Sunday, 2 January 2011

Favourite TV Shows 2010 - Honourable Mentions

2010 was yet another fantastic year for TV shows, it might not be the golden age that was occurring a few years ago with The Wire, Sopranos, Deadwood etc. but it was still a year that gave us fantastic seasons of shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Parks & Recreation. But those aren't the shows that I'm here to talk about, instead I want to focus upon the shows that haven't made it into my top 10. Instead this blog post will be almost an other top 10 (or 12) with shows which whilst more often than not fantastic for various reasons didn't quite make it into my overall top 10 of the year.

So enough with the introductions, here were the great shows of 2010 which didn't make my top 10 (bearing in mind that I have yet to watch some shows like Treme and Boardwalk Empire) in alphabetical order:

30 Rock
30 Rock didn't have a fantastic 2009, there was still a lot to laugh at still but it wasn't as consistent as it was during it's 2nd Season. Then there was the fact that it was having to compete with the new 2009 comedies of Community and Parks & Recreation. But then 2010 gave the show a massive comeback. There were some fantastic guest stars with Elizabeth Banks, Matt Damon, Jon Hamm, Michael Sheen, James Franco and Paul Giamatti and outright hilarious gags. James Franco and his Japanese sex pillow, Tracy remembering his past and having a mental breakdown, Jack making the video to his future 'son' about how to live, Buzz Aldrin shouting at the moon, Tracy making the advert but continually flubbing his lines and of course every moment that Michael Sheen was on screen as Wesley Snipes. 30 Rock might not be my favourite or the most consistent comedy on TV, but when it's on form it rivals the very best the medium has to offer.

Adventure Time
Adventure Time is a show that you wouldn't expect to be on any other critical TV list for 2010, but personally I think that this show is fantastic. Adventure Time is a Cartoon Network (yes THAT Cartoon Network) animated series about Finn the Human and Jake the Dog and the adventures that they have. That description doesn't highlight just how insanely surreal this show is though. It's the kind of thing that just appeals to university students in the same that Spongebob Squarepants is so appealing. But Adventure Time is something special, every episode is only 10 minutes long but you'll get vignettes dealing with a zombie invasion, pie throwing robots, how Finn deals with being turned into a foot and the art of imagination during a knife storm. It's hard to describe what makes this show so wonderful but it is, quite definitely one of the best new shows of 2010, if only for Lumpy Space Princess.

Better Off Ted
Better Off Ted is the first show on this list that was cancelled in 2010 (and sadly not the last). Better Off Ted was a comedy show set inside the fictional multi-national corporation Veridian Dynamics and dealt with the work force who helped create the inventions that they use to shape the world, which also gave birth to some absolutely fantastic fake adverts for the company ("Friendship. It's the same as stealing"). Better Off Ted was a fantastic satire of large corporations and how they deal with people. The ideas ranged from sending out a corporate memo encouraging the employees to swear (the fantastic outtakes can be seen here) and turning an employee who died on the job into a Jesus figure. All of this is topped off with a great ensemble which also gave fresh work to the Arrested Development alum Portia De Rossi as well as Jay Harrington as the titual Ted andJohnathan Slavin and Malcom Barrett as the wonderful Phil and Lem.

After the fantastic Season 2, I think that most fans were just thankful that Chuck managed to survive being cancelled, twice I might add. Chuck is still a great show, maybe not quite as good as it was in Season 2 (although it quite often gives episodes of that level) but still one of purest blasts of fun to be found on TV these days. In season 3 the show maybe got a little too dark for what it was but that's forgetting what was great about Season 3 and the first half of Season 4. We got more Jeffster, Brandon Routh (Superman) put in a great performance as the villain of Season 3, Chuck and Sarah finally consummating their relationship and Morgan and Ellie both finally found out that Chuck was a spy (as well as a great plot featuring Awesome being brought into the spying life). Then there was the continued fantastic guest casting the show does with the crown jewels at the moment being Timothy Dalton as Volkoff and Linda Hamilton as Chuck and Ellie's mother. Timothy Dalton, especially, has been fantastic as the possibly insane but increasingly scary Volkoff and I can't wait to see where this goes in the second half of Season 4.

Doctor Who
2010 and the fifth season of Doctor Who was possibly the most important year for the show since its rebirth in 2005. Not only David Tennant leaving the show after four years of inhabiting the role of The Doctor but so was Russell T Davies the man who had sheperherded the show into coming back. Luckily Steven Moffat and Matt Smith stuck the landing in what was one the better seasons of the show since it's return. There was the normal wavering quality between certain episodes but the charismatic Matt Smith and Karen Gillan were great throughout and finally the audience was getting more than one or two Moffat scripts a year. A lot of what made 2010 great for Doctor Who must be laid at Moffat's feet (not counting David Tennant's goodbye which January 1st 2010) with the terrific two parters of 'The Time of Angels'/'Flesh and Stone' and 'The Pandorica Opens'/'The Big Bang' as well as a superb Christmas special with 'A Christmas Carol' which closed out the year and left anticipating Season 6 even more.

Justified could have just turned out as just a show which let Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood) take out bad guys in a cowboy hat, but instead it became so much more than that. Whilst the pilot was based off of a Elmore Leonard story, the rest of the show expanded to the point where it existed on it's own away from that story. Whilst not every episode was great, Justified was a show that put out some fantastic stand-alone episodes such as the fantastic 'Long in the Tooth'. Eventually the show achieved that hard sought balance of procedural and serialised story telling putting a great compelling overarching narrative which was frequently backed-up by a series of very well done one and done plots. Justified might feature as strong an ensemble as other shows but Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens and Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder put in two of the best performances of any actors this year something which just makes the show that much more compelling. The final 'Bulletville' might not have been the best way to end the season, but the first season was more often than not great and I can't wait for Season 2 in February.

Louie is the reason why I haven't this blog post up sooner, because I wanted to watch the complete season to make sure I was right about putting it on here. Luckily it is and if I'm perfectly honest, probably completely worthy of making the top 10. Louie is the brainchild of the hilarious comedian Louis CK (Parks & Recreation) and is one of the most difficult shows to pigeon-hole. On face value it would appear to be a sitcom, but really it's more a collection of vignettes with a loose continuity between them all bookended by some stand-up from Louie himself. The fantastic thing about Louie is that in any given episodes it's almost impossible to guess what might happen. Some episodes have downright hilarious moments, such as Louie's trip down to the South or the heckler during one of his shows, others will poignant such as the poker episode which turned into a discussion of homosexuality or just intentionally unfunny such as the fantastic episodes 'God' and 'Bully'. Not every bit or episode will work but it never tries one thing for two long and it's nearly always refreshing to watch.

Modern Family
Modern Family also made the honourable mentions last year, and that isn't to say it isn't any worse than it was last year, it just isn't up to the level of the shows I selected for my top 10. The main problem with Modern Family is one that pervades many shows with ensembles, that some plot lines just might not work in some episodes, and the episodes that do work have a meeting of all the plot-lines. Luckily the cast for Modern Family is one of the most likeable on TV with great performances from Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet and Ed O'Neill. Modern Family is definitely not the most experimental or ambitious comedy on TV, it's just an incredibly reliable, often hilarious family sitcom which is more often than not just what you want.

The Pacific
Say what you will about The Pacific being "just another war show/movie" and you're probably right, but that doesn't stop it from being any less fantastic. At 10 hours long, The Pacific offered one of the most psychologically draining shows on all of TV last year. In it Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks offered yet another superb war drama on par with Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, and it was an entirely different beast. Instead of being based on the western front, The Pacific, as the name suggests, focus on the far less reported by far more gruesome Pacific front. What was a delivered was a 10 hour tour de force that looked into the psychological nature of being a soldier in the war and what exactly it puts you through without every shying away, which as a result meant that The Pacific had a far darker tone than Band of Brothers. Bolstered by amazing production values and fantastic performances by James Badge Dale, Jon Seda and Joseph Mazello, The Pacific was one of the best shows to air on TV in 2010 and only just missed out on the top 10.

Moving from one show that starred James Badge Dale to another one. Rubicon was an entirely different beast to The Pacific, but was just as great and despite numerous early problems a great addition to the AMC line-up. Sadly though Rubicon was cancelled after it's first season but that still doesn't make enjoyment of that season any less. Rubicon was a show that started out as in the same vein as 70s conspiracy thrillers but eventually found a far more comfortable setting focusing on the moral ambiguity that goes into researching terrorists and appropriate responses. It was fascinating to watch what was essentially four people in a room reading files, but it became compelling viewing. If only episode 12 'Wayward Sons' (Journey reference FTW) had been the finale, Rubicon would have been one of the best shows of the year, sadly the far more conspiracy centric 'You Never Can Win' served as the finale and sadly focused on the weaker elements of the show. Luckily the first 12 episodes of the show were still uniformly fantastic especially with great performances from the likes of Arliss Howard and Michael Cristofer.

It wasn't the best year for Supernatural mostly due to the fact that the show is never as good as when it was as focused as it was in the early parts of 2010 but it's still just a great show. Whilst I might have been happier if 'Swan Song' had indeed been the last episode of the show (I'm a sucker for when shows end when they feel like they should have ended) I'm still getting new episodes of one of my favourite shows. Season 6 at the moment is only half way through and therefore it's almost impossible to make any snap judgements so all I can say is that I have no fucking clue where it's all going, which is interesting if slightly worrying at the same time. Season 6 might be slightly muddled, but has still been made enjoyable by the occasional fantastic episode ('Weekend At Bobby's), the usual great performances from Jensen, Jared, Jim and Misha and the fact that the show week-in, week-out puts out a great and interesting take on the Supernatural.

The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead makes it onto this list almost entirely because of the potential it holds to become fantastic. Season 1 seems far more like a prologue to a far more fantastic second season than anything else. Because of it's incredibly short length (only 6 episodes) there wasn't any real room for the show to breathe, it was in those moments in Season 1 that the show was fantastic. Whilst the show does need to work on certain characterisations, overall it's found a very sturdy foundation, especially when it comes to the divergences that it has made from Robert Kirkman's graphic novel series. The Walking Dead has probably the most promise of all the returning shows this year to improve, and it when it does come back in October I know I'll be waiting with bated breathe to see what Frank Darabont and the rest of the team will deliver.

So those were the honourable mentions, feel free to weigh in with any of your own thoughts and be sure to check back over the next few days for Top 10 favourite shows, my favourite episodes and my biggest disappointments of 2010.

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