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Top 10 TV Shows of 2010

As TV has slowly evolved as the pop culture tonic of choice for Blogulatees everywhere, TV has continued to deliver the goods. And while some shows that appeared on our list last year took steps down of various levels (Big Love, Sons of Anarchy, and True Blood, we're looking at you), new shows appeared on the horizon and other shows improved even more.

With apologies to shows none of us were able to see enough to justify putting in our list (we'll probably love you, Terriers, Boardwalk Empire and the newest season of In Treatment), these are the best shows of 2010.

10. Justified; Creator: Graham Yost
While most of us were most entranced by intensely serial dramas on the cable networks, Justified on FX proved that procedural stories can be just as enriching and entertaining as huge stories that, frankly, are usually not as well-planned as we always think they are. But Justified's blend of standalone episodes and its growing world of characters (and, yes, serialized stories), combined with Timothy Olyphant's smolderingly great performance as US Marshall Raylan Givens and memorable characters like Walton Goggins' Boyd Crowder make this a deceptively outstanding series.

9. Party Down; Creators: John Enbom, Dan Etheridge, Paul Rudd and Rob Thomas
No doubt we can lament the fact that Starz decided to cancel this series after two perfect seasons, but we can also celebrate the two seasons, including the ten episodes that we did get in 2010. Blogulator friend Inconsiderate Prick gave a great eulogy to the series at his blog that we at the Blogulator could basically co-sign. Regardless, the ruminations on dead-end jobs that stop us from doing the things we really want to do and the outrageously hilarious, pop culture-savvy dialogue, will be missed dearly. (And who knew that Megan Mullally could be so hilarious? Her work here, on Parks and Recreation, and in Cartoon Networks' Childrens' Hospital were true revelations.)

8. Louie; Creator: Louis C.K.
Stand-up comic Louis C.K. could have used his total artistic freedom at FX to just show clips of his stand-up comedy and it would have made for great television. Instead, he interspersed those hilarious bits of his stand-up with short films that were less often laugh-out-loud funny and more often funny in that deep-down place where you just understand humanity a tad more than you did before. In that sense, Louie doesn't strive to squeeze laughs out of the viewer (although many episodes made me laugh more than any other show this year), but more often strives to make you recognize that your curmudgeonly tendencies don't make you a curmudgeon, they make you a regular person.

7. Lost; Creators: JJ Abrams, Jeffrey Lieber and Damon Lindelof
Is it any surprise that Lost, the most ambitious long-running network drama since Twin Peaks, would end on an entirely divisive note? So, we can all recognize that in its sixth and final season, Lost often stumbled over itself. We can all recognize that for the half of us that were blown away by the series finale "The End", the other half of us were so disappointed by the resolutions (or lack thereof) of the major island mysteries. (Count me in the "blown away" camp of the Lost debates.) What we can, and all should be able to agree upon, is the shared experience of watching, dissecting, laughing and crying through these final episodes together, is what really mattered. Kind of like, you know, how Jack found that, in the afterlife, the moments we shared in our lives and the relationships we had, were what made us human. Now, in 2011, when ABC and NBC try to convince us that V and The Event are worth our time, look back at 2010 and remember what it was like to be a part of Lost.

6. Parks and Recreation; Creators: Michael Schur and Greg Daniels
Good sitcoms take time to gel. More often, sitcoms need to establish a world that we as viewers want to visit -- a world with familiar environments and likable characters. It wasn't until a few episodes into the second season that Parks and Recreation took off, but no doubt, Pawnee, Indiana is a world that is as enjoyable as any on television. Like its NBC counterpart The Office, Parks and Recreation follows a semi-mockumentary style. But unlike the later Office episodes, the characters are less collections of funny traits and more well-rounded individuals, even the unbelievably awesome Ron Effing Swanson, played by the outstanding Nick Offerman.

5. Treme; Creators: Eric Overmeyer and David Simon
How does David Simon follow up the Greatest Television Series of All Time The Wire? You don't follow that up. You start something different. The only trait Treme shares with The Wire is its close attention to detail and realism. Like The Wire, Treme features actors who play slightly fictionalized versions of themselves and other actors who play slightly fictionalized versions of real people. But the focus of Treme is not on the holes in our society; rather, it focuses on the way communities and culture bring us together. A series about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina created by David Simon could easily be as pessimistic and negative as anything on television; instead, it manages to find true hope in hopeless situations and joy in the similarities and differences between us. It goes without saying that a show by David Simon brings outstanding writing and acting in each episode -- Khandi Alexander and Melissa Leo deserve special kudos for their work in this series first season -- but the authentic New Orleans jazz, funk, hip-hop and rock music depicted in each and every episode is full of life that jumps out of your TV way more than any 3D TV ever could.

4. Community; Creator: Dan Harmon
I admit that I am not the person who is the foremost expert in Community here at The Blogulator. That honor should be bestowed upon Chris, or DoktorPeace, or Sean, who are all outrageously enthusiastic about this show. (I have a hard time getting past Ken Jeong, because from what I've seen, I don't think he's very funny.) But, dagnabbit, I am slowly but surely seeing why Chris and DoktorPeace and Sean love this show and starting to love it like they love it. Chris specifically pointed out "Modern Warfare" and "Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples" as standout episodes, and from the few full episodes that I have seen, I loved the trampoline section of "Aerodynamics of Gender" (see clip above) and the entire episode of the recent claymation-style episode "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas". Yes, Community is chock full of meta-references, but it also has heart. Case in point: Abed finding season one of Lost in a gift box which represented Christmas: "Unfulfilled expectations." "Thanks, Lost." Thank you, Community.

3. Breaking Bad; Creator: Vince Gilligan
It seems ridiculous to me now that I resisted watching Breaking Bad for a while for any reason in particular. Really, there was no reason I resisted it other than having other stuff to watch (like True Blood and Dexter, which, now, looking back, were a waste of my time). But holy crap did its third season ever sparkle this year. Creator Vince Gilligan threw out any argument any showrunner can ever make about creating a hard series arc, as he admitted that most of the third season was written on the seat of his pants. But Breaking Bad didn't suffer whatsoever by this method of plotting -- in fact, it arguably gave it more vitality than ever. Its action sequences, like the ones that close the episodes "One Minute" and "Half Measures" are among the most tense, nerve-wracking sequences I have ever seen on television. But what puts this show over the top are the grounded performances by Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, who bring an immense amount of intensity, comedy, and drama to their roles as meth-cooking Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. And the long, quiet scenes of rich dialogue became a trademark of Breaking Bad, giving White more sympathy than the despicable actions he takes part in suggest he deserves.

2. Mad Men; Creator: Matthew Weiner
As Damon Lindelof mentioned in his list of his favorite TV shows of 2010, "I keep praying for this show to start sucking because it consistently reminds me of what a shitty writer I am. Those prayers have yet to be answered. I am Salieri." Now that Mad Men can take residence as a regular member of The Blogulator's Best Of lists, let us ruminate on the greatness that was the fourth season of Mad Men. If season one was All About Don Draper, season two was Mad Men 2: Ladies Night and season three was about everything, then the fourth season was about what happens when you have everything and lose it all. Draper reached the mid-60s with more personal turmoil than ever before and, when all was said and done, found some kind of middle ground that surely won't last as the tumultuous decade comes to a close. The fact that perfect writer Matthew Weiner has suggested the series will end when the 1960s come to a close suggests that this middle chapter of seasons represents a calm before the real storm. And yet we were still treated to one of the best episodes the series has ever done, the Don Draper-Peggy Olson friendfest "The Suitcase." We are all Salieri, Mr. Lindelof. We are all Salieri.

1. Friday Night Lights; Creator: Peter Berg; Executive Producer: Jason Katims
Finally, a show that everybody on The Blogulator could completely agree on: Friday Night Lights is one of the best damn shows on TV. While not all of us at The Blogulator loved Breaking Bad or Mad Men as much as others (seriously DoktorPeace, I don't know what's wrong with you), all of us were in agreement that Friday Night Lights makes us cry more than WALL-E, Up and Toy Story 3 combined. But it's not just an emotionfest. The fourth season was a slick recreation of its masterful first season with a nearly complete cast turnover (albeit with the obvious mainstays Coach and Mrs. Coach Taylor and daughter Julie sticking around) and a move to the high school with less money and less prestige bringing new issues to the forefront. Yet, if there is any spiritual television ancestor that the fourth season of FNL could claim as its own, it would be The Wire (and not just because the fourth season shared as many castmembers with The Wire as Treme and The Good Wife did, although that helped.) The gritty issues the students at East Dillon dealt with, and the ways Coach Taylor sacrificed himself to make a difference reminded me more of the fourth season of The Wire than anything. But no episode in the fourth season represented what is great about Friday Night Lights more than "The Son", a shockingly raw, emotional, heartwarming and heart wrenching study of life, death and family, rooted by a terrific performance by Zach Gilford. In a few years, when all the members of this cast have disbursed to other shows like the Wire actors have, we can look back and say how those shows reminded us of that great fourth season of Friday Night Lights.

Honorable mention: Misfits, True Blood, 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, Gossip Girl, Doctor Who, Parenthood, Modern Family, Children's Hospital, How to Make It in America, Teen Mom, Melissa and Joey, Psych, The Good Wife and The Walking Dead, we liked you too.

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  1. Blogger chris | 2:56 PM |  

    This might be my favoritest year-end TV list we've done yet. Jerksica will be out of town Thurs-Sun so I should make some hella headway on FNL.

    Seriously, 2010 ruled. Every single show here is both ridiculously entertaining and emotionally/thought-provokingly stirring.

  2. Blogger qualler | 4:02 PM |  

    I agree. This was a really, really good year of the ol' Boob Tube.

  3. Blogger DoktorPeace | 4:50 PM |  

    I'm not anti-AMC dramas. I'm just not interested in getting into them, as similarly seemed the case for you for Breaking Bad. The 2 eps of Mad Men and 10 minutes of Walking Dead I've seen neither repelled nor attracted me, and I'm just waiting on more seasons/easy streaming for Breaking Bad.

    Clear eyes, full heart.

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