erin and Gabe are getting more screen time. I think this is an ensemble that can survive losing their lead.
#5. Parks and Recreation
Two words: Ron Swanson. The guy kills me.
Sample line: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Don't teach a man to fish, and you feed yourself. He's a grown man. Fishing's not that hard."
I can't wait for it to come back.
#4. Modern Family
For my family Christmas vacation, I chose the first season on DVD as our entertainment. The fact that all ten members of my family LOVE this show (we watched about 15 episodes in 3 days) is a testament to the enormous, broad appeal of this show.
A line from Phil, when Luke asks what Jaggermeister is: "You know how in a fairy tale there's always a potion that makes the princess fall asleep and then the guys start kissing her? Well, this is like that except you don't wake up in a castle — you wake up in a frat house with a bad reputation."
#3. Breaking Bad
I'm not just talking about the insane violence, the sweeping scope of the story or some of the horrific, nihilistic shit you have to sit through. This is a show that will spend A WHOLE HOUR with two characters locked in a room, trying to kill a fly. Not only that, but it was a SICK episode.
Everyone knows Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston are awesome in this show, but this is the year that Dean Norris' Hank (The DEA brother-in-law) went from being a caricature and a buffoon to being a total fucking BADASS.
I watched the finale in Laos, and even though it took about three hours for it to buffer, I just sat there and waited. And it was worth it.
#2. Boardwalk Empire
The second half of the season was a bit lackluster, but it's still significantly better than almost everything on TV.
Michael Pitt delivered EASILY, and I mean EASILY my favorite performance of the year as Jimmy Dormady, a World War I vet who turns gangster. Man, is he cool. The way his hair hangs in his face when he's ruthlessly murdering rival gangsters made me wish I had one of those undercuts that were so popular when I was in elementary school.
Favorite line: A gangster yells at Jimmy "Oh, fucking tough guy. You gonna shoot me for mouthing off?"
Jimmy thinks about it for a moment, then says "Well, I wasn't going to. But you kind of talked me into it."
Then he shoots him. In the face.
It's true, Steve Buscemi is a bit weak. But this cast is so wicked, you barely notice. I mean Omar as a Prohibition era gangster? A masked war veteran missing half his face as a cold-blooded assassin. And SHIT! THIS SHOW HAS AL CAPONE!
#1. Mad Men
I understand (and empathize) with people who think the first and second season were a bit slow. Because they were. But season 3 hooked me, and season 4 was SUBLIME. And I mean that word: SUBLIME.
This isn't just because I love Jon Hamm. (I do.) It's not because I think John Slattery is hilarious as Sterling. (I really do.) I think the whole cast is perfect, I think the writing is flawless, I think the period detail is astounding...the list goes on. And the little girl who plays Sally (Kiernan Shipka) was a bit of a nuisance until this season, but now she's becoming quite the little actress.
And to be fair, I'll admit one other reason I like it: there are a lot of painfully beautiful women in this show.
Favorite line: Bert Cooper on their elderly secretary that died: "She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper. She was an astronaut."
Best episode: "The Suitcase" Basically a two-hander with Peggy and Don stuck working overnight while Muhammed Ali knocked out Sonny Liston. "You never say thank you!" Peggy yells. "That's what the money is for!" screams Don.
And really, watch this video. You'll see that Jon Hamm can get more mileage out of one word than most actors can get out of a Shakespearean monologue:
I'm serious. Believe the hype.