Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Danny's BEST OF 2010: The Year In Television


- Last year at this time, I think I was feeling pretty shaky about the future of TV. With giants like LOST and 24 about to commence their final seasons, I wondered whether new shows could step up to fill the void. There was a feeling that, rather than looking for the next great TV series, the big networks were instead taking less risks, clinging to big-name producers, and continuing to churn out an endless stream of me-too reality shows, uninspiring sitcoms, and generic procedurals that, to me, spelled the beginning of a new era of TV mediocrity. But, a funny thing happened this year in TV Land. Looking at the broadcast networks Fall schedules, you would have to agree with my earlier assessment that things were looking bleak. I mean, out of all of this year's new Fall shows - how many were any good? Perhaps the Fall's most promising new pilot - Lone Star - was a ratings bust and the show quickly became a cautionary tale of how bold, risky shows are finding it harder and harder to survive on network television. Even in the world of Late Night TV, a similar transference of power was occuring. Conan O'Brien was ousted from The Tonight Show, and at the time it seemed like Conan's rightful throne had been yanked away from him. But, several weeks after the debut of Conan's new show on TBS, it almost seems silly that Conan would have wanted to stay on broadcast TV. All the momentum is now with cable. Almost all of the best scripted series, the boundary-pushing content, the stuff that feels fresh and new and cool, is coming from cable. This year, cable brought back Conan, brought back Futurama, brought zombies to television, and gave Louie CK his own TV show. Not bad.

However, I think that this coming year will be even better, because we'll see a trickle-down effect to the networks. After a year of playing things pretty safe, I think that NBC, CBS, ABC and of course FOX all want to be home to the next True Blood, The Walking Dead, or Mad Men. All three of those shows fall into genres that we rarely see on TV, but that's what's been so great about the last year or so - TV is trying new things. I never thought we'd see the day when a zombie-horror show would be one of the year's big success stories, but here we are. The younger demos are, thankfully, open to genre TV, open to new formats and ideas. So it's a bit of role reversal, but you now have broadcast TV looking to follow the lead of newly-emergent programming powerhouses like FX and AMC. And hey, I give the networks some credit, because there are some pretty ambitious projects in the pipeline for the next year and beyond. You've got FOX's Terra Nova - the ambitious-sounding time-travel series produced by Steven Spielberg. You've got NBC's massive Dark Tower project, which will purportedly see a TV series launch to fill in the gaps between the film adaptations of Stephen King's epic fantasy series. There's JJ Abrams' return to ambitious sci-fi TV - Alcatraz - which already sounds like a bonafide mindtrip. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I love that TV is no longer limited to the played-out formats of the lawyer show, cop show, medical show. It's a brave new world, baby.

Still, there is cause for concern. TV is easier than ever to watch - there's DVD, Blu-Ray, iTunes, Hulu, and Netflix - but it's also more difficult to gain the kind of mass audience that keeps shows afloat. For every breakout hit like The Walking Dead (and even with that, it's still all relative), there are shows like Lone Star, or, sadly, TERRIERS, which was an absolutely awesome show that failed to find a large enough audience. Shows like CHUCK and COMMUNITY are still just barely staying afloat. FRINGE, which was such a natural heir apparent to Lost, has been struggling and was recently consigned to the Friday night death-slot by FOX. Unfortunately, Lost just might have been the last gasp - at least for now - for great, scripted genre shows that are able to pull in a big mass-market audience. Then again, who knows. If the right show comes along with that same sort of mystery, character, and intrigue as Lost had, well, again, you never know. It's still a very fragmented audience out there. Baby Boomers keep NCIS and Dancing With the Stars on top of the ratings mountain, whereas I live in a world where I don't actually know a single soul who actually watches CBS crime procedurals. Plus, it's still very much to-be-determined to what extent people are "cutting the chord" and choosing Netflix or Hulu over costly cable subscriptions. There's still the worry that reduced revenue from traditional ad sales will put a damper on show budgets over the next few years - hence broadcast networks churning out more and more reality shows that are cheaper to produce and often yield big viewership numbers when done well.

But hey, if AMC can crank out something like The Walking Dead, if HBO can make something as sprawling and elaborate as BOARDWALK EMPIRE, then it forces everyone else to up their game. And I think that's what's great about TV right now - there's a ton of competition for eyeballs, and it's forcing people to think outside the box and to think big.

And on that note, let's get to it ...

.. My annual list of the best TV series of the year. As always, keep in mind that I can't watch everything (try as I might), and that, yes, there are some notable holes in my TV viewing. But hey, I'm trying ... I recently plowed through the first season of BREAKING BAD, and can't wait to continue on with the series - it's incredible. I have the first three seasons of MAD MEN on blu-ray on my shelf at home - another show that I'm eager to finally catch up on. And though I'm still behind on TRUE BLOOD, I've seen the first two seasons and will, I'm sure, soon be caught up on the third. With that said, there was a ton of quality programming in 2010, and here are my picks for the best of the best - scripted series only, individual awards at the end, and special mentions included as well.



- Fringe out-and-out ruled it in 2010. Even as big-ticket shows like Lost and 24 got all the hype during their final seasons, both had, let's face it, already been usurped by FRINGE, which as of Season 2 was officially, in my mind, the king of serialized, must-see TV. When I think back to the incredible hot streak that Fringe was on during the second half of Season 2, it's mind-boggling to think of all of the great episodes, the classic moments, that came one after the other. Walter putting the pieces of his fractured brain back together again. The revelations about the true nature of Peter, and the story of how he came to our universe. The phenomenal guest appearance by Peter Weller as a tragic time-traveller. As Season 2 progressed, Fringe took things to a whole other level in terms of storytelling. And in turn, the principle actors upped their game and delivered some truly knockout performances. Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Lance Reddick - all of them should have Emmys. John Noble should have his own wing in the TV Hall of Fame - he's been that good as Walter Bishop - as the mad scientist version on Earth 1, and as the cool and calculating head of Fringe Division on Earth 2. Yeah, that's right. In Season 3, Fringe had the balls to have each episode alternate between two different universes. And unlike other shows (cough*LOST*cough), the show's mythology never fell apart - it just got bigger, cooler, and more epic with each new episode. What other show has actors who, each week, kick ass playing TWO different versions of their characters? What other show tells stories this crazy, this big, this thought-provoking? What other show this year brought the awesome-sauce like FRINGE? Yeah, that's what I thought. In a year filled with great TV drama, FRINGE was the best thing going, the show you HAD to watch night-of-air, the show you had to talk about the next day. 2010 was the year of Fringe.


- It's hard to believe this, but I didn't even really like Community when it first debuted. I wanted to like it, but there was just something off about the show to me. But then ... something clicked. The show embraced the fact that it was an ensemble show, and made each of its main characters equally in the spotlight. More importantly, Community embraced the fact that is was NOT a traditional sitcom. It became increasingly out-there, increasingly random, increasingly fearless. Even though the show is obstensibly about a group of classmates at a community college, all of a sudden, Community became a show about, well, anything and everything. There were parodies of action movies, of zombie movies, of gangster movies. There was the stop-motion animated Christmas episode, which was flat-out amazing. The jokes began to click, the characters came to life, and the show managed to have heart and soul despite the wacky plots and absurdist humor. All of a sudden, Community was this unstoppable comedy juggernaut, firing on all cylinders on a level rarely seen on TV, ever. This was the best comedy on TV in 2010, and (if the show can stay on the air), the beginning, I think, of one of the all-time great runs in sitcom history.


- I've already written a lot about Terriers in recent weeks - about its incredible writing, phenomenal acting, and the still-painful fact that it was cancelled after only one season. But I do want to say this, in the context of this list: Terriers really was that damn good. Good enough to rank right up there at the top of this list. Good enough that Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James should be ranked at or near the top of the list in the discussion of the year's best lead actors in a drama. Good enough that, yes, it's very much worth your time to track down the eventual DVD release and see what all the fuss was about. Season 1 will live on, I think, as one of the great self-contained stories, one of the best one-season-wonders, in the history of TV drama.


- In 2010, we said goodbye to TV's preeminent badass, Jack Bauer, but we said hello to a new one-man wrecking crew, Raylan Givens. As played by Timothy Olyphant, Raylan is an old-school lawman who's out to clean up his town, and he will kill anyone standing in his way given the proper, well, justification. Justified, to me, had instant appeal, but as the season went on it went from very good to great to just plain awesome. As the series became more serialized, setting up an escalating conflict between Raylan and the corrupt Crowder clan of criminals, the show became an epic of near-biblical proportions. With Walter Goggins tearing it up as Boyd Crowder - Raylan's childhood friend turned cult-leader nemesis - and MC Gainey, great as always, as Bo, patriarch of the Crowder family, JUSTIFIED featured the most vile villains and most badass heroes on the tube. And of all the TV coming our way in early 2011I don't know if there's anything I'm anticipating more than Season 2 of one of 2010s best new series.


- I've never seen a show like Louie before, and I am still somewhat in awe of the fact that this series even exists. Louie is basically comedian Louie CK's forum to talk about whatever he wants, in whatever manner he wants. In the span of one season, Louie is already TV's most unpredictable show - some episodes feel like sketch comedy, others like short films. Sometimes there are recurring characters, but mostly, there aren't. Sometimes episodes are jokey and random, and other times, the humor is minimalist and pitch-black. But either way, Louie doesn't shy away from the big issues - religion, God, terrorism, politics, morality, crime, poverty, culture clash, race. This was a show that aimed high, that was often hilarious, and that always made you think.


- There isn't much in pop culture that strikes me as "too weird," but I think I initially stayed away from Children's Hospital because the promotional photos of Rob Corddry in creepy clown makeup were so "WTF"-worthy that I couldn't tell if this would be a show for me. But man, good thing I eventually tuned in, because Children's Hospital was drop-dead hilarious. Taking the absurdist comedy stylings of The State, loosley formatted as a parody of overwrought hospital dramas, every 15-minute episode of the show was overflowing with inspired craziness. Plus, there was a veritable dream team of comedic talent on the show - Rob Corddry, David Wain, Ken Marino, Henry Winkler, Megan Mullaly, Rob Huebel, Nick Offerman, Kurtwood Smith ... even people who I never knew were funny, like Malin Ackerman and Lake Bell, proved to be hilarious on the show. The craziest (and most quotable) TV comedy of 2010.


- Boardwalk Empire had a huge amount of hype to live up to from the get-go. The pedigree of talent involved in the show was unprecedented, and I think everyone expected the show to be nothing less than the greatest thing ever. The truth is, it took a while for the show to find its groove. After a slam-bang, Martin Scorcese-directed pilot, this sprawling saga of Prohibition-era Atlantic City seemed to meander a bit - unsure of which characters to focus on, and getting overly complicated to the point of becoming legitimately hard to follow. But after some initial growing pains, Boardwalk started to become something really special. The writing got tighter, the plot thickened, and the characters really began to shine. The mix of fiction and real history was truly fascinating. The show looked increasingly amazing with each episode - the period detail and craftsmanship each week was astounding. And the cast ... they really stepped it up. From an award worthy lead performance from Steve Buscemi, to several equally amazing supporting cast turns, the number of quality actors on the show was mind-blowing. Michael Shannon, Kelly McDonald, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg, Gretchen Mol, Jack Huston, Michael K. Williams, Stephen Graham (as a young Al Capone) - they all seriously rocked.


- I don't know if I've ever seen a show have such a turnaround after a disappointing first season. The strike-shortened first Season may have been sort of flat, but in Season 2, Parks was consistently awesome and hilarious. Like Community, Parks hit its stride when it expanded its scope - it became less a show about Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope and more an ensemble comedy that featured some of TV's funniest characters. Aziz Ansari as Tom, Nick Offerman as RON SWANSON, Aubrey Plaza as April, Chris Pratt as Andy, Rashida Jones as Ann ... again, it's one of the best comedic ensembles on the air today, and the show just had that spark that characterized the best years of series like 30 Rock and The Office. The jokes clicked as did the relationships. Suffice it to say, everyone should be excited that Parks is finally coming back to the air in January - it's been a long time coming.


- Season 1 of Eastbound is, in my opinion, one of the funniest / greatest things ever in the history of television. So it was going to be very, very hard for Season 2 to top it. To be honest, I don't think that S2 was quite up to par with S1 - it seems like the absence of series co-creator Ben Best might have been a factor, and overall, the writing seemed a little off as compared to the sheer perfection of the show's original run. That said, Eastbound & Down is still freaking amazing and ridiculously hilarious, and just watching Danny McBride do his thing as Kenny Powers is awesome. Season 2 had more than its fair share of memorable moments, as Kenny journeyed to Mexico on a spritual quest. By the time all was said and done, Season 2 left me chomping at the bit for Season 3. Viva Kenny Powers!


- Zombie attack! For the last few years, I've told anyone who would listen that The Walking Dead - the comic book - is one of the best things going in all of pop culture - a dark and disturbing look at human nature in the wake of an apocalyptic zombie plague. So to see the best comic book series going turned into a TV show, executive-produced and written by Frank Darabount, and with the heavy involvement of comic book creator Robert Kirkman - well, the concept is still pretty mindblowing. And you know what? The series may have stumbled once or twice in its short, six-episode first season ... but screw the haters, because all in all this was some damn good television. Well-acted, superbly-shot, and intense as hell, The Walking Dead launched with one hell of a pilot episode, and ended Season 1 with one hell of a finale. I only wish there had been more time to delve into the characters and advance the plotline. But, I am already pumped for Season 2 - the thought of seeing some of the comics' best and craziest storylines adapted for TV is incredibly exciting. For now, it's just cool to know that a zombie comic book adapatation was the year's biggest breakout cable TV hit. Good times to be a geek.


11.) 30 ROCK - I felt like this show really stumbled towards the end of last season. Perhaps in an attempt to be more "mainstream," 30 Rock focused less on its usual brand of fast-paced, wacky humor and was all about relationship-y stuff that felt lifted from some other, far less awesome sitcom. But since September, 30 Rock is back, bringing the funny on a weekly basis and no longer subjecting us to lame love-triangle drama. This season has already seen a couple of classic episodes, and Alec Baldwin has been in rare form. 30 Rock, it's good to have you back.

12.) FUTURAMA - One of the great joys of 2010 was that, finally, Futurama was back! Several years after being unceremoniously cancelled by FOX, the show returned to Comedy Central and proved that it still had it. Sure, there were a couple of clunkers in the new season (I could have done without the "Susan Boil" episode), but there were also instant-classics, like "The Late Philip J. Fry" - a hilarious time-travel epic that is already among my all-time favorite Futurama episodes. Here's to much more Futurama to come.

13.) THE INCREASINGLY POOR DECISIONS OF TODD MARGARET - It was a strange year for Arrested Development alumni. Over on FOX, Running Wilde reunited Will Arnett and David Cross with AD creator Mitchell Hurvitz, to decidedly mixed results. Meanwhile, over on IFC, Arnett and Cross reunited for Todd Margaret, and the results were decidedly awesome. If you haven't seen this show yet, I urge you to seek it out on DVD or in reruns - each episode only gets funnier and funnier as David Cross' character gets himself into bigger and bigger trouble after relocating to England. Personally, I hope this isn't the last we've seen of Todd Margaret.

14.) CHUCK - When I think about Chuck in 2010, it's kind of the reverse situation as 30 Rock. Season 3 of Chuck began in January of this year, and by and large, it kicked ass. In a weird way, it felt like the perfect final season for Chuck - Chuck and Sarah got together, Morgan and Awesome learned Chuck's secret, Chuck dealt head-on with his arch-nemesis and with the nefarious Ring organization, and it all came together with a great mix of action, humor and heart. The showrunners seemed to be worried that this was the end, and therefore went balls to the wall so as to go out with a bang. But then, perhaps unexpectedly, Chuck was quickly brought back for Season 4 in September, and so far this season has felt kind of aimless. A lot of extraneous moping, a lot of dragged-out drama with Chuck's estranged mom. My hope is that Chuck can recapture the magic that made it so fun earlier in the year.

15.) 24 - Let's face it, 24's final season had its moments, but at the end of the day it was surely one of the weaker seasons in the show's history. Without a great villain or the sort of gravitas-heavy supporting cast that had typically elevated the show, Kiefer Sutherland had to carry the show on his back as he marched towards The End. But give Kiefer credit - he almost singlehandedly gave 24 its fair share of awesomeness this year, whupping ass in an armored suit, taking down the President of the United States, and even getting hot n' heavy with Renee Walker until - as tends to happen on 24 - she was mercilessly shot and killed by a rogue assassin. It was shocking moments like that - and the legitimately great series finale - that compelled me to include 24 on this list. It made me happy that when all was said and done, my favorite show of the decade was able to go out with a bang. Now bring on the movie franchise, dammit all.


- LOST had some great moments, and a couple of fantastic episodes, in its final season. But to me, the Desmond-centric "Happily Ever After" was perhaps this once-great series' last brush with legit greatness. Otherwise, Lost's final season was a very uneven mix of meandering storylines, inconsistent storytelling, and lack of narrative resolution. I still can't believe that this show ended the way it did, or that it shifted gears so drastically, going from a rip-roaring sci-fi adventure in Seasons 4 and 5 to a sappy spiritual parable in Season 6. Season 6 stopped being about time travel and physics and Ben and Widmore and all the rest of the things that had kept me so involved in the show. Instead, there were temples and Jacob and The Man In Black and a sideways world that turned out to be an ambiguous sort of purgatory. Still, LOST remains one of the all-time most innovative and influential and absorbing series in TV history. If nothing else, it was fascinating to follow it to the end and to go along for the ride.

- As SMALLVILLE entered its 10th season, I think the general consensus was that it was high time to put it out of its misery. Season 9 was fairly dismal, and it was all the more frustrating because in February, comic book writer Geoff Johns stepped in and showed just how good the show COULD be with great writing and inspired storylines. Johns' "Absolute Justice" was one of the best episodes of Smallville ever, and one of the most fun hours of TV in all of 2010. It was that awesome. But again, it made the relative mediocrity of the rest of Season 9 all the more painful. That said, Season 10 has really been a pleasant surprise. Since September, Smallville has been on a certified hot streak. Lois finally knows Clark's secret, and that's freed up Erica Durance to do her best work on the show to date. Instead of dragging out a single overarching plotline for the entire season, the show is now juggling multiple plotlines, and it's been exciting to see them all converge at different times. The show just has a sense of fun and excitment again, and I'm honestly excited to see how the series wraps up.

- GLEE remains one of the most interesting shows on television, but also one of the most inconsistent. Glee always swings for the fences, and the show can be moving, hilarious (Jane Lynch is still just awesome), and incredibly entertaining when it's at its best. But then, the show can churn out episodes that are just complete misses. It's funny, because it's hard for me to understand how a show like this can have an army of fans who love it so unconditionally. I wonder how this is possible when one episode of Glee can be so wildly different in tone and quality from the next. And yet, it's hard to not watch. Few other shows are as unpredictable as Glee, and few are better conversation / debate starters. I give the show credit for daring to be different and for refusing to adhere to any real convention or formula.

- MODERN FAMILY is a great comfort-food style sitcom, but to me, it wasn't always that way. I remember watching the series' pilot and being fairly blown away by its wit and slyly subversive humor. However, in 2010, Modern Family became more and more like a single-camera version of some long-lost TGIF-era sitcom. The jokes became more obvious, the life lessons became more obvious ... I still enjoy the show, but it's been rare lately that an episode has really blown me away. MF is always worth watching for its great cast and characters, so we'll see where it goes from here.

- THE OFFICE continues to be a must-watch comedy, and I still have high hopes for the second half of this season, as the show bids a sure-to-be-memorable farewell to Steve Carell's Michael Scott. However, the show definitely stumbled a bit in 2010. A lot of the storylines fell pretty flat (Kathy Bates as the head of Sabre - Dunder-Mifflin's new corporate owner, anyone?), and few episodes reached the comedic heights of the best eps from previous seasons. Again, recent episodes (including the great return of Amy Ryan as Holly) brought some life back to the show, so hopefully The Office gets back on track in 2011.


- In a year filled with great TV, there was likely none more compelling or memorable than the final weeks of THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH CONAN O'BRIEN. After being unceremoniously ousted from his job as host of NBC's flagship late-night franchise, Conan became a man on a mission, creating a series of must-see shows that were wholly unique in their mix of laugh-out-loud humor and unhinged anarchy. With nothing left to lose, Conan had no hesitation in riffing on his soon-to-be-former employers. There was a loose, anything-can-happen feel to those final few weeks' worth of shows, and to many, this was, ironically, a return to form for Conan. Personally, I consistently enjoyed Conan's version of The Tonight Show, but I have to admit, I also loved seeing Conan with the shackles off, free to do anything and everything. This was Conan at his best, and as we all know, Conan at his best is a bonafide comedic genius. In any case, after a summer hiatus in which he was off television and out on the road on a live tour, Conan has now returned to TV on his new show - CONAN - and it's quickly become great, getting back to the smaller, wackier feel that characterized Conan on Late Night back in the day. Like I said in my intro, it's hard to believe that The Tonight Show was ever even that big of a deal. Who needs it? As the last year has shown us, Conan - free of network interference and able to be as crazy as he wants to be - is indeed the best thing going in late night TV.


1. Breaking Bad - I have finally seen Season 1 of Breaking Bad, and it is absolutely awesome. I'm sure that if I was up to date on the show, it would be right up there on my Best-Of lists for the year. For now, I can't wait to dive into Seasons 2 and 3 of the show, because holy crap, is this show ever intense and mind-blowing. Also on deck: Mad Men.

2. The Mighty Boosh - I've been slowly but surely making my way through the complete series of this UK comedy import over the last few years, but in 2010, I finally finished it. I love this show - it's hilarious, imaginative, and just plain insane. If you've never seen it, buy the DVD or download via iTunes - it's right up there as one of my all-time favorite comedies.

3. True Blood - My plan to get fully caught up with True Blood sort of fell through (damn you, Charter Cable), but I did plow through Season 2 of the show on blu-ray, and really enjoyed it. No other show does insane cliffhangers like this one, and few others are as gloriously over-the-top and campy. One of the most purely enjoyable series on the air (but better than a mere guilty pleasure, I think), I look forward to catching Season 3 of the show soon.

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer - A strange confluence of events led to me finally checking out Buffy. I was at home and sick for almost two weeks, and I had recently gained access to the Hulu Plus beta via work. So, while feeling like I was at death's door, it made sense to hang with the undead. I've now seen the first season of Buffy, and as my Whedonite friends will be quick to tell me, the show gets way better in later seasons. But hey, I now know Willow from Xander from Angel, so if nothing else, my geek cred went up slightly in 2010.

5. The X-Files - As the years go by, I am always amazed at just how rewatchable the classic episodes of The X-Files can be. In introducing the show to my brother, I still got a big kick from the show and how well it combined great characters with unmatched atmosphere and storytelling. So, one of my big pop cultural hopes for 2011 is this: that we get news that one last X-Files movie is in the cards for 2012. Afterall - that's when the aliens invade!



1. Raylan Givens - Justified

2. Olivia Dunham - Fringe

3. Hank Dolworth - Terriers

4. Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead

5. Jack Bauer - 24


1. Boyd Crowder - Justified

2. Walternate - Fringe

3. Bo Crowder - Justified

4. Zombies! - The Walking Dead

5. Ben Zeitlin - Terriers


1. Alison Brie - Community

Runners Up: Tina Fey - 30 Rock, Julie Bowen - Modern Family


1. Jane Krakowski - 30 Rock

Runners Up: Ellie Kemper - The Office, Jane Lynch - Glee


1. Louie CK - Louie

Runners Up: Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock, David Cross - The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, Danny McBride - Eastbound & Down


1. Nick Offerman - Parks and Recreation

Runners Up: Will Arnett - The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, Joshua Gomez - Chuck


1. Anna Torv - Fringe

Runners Up: Kelly McDonald - Boardwalk Empire,


1. Laura Allen - Terriers

Runners Up: Joelle Carter - Justified, Kimberly Quinn - Terriers


1. John Noble - Fringe

Runners Up: Donal Logue - Terriers, Michael Raymond-James - Terriers, Timothy Olyphant - Justified, Andrew Lincoln - The Walking Dead, Steve Buscemi - Boardwalk Empire, Kiefer Sutherland - 24, Matthew Fox - Lost


1. Michael Shannon - Boardwalk Empire

Runners Up: Lance Reddick - Fringe, Michael Pitt -- Boardwalk Empire, Walter Goggins - Justified, Henry Ian Cusick - Lost, Michael Emerson - Lost, Terry O'Quinn - Lost

FOND FAREWELL TO: 24, Lost, and Terriers


1. Justified - Arguably 2010's best new show will soon be back for Season 2. Personally, I can't wait to see what kind of trouble Raylan Givens will get mixed up in next.

2. Game of Thrones - This HBO adaptation of the popular fantasy novels looks to be the TV equivalent of Lord of the Rings. If the series can bring HBO's knack for quality serialized storytelling to the fantasy genre, this could be something special.

3. Parks and Recreation - All hail the return of Parks to primetime in January - it will be great to have one of TV's funniest sitcoms back in business.

4. Curb Your Enthusiasm - Curb is a comedic treasure, and I have no doubt that Larry David and co. will bring the funny when this already-classic series eventually returns.

5. The Walking Dead - Season 1 of the show felt like a mere preview of the zombie epic that is to come. Once the show has a full-length season in which to play, I expect some great things.

6. Terra Nova - We thought we'd be seeing this FOX series in 2010, but hopefully the added time will lead to this time-travel saga being even bigger and better.

7. Alcatraz - JJ Abrams, Sam Neil, Jorge Garcia, escaped prisoners from Alcatraz, and sci-fi weirdness. Count me in.

8. Smallville - After ten seasons, Smallville finally comes to an end in 2011. Will the show go out in a blaze of red, blue, and yellow glory? Will we finally get to see Tom Welling as Superman? Fanboys will be glued to their TV's, that's for sure.

9. Hell On Wheels - A new AMC series looking at racial tensions and human drama in the post-Civil War railroad industry? Sounds epic, and AMC is quickly becoming a go-to source for great TV.

10. Fringe - Fringe may be moving to Friday nights, but don't count it out just yet. My pick for the best TV show of 2010 still has a lot of juice left in it, and it's going to be one hell of a ride from here on out. With war brewing between the two universes, all indications are that business is about to pick up in 2011.

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