Top 10 of 2010

This year has been an interesting one for television. 2010 gave us the finales of a few shows (LOST, Flight of the Conchords, Heroes) and introduced us to numerous shows of surprisingly high quality (The Walking Dead and Justified). As ratings plummeted in the wake of a shift to DVR viewing, networks are still slow to reassess their view on what ‘good ratings’ actually are. There were a lot of interesting events but I don’t really care about them. This is my list of, in no particular order, the biggest hits and misses of 2010.

Hit – LOST: As a loyal viewer since Season 1, I can say that I was thoroughly engrossed in the final season. It was a back to basics approach that made this season all killer and no filler. Of the 17 episodes, only a few were clunkers (i.e. Across the Sea and The Package) and the rest were some of the best installments of the series. In terms of acting, it was a veritable cornucopia of fine performances. Terry O’Quinn was given the chance to flex his acting muscles as both the Man in Black AND John Locke, while Matthew Fox gave us his arguably best performance in ‘The End.’ The final season gave us everything that made this show amazing: mystery, Sci-fi, fantasy, monsters, humor, love and much more. Sure, we didn’t get all the answers we wanted, but the show ended the way it began: with character.

Miss – The Event: What can I say about this poor mess of a show? It started out decent enough but it feels like the schizophrenic little brother of Lost, 24 and the 4400. All the ingredients are there but, to stretch a tired metaphor, it seems like the measurements were a bit off. Mediocre direction, subpar acting and awkwardly structured narrative made me turn this show off after four episodes. The word is that NBC is re-launching it after the winter hiatus in hopes of grabbing back some of the viewers they lost. Good luck with that.

Miss – Caprica: While a few of you have probably already read my thoughts on the cancellation of this show, I have to say that I can’t blame SyFy (what a terrible name) for pulling the trigger on this lame duck techno-drama. While it met with favorable reviews and offered surprisingly high production values, it just didn’t grab the viewership. The concepts that they chose to focus on were fascinating but ultimately proved a bit challenging for folks who preferred the whiz-bang action and social commentary of Battlestar Galactica to the Asimov and Clarke like musings on technology and humanity. Goodbye, Caprica.

Hit – The Avengers: This was the biggest surprise for me this year. My expectations were low, as I thought it would be just another run-of-the-mill kids comic book adaptation. I was wrong. While it isn’t as sophisticated in tone as Justice League Unlimited, Avengers offers a wide assortment of cleverly linked plots and characters ripped straight from the comics. To overuse a phrase, ‘What’s old is new again.’ Watching this show makes me feel like a kid again and that’s all I need to enjoy it.

Hit – Dexter: After a superb Season 4, I was salivating for Season 5. Picking up immediately after the fallout from the season finale, this season plunged Dexter into strife and…emotion. Dexter squared off with (first and foremost) family issues, a murderous rape club and a slimy motivational guru. He found the Robin to his murderous Batman and the dynamic of the show shifted into something unique amongst everything else on television. But as this season came to a close, I wondered ‘How much farther can they go with this concept?’ I guess I have a lot of time to kill till I find out.

Hit – Fringe: Alternate Realities. Evil Twins. Bad Romance. Deepening Mythology. Family Strife. These are the engines that drove Fringe to become my favorite show currently on television. To try and describe the goodness that it gives us every week if a futile gesture, so I simply urge you to watch it. But don’t forget that it is now airing on Friday nights. So set your DVR or hunker down on these cold nights and join the Cult of Fringe.

Miss – Law & Order: Los Angeles: On paper this show was destined to be a winner. The cast included Alfred Molina, Skeet Ulrich and Terrence Howard. It boasted the seal of approval from the venerable Dick Wolf. It was even taking place in LA, home of fellow cop drama, Southland. Alas, LOLA (as it’s affectionately called by the cast) was just plain boring. It lacked the NY grit of the original L&O, the titillating sex crimes and Stabler/Benson chemistry of SVU or even the kooky crimes of Criminal Intent. It was a California rehash of a tired old formula.

Hit – Justified: Take one part Elmore Leonard, add a dash of classic western tropes and a healthy dose of Southern styling. Stir gently and add a deadpan badass performance by Timothy Olyphant and a Loki-like turn as a reformed criminal by Walton Goggins. Let it sit for an hour and you have the recipe for Justified. This was a fun and engrossing first 12 episodes that left me clamoring for a second season. Season 1 is now available on DVD, so go out and pick it up before Season 2 begins in January.

Hit – The Walking Dead: If you read my other stuff on this site you know that I’m a loyal follower of this awesome zombie-themed drama. As a giant fan of the comic book that it’s based on, I was pleasantly surprised by how good this first season turned out. While it wasn’t entirely loyal to the source material, it deviated in ways that, more often than not, were interesting changes. Strong acting, excellent gore and solid drama easily make the Walking Dead one of the best shows of the year.

Miss – Terriers: Classifying this one as a miss is a bit misleading. While it was technically one of the best shows of the season, Terriers disappointed me by getting canceled after only 13 episodes. It was a fun experiment in low-rent private dick storytelling that gave us crazy characters and zippy dialogue. Add it to the pile of One Season Wonders.

So, 2011 is upon us and the outlook isn’t too great. Besides Fringe and the returning Justified, I don’t see many shows on the horizon that scream quality. But you never know. What were your thoughts on this season? Favorites? Least favorites? Drop me a line and let me know!

See you all in 2011!

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