Thursday, 6 January 2011

Favourite TV Shows 2010 - Top 5 Dramas

This is where things get really interesting. If you read my blog regularly, then you'll know that most of passion towards TV is directed towards the more dramatic serialised shows, and it should come as no surprise that all of these shows are exactly that. Whilst I do sincerely love Community and Parks & Recreation, the passion I have for these shows far exceeds them. I might not have seen shows like Treme and Boardwalk Empire and The Pacific may have been fantastic, but the 5 shows I have selected here were my favourite dramatic shows of 2010.
Onwards with the list!

5. Sons of Anarchy
Sons of Anarchy was a show that I actually watched in its entirety this year, so technically this ranking is all 3 seasons of the show (I know, I promised I wouldn't do that again). So whilst if I had ranked this based purely on Season 3 it might not have made it on to this list at all (it wasn't awful, just very deeply flawed) but looking at all 3 shows as a whole, it's utterly fantastic. The show focuses on a biker gang in the Californian town of Charming. It might look from adverts as just an excuse for some guys to get all testosterone-y at each other but it's actually more interesting than that. The show has a lot of similarities with Hamlet, what with the show focusing on Jax Teller, who's father was murdered (?) and now his father's best friend is married to his mother and ruling the Sons of Anarchy, so of course there's a lot of tension between those two. The show touches on themes of family and duty and all kinds of morality themes that make it more interesting to watch. But that's not all, Sons of Anarchy has a sense of "shit is going down" that almost no other sh ow on TV (apart from maybe Breaking Bad) can even match, over three seasons shit ranges from the death of Donna, Gemma being raped and the Irish stealing Jax's baby. Whilst the Jax baby arc in Season 3 was handled badly (mostly because of artificial roadblocks in the story and the fact that the new characters had almost no time to grow), Sons of Anarchy still has the power to punch you gut as you watch these things happen to the characters. Whilst Season 3 wasn't all that great a season, Season 2 was absolutely superb and I regret not having watched it then. Don't be turned off by the fact that Sons of Anarchy looks like a homoerotic mess, it's an incredibly compelling and often fantastic TV show that finished with a terrific finale this year and will hopefully recover in Season 4.

4. Lost
If you've been reading my blog or actually know me, then I think you know what my feelings are towards Lost. It will foreve r be my favourite television show ever, it's the show that got me hooked on TV in the first place, the inspiration behind this very list. Without Lost I have no clue what I'd be like today. Maybe less nerdy? Probably not to be honest, just nerdy about different things. But Lost was a special show for me and 2010 was the year that it's last ever episode aired and it's final remembrance might be here (although probably not). I'm going to miss Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Ben, Hurley, Jin, Sun, Desmond, et al. for years to come. It feels weird to me now being in January and not having any new episodes to look forward to. It's been 7 months since the last (fantastic) episode of the show aired and still the emotional resonance of that episode is with me. I was sat ther e at stupid 5 o'clock in the morning crying my eyes out as I said goodbye to some of my favourite fictional characters ever. No, Season 6 of Lost wasn't the greatest season of television ever (hence why it's at 4), the flashsideways won't play as well on second viewing and there were a few narrative dead-ends, but that's Lost in a nutshell. Not every question was answered, but when it came down to it, the focus on the characters was all anyone really watched for and the sixth season delivered on little character moments throughout, making Lost one of the finest shows of the year, but one of the finest shows ever.

3. Terriers
Terriers will go down as one of the most damning cancellation of any show on TV in 2010, in a year we lost fantastic new shows like Rubicon, Party Down and old favourites like 24 and Lost, Terriers still hurts the most. In a single season, that is sure to go down as one of the greatest 'one and done' series ever (a pantheon also hosting Freaks & Geeks and Firefly), Terriers did what so many shows strive for over their entire runs. It created an entire world, it created a stable ensemble of likeable and memorable characters, it was written to perfection and just worked in a way most shows don't. Luckily Terriers tells a complete story, so in years to come people will be able to pick up the box-set and just enjoy what exists of the show. This isn't a Firefly where once you reach the end you want to know more, Terri ers ends on a logical point and whilst you'd love to spend more time with Hank and Britt, it still feels like an end for the show, even if it's not the end that you or the showrunners would have wanted. If Terriers did come back, who know's if it would have been able to maintain that lightning in a bottle, which I guess is the only consolation that fans of the show can hold onto. Terriers wasn't the flashiest show on TV in 2010, it was about scruffy looking people who aren't necessarily leading man material but are just damn likeable. It was funny, light-hearted but it also knew how to punch its audience in the emotional gut, like the culmination of the third episodes 'Change Partners' or Hank consoling Katie after she cheated on Britt. The show was just superb, a show I'm going to try and force onto as many people as I can (if it ever gets aired in the UK) because it's just that good.

2. Mad Men
Mad Men, 2009's best show, aired it's best season in 2010, and yet somehow finds itself at the 2nd spot in my list. Season 4 of Mad Men was a very different season for Mad Men, most noticeably for what the show was doing the charact er of Don Draper. This year he was a wreck, nothing was coming easy to him (not once did the show have one of the famous Don Draper pitches of the past) and he was falling more and more heavily onto drinking. He was sleeping with the wrong people, making the wrong decision and was just an all round wreck. Season 4 of Mad Men essentially became a character study into the mind of Don Draper. It takes a lot for a show to put it's leading man into such a low place but Mad Men Season 4 did it so well. The character of Don Draper was completely broken down, ever single element including Dick Whitman. In the end we don't know whether Don marrying Megan in the last episode will actually be a good decision in the long but knowing Matthew Weiner, it's sure to be interesting. But away from Don the show was still doing interesting things, Betty was no longer such a huge character because of the divorce and Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper really stepped her game up in Season 4 to fa ntastic levels. Then of course the normal fantastic performances from the entire cast (shout out to Elisabeth Moss and John Slattery). Mad Men is still one of the best shows on TV, and Season 4 was easily the show's best season so far. If you haven't been watching, do yourself a favour, Mad Men is nuanced and just an all round fantastic show, but still was not the best show of 2010.

1. Breaking Bad
HOLY FUCK. That is the reaction I had to entirety of Season 3 of Breaking Bad, last year Breaking Bad was the show that came closest to taking the crown from Mad Men with a fantastic second season I didn't think it could top, of course I was wrong. Creator Vince Gilligan came back in 2010 and delivered with one of the greatest television seasons ever, the season that finally allows Breaking Bad to throw it's hat into the ring of all time greats. Most of the praise for the show probably comes off as hyperbole, but believe me when I saw this show is fantastic in every single way. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are two of the best actors working on television currently, the show proves that television really is a visual medium with Michael Slovis's photography and the writing is of the highest calibre. The show constantly leaves the audience guessing where exactly it's going to go, which helps when the show is written with almost no long overarching plan, creating a sense of spontaneity that just drips from the show. This is a show that could just list reams and reams of moments off, the end to 'One Minute' and every single monologue for instance, but that's not experiencing the show. This is a show that should be watched by as many people as possible, Breaking Bad (along with Mad Men) is the current benchmark for what can be done with the medium of television. It allows for far more interesting and nuanced characters and performances than films can ever dream, long form narratives to progress over time rather than be wrapped up in 2 hours. Breaking Bad wasn't just the finest achievement that the world of television had to offer in 2010, it's also fast becoming one of the finest offerings the medium has ever given us.

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