Best of 2010 television

A ranking of TV’s ten best programs of the year. Photo: AMC

OKLAHOMA CITY – Plenty of late night drama, basic cable original programming and a slew of great new shows filled my DVR play list with delight this year.

Donal Logue and Michael Raymond James (Terriers -FX)

Mad Men” – This is my favorite television show.  “Mad Men” concluded its best season on record with list of great episodes (only one clunker: “Good News”) and some of the best individual scenes in the show’s entire run. Don Draper is still TV’s most captivating figure.

Lost” – One of my top-five favorite shows of all time wrapped up its final season better than I could ever have imagined.

Rubicon” – Building on an overall tone and feel rather than action paced plot advancement may have lead to “Rubicon’s” ultimate demise. The mundane mysterious aspect was captured beautifully by the sheer dullness and drab aesthetic that made the viewer feel like the conspiracy or threat there of, was much scarier than an in your face, explosive spy vehicle.

Terriers” – No, the terrible title wasn’t the only thing wrong with the show. The marketing campaign was fumbled but the show itself was outstanding.  This cancelation does not bode well for the landscape of future new programming.  Show runner Shawn Ryan took a chance with an off-kilter character based private eye story and it shouldn’t have failed.  Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James were spot on in every single frame, but the show failed to gain viewers.  I’m worried now that future show runners may not take such chances and we’ll end up with more network medical drama dreck instead of well thought out character pieces.

Dexter” – Building on an amazing cliffhanger, “Dexter” managed to up the ante with more close calls and a brilliant casting move by adding Julia Stiles.

The Walking Dead” – AMC did it again.  With another solid entry onto its already stellar original programming resume, AMC made me care about zombies. I wasn’t interested in another story about zombies, but this one’s different. It’s smart, it’s well paced, suspenseful and very atypical for a subject matter that’s been done so many times in such boring typical fashion.

Louie”- Consistently one of the funniest shows on TV. What’s more impressive is that Louis C.K. does it all, even down to the editing.  Now that “Extras” is gone, it’s nice to have “Louie” around.

Boardwalk Empire” – I would’ve liked more Michael Stuhlbarg and less Michael Pitt, but the look and attention to era detail was spectacular.  Loaded with clever references (see Ponzi Scheme) and brilliant art design, “Boardwalk” rivals “Mad Men” for TV’s best period piece.

Parks and Recreation” – Ron Swanson and the rest of the Pawnee parks and rec. department really hit a stride when the spotlight was spread to the entire crew, not just on Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). Season two created more laugh-out-loud moments for me than any other network show.

“Cougar Town” – Quietly one of TV’s sneakiest comedies.  Sure, it too has a dumb name.  Even the creators poke fun at the name in the title card of every episode. “It’s alright to like a show called ‘Cougar Town,’” one recent intro assured us.

*FULL DISCLOSURE and other explanations – I’m a season behind on “Breaking Bad.” To the disgust of several proud supporters of the show, I don’t regularly watch “The Good Wife.” 

I loved “Party Down,” it should have been on the list but I didn’t want to include a tie. One of the sleepers in the comedy department this year is ABC’s “The Middle.”  “Eastbound and Down” was funny, but not consistent enough.

HBO’s “Bored to Death” also made a dramatic improvement from its first season.  The depth of character and emotional connectivity between Jonathan, Ray and George reached an all-time high. 

And other big-league shows like “30 Rock,” “Community” and “Modern Family” have been uncharacteristically hit-or-miss this year to make my final top ten list.


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Craig Sanger

A broadcast journalism graduate of University of Central Oklahoma, Craig Sanger is film critic for Oklahoma City FOX affiliate KOKH-TV, morning radio host on KATT-FM, and staff writer at distinctly Oklahoma Magazine. 

Craig is a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

Follow Craig on Twitter.

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