It's the end of the year, and you want top ten lists. Well I got a Top Ten list for you RIGHT HERE: it's the best television shows of 2010, as determined by a panel of ME.
Of course, the "best" shows by Warming Glow standards are those that I find to be the most indispensable on my DVR. So I'm not rewarding the best writing or the best acting per se; I'm merely making a list of the shows that I enjoyed the most (with an addendum of snubbed shows). Nevertheless, that shouldn't stop you from complaining about my choices if you disagree. But just know that if you don't concur with my choices, it's merely because you have terrible taste and should be euthanized. It's nothing to take personally.
The short first season couldn't sustain the stark and terrifying cinematic heights of the 90-minute premiere, but even when the zombie drama lagged, it was still the most compulsively watchable new show of the fall season.
A superbly written throwback to '80s sitcoms, "Modern Family" is that rare gem of a show that is both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. It's smart, funny, sexy, and sharply executed, but what impresses me the most is the show's ability to find heartfelt resolutions that are sweet but not saccharine.
Gambling. Drinking. Prohibition. Naked Paz de la Huerta. Michael Pitt blasting people's heads off. Lesbians. A rabidly devout federal agent. Steve Buscemi. Al Capone and Lucky Luciano. Arsenic. A half-faced World War I sniper. And did I mention naked Paz de la Huerta?
This show OWNS.
Perhaps a lone jackass in front of a green screen isn't a blueprint for great TV, but Daniel Tosh captures the profane and insane nature of Internet culture like no one else on TV. The jokes he tells have the same cut as the edgiest comments sections on the web, which is a nice way of saying that he tells racist, homophobic, and misogynistic jokes. That he can do that on TV without getting lynched is a testament to how funny the show is.
There's nothing flashy or strikingly original about this FX drama, but it quietly became one of the most satisfying ways to spend an hour in front of the television this year. What started as a fun neo-Western crime procedural gave way to a wonderfully immersive show with complex villains, femmes fatales, and a trigger-happy U.S. marshal who can use his head instead of his gun -- but only if he has to.
Because Louis C.K. is a comedian, and because clips of his stand-up routine punctuate the show, "Louie" gets categorized as a comedy. But to call the show "comedy" is reductive of its true nature: it's more an examination of how pain and unhappiness can be the root of humor. "Louie's" meditations on religion, family, and growing older can sometimes be awkward, sometimes sad, sometimes funny -- but they never fail to say something poignant about humanity.
It's no longer just Bryan Cranston's show: Season 3 featured a gripping performance from Aaron Paul, who earned a surprising but deserved Emmy win for Best Supporting Actor. It also featured terrifying ax-wielding Mexican twins, an uneasy detente in Walter White's fractured marriage, progressively deeper stakes for all of the show's characters, and a cinematic tension unmatched by any other show on television.
It's no secret that this cast loves working together, and it's obvious on the screen: the ensemble clicks like no other show since "Arrested Development" -- another pitch-perfect comedy with devoted fans and low ratings. Showrunner Dan Harmon's savvy, self-aware scripts allow "Community" to work within traditional sitcom boundaries while smartly acknowledging the tropes (and getting laughs along the way). It's all very meta, but not in the annoying Charlie Kaufman way.
Yes, that's right: "Archer" is one of the best shows on TV. "Sealab 2021" and "Frisky Dingo" vet Adam Reed has created a workplace where the most loathsome characters are the most likable, and the most perverse situations are the funniest. Whip-smart writing and impeccable comic timing from the terrific cast of H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Judy Greer, Chris Parnell, and Jessica Walter make every episode hilarious even after multiple viewings. Not since the heyday of "The Simpsons" has a sitcom provided such instantly quotable lines.
Dammit, I didn't want to be another two-bit critic praising "Mad Men" as the best show on TV. But the fourth season of AMC's period drama continued on its unpredictable trek, taking the characters -- and Sterling Cooper (Draper Pryce) -- to narrative arcs that would have been unthinkable during the first season. From Roger Sterling's racism in "The Chrysanthemum in the Sword" to the stellar acting from Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss in "The Suitcase," Season 4 continued to captivate me by capturing every detail, small and large.
Treme -- Viewers complained that it moved too slowly and generally wasn't "The Wire," but I loved this love letter to New Orleans. The acting and music alone make it worth my while. (It almost snuck into the tenth spot, but I gave it to "The Walking Dead" instead on the strength of it giving me scary dreams.)
Sons of Anarchy -- Despite the cathartic season finale, Season 3 was a letdown after the brilliant powder keg of Season 2 the year before.
Lost -- I enjoyed the introduction of the "flash-sideways" in the final season, but its philosophical resolution left me unsatisfied. All in all, I appreciate the ambition of "Lost," but its secretive nature appeals to a certain kind of viewer. And I'm not that kind of viewer.
Friday Night Lights -- With the whole DirecTV/NBC staggered season thing going on, this hasn't made my viewing rotation. I'll catch the entire series on DVD when it's all over, and then I will apologize to everyone for not seeing it sooner.
Dexter -- I've never met a "Dexter" fan who didn't produce a caveat about liking it. "Well, if you can get past this character..." No other show has had so many characters that drag the series down.
The Good Wife -- On CBS. Didn't watch.