Oh boy! Another Top 10 of 2010 List! But before we get into it, I'm going to be super honest with you: this list is biased. Completely biased.
Like, it's all my favorite TV shows of 2010, so whatever cred I bring as a "seasoned blogger" or "industry insider" or "obsessive TV watcher" or "pop culture writer" or "self-appointed know-it-all" should just be ignored because it really just comes down to the fact that these are the shows that I really, really loved to watch in 2010.
So, without further ado...
The Top 10 TV Shows of 2010:
Friday Night Lights
FNL reinvented itself in its fourth season and I cannot think of any other show that has been able to take on such a task to a similar degree with any sort of success approaching the levels of FNL's general near-perfection. Looking back on the first two episodes of that redefining season, with Coach Taylor's reign in East Dillon just begun, viewers were suddenly introduced to a wide range of brand new characters - and in just that amount of time I found myself caring for them as much as I cared for the original Panther gang. Here we are in the show's final season and I can't help but feel incredibly grateful that this masterpiece has lasted on television for as long as it did, in fact - I feel lucky for every episode of FNL that graces my TV screen. I cannot think of any other show on TV right now that rivals FNL in its near-perfection - and that's something I've felt about the series since its premiere. FNL has set a high bar for acting, directing, writing, editing - especially when you take into consideration the fact this show airs on a broadcast network (primarily - ignoring it's limited early viewing on DirecTV's The 101) - and that network is NBC, of all places. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are two of the finest actors today and it's their chemistry and the Taylor relationship that enriches FNL so - it saddens me to think that 2011 is the year this mighty work of art comes to an end.
There is no other comedy on TV right now that makes me belly laugh like The League. Every episode delivers incredibly realistic and hilarious comedic moments - it makes me feel like I'm hanging out with the group of friends I grew up with. Sure the humor crosses the line from time to time - but for some reason it does so in a way that doesn't feel offensive or excessive - it's all so light-hearted and jovial and... well, just really damn funny. The fantasy football premise is the perfect basis to enjoy the complexities of relationships between friends. Through these nuanced interactions, The League delivers consistent laughs and sometimes, that's the best sign of quality programming.
Parks & Recreation
Sometimes I think Parks & Recreation's unique brand of humor and storytelling came out of nowhere - but that's not true of course. This show had all the makings of a hit from the get-go (remember when it was called The Office Spinoff?), but it simply took a bit for the series to hit its stride, which definitely happened in the second season. The supporting cast on this show really makes it such a gem, and brings a lively burst of hilarity to every character interaction. The comedy is smart and clever, and though the world of Parks & Rec is small, it provides for an impressively large amount of comical situations. An clearly every comedy needs to find its own Ron "F-ing" Swanson.
Like many of the comedies on this list, Fringe is a show that took time to find its stride - but once it did, holy crap did things really get going. I've referred to it before as a "mindblowingly amazing crazypants masterpiece of a television show" and there's really no other way I can think to applaud this science fiction, parallel universe, family and twisted love-triangle tale. In 2011 Fringe moves to Friday nights, where it will hopefully maintain its numbers and small but steady following.
I don't know how any Top 10 list reviewing the year could not include Modern Family. Even though recent episodes have begun to see a slight decline in consistency, overall there's no better family comedy on TV right now, nor has there been for a while. The recent episode "Manny Get Your Gun" gets a permanent spot on my DVR, and is one of the best-written episodes of TV from this past year, no doubt about it.
There was something magical about Terriers. It was dark and gritty but also sunny and whimsical - the world was small, but filled with realism and consequences and two guys trying to do good. It was a cop show but it was also a serialized drama. It was too hard to define, and maybe that's one of the reasons it never got much of an audience. It was a real shame Terriers was canceled, because this is one show that definitely deserved a second season and a longer life - but I feel lucky we got a full 13-episode season of the show at all.
I hate that Cougar Town is called Cougar Town and that the first handful of episodes of the show were frankly, not that good. Because when Cougar Town transformed into the laugh riot it is now, somewhere near the end of the first season, so many people who might have fallen in love with the show never gave it the chance. Looking back on the year, there are very specific television moments that stick out in my mind and it was when Cougar Town went for "The Full Shawshank Experience" that the show cemented itself as a weekly must-watch. I can't think of another comedy that so easily and willingly recognizes what it is, and uses that to such an advantage to bring forth some really great comedic moments..
I think of Community as the "little TV show that could!" See, I often feel like Community has all these things working against it - most notable this fall season was the worst time-slot competition ever - yet the show rises to the occasion again and again. Even though it's a not a show that for me, delivers consistent laugh-out-loud moments, it's always fun and humorous and its brand of comedy is simply put, very smart. So often the word "meta" is described as one of the mechanisms employed by Community writers - and while this is true, I think the show is really just the best example of a self-aware half-hour comedy that owes so much of its strength to its delightful cast of characters.
It should come as no surprise that this show makes my list - especially considering it shares the same leadership as FNL. The thing about Parenthood, is that it's so quietly good. The world the Braverman family inhabits feels real, sincere, and authentic - and the delicacies of balancing familial relationships on multiple levels is addressed with such honor. Speaking of addressing issues, like FNL, Parenthood takes on issues that another show might twist into an after-school special, but brings a level of realism that makes everything sincere and refreshing.
Okay fine - the beginning few episodes of the final season felt like we'd wandered our way into the video game set for Jack Shephard and the Temple of Doom, but I can't think of the last time a show's final season left such a profound emotional impact. And that series finale - "The End?" I have it permanently saved on my DVR but have yet to watch since the original airing, mostly because it makes me cry like a baby. (Maybe sometime soon, when I need a good cry?). The thing about Lost was that it was ground-breaking television and the final season was a glorious send-off for the show. It certainly had its critics and naysayers, but I found the emotional resolution for the series to be immensely satisfying.
30 Rock is one of those shows that is sometimes better written than anything else on TV, yet when one episode is irreverent, hilarious and impressively risk-taking, the next might be dull, far-fetched and occasionally lackluster. There's no way the show is nearly as funny as it was in its first two seasons, and the episodes that focus on Liz Lemon remain the best - however 30 Rock gets its honorable mention merely thanks to the fact that the writers and producers take some serious risks with their thinly-veiled jabs at Comcast. It's been significantly more fun watching that "ripped-from-the-headlines" story in the fictional Kabletown merger on the world of 30 Rock, and I applaud the show for the incredibly clever self-deprecating humor - no idea how they get it by NBC, but I'm not complaining.
The fifth season, half of which aired in the beginning of 2010 - including the show's exceptional 100th episode - of this light-hearted procedural was arguably its best, showcasing great storylines and underrated performances by a stellar ensemble cast, in what could easily be just another formulaic broadcast show. From time to time Bones really strives for something more - something beyond its procedural storytelling and systematic metaphors. The reason Bones doesn't quite make my top 10 list (well, despite the fact that - I don't know - it's Bones?) is because its current season, save for the exceptional mid-season finale, has felt off. It's difficult to place exactly why this season of Bones feels so flat. There's a different tone and the chemistry between the two leads isn't quite as electric as it once was - thanks to a new love interest that screams "trite plot contrivance" and appears to be overstaying its welcome. Hopefully the new year will usher in some new life to Bones as well (not literally though - please no zombies on Bones, okay?).
The Walking Dead
Speaking of zombies... The Walking Dead's 6-episode first season run was an unexpected delight. Sure the writing was lacking and occasionally episodes had a tinge of the typical zombie B-Movie vibe, which in my opinion prevented the show from achieving real levels of greatness. But when you wrap your head around the fact that we're looking at a current show about the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, and that the show is airing on AMC of all places? Well damn, that's just really awesome. Here's hoping the second season steps up its game so we can continue to enjoy graphic zombie kills on our wholesome Sunday nights.
Pretty Little Liars
Pretty Little Liars has all the makings of a show I would hate - in fact, when I first read the pilot script after the initial pick-up I tossed it aside with little interest. However, after hearing some positive buzz I gave the pilot a shot and was pleasantly surprised - now this is in no way the same high-caliber show as some of the shows on my Top 10 List (it's no FNL, that's for sure), but it deserves an honorable mention for really blowing the lid off the teen drama formula. Compare PLL to its peers on the CW, and it's no doubt that the writing is snappier, and the drama - while ridiculous - is more addictive. I'm so thrilled this show took off, it's certainly my guilty pleasure, and I can't wait to see what happens when it returns in January 2011.
And there you have it! Agree? Disagree? Still think I'm a cultural fascist for my rant against Private Practice?
Here's to more happy watching in 2011!