6.) CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL
- 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.
7.) BOARDWALK EMPIRE
- 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.
8.) PARKS AND RECREATION
- 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.
9.) EASTBOUND & DOWN
- 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!
10.) THE WALKING DEAD
- 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.
THE NEXT BEST:
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.
THE TOP SHOWS I WATCHED VIA DVD, BLU-RAY, DIGITAL DOWNLOAD, ETC.
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!
DANNY'S BEST TV HEROES OF 2010:
1. Raylan Givens - Justified
2. Olivia Dunham - Fringe
3. Hank Dolworth - Terriers
4. Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead
5. Jack Bauer - 24
DANNY'S BEST TV VILLAINS OF 2010:
1. Boyd Crowder - Justified
2. Walternate - Fringe
3. Bo Crowder - Justified
4. Zombies! - The Walking Dead
5. Ben Zeitlin - Terriers
BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY:
1. Alison Brie - Community
Runners Up: Tina Fey - 30 Rock, Julie Bowen - Modern Family
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY:
1. Jane Krakowski - 30 Rock
Runners Up: Ellie Kemper - The Office, Jane Lynch - Glee
BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY:
1. Louie CK - Louie
Runners Up: Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock, David Cross - The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, Danny McBride - Eastbound & Down
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY:
1. Nick Offerman - Parks and Recreation
Runners Up: Will Arnett - The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, Joshua Gomez - Chuck
BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA:
1. Anna Torv - Fringe
Runners Up: Kelly McDonald - Boardwalk Empire,
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA:
1. Laura Allen - Terriers
Runners Up: Joelle Carter - Justified, Kimberly Quinn - Terriers
BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA:
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
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA:
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
DANNY'S SERIES TO WATCH IN 2011:
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.