Thursday, December 30, 2010

Favorite Television Series of 2010

Here are ten shows that I enjoyed (if not loved) this past year. Please note that I do not consider any of these a "best of" list-- I am only commenting on the shows that I've seen over the year and my favorites from that group.

10. Chuck

I remember chatting around a lunch table about this show while working at FamilyNet. Everyone seemed to love it. I enjoyed the show too, but I expressed my fears about the show to the table. I liked it, but was afraid that looking back in the future, it would be a very, very stupid show. My fear was just that it wouldn't hold up well in the years to come. Randy, a co-worker and friend, simply looked at me and replied "So what?" And he was right in a way (although I'm still debating if that's a reasonable critique of a show-- it's "classic-ness"), and since then I've just plunged in and enjoyed it through and through. There are times where it's corny and times where you can tell they are working with a minuscule budget, but it still pulls everything off well. This season was somewhat lackluster-- to have done so much in the past season finale just to forget about most of it (Chuck hiding he's a spy once again from his sister, and so on), but the recent jumps and developments -- and Timothy Dalton's presence have helped improve things.

Favorite episode: "Chuck Vs. The First Fight"

9. The Office

While I've been a little disappointed in previous seasons, I feel like this one has slightly improved. Whether it's better because it's been tying up Michael Scott's loose ends while at the same time focusing on the supporting cast, or just had better plots overall, something about it has been more enjoyable.

Favorite episode(s): "Christening," "Classy Christmas"

8. The Walking Dead

I know I've said this before, but dystopian and/or apocalyptic themed narratives somehow manage to scare and compel me more than any other genre. There's probably some deep psychological reason for that, but for now I can't really figure out why. I was (and am) particularly intrigued with this show because of the serialized, long-form nature. Because movies are inherently limited to just a couple hours at the most, I feel like it can't really get past the fear aspect of trying to survive to get to some of the deeper emotions-- mourning the loss of loved ones-- or just mourning period, the actual debate over whether survival is worth it, and so on. I know I am excited for the scenes intended to scare, but I'm equally looking forward to downtime as well.

Favorite episode: "Days Gone By"

7. The Daily Show

I have to admit-- because Beth and I are living in Russia, this is my primary source of news. I blame Russia, but I have to say it would be just the same were we still living in the States. I know it's on Comedy Central and can be crass at times, blah blah blah, but Jon is one of the most genuine and honestly concerned [fake] newscasters out there. He cuts through the crap of all the 24 hour news stations (yes, all of them are mostly ridiculous. CNN. Fox News. MSNBC. etc. All of them.).

Favorite episode: too many to count

6. The Colbert Report

While Jon Stewart brings the news and is probably ultimately more valuable, I have never laughed out loud as much as watching Stephen Colbert (and that's saying a lot). Colbert is my hero.

Favorite episode: This one:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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5. Dexter

I love Dexter. I'd be the first to say that this season was far from their best. But there's something about the show that I'm just drawn to. This season I found many problems -- one was a slow early half of the season (after an incredible premiere). I wasn't a fan of the villains this year. I felt like they were way too one-dimensional and were some of the absolute worst sort of criminal. You had to side with Dexter. And I was also bugged by the ending-- everything wrapped up way too easily. The show has hit a formula that they've only branched away from really at the end of Season 4.

Despite all of these shortcomings, I'm still wildly impressed by Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter, and the story in general. To make you care about a serial killer is an impressive feat.

Favorite episode: "My Bad"

4. Lost

Lost was an imperfect show-- there were way too many characters, too many story lines, too many questions (that ended up being more interesting than most of the answers). The mythology was too overwhelming and daunting. But the aspect I most appreciated about the show was also what the producers cared most about-- the characters and their relationships to those around them. The redemption that was sought by every character. In that respect it was a beautiful show (although I even enjoyed the problems with the show too). If you went to the final season of the show caring more about the mythology, you were going to be undoubtedly disappointed. But if you went in it caring about the narratives of the characters, that's what the end was ultimately about. The risks that the show took were daring and bold, and because of it Lost is one of the most compelling shows with some of the best characters on television. Lost will go down as one of the best (and one of my favorite) shows of all time.

Favorite episode: "The End"

3. Community

Community is my favorite comedy on television right now. I cannot say enough good things about it. For a show that wears its heart on its sleeve just as much as it makes you laugh until your heart hurts, it pulls it off incredibly.
Favorite episode(s): "Modern Warfare," "Cooperative Calligraphy," "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas"

2. Mad Men

I didn't actually start watching this show until this year-- but it didn't take long for Beth and I to get caught up. While I think my expectations were too high in the beginning (and thus finding the pilot and part of the first season somewhat underwhelming), the show continued to grow on me and just get better with every new season. This fourth season was among their best.

Favorite episode: "The Suitcase"

1. Breaking Bad

It goes for most of my favorite shows that it takes at least a few episodes for me to really like the show. It was true for Dexter, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Mad Men, and so on. Breaking Bad, however, had me hooked immediately. Never have I seen a more original and intriguing show. The cast and cinematography are phenomenal, and each season just improves on the last. This is the best show on television right now.

Favorite episode(s): "One Minute," "Fly," "Half Measure," "Full Measure"

Any shows I missed?